Flat White

Once a socialist, always a socialist

23 April 2022

12:00 PM

23 April 2022

12:00 PM

I remember the first time I sat in the old town square in Poznan, Poland. I was so taken by the history, the people, and the colour. When I commented on the brightness with which the historic buildings surrounding the square were painted, my friend told me that ‘they were being taken back to their original life’.

Being ignorant of the realities of Eastern European recent history, I asked what he meant. His words were something like this:

‘When the Russian communists were here, everything was painted grey. Now, we have our life back, and so we have gone back to celebrating with colour.’

I brought home a number of pictorial reminders of that square to help me remember that conversation.

Just last week I was talking online to the same friend. He was describing how he and so many others were being proactive in helping Ukrainian refugees – opening their homes and community centres, and sourcing food, clothing, and education for the predominantly women and children in their midst. He explained to me, with sadness in his voice, that so many of them were ‘shell shocked’, not by just being refugees, but in the knowledge that even if they could return to their homeland, what were formerly their homes and villages were now just rubble.

There was something else that was very personal for all my Polish friends with whom I spoke last week. It ran along the lines of, ‘We are now used to taking initiative – before, we were used to being told what to do all the time. We do not want to go back to that.’

These friends of mine have started innovative schools where students are safe to ask questions because they know what the staff believe in.

I had these things on my mind as I listened to the first week of our election campaign (and as I saw Gemma Tognini write, ‘Are we there yet?’). I was particularly interested in the conversation about what Anthony Albanese stood for.

I think I can see a pattern in the current Prime Minister’s state of mind – as a compromised conservative – he is what Harry Blamires (a friend of CS Lewis) described as a Christian who cannot think like a Christian. At face value, he has a sincere faith, but at times he cannot speak confidently in critical areas where we might expect strong moral leadership from a person of faith who is a conservative.

But Mr Albanese? He has described himself in many ways, and too many times what he has said does not match his demonstrated life commitments.

It took me back to former Prime Minister Gillard. I heard her speak at least three times when she was Federal Education Minister, and on each occasion, she was articulate, confident, and sophisticated in an almost understated way. She was, in short, apparently very clever. I remember the discussion about her being an atheist, and all my friends who said, ‘But what you believe doesn’t matter in politics.’ Even as I write that sentence, the oxymoronic overtones invite me to gag.

We say we want people of integrity, but then we say it does not matter if what they say is different to how they live. We say we want transparency, but then we say it is okay if their core beliefs can stay hidden. But that does not help us decide how to vote, and how to keep our leaders to account.

There is an explanation for such discrepancies – and that is manipulation.

One such example of Julia Gillard’s was her pre-election commitment to not stop funding school chaplains (after the backlash when she initially said she might stop it). So she did not stop it, she simply redefined it. Her Fabian Socialism expression of ‘chaplaincy’ lives on to this day. She invented the term ‘secular chaplaincy’ which is ‘newspeak’ of the highest order. Chaplaincy is a term reflecting pastoral care, which is derived from Biblical principles of ‘shepherding the spiritual flock’. Now, chaplaincy is non-spiritual, thanks to this atheist Prime Minister.

‘But’, you might say, ‘schools can choose if they want a secular or religious chaplain.’ (The first assumption so silly I shudder to think how it is expressed in our schools – probably as secular-humanistic, relativistic lay counselling, where community destroying emotivist individualism runs amok). Look at the fine print – even today – religious chaplains are not supposed to give any ‘religious counselling’ nor ‘religious instruction’.

This is a socialist leader’s attempt at neutering millennia of care for others.

Which brings me back to Anthony Albanese. Leadership is never neutral. We bring our presuppositions with us, and they are the lens through which we view life. These mostly unspoken assumptions are like water in the bucket of our hearts – when something bumps into us, what is in the bucket is what spills out. Mr Albanese’s not knowing the unemployment rate is an example of water in a bucket that is not drawing from the well of careful and caring economics.

Just like my friends in Poland remind me, you can trust a communist to be a communist. This is a phrase used by Fred Schwarz over fifty years ago when he explained the strategies of communists. These include truth being whatever they need it to be, and using education, language, trade, religion, and cultural interchange as weapons. This is why my Polish friends do not care about big ‘geopolitical world maps’. They simply do not want a hungry communist bear at their back door.

At heart, judging by his life commitments, Anthony Albanese is a committed leftist socialist. Despite his turns of phrase about economics, trade, religion, and cultural interchange, there is one thing I will trust – he is still a socialist, and language for him is a means to an end towards social norms that are destructive to our way of life in Australia.

And now I will go and see how else I can support and encourage my Polish friends.

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