No Man-us is an Archipelago

No Man-us is an Archipelago

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“The Ogre stalks with hands on hips
While drivel gushes from his lips” 
W.H. Auden uttered these words in 1968 to describe the socialist alternative to Western representative democracies. Whilst it may be superfluous for me to highlight tectonic shifts taken place toward capitalist economies since then, little has changed among those who support a socialist alternative.
A recent encounter with a “friendly” and “rather inconspicuous” political fringe group called the Socialist Alternative illustrates my point nicely. You may have seen them before, wearing those discreet black t-shirts with a three-word slogan that demonstrates the utmost respect they have for this country, the voting public, and the man we recently elected PM.
A young man from this group approached me with a newspaper and clipboard asking me to join his cause. He was a man of contrasts.
His long hair, short beard, tattered jeans, and whole ‘not showering’ look told a story of a uni student struggling to make ends meet. His well pressed checker flannel shirt, designer beanie (on a 30-degree day), and Ray Ban reading glasses (which unfortunately were unable to cure his political myopia) told me otherwise.
I made eye contact with the man and asked for a copy of his – what I expect to be free – paper. But no.
In a monotone voice that I’m sure could chloroform a chronic insomniac, I was told I could have the rag for the “alternative” prices of $3 or $5.
Apparently the latter is the “solidarity price”, which I was bluntly told was to encourage me to join. Because I told him I was never going to join and take the reduced fee, he gave me a look of surprise and hostility as if I’d just developed leprosy and lost a limb before his very eyes.
At this stage I was surprised that he was surprised that I didn’t want to join: surely he’d faced more rejections in this one day than most of us would receive in a lifetime.
Now although my very being cringes with the idea that I would give these creatures money for their cause, I felt like I was indirectly donating to the Young Liberal movement. After all, their existence is a damn good incentive to join the YLs.
When I finally arrived home I sat down at my desk and took a look at the Red Flag. The front sported the words “SHUT THE MANUS ISLAND GULAG” and was a lead to the main story, which featured several plays on words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s “Gulag Archipelago”.
It was at this point I began to think the editors had ingested a great deal of mercury before doing their job. As I’m sure many of you are aware, the Gulag Archipelago is a narrative that traces life inside a series of gulags established under the Soviet regime. It was a key publication in undermining the position of communist and socialist apologists in the West during the Cold War.
Another problem I found was a basic lack of understanding of term archipelago. When calling Manus Island’s detention centre “Australia’s gulag archipelago”, those sharp intellects at Red Flag overlooked the (not so) minor detail that an archipelago consists of multiple islands, not one.
For all my chastisement there is a serious side to all this. Strictly speaking, what these people stand for is dangerous when taken to its logical conclusion. However, my experience shows exactly what I suspected all along: those subscribing to such views aren’t fundamentally evil as I have heard some Young Liberals say. These people are simply myopic recalcitrants, angry at a world that overwhelmingly disagrees with them, displaying at best an elementary grasp of politics.
And so what I took from this comical experience is quite simple.
Like rowers without oars, socialists continue to look backwards and go nowhere. They overlook the fact that in the late 20th Century the winds of political change capsized their ideological boat, and sunk it to the depths of a cold dark lakebed from which it cannot be salvaged.
As a result, they are left with fragments of that ideological wreckage that occasionally surface, but when they do it’s merely that same “drivel” that Auden was talking about in 1968.

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