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‘Anarcho-Marxist claptrap’ and the rule of law

Peter Mares writes in Inside Story (17.3.17) about the fervent reaction to comments by new ACTU Secretary, Sally McManus, suggesting that injustices in industrial sites and workplaces sometimes need to be resisted unlawfully.

‘Sally McManus, the new secretary of the ACTU, has copped a caning for asserting on ABC TV’s 7.30 that it is legitimate to break the law in some circumstances. The example she gave was of trade unionists laying down tools at an unsafe worksite, and thus facing prosecution for engaging in illegal strike action. Her words inspired defence minister Christopher Pyne to new heights of hyperbole. He told Fran Kelly on RN Breakfast that McManus was spouting “anarcho-Marxist claptrap” and “ideological gobbledygook” and should resign. “We’re not in the 1980s Arts class at Adelaide University anymore,” he said.

‘As someone with fond memories of Arts classes at Adelaide University in the 1980s, I think Pyne should take a deep breath and count to ten.

‘… According to Christopher Pyne, “Every citizen has to abide by the law. That’s how our Western democracy works.” Opposition leader Bill Shorten and many others on the Labor side of politics echoed that view as they scrambled to distance themselves from McManus and avoid predictable condemnation by the tabloid media and talkback radio. Shorten insisted that the way to change unjust laws is through the democratic process. “That’s the great thing about living in a country like Australia,” he said. “That’s what democracy is about. We ­believe in changing bad laws, not breaking them”.

‘So Martin Luther King Jr was not a democrat? He was arrested countless times for breaking the law, and when he led unlawful protests against racial segregation he did so in the name of democracy. In his famous 1963 Letter from Birmingham Jail, he correctly predicted that history would one day vindicate those African Americans who deliberately flouted the laws that forced them to sit at the back of the bus or banned them from eating in restaurants.’

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