It’s the right thing to do

Excerpted from the Spark discussion list

 grant_brookes wrote:

So are demands that no-one else supports “better” than ones thatachieve reforms within the framework of capitalism? Where’s the logic in that, unless the purpose of campaigning around “radical” demands is to brand a group, for recruiting purposes?

Don Franks replied:

Are political demands really like garments in a department store, selected by individuals in the hope of creating a particular image?

The first political demand I was really conscious of was Stop the war in Vietnam.

There was a time in New Zealand when that was  “a demand that no-one else supported”, apart from, like, a couple of communists and a clergyman.

By the time I got involved a lot of the hardest work had already been done and some solidarity had been built up against the current.

When I became part of the anti war movement the big marches were quite exciting and the Committee on Vietnam debates were always interesting, often quite dramatic. In between times it was a pleasant social thing to sit round and stuff leaflets into envelopes.

The bit I hated doing was wearing a CoV badge and thus getting into debates with some of the huge number of New Zealanders who supported the war and thought the Viet cong were coming down here to take over everything. I  had limited knowledge of the details of the war and couldn’t argue very well and didn’t like the abuse and contempt I was sometimes subjected to. Quite often I would guiltily go down town without wearing a badge in order to have a quiet life.

It was similar with the  anti apartheid movement. The hard part was arguing with the large number of people who thought you were a traitor, not a real kiwi.

Although I hated that part of  the movement I realised almost straight away that this was the most important part of radical activism.

These days, because I am more sure of my arguments and more used to being a radical activist, its not quite so bad arguing the toss with people about hard questions of the day. I still don’t enjoy it and would be delighted if the sun rose tomorrow on a communist world where I could hang up my placard and just play the piano all day.

The purpose of campaigning around difficult, unpopular radical demands -such as  Victory to the NLF  – and these days Open Borders  is not to get quick recruits. Tough demands are put because the material reality of the struggle demands they be fought for, because they’re essential to build real international working class solidarity. Or, as Matt McCarten often puts it – “Because they’re the right thing to do.”


  1. You wrote: “if the sun rose tomorrow on a communist world where I could hang up my placard and just play the piano all day.”

    This seems unlikely. Is this some kind of robot worker utopia leaving you able to play piano without contributing labour to the collective? Or are you one of the top pianists in the world? Perhaps are you planning to give yourself this position as the benevolent dictator of this imagined future? (Is this a communal piano? or private property?) It all sounds like a bourgeois fantasy to me.

  2. David, of course it’s a fantasy – up to a point.

    Obviously tomorrow will be rather similar to today and yesterday in terms of class relations.

    My vision of a communist world is one of abundance for all, with a high technological level, where each person can have according to their needs. There will be no classes, state, or dictator in this world. Yes- in a way ,it is a bourgeois fantasy – in that communist society will allow everyone to enjoy good stuff that is presently monopolised by the capitalist class.

    I won’t live to see such a high development of human civilisation, but I’m convinced such a world may come about. There is a material basis for it and a movement towards it right now.

    No, I’m not up there with Michael Houston on the piano. Technically I’d only be about grade 4, although I do have a nice big bag of cocktail stuff I can bullshit with quite convincingly. Only mentioned music as an example of something I’d rather be doing than political grunt work.

  3. David clearly has no idea that you’re not some twenty-something Don, who hasn’t already done more than your share of “contributing labour to the collective”. It’s such a luxury to be able to jump to conclusions without recourse to the facts.

  4. Stalin Guevara says:

    I think to myself…

    What would Robert Irvine do?… Hmmm.

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