Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Australia as a client state: The US, Australia and the great cause of Australian independence

Vanguard September 2013 p. 4
Alex M.


In this the fiftieth anniversary edition of Vanguard it is pertinent to highlight one of the cornerstones of our political programme, namely the fighting for and attaining of Australian independence.

What does it mean to speak of Australian independence? Isn’t Australia an independent nation?

While Australia is independent from the standpoint of mainstream political analysis - that is, we are not formally subordinate to another nation state in a colonial relationship, for example - this level of analysis hides more than it reveals.

 What is hidden by using this analysis (mainstream political analysis) is the dependent status that Australia has with its ‘great and powerful’ friend the US.

 Gavan McCormack article

In a timely essay on the issue of the political servility and subservience that lies at the heart of Japan-US relations that appeared in the June issue of The Asia-Pacific Journal ( ) the Australian scholar Gavan McCormack eloquently summarises what he calls the ‘client state’ relationship:

“The division of world states into political science categories of independent (sovereign, nation) states and subject (colonial or neo-colonial) states tends to neglect the increasingly important, in-between category of ‘client states.’ The formal sovereignty of the client state is not in question, but it combines independence and democratic responsibility with renunciation of independence or deliberately chosen submission, such that it is to be described only by oxymoronic terms such as ‘dependent independence’ or ‘servile sovereignty.’

“I have suggested a definition that distinguishes it from other, related forms of colonial, conquered, or directly dominated, or neo-colonial territory as ‘a state that enjoys the formal trappings of Westphalian sovereignty and independence, and is therefore neither a colony nor a puppet state, but which has internalised the requirement to give preference to “other” interests over its own.’” [Westphalian in this instance refers to the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia which marked the end of the Thirty Years War in Europe. In International Relations it is taken as signalling the start of state sovereignty.]

McCormack elaborates on how the subordinate party tends to act towards the dominant state:

“The puzzling but crucial fact is that submission is not forced but chosen. The client state is happy to have its ‘patron’ occupy parts of its territory, and determined at all costs to avoid giving it offence. It pays meticulous attention to adopting and pursuing policies that will satisfy its patron, and readily pays whatever price necessary to be sure that the patron not abandon it.”

He then outlines three relatively recent examples of leaders of client states:

“Though there is no agreed social science term to describe it, in common parlance it is what is known as the ‘poodle’ syndrome - the term the UK widely adopted to apply to the government of Tony Blair (PM, 1997-2007) in the United Kingdom. Australia’s Prime Minister John Howard (PM, 1996-2007) was in similar vein often referred to as a US ‘deputy sheriff.’ In Japan some critics referred to Prime Minister Koizumi (PM, 2001-2006) as a ‘pochi’ (pet dog) and within the George W. Bush White House he was known - at least to some - as ‘Sergeant-Major Koizumi.’”

McCormack in the essay goes on to examine the Australia – US client state relationship highlighting the concern that some former Prime Ministers have about increasing Australian servility towards the US.

Malcolm Fraser has been outspoken about being locked into ‘the United States purposes and objectives’ which limited our ability to ‘act as an independent and confident nation’.

Australia is a client state of the US

We are a formally independent country but the Australian ruling class has chosen to adopt the subservient role of underlings to a great power. Such an attitude has been a hallmark of the Australian ruling class since European settlement.

We can unite large numbers of people behind the cause of a genuinely anti-imperialist Australian independence because workers and others can see that it is positive for the all-round development of the country, a development in which they must take the lead and control the agenda. The great cause of Australian independence – worth fighting for!   

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