Gerard Henderson never gives up. The perpetual History Wars roll on, with this week’s entry being a spray about the alleged support of the Left for communism in Vietnam and Cambodia, accompanied by the usual conspicuous indignation tactic of demanding that people apologise. I’m no longer interested in refuting Gerry on a regular basis, and in any case Ken Parish has done a good job at Troppo.
But I did want to draw attention to Henderson’s most recent airing of one of his enduring obsessions – the Labor split:
Half a century ago, as Labor leader, Evatt should have been able to manage diversity. Instead, in a paranoid state, he fermented division. As a consequence, Labor was devastated at the federal level – and in Victoria and Queensland – for a generation. If the participants in the Melbourne seminar this week follow their published scripts, then Evatt’s predominant role in this Labor disaster will only be mentioned at the margin. It’s called denial.
Henderson is departing from his usual Culture War script – it’s a bit hard to see how his repeated justification of B.A. Santamaria and demonisation of Doc Evatt has any contemporary resonance. In this case, Henderson’s ire is inspired by a new book published by Scribe – The Great Labor Schism: a retrospective (the seminar he writes about coincided with the book’s launch in Melbourne). Henderson’s criticism is unsurprisingly quite misplaced and unfair, as the book (an edited collection) does not purport to be a comprehensive re-examination of the details of the Split. That is something that would be welcome, incidentally, and a great service to Australian historiography, since the existing account by Robert Murray is quite one-sided in its political assessment, as well as being quite dated (initially published in 1970). Rather the central thrust of The Great Labor Schism is to examine the impact of the Split, both human and political, and whether the Labor party has ever achieved “closure”. It’s pretty obvious that Henderson hasn’t.
I’ll write a full review of the book in due course. At the moment, I’m rather too busy with a number of work projects. However, I will says from the chapters I’ve dipped into so far, it’s well worth a look.