April 4th Meeting of the 17 Group

trotskys pledge

The next meeting of the 17 group will be held on Wednesday the 4th of April at 7 pm in unit 6 at 20 Drury St, West End. The speaker will be Adrian Skerritt, who will initiate discussion of the questionWas Australia’s war in the Pacific a “just” war? Remembering and teaching military history.

Here is Adrian’s summary of his talk:

After many years of using a range of textbooks in the history classroom, I have observed that the approach adopted in these materials towards the Pacific war dovetails quite neatly with the way Australia’s political elites have represented the war.

The story we have been told is one of urgent national defence and a regional humanitarian crusade. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbour, Prime Minister John Curtin announced “we are at war with Japan… because our vital interests are imperilled and the rights of free people in the whole Pacific are assailed” (quoted in O’Lincoln 19). Fifty years later another Prime Minister, this time Paul Keating, declared that Kokoda was a battle waged “in defence of the liberty of Australia” (quoted in Stanley p228). I was not able to find, with a couple of notable exceptions, history textbooks that depart significantly from the framework created by these two Prime Ministerial statements. [1]

The congruence between the approach in the textbooks and that of our political leaders potentially indicates a deliberate manufacture of Australian military history of the kind described by Lake and Reynolds in What’s wrong with Anzac. This possibility is important to explore. The majority of the evidence that casts doubt on the notion that Australia was going to be invaded have been excluded from school textbooks as have facts that demonstrate that the Australian military, like the Japanese military, also “assailed” the rights of Javanese, Timorese and Papuans. I believe history teachers should be prepared to examine confronting and shameful aspects of Australia’s military record and present the established narrative as something contestable.

Short biographical information:
Adrian is a history teacher and member of the Qld Teachers Union. Over recent years he has become more alarmed at what historians Lake and Reynolds have described as the “militarisation of Australian history” and how this history is taught in schools.

Adrian has been a socialist since 1988. He and his family live in Yeerongpilly and his 2 children attend a wonderful government school. He is keen talk to other people who cherish state schools, trade unions and civil liberties and discuss ways we can look after these things in the aftermath of the Queensland election.

When our international WW2 subcommittee contacted Leon’s people about his coming it seemed a good sign that Leon himself turned up to the meeting and perhaps our people got a bit too self-confident. In any case, Hiram, our Yankee rep and a Pacific war veteran, made a rather boisterous reference to Uncle Sam, which led to Boris, our ex-Soviet man from the Leningrad defence, referring jocosely to Uncle Joe. At first they thought they could suddenly hear an owl getting louder and louder, but it turned out to be Leon shouting “Who? Who? Who?? Who???!!!” in a rising inflection as he made for the door.

Don’t you though, at least not until the meeting is over.

[1] A more balanced approach to the Pacific war can be found in Conflict in the Pacific 1937-1951 by Bell, Brawley and Dixon and Contested Spaces: Conflict in the Pacific 1937-1951 by Pollock, McKinlay and Cantwell.

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