January 24, 2013

Can Fiji's United Democratic Front work?

Now here's a news story worth noting. And we would urge Felix Anthony and his political group in the strongest terms possible to get on board and "hang together" with the others.

Unity, as those in the fray of labour rights know full well, is the only way to defeat tyranny and restore the rights and freedoms of The People, in who's name they serve.

Updated 23 January 2013, 18:25 AEST

Can a united group of Fiji's political parties actually work?That's the question being asked in the wake of the decision by the SDL, Labour, United Peoples and other parties to form what they're calling a United Front for a Democratic Fiji.

They say they are cooperating against a common enemy - the coup installed military government of Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

Getting different political parties and groups to work together has never been easy.

Politics attracts people with passionate and unyielding views, and even if there is agreement on the basic philosophy, internal disagreements, often about personalities rather than actual policies, tend to cause division, as lampooned in the film "Monty Python's Life of Brian".

Presenter: Bruce Hill

Speaker: Grab from film, Professor Bill Hodge of Auckland University

MONTY PYTHON: The only people we hate more than the Romans are Judean People Front and the Judean Popular People's Front. Oh, yeah, and the People's Front of Judeah. The People's Front of Judeah, splitters, we're the People's Front of Judeah. Oh, I thought we were the Popular Front. People's Front. Whatever happened to the Popular Front. He's over there. Yeah.

HILL: In Fiji, an attempt at cooperation has been made among parties with very different, political and ethnic backgrounds,

Such attempts at broad unity among differing parties is often called the Popular Front approach.

New Zealand's Constitutional scholar, Professor Bill Hodge, says historically such attempts are not common, and their results have been rather mixed.

HODGE: I'm not sure it would be common, but it's certainly an appropriate tactic for centre groups and left wing groups in the face of what I'll call a military approach and perhaps more recently the Popular Front in Madrid were faced with Franco's Fascist army coming over the horizon. An even better example might be the 13 American colonies in the 18th Century, a very desperate group with slave owners in the South and traders in the North and they became a popular front against what they regarded as British tyranny. So it's not, I wouldn't say everyday event, but Popular Fronts are possibly the natural instinct of making strange bedfellows out of a greater enemy, which would be the military here.

HILL: It's not an easy thing for former political foes to work together, is it. How does it work in America and Spain?

HODGE: Well, I think certainly in America, we've got the great precedent of Benjamin Franklin, who told his colleagues that we've got to hang together, meaning work together or we hang separately, which was probably true in the end and for them it worked. Unfortunately, for the Popular Front, that's the one in Madrid in the mid 1930's. I think one can argue that if Franco hadn't had a successful fascist army, the Popular Front might have been consumed from inside by one of the Stalinist elements of the Popular Front, but it succeeded for only a short while in fending off a superior Fascist force.

In Fiji, I wouldn't characterise the military as quite the abomination that Fascism in Europe might have been, but on the other hand, it's bad enough for the South Pacific, so it's a natural instinct for a disparate group of trade unionists and Fiji Nationalists and religious groups and so on to come together, hopefully, more than temporarily.

HILL: Is it possible for these strange bedfellows to work together really effectively or is the danger that at some point one of the components of this might be seen to be pulling ahead or using the others for its own purposes. Is that how these things usually fall apart, internal jealousy?

HODGE: What I would say at some point, they would almost always do that, but one would cross one's fingers. I mean most of us have been looking hopefully at what was happening in Fiji and hoping that evolution back to democracy would occur. Now it's ebbing away and the true colours of the tiger or the military riding the tiger's back are coming to the fore, but the Popular Front is an idea that should, well in theory, and I'll be optimistic here, and I know I'm still optimistic about Fiji, would hang together long enough to steer the ship back to a form of democracy, somehow getting enough signatures to become a party and even without the trade unionists, which I find an abomination, it' s just a bizarre ruling that trade unionists can't participate. That's just contrary to democracy in the Western world. But hopefully, the Popular Front could steer the vote or with the well, hopefully the benign withdrawal of the military, which is looking less likely then this Popular Front is the right way forward.

HILL: But if the military won't withdraw from politics, and they've made it very clear that they won't. Is there anything that even a strong or united popular front as we put it could actually do about this. If the army's in control, surely there's nothing anyone can reasonably do to affect what happens in Fiji?

HODGE: Not in the short term, but hope, crossing my fingers and being absurdly optimistic, the habits of democracy may continue to grow. It hasn't been completely forgotten and if the military, without stepping all the way back, steps back, then hopefully a Popular Front can establish a tradition that puts the military where it belongs, which is back in the barracks and possibly earning some foreign currency by sending a battalion to the Middle East, which is in theory a good thing, as long as that battalion doesn't come back and occupy the streets of Suva. But the habit of democracy, cross fingers, will strengthen and revive.

HILL: The weakness of these Popular Fronts is that once they perhaps achieve their objectives, how long it takes, it automatically falls apart. The victory fells the destruction of it?

HODGE: Well indeed, but falling apart is not the end of the world. I'd rather have the Popular Front fall apart after getting power than have them not come together at all. So it's worth a try, even though we all see some dangers and some probable futures for a Popular Front. It's better to go that route now in the face of ? I don't see any alternatives. So good luck to them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Splitters!! Lolz!

Monty Python is a great metaphor for all the farce going on in Fiji at present ...