THE CURSE OF LEFT AND RIGHT
SIR: Brett Mason (September 1995) quite misunderstands my points. I agree with him entirely when he says that Canberra fifteen years ago was filled with soft leftwingers apologising for communist regimes. My point was that when the Vietnam intervention was getting underway another fifteen years earlier the Canberra intellectual climate was strongly, right-wing. It was the right-wing foreign policy mistakes then that left the way open to the left-wing indulgences of the 1970s.
In the very same ANU seminar rooms where in the mid-sixties some of us had had academic careers virtually destroyed because we had dared to oppose the right wing hardline on Vietnam and China, those of us who tried to point out Cultural Revolution’ absurdities in the seventies had to face a dominant coalition of mad Maoists, soft left-wing wing romantics’ and China-visa-hungry academic opportunists.
In the mid-sixties Whitlam, either out of conviction or for fear of right-wing criticism, actively supported US intervention in Vietnam and so undercut the, one chance Australia had of blunting that intervention. When he came to power in the seventies his staff was filled with Mao and Cultural Revolution admirers. And so on.The immaturity of the foreign affairs debate, both on the left andthe right, is a curse that still plagues Australia.
Gregory Clark, Tokyo.