If there was a proposed referendum on ending immigration to Australia and one of the people tasked with designing that referendum had once been in the leadership of a neo-Nazi party then the media might be interested. In fact, they’d almost certainly be outraged, and justifiably so.
So why the double standard for Marcia Langton?
It is a matter of public record that in the 1970s Langton was a member of the National Committee of the Communist League (CL), a Trotskyist group that campaigned for the violent overthrow of the Australian government and the implementation of a totalitarian state.
It’s equally true that Langton has never disavowed her once proud Marxist views, nor has anyone in the media ever asked her to. Why the weird double standard? After all, Marcia Langton is the co-chair of the Senior Advisory Group for the proposed “Voice”. If a person now designing a change to our constitution was once a follower of an ideology even more murderous than that of the Nazis and has never distanced herself from it you’d think at the very least it would be a matter of public interest, wouldn’t you?
Marcia Langton and the Communist League
To emphasise how egregious this oversight by our establishment really is we have to go into a little of the history of the Australian extreme left in 1970s Brisbane. Marxists being what they are there’s an abundance of documentary evidence, especially of all the infighting.
The Communist League of which Langton was a National Committee member was the result of an August 1972 split in the Socialist Worker’s League (SWL) when the Brisbane branch walked out. The Brisbane branch of the SWL was itself the result of a split in January that same year where the “Labor Action Group” disintegrated into rival factions. The Labor Action Group (LAG) was a result of a 1971 split where the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) broke into two with an anarchist faction going on to form the Self Management Group (SMG) and the Trotskyists forming the LAG. The RSP was itself a result of a split in the Revolutionary Socialist Alliance (RSA) which had changed its name from the Society for Democratic Action (SDA) when it distanced itself from the Communist Party of Australia (CPA) after the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Confused yet? I’d be amazed if you weren’t.
The wonderful thing about the extreme left is their ability to split into smaller and smaller bodies over the most trivial of matters. It’s both their greatest weakness (very few people want to sit through a four-hour discussion on why paragraph 17a clause (iii) means the leadership are traitors to the revolution) and also their greatest strength due to the inherent evolutionary pressures involved in having half a dozen different groups in each major city all furiously competing with each other for new members.
Aside from Langton probably the most significant figures to emerge from this milieu were Ian Rintoul and Drew Hutton who became leaders of the anarchist Self Management Group (SMG). Rintoul later turned into one of the chief leaders of Trotskyism in Australia and one of the main organisers of the 21st-century refugee protest movement while Hutton was described by Bob Brown as the driving force in Queensland behind the founding of the Australian Greens in the early 90s.
According to the now-deceased grandfather of Australian Trotskyism John Percy, the main issue that provoked the Communist League to split was the insistence of the rest of the SWL that communists should vote for Gough Whitlam, while the Communist League splitters saw the ALP as a right-wing bourgeois party.
Those activists that led the split for a new group were generally the most fanatical and dogmatic in their loyalty to the “United Secretariat of the Fourth International”, the organisation set up by Trotsky to lead the worldwide worker’s glorious proletarian revolution in 1938 just two years before he took an ice-pick to the head in Mexico City.
So in short Marcia was in the leadership of a group that represented the nutbag fringe of the nutbag fringe that not even the Stalinists of the Communist Party of Australia wanted anything to do with. The Communist League even published an article in the second issue of their newspaper Militant after the attacks on Jewish athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics titled “Terrorism and the Left” where they condemned other left-wingers for condemning the massacre.
At one stage Langton was even the target of an ASIO operation. ASIO infiltrator Thomas Shepherd who was sent into the Trotskyist scene in the 70s to investigate rumours that the terrorists of the PLO were funding organisations like the SWL/SWP stated in a 2009 interview that Langton was at the time a particular person of interest.
Fortunately for the rest of us, Marcia and her Communist League comrades were not destined to lead the workers of Australia into a glorious Trotskyist people’s revolution against the evil capitalist colonialist settler state. At the Easter 1975 National Conference, virtually the entire Melbourne branch of the CL resigned en masse from the national organisation. The issue was the refusal of the national leadership to accept the membership of Toscin editor Robert Dorning who while critical of the Soviet Union was critical in what the leadership (presumably including Langton) considered to be an ideologically incorrect way. The splitters went on to form the “Melbourne Revolutionary Marxists” (MRM) and mostly disappeared.
After the split, the Communist League was not long for this world. Showing hints of her future skills for weaselling into positions of influence Langton helped organise the 1976 merger of the Communist League back into the Socialist Worker’s league (now renamed the Socialist Workers Party) with positions on national and political committees for Marcia and two of her comrades, Peter Robb and John McCarthy.
Interestingly, Peter Robb would go on to teach at the University of Melbourne and became a critically awarded writer in the 90s. Just like Langton, he has never been held accountable or even been asked to explain his earlier anti-Australian extremism, not even when being awarded the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award by the supposedly conservative government of Jeff Kennett. In fact, in 2014 Robb even wrote a front-page essay in the left-wing magazine “The Monthly” praising Langton. Old comrades look after each other it seems.
The Socialist Workers Party would go on to move closer to Castro’s Cuba before famously wrecking Peter Garret’s Nuclear Disarmament Party in the 80s, changing their name to the Democratic Socialist Party after the fall of the wall, trying (and failing) to take over the nascent Australian Greens in the 90s, changing the name of their newspaper from “Direct Action” to “Green Left Weekly”, and forming the Socialist Alliance in the 2000s.
Why Marcia’s youthful extremism matters
There’s no public record of how long Marcia stayed with the group or maintained her leadership positions, however, by the fall of the Berlin Wall comrade Langton had clearly moved on to bigger and better things. However, there’s also no public record of Langton ever renouncing her former views, which of course included the Trotskyist core belief that Australia doesn’t deserve to exist as a country and should be destroyed.
Since Marcia Langton once led an extremist group that professed an ideology that says Australia is an illegitimate entity that has no right to exist, it’s probably fair to ask her to disavow that ideology before she’s allowed to help redesign Australia’s constitution. Especially since Langton is still writing articles for the ABC saying that Australia has no legitimacy as a nation as recently as 2019.
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