Modia Minotaur

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Sunday, September 25, 2005

The Latham Diaries: One Week On

It may be hard to believe, but it's less than one week since the release of The Latham Diaries. Though discussion of the diaries has dominated debate for two weeks, we've only had a chance to read it for one. Since the book itself - not the News Ltd-picked excerpts - have been available, the reaction has begun to change.

The most sensible and balanced interepretations have come from Mike Steketee in The Australian (the irony!) and Michael Duffy, Latham's biographer, in The Herald. Duffy's analysis is particularly apt if read in light of Latham's belief, confirmed in his Lateline interview the other day, in the so-called `Iron Law of Oligarchy':
"Michels (1911) came to the conclusion that the formal organization of
bureaucracies inevitably leads to oligarchy, under which organizations originally idealistic and democratic eventually come to be dominated by a small, self-serving group of people who achieved positions of power and responsibility. This can occur in large organizations because it becomes physically impossible for everyone to get together every time a decision has to be made. Consequently, a small group is given the responsibility of making decisions. Michels believed that the people in this group would become enthralled with their elite positions and more and more inclined to make decisions that protect their power rather than represent the will of the group they are supposed to serve. In effect Michels was saying that bureaucracy and democracy do not mix. Despite any protestations and promises that they would not become like all the rest, those placed in positions of responsibility and power often come to believe that they too are indispensable, and more knowledgeable than those they serve. As time goes on, they become further removed from the rank and file.

I hope that, now that the hysteria about Latham's memoirs has subsided, some of his concerns can be addressed. Latham is, was not, and never shall be, the ideal human being. But the more I read, the more I am convinced that the most dangerous thing a member of the ALP can do is not to read his book.


At 10:26 am, Anonymous Guy said...

I bought it over the weekend and have started reading it. The introduction is probably the most interesting part of the whole thing so far - the only part resembling a coherent criticism of the party.

A lot of the actual diary content is banal.

I'll probably review it when I eventually finish it. It would be nice to see something like an ALP national summit formed to address the points made in the book but one would have to be living in a fantasy world to believe that is going to happen.

At 8:57 pm, Blogger leftvegdrunk said...

I agree with your final point here. Likewise I believe Loewenstein and the Crikey mob are saying things in a similar vein. Latham will be given a hammering so long as his remarks cut close to the bone.

I was never a fan - I'm too far left to have any faith in mainstream labour - but honesty, albeit too late, is always welcome in the grubby pit that passes for politics in this country. So good on him.

Let's hope something good will come once the real messages, not just the rude words, start to sink in.

At 12:10 am, Blogger Minotaur said...

There are various processes whereby the ALP's national platform and policy are decided, and the agenda for the National Conference formed. Given anecdotal evidence, I'd be surprised if some sort of motion about factional or structural reform doesn't get raised somewhere. The current ALP President, Barry Jones, wrote an excellent article on this for the Fabian Society's latest newsletter - more of his concerns key in with Latham's than may be imagined (suffice to say, he tends to be a little more diplomatic about it than Latham ...)

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