Identity politics is a corrosive ideology that will create division and hostility if it’s allowed to take hold – as the latest factional warfare in the Greens has shown.
Every political party experiences internal conflict from time to time, and the Greens are no exception. But unlike the garden-variety factionalism that occurs in the NSW branch – where Lee Rhiannon’s watermelon faction is in a perennial struggle against their more moderate rivals, the so-called “Tree Tories” – the latest conflict in the Victorian Greens has escalated well beyond any reasonable personal or political differences, with extraordinary allegations of rampant racism, sexism, and bullying erupting out of the party’s heartland of Melbourne’s inner north.
The issue first hit the headlines in the lead-up to the Batman by-election, when The Australian reported on a 101-page complaint against the party’s serial candidate, Alex Bhathal. The complaint included allegations of “…systemic intimidation, and malicious and reckless false statements about members and party decisions,” as well as “instances of direct intimidation and victimisation on the part of Alex.”
According to The Australian, it even accused her of “unfriending” a party member on Facebook, and of projecting, triggering, and making the Darebin branch an unsafe space.
Understandably angry about the impact this had on her ultimately unsuccessful campaign, Bhathal’s supporters have hit back. First, there were calls for the 18 members who signed the complaint to be expelled from the party – a group which it has since been reported includes the Mayor of Darebin and three fellow Greens councillors. Adding fuel to the fire, another former Greens councillor, Lynette Keleher, penned an op-ed in The Age claiming it was Bhathal who was the victim of “intense bullying” carried out over many years by “the controlling elite of the Greens.”
According to Keleher, the Greens are “overridden by an abusive and bullying internal organisational culture.” She describes how a “powerful elite” presides over a culture where “racism is rampant in the party and embedded in its processes and structures.” Members who know they should speak up “feel helpless” and are “terrified into silence.
In the same week these extraordinary claims emerged, The Age reported that former Victorian Greens leader Greg Barber had reached a $56,000 legal settlement after he was accused of sexual discrimination and bullying in 2017.
It is possible that the culture within the Greens is as insidious as both sides in this dispute claim – it wouldn’t be the first time a left-wing party became tyrannical. But given the Greens pride themselves on their political correctness, sensitivity, and embrace of diversity, it is hard to comprehend.
It’s far more likely that the Greens are experiencing the inevitable consequence of identity politics – a conflict of all against all where victimhood is the ultimate prize and accusations of racism, sexism, and homophobia are the ultimate weapon.
These are the accusations the Greens frequently hurl at their political opponents. So it was only a matter of time before they began wielding them against their internal enemies as well – however farfetched it might seem to outsiders.
The Greens have been pushing an identity politics agenda for years. It is clear for all to see in their embrace of the safe schools program and their support for changing the date of Australia Day.
They’ve promised that if Australia embraces these policies we’ll become more tolerant, compassionate and understanding.
But when practised in their own party, identity politics has resulted in the exact opposite. It has caused hostility and division, with extraordinary claims from two sides who are both intent on claiming victim status. If this is what identity politics leads to in the Greens – a largely homogenous, hyper-PC political party – why would we expect it to be any different when introduced on a national scale?
The conflict being experienced by the Greens was inevitable, for three main reasons:
- Firstly, identity politics encourages people to judge others based on their race, sex, and sexual orientation – rather than as individuals. This is a direct consequence of attempting to rank people based on their level of privilege or victimhood (a central practice of identity politics); since it is impossible to take every aspect of a person’s life into account.
- Secondly, it incentivises a victimhood culture by rewarding people for their minority status and punishing people for their perceived privilege. This is why both sides in the Greens’ conflict have attempted to portray themselves as the victims, and why Lynette Keleher was so quick to accuse Bhathal’s opponents of being a “powerful ruling elite” – the only surprise is she didn’t tell them to check their privilege.
- And lastly, it leads to the suppression of debate, as everyone’s right to speak on an issue is judged according to their perceived level of privilege, and whether they accept the identity politics dogma.
Thankfully, this dogma still remains on the fringe of Australian politics. It is clearly alien to our country’s liberal and conservative traditions, which have long placed an emphasis on the egalitarian principles of individual freedom and equality before the law. It’s also a complete repudiation of the politics of solidarity that has traditionally animated the Labor Party, since it divides people rather than uniting them – although there is some indication this intellectual poison has infected them, as well.
But it doesn’t seem to be catching on with the Australian public. According to the Greens’ own analysis, the party’s vote is flatlining and more than half of its senators are at risk of losing their seats within two elections.
Identity politics is a recipe for division and conflict. It is an ideology that should be roundly rejected by Australians across the political spectrum.
James Paterson is a Liberal Senator for Victoria.
Illustration: shared from The Greens website to lessen The Spectator Australia’s carbon footprint. The hippie commies can’t object as they believe that property is theft. Still, it’s interesting to note just how white, young, abled, urban, tertiary-educated and middle-class the party members in the picture look. Most appear to identify as women, too. Not very inclusive.
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