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Sydney Libertarians and the Push

Germaine Greer (1939-     )

Germaine Greer was born in 1939 Melbourne Victoria. After education at the Star of the Sea Convent in Gardenvale, and then winning a Teacherís College scholarship, Germaine Greer enrolled at Melbourne University in 1956. She graduated with a BA honors from Melbourne University in 1958, an MA with 1st class honors from Sydney in 1963 and the following year she went to Cambridge University in England on a Commonwealth Scholarship. She received a PhD from Cambridge in 1968.

Germaine Greer arrived in Sydney in 1959 and became active in Push activities.

For Germaine, it provided a philosophy to underpin the attitude and lifestyle she had already acquired in Melbourne. She walked into the Royal George Hotel, into the throng talking themselves hoarse in a room stinking of stale beer and thick with cigarette smoke, and set out to follow the Push way of life -'an intolerably difficult discipline which I forced myself to learn'. The Push struck her as completely different from the Melbourne intelligentsia she had engaged with in the Drift, 'who always talked about art and truth and beauty and argument ad hominem; instead, these people talked about truth and only truth, insisting that most of what we were exposed to during the day was ideology, which was a synonym for lies -or bullshit, as they called it.' Her Damascus turned out to be the Royal George, and the Hume Highway was the road to it. 'I was already an anarchist,' she says. 'I just didn't know why I was an anarchist. They put me in touch with the basic texts and I found out what the internal logic was about how I felt and thought.'
Greer: Untamed Shrew by Christine Wallace 1997 pp87.


Germaine Greer in 2001
Campaigning for a treaty with Aboriginal Australia
Years later, it is to the poet and non- academic anarchist, Harry Hooton, that Germaine pays homage to from the Sydney Push:

When Germaine later looked back on her life in Sydney, it was Harry Hooton on whom she dwelt. Harry, the Utopian anarchist who had admired her red stockings, who believed people were perfect and who was not weighed down by the tremendous forces the anarchistic pessimists felt bore down on them all the time. 'Alas, I understand him much better now,' she said twenty years later. ' When I last saw him, he was dying, just a whisper of himself, but still enormous; the power of his soul filled the little room he lay in. And he called me to tell me that he had great faith in me, that he thought I was the woman of the twenty-first century. I didn't know what he meant then, but I think a lot of the things I've done since I've done out of a desire to please Harry Hooton....."
Greer: Untamed Shrew by Christine Wallace 1997 pp94.

In the late 1960's Greer travelled to England for further academic studies. She became an active contributor as 'Dr G' to London Oz magazine, published by fellow Australian Richard Neville.

In fact, London Oz 29, July 1970 was guest-edited by Germaine Greer:

"Everyone digs the idea of the new female militancy so long as all it does is demand things from men. Rejecting that workshop mentality, Oz argues that if anything will free women, it will be their own peculiar force." Features Germaineís hand-knitted fashions, including the Cock Sock, "a snug corner for a chilly prick".

The publication of her classic 1970 book The Female Eunuch, made her a household name associated with womens liberation and radical feminism. Although the book never articulates anarchism per se, it is a ground breaking liberatory text which draws upon anarchist ideas.

In a discussion between Germaine Greer, Ian Turner, and Chris Hector recorded in Melbourne, February 1972, titled Greer on Revolution; Germaine on Love, Germaine describes herself as an anarchist communist.

Later in 1972, Greer covered the US presidential Democratic Convention in Miami for Harpers Magazine. The previous Democratic convention in Chicago in 1968 were marked by peaceful protests violently suppressed by the police on the orders of the Democrat Mayor Daley. In 1972 the minorities were inside the convention being incorporated and subsumed within the system:

'It's terrific, Gee,' famed Yippie, Abbie Hoffman, told Germaine. 'We're inside the hall this time. All these women and blacks and young kids, it's terrific' Germaine, terminally jaded about the political process, looked at it all through gimlet eyes: "'Ah, come on, Geegee," he pleaded with me. "Don't be so down on everything! We gotta chance this time, Geegee! " "But Abbie," I replied faintly, "it can't work this way. What kind of bargaining power have these people got? Remember your Marx, man, and the nature of capitalism." "Aw Gee, I never read Marx, but Lenin woulda liked it." I realized with a guilty creak of the heart that Abbie was sick of trashing and being trashed. ..Besides, he loved America.'

The convention contained the usual blend of tokenism and boosterism, sincerity and syrup, but that did not make the visible emergence of women and minority interests any less significant. It may have been a small start in terms of impact on the Democratic platform, but compared to the bloody 1968 convention in Chicago it was a minor miracle.

For Germaine, however, it seemed a futile exercise. 'The women's caucus was not a caucus in any meaningful sense,' she said. 'They were in Miami as cards in McGovern's hand, to be led or discarded as he wished, not as players at the table. .. Womanlike, they did not want to get tough with their man, and so, womanlike, they got screwed.' The Latin caucus, she complained, was 'muddled and bombastic. ..None of the caucuses really existed as policy-making bodies or influential entities on the convention floor. A spurious leaderism ripped them all off and masqueraded as the collective voice. ..Spokesman after spokesman claimed to have secured this or that, on a collateral of hot air, and the women's caucus was no exception.'

Greer: Untamed Shrew by Christine Wallace 1997 pp240.

Where Greer could see the process of incorporation of minorities within the system as a means of meliorism, bringing little lasting change, Wallace is already condemning this viewpoint in favour of the small offerings by bureaucratic reforms, of participating within the power games of the elites.

Since at least the late 1950's Germaine Greer has identified herself as an anarchist, and continues to do so. Her regular public comments on social issues are portrayed in the media as controversy, yet they successfully raise for discussion topics previously given little commentary or debate.

In conjunction with the release in 1999 of The Whole Woman, Lisa Jardine interviewed Germaine Greer (Sunday March 7, 1999) who explained why it's time for women to stop being grateful and start getting angry again.. In the interview Germaine identifies herself as an anarchist:

"I'm an anarchist basically. I don't think the future lies in constraining people into doing stuff they are not good at and don't want to do.
Growing Up with Greer Interview with Lisa Jardine, Sunday 7 March 1999, The Observer

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Last modified: September 9, 2003
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