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Keep socialist blog En Passant going - donate now
If you want to keep a blog that makes the arguments every day against the ravages of capitalism going and keeps alive the flame of democracy and community, make a donation to help cover my costs. And of course keep reading the blog. To donate click here. Keep socialist blog En Passant going. More... (4)

Sprouting sh*t for almost nothing
You can prove my 2 ex-comrades wrong by donating to my blog En Passant at BSB: 062914 Account: 1067 5257, the Commonwealth Bank in Tuggeranong, ACT. More... (12)

My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/18-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-g20-meeting-age-of-enttilement-engineers-attack-of-austerity-hardship-on-civilians.mp3 (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2014/02/11/john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-2/ (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/4-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-end-of-the-age-of-entitlement-for-the-needy-but-pandering-to-the-lusts-of-the-greedy.mp3 (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole
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Sick kids and paying upfront

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Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2013/12/03/john-passant-australian-national-university-8/ (0)

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The Left, internet filtering and missing the point

As anyone who has read my articles knows, I am a defender of free speech, freedom of association and the other freedoms under attack across the ‘democratic’ and undemocratic world.

We are all victims of the new McCarthyism.

The Canberra Times refuses to acknowledge let alone publish any of my submitted political articles. 

The Australian traduces Socialist Alternative, the political organisation I am a member of, with the lie of anti-semitism and then refuses to publish my response. 

The Australian Tax Office has banned staff from accessing my site. 

I didn’t get a job in the Parliamentary Library because of my political views.

My ASIO and Special Branch files are long.

Of course internet filtering is a worry. There are no good and bad censors. I oppose Conroy’s con. 

 But I think the blogocracy is getting a little carried away with this issue. 

Now, I have great respect for Guy Rundle.  But when in an article in Crikey (Rundle: there is no bigger issue than net censorship) he describes the internet filter as  ‘… the greatest assault on free speech and an open society in the country’s history…’ I think we need to take a big breath.

 

First, this claim is ahistorical. The criminalisation of  the Industrial Workers of the World in the First World War and smashing up their printing press and Menzies’ attempt to ban the Communist Party are two examples to my mind which go further than Conroy. 

Gillard’s Fair Work Act, (which I think is a dangerous alcopops version of WorkCoices), with its restrictions on unions and the continuation of the Australian Building and Construction Commission is a greater threat to our livelihoods and hence our freedoms than the internet filter.

Guy misses two other points, I believe. First, the society in which we live is profoundly anti-democratic. 

The goal must be to fight for and win a society that is democratic, in which every citizen is a participant in the day to day decisions which impact their lives. 

I am sure Guy agrees with that. 

The second point is that these attempts by the State and capitalist class to regulate ideas and their expression are ongoing. They express something deeper than the fact that Conroy is contemptible. 

In my opinion they flow from the very way production is organised in society and the strength or weakness of workers, our side, in the class struggle.

Most of the freedoms we take for granted today have been won through bitter struggle, in particular the struggles of the working class.

It would be a mistake for the Left to see the struggle against Conroy’s internet censorship as something to do at the expense of all other struggles.

But that is what Guy argues. He says:  ‘[C]ivil liberties and free speech campaigns have to take priority over any other, because they are the precondition of political activity.’

I disagree. Let me talk about economics to help understand politics and the inter-relationship between the two.

The spectre of mass unemployment haunts the globe. 

General strikes in France, Greece, Ireland, mass demonstrations across Europe, the fall of Governments across the globe – in essence class struggle in the raw against the Great Recession – should be the focus of the Left. 

Free speech can only exist in a truly free society, one in which wage slavery is abolished. The seeds of that new society can be found in the struggles of ordinary people against their economic ruin. 

Let me make the point using China as an example. 

The one force that has the power to overthrow the dictatorship is Chinese workers, acting as workers. In fighting for their economic and political interests they can sweep away the Chinese Communist Party and with it the internet filters it has in place.

This concentration on symptoms rather than causes is clear in the example Guy uses from the Depression. He says:

In the 1930s, this involved a long campaign against the “vagrancy” laws used by the police to prevent anti-eviction campaigners, among others, speaking at street corners.

Actually these struggles grew out of the economic and political radicalisation the Depression created. It was the  growth of the Communist Party (from a few hundred at the Start of the Depression to thousands in 1933,) and the radicalisation of the ALP in the form of Socialisation Units which demanded socialism within 3 years that reflected that radicalisation.

There were a range of fights against the system. Unemployed Workers went on strike for better susso or dole payments, the waterside workers and other unions rebuilt, not to mention the Militant Minority Movement and globally the US sit down movement, the Spanish Civil War, the French strikes of 34, and so on.

As part of this generalised global radicalisation, the fights against evictions and for free speech in Australia arose.  These however were not the highpoint of the fightback but a consequence of it.

The Left should join with workers in fighting for their jobs and livelihoods, and in doing that help defend and extend our freedoms.

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Comments

Comment from susanai
Time March 28, 2009 at 3:21 pm

God. You might be an ok sort of person if you didn’t write such boring and angry dissertations.

Comment from John
Time March 28, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Thanks susanai

Boring? moi?

Angry? moi?

Actually I am quite personable with a good sense of humour (I think) and the meditation sure does reduce any anger levels.

It’s sometimes a bit difficult to write humorous articles on the great recession, censorship or whatever. But I do occasionally put some humorous material on here. (In fact my critics call everything I write a joke.)

Have a read of them. I guess you’ll call them boring and angry too.Oh well, that’s what makes horse racing.