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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)

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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)

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Me on Razor Sharp this morning
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State elections punish Labor, expose Green opportunism

After twelve years of ruling for the likes of pulp miller Gunns Limited and shitting on its working-class supporters, the corrupt, right-wing Labor government in Tasmania has taken a sharp hit at the polls, with its vote down twelve per cent.

It is a similar story in South Australia, except that the Rann Labor government, on which Kevin Rudd has in many ways modelled his government, has just scraped back into office with its vote down almost eight per cent.

Most of the swing against Labor has gone directly to the conservatives, with the Liberal vote up by over seven per cent in both states. But the Greens vote is also up – on current figures by 4.6 per cent to 21.3 per cent in Tasmania and by 1.6 per cent to 8 per cent in South Australia.

Left-wingers could take heart from the record Greens vote in Tasmania if the Greens had actually campaigned against Labor from the left. But they didn’t.

Greens leader Nick McKim campaigned on the basis that the Greens were a mainstream rather than a radical party – a party that would deliver “stability” in government. On ABC radio’s AM program the morning after the election, McKim declared that the Greens could deliver “the stability the business community wants.” True to this orientation, the Greens opposed teachers taking strike action in the course of the election campaign in opposition to the Labor government’s attacks on state education.

McKim made it clear that he was prepared to put traditional Greens policies – of opposition to the heavily polluting proposed Gunns pulp mill and to the logging of old-growth forests – on the back burner if they were an impediment to the Greens stitching up a deal to form a coalition government.

The Greens also declared that they were happy to deal with either the Liberals or Labor when it came to forming a coalition government. Indeed they made no distinction between the traditional party of reaction – the Liberals – and the ALP, which for all its betrayals of working-class interests still remains the party backed by the union movement and most workers.

The Greens’ approach was reminiscent of the stance of the old Australian Democrats, who positioned themselves as a moderate halfway house between Labor and the Liberals. Consequently many of the Tasmanian Greens voters are in no sense left wing or progressive. An EMRS poll in the Launceston Examiner revealed that 51 per cent of Greens voters favoured a minority Liberal government compared to 43 per cent who favoured a minority Labor government.

Greens leader McKim stated that a Liberal-Labor coalition government would be an improvement on “one-party Labor rule” and has not ruled out taking cabinet posts in a Liberal government. Not that the Labor approach has been any better, with Labor leader David Bartlett declaring that he would prefer a Liberal minority government to a Labor/Greens coalition government.

This means that despite the fact that the Liberals only got 39 per cent of the vote and Labor and the Greens between them have just over 60 per cent, Tasmania could end up with a Liberal government. An appalling outcome – made worse by the fact that the Greens have promised not to vote to block supply of the budget under any circumstances. So if the Liberals introduce a draconian budget that savages spending on health, education and social services the Greens will vote for it!

And it is not as though this reactionary stance by the Greens is just an aberration by the Tasmanian party. Greens federal leader Bob Brown has backed the Tasmanian party all the way and there has not been any public opposition voiced by the supposedly more left-wing state branches of the Greens on the mainland.

Indeed the drift of the Greens to more conservative mainstream politics was reflected in Sydney last weekend when the NSW Greens refused to take part in a rally against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – deeming it too critical of US President Barack Obama.

The shift to the right by the Greens is a product of their single-minded orientation to change through parliament rather than by mass mobilisation of workers and students on the streets and in the workplaces. To become a successful mainstream political party that can participate in government, you have to prove your reliability to the powers that be in capitalist society – the owners of the banks and the top corporations – and if that means watering down your progressive policies, then so be it.

What is needed is an entirely different, consistently left-wing approach. An approach that backs every spark of resistance to the agenda of the rich and powerful, that champions every strike by workers defending their rights and every demonstration against the system.

We need to build a genuine left-wing working-class party to lead a fightback against Labor’s betrayals. We need a socialist alternative – not another parliamentary party that is happy to jump into bed with the Liberals. 

This article, by Mick Armstrong, first appeared in Socialist Alternative online.

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Comments

Comment from Ben Courtice
Time March 28, 2010 at 8:35 pm

I was in Tassie for the last week of the election, helping the Socialist Alliance campaign. I saw Nick McKim being interviewed on the ABC; he was questioned along the lines of, if you’re willing to negotiate on everything does that mean you’ll negotiate on the pulp mill? He was forced into a corner and came out saying “our opinion on the pulp mill will remain unchanged” – which is rather ambiguous. I don’t seriously believe the Greens would vote for the pulp mill, it would be political suicide apart from anything else. But it did show that “small target” campaigns are actually quite weak, despite the claims that it was a “smart” campaign. We’ll have to wait and see what they do next I guess. They really should force Labor and Liberal into a de facto coalition government, with the Greens as the genuine opposition, and stand firm on their principles. That would show who is who to a lot of the electorate I think.

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Time March 29, 2010 at 2:59 am

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Comment from Methuselah
Time March 29, 2010 at 9:42 am

And how many votes did the Socialist Alliance get?

Thought so. Need to do a bit more if you’re going to get workers and students mobilising on the streets instead of downloading ipod tunes or watching Australia’s Biggest Loser.

That said, “Shiny” McKim is following a tradition of centrist politics in the Tasmanian Greens that goes back to their days as the United Tasmania Group. Cde Armstrong is not aware of the strident criticism directed at the more, ahem, market-friendly tendencies within the Greens, because the party has developed the discipline to conduct such discussions internally.

Comment from John
Time March 29, 2010 at 10:11 am

Thanks Methuselah. I am not part of Socialist Alliance and neither is Socialist Alternative, We think the whole project is misconceived. But your more general point that teh revolutionary left is very small is true. But that is to mistake the present for the future.

The Greens once did not exist and now have lots of electoral support.

The Australian Democrats once had lots of support too and now have little and it strikes me the Greens started off as a leftish version of the Democrats but now moving to the Centre.

The strident criticism of the market greens by the Green left does not seem to have stopped the shift to the centre at all. In other words the left Greens are like the left of the ALP – adjuncts to conservatism and eventually its implementers in the name of party discipline.

I’d rather be in an organisation which fights for the fundamentals of what I believe in and help build for that day when workers do enter the stage of history.

Comment from Shane H
Time March 29, 2010 at 9:47 pm

The far left is small – and the Greens were once as well – the problem is that the Greens have grown *at the same time* that the far left has not been able to make an impact with its ideas.

The Greens are a, in effect, a cold split from the left of the ALP – 1000s left the ALP in the Accord years – rejecting neoliberalism – but they didn’t join any of the socialist propaganda groups. The Democrats were a left split from the Liberals – rejecting the neo-conservative direction. Strident criticism doesn’t change political dynamics. The Greens policy is well to the left of anything the ALP is offering.

I was the same as you John, and spent 10 years in the DSP. But eventually I figured it may be more effective to go to where the workers were and try and influence them rather than waiting for them to come to me.

Comment from John
Time March 30, 2010 at 7:09 am

Shane, at the risk of being branded a reductionist, the level of class struggle continued its precipitate decline over the period the Greens grew and much of the revolutionary left stagnated.

An improvement in class struggle and social movements may see an increased interest in the Left. That depends in part on how we build today.

Going to where the workers are? The ALP has workers too.

I take the point about the Democrats and the Greens (although I am unsure there was a transferal from the ALP Left to the Greens in terms of membership and much of the increased Green support seems to be coming from former Liberal voters). But my point was that this dash to the centre destroyed the Democrats and could do the same for the Greens.

Comment from Methuselah
Time March 30, 2010 at 12:34 pm

I take your point John, but as someone who has worked as a union and community organiser (amongst other jobs) in the real world, engaging in marginal micro-politics is little more than the sort of self-indulgence more suitable to the fun you can have with a magazine bought at certain Fyshwick retailers. I mean this in a nice way.

Picking off at the Greens as a left-Green v market-Green dichotomy betrays a flawed, but understandable, comprehension of internal dynamics within the Greens. The Greens know that their strength is to the Left of the ALP and that any shift to the centre will cost, rather than gain, votes.

Also, the ALP will never represent workers interests. Vere Gordon Child (who was apparently the model for Indiana Jones!) blew that myth out of the water 80 years ago. Workers are at work, they are not in political parties, which have become the domain of the the three Ds: the deluded, the devoted and the debased.

If you want change, you gotta be relevant. Life is too short to spend it yelling down a well.

All of this is meant in a vigorous, but unacrimoniuos, spirit John. To be honest I’d be more upset about you being a South Melbourne supporter than a member of what Shane H usefully described as the “propagandist parties”.

If the far-left is going to walk away from the united front approach it will compromise the scarce relevance it has, and this is at a time when Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd are presenting a greater neo-conservative threat to Australian society than John Howard.

Strange days indeed. Most peculiar Mama.

Comment from Ben Courtice
Time March 30, 2010 at 9:21 pm

It is true as John points out that the Greens have grown during 20-30 years of retreat in the class struggle. Then again the same could be said for his own organisation…

It is less accurate to view the current statements of the Tasmanian Greens as a shift to the right. It would be more true, I think, to view their profile in Federal politics since the Tampa affair as a shift to the left, no doubt inevitable under Howard.

The big difference between Greens and Democrats is that the Greens came out of mass movements, whereas the Democrats only ever tried to win their support from the outside (generally).

As to SA (the Alliance that is). Yes it was a very small vote, albeit slightly up on the previous election. SA is not normally very successful at these propaganda outings (elections).

On the other hand, the SA Hobart branch is quite involved in building the climate action group in Hobart – and the Alliance continues to have a perspective of building independent political movements. Which is why we have no problem working with Greens members, nor do we have any problem criticising the Greens’ weaknesses. That is a united front, unless I am mistaken. See http://www.socialist-alliance.org/page.php?page=918 for e.g.

Comment from John
Time March 31, 2010 at 8:55 pm

Thanks again Ben and Methuselah.

I thought a united front was two mass parties – one of reformers, the other revolutionaries – fighting together for a common cause/goal.

To imagine there could be such an approach in Australia I think misunderstands the nature of a united front or (and I am sure neither of you fall into this category) overplays the strength of the revolutionary left.

Ben, you say that the Greens grew out of mass struggles. Which ones. When?

Which ones have they organised/led/ participated in recently?

I suspect their orientation is getting elected and making themselves fit to govern, a la Mr McKim.

That may explain their worship of war criminal Barack Obama and their distancing of themselves from the recent anti-Obama demo in Sydney.