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John Passant

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May 2011



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (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. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

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Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


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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. (0)

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We work and the bosses profit

The latest figures on industry income and profits from the Australian Bureau of Statistics confirm Marx’s argument that it is workers who create society’s wealth through their labour and the bosses who steal it through their ownership of the means of production.

Of course we have to be careful using the bourgeoisie’s figures because they don’t use Marxist methodology or concepts. Nevertheless, even on their own terms they provide some gobsmacking statistics.

Mining workers are well paid. According to the ABS their average wage is $117,500. Yet each mining worker generated sales and service income of over $1 million. 

Purists might say that is sales, not profit. True.

However according to the ABS, Industry Value Added (IVA) per person employed in mining  was $608,200. The next highest was electricity, gas, water and waste services with $300,200 IVA per employee.

Again IVA per person employed is not a Marxist category but it gives us some inkling of the basis of the relationship between labour and capital – we work and they profit. 

Back to OPBT. The ABS says:

At the Total selected industries level, profit margin was relatively stable between 2008-09 and 2009-10, increasing from 11.0% to 11.1%. Most industries have also reported relatively stable profit margins over time, the main exceptions are Rental, hiring and real estate services (from 15.2% to 28.2%), Information media and telecommunications (from 8.0% to 15.3%) and Education and Training (private) (from 16.3% to 22.9%). Mining returned the largest profit margin (33.4%), which is a moderate decrease [9 percent – JP]  in the margin recorded for 2008-09.

In other words the profit rates in mining are 3 times the industry average. Just as well we didn’t tax their super profits! And yes, for the odd bourgeois economist reading this, I know that figure isn’t a representation of economic rent. But if the return for mining companies is 33 percent compared to an average 11 percent across the seelcted industries, then there must be some major component of this which is economic rent, even allowing for risk.

However it does show one simple truth, a truth that Tom Bramble puts well in his article ‘Does the Australian working class have the power to change society’ in Marxist Left Review.

He says, based on previous ABS data similar to this, that ‘we do know that few workers are in positions where their actions will be easily ignored by the bosses.’ In other words many workers are in strong positions because they produce good profits for the bosses.

For 30 years neoliberalism – the ideology of transferring more and more wealth from labour to capital to address stagnant or falling profit rates – has dominated the economic and political debates of capitalist society across the globe.

In Australia that transfer has been spectacularly successful, mainly though the the class collaboration of the Labor Party in Government and the trade union leadership.

As even the Australian Council of Trade Unions has been forced to recognise the share of national income going to capital is almost at its highest ever; the share going to labour its lowest since December 1964, which was when records began to be kept.

Isn’t it time labour took industrial action to win back from the bosses some of the profit they create for them and in doing so begin the struggle for a democratic world where production is organised to satisfy human need?



Comment from Calligula
Time May 29, 2011 at 9:19 pm

I’m becoming more convinced that most people who read or write in to these blogs don’t have a clue about productive industry.

I’ve never heard a farmer speak about her lot here – about being ground down by the supermarket chains.
I hear nothing much except fine points – exceedingly fine points, about why bankers should essentially be put down – or up on a pedestal.

Tiddly little points of order mostly lacking substance – big words – the same.

When I try to speak about industry – I waste my argument – either on deaf ears or some Dooley clone.

So ‘we work and the bosses profit’.
Of course they do.
What a bloody no brainer.

In the land of the coward – the absentee landlord inevitably prevails.
And that is our past, and our future – until the dump is signed off and handed over to new management sometime mid century.

Comment from Tony
Time May 29, 2011 at 9:23 pm

Thanks John, interesting analysis.

Comment from Chris Warren
Time May 29, 2011 at 11:26 pm

The problem with people who say things like:

I’m becoming more convinced that most people who read or write in to these blogs don’t have a clue about productive industry.

Is that the face at the bottom of the well is their own.

I am more concerned about capitalist profit than so-called bosses profits. Presumably “bosses profits” can exist under feudalism, usury, priestly society, or slavery?

Comment from Ross
Time May 30, 2011 at 8:57 am

Right now the middle class is under serious attack.This is why there are revolutions happening around the planet.People are not sharing in fairly what they produce.

On average our 11 million workers produces over $100,000 each in GDP.Most do not see anywhere near this is real wages.Much of what they earn goes back in taxes to pay for interest on money that should be rightfully theirs.

Our Govts borrow increases in GDP into existance via the private banking system.This money should belong to all Australians.The more growth we have in the West, the more debt we incur.This is why we have to sell off Govt assets to service debt. Our monetary system is just insane.It is designed to aggragate money and power to the few.

Comment from John
Time May 30, 2011 at 10:38 am

No. Bosses’ profit arises from a specific social relationship of boss and worker. Stop nitpicking.

Comment from John
Time May 30, 2011 at 10:44 am

The revolutions across the world contain a number of different social classes, Ross. These include the middle class – small business, professionals, peasant and farmers – students on the way to becoming workers if they are lucky, workers and even some elements of the bourgeoisie depending on the specific historic, economic and societal contexts. The point is that only the working class has the power to take it forward to address the economic concerns and often also the political demands.

Comment from John
Time May 30, 2011 at 10:44 am

Wealth increases because of an increase in the value of the product workers produce.

Comment from Calligula
Time May 30, 2011 at 3:33 pm

John –
In my day I could turn about AUD500 worth of raw material into an AUD 3700 finished product which could be exported to destinations operating with the US dollar.
I could sell the same item there for, say, USD3500. (Remember the exchange rates)
Not a bad hourly rate for 25 to 20 hours of ‘value adding’ to some Australian raw materials.

I do wonder if that is why ‘they’ closed us down.
Some suggest the destruction of Australian industry is political policy across the board.

I am serious about this.
We met jealousy at the local level and looking back at the lies and deceit encountered with the so-called facilitators/ development organizations and the like (and comparing notes with others similarly treated) – the ‘masters’ in this country make some of their spare cash by ‘removing’ selected annoying Australian design/manufacturing business from the scene.

Comment from Calligula
Time May 30, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Mr Warren –
I do not own a well
It may be that the face at the bottom of the well is that elephant again.
You know, the one that escaped from the room.

Capitalist profits versus those accrued by those you list?
Symbiosis is the key.
Mutual need and beneficence.

The pure (impure?) capitalist considers ‘human resource elements’ as expendable.
It takes a leap of imagination to realise that expansion cannot continue forever, whether on the corporate or universal scale.

Yet as capitalist entities expand the record demonstrates they also attempt efficiencies of scale; downsizing/streamlining/discarding ‘dead wood’ usually at about the same time their contribution to the ‘social capital’ touches zero.
Perhaps in their madness they believe there is some ‘dark matter/energy’ out there to fill the void of their own creation.
Too deep for you?

Meanwhile, since you wanted to mention generalizations – your feudalism through to slavery
There is a specific Latin word which I cannot recall at the moment.
‘Humanitas’ will have to do.
The concept transcends philanthropy in that it unashamedly recognizes the self-interest within generosity.
It is about sharing one’s wealth even with slaves.
It is about contributing to the fund of ‘social capital’ and gaining status within the community by doing these things well.
It is about refusing to be selective or exclusive within these undertakings.

The average feudal lord would have to have had rocks in his head if he’d treated his peasants badly – after all, he’d look damned silly manning the battlements all on his lonesome.
Then along came the putative nation states, the fuggers and their ilk financing them.
That’s about when things started going to pot for the peasant and for the environment all because of the need to support increasing numbers of idiots who thought that work was beneath their dignity.

Comment from Tony
Time May 30, 2011 at 5:13 pm

Calligula: I’d agree with the summary of the industry process, you could add in mergers and acquisitions and you’d have a pretty good description of ‘concentration’, or advanced accumulation as a consequence of modern capitalism. As we’d discussed here recently, untransformed, the other economic forms tend to stall at primative accumulation, the precursor for advanced accumulation.

Why they closed you down… Take the context of broad industry. The prescriptions of neo-liberalism, driven by Keating. I’d suggest it was reasonable to float the dollar but Keating shouldn’t have attacked tariffs and capital controls without frictional measures (eg. financial transaction taxes, etc) to prevent speculative transactions. Those “reforms” made it impossible for most manufacturing to compete without public subsidy (as in most which survives is in defence, automotive, etc). Every came down to the lowest cost labour force and weakest environmental controls thereafter.

Taking Keatings view of removing tariffs, capital controls, etc., maybe they did provide some ‘automatic stabilisers’. However, they made nations vulnerable to economic warfare (eg. currency manipulation, capital flight, etc).

Most of these effects are the consequence of the demolition of financial restrictions that occurred in the 70’s and 80’s. This, coupled with applying the recommendations of, if I recall correctly, the Ralph Report (CGT concessions, etc) into areas that were non-productive (ie. not value adding through effort). So we saw capital pushed into non-productive channels in preference to productive channels.

People see it as far easier to make money by doing nothing, than doing something productive that requires real effort. As a consequence of the debasement of the economic framework in anglo-american societies (which includes Australia), we see the destruction of the value adding industries you speak of.

Much of the discussion here is on the economic framework, because it has caused the destruction to the real value economy, the one to which you refer. Unless that changes, don’t hope for productive industry to return.

Yes, there is a societal aspect you raise. It is important, but it is something that requires a longer term effort to address than more immediately implementable changes to controls.

Ending on that note, Michio Morishima says, “Whereas Karl Marx contended that ideology and ethics were no more than reflections of underlying material conditions – in particular economic conditions – Max Weber in his ‘Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism’ made the case for the existence of quiet the reverse relationship. He considered that it is the ethic that is given, and any type of economy which necessitates the people’s possessing an ethos incompatible with that ethic will not develop; rather the emergence of an economy compatible with this ethic is inevitable.”

So who is right and what will change the ethos? What do you expect people to do?

It could be the Australian psyche is the product, not only of 200+ years in Australia, but (for many Australians) up to a couple of thousand years in Europe, shaping society’s direction as a whole. We don’t really understand why or how we developed a lot of the views we hold. This could be called ‘reaction’. This creates enormous challenges for even relatively innocuous issues for many. They feel something is confronting, but possibly don’t really know why or how to express it. Or maybe this is just complete claptrap…

Comment from John
Time May 30, 2011 at 8:45 pm

Tony, Marx’s position was much more complex than described and the comment by Morishima is almost a caricature.

Comment from Tony
Time May 30, 2011 at 11:15 pm

John, would it be possible to post something exploring those relations?

Comment from calligula
Time May 30, 2011 at 11:19 pm

Hello Tony –
We who used to make things and value added tend to be full to the gills with our own nomenclature and vocab.

Let me attempt to get over that and deal with your terminology.
Not criticizing, understand – just trying to deal with and offer decent comment for your advisement.

Okay –
When you say accumulation in your para 1 – we inventors and manufacturers tend to call that unlawful encroachment upon and theft of our intellectual property and assets.
It may well be that some who loosely consider themselves as ‘business people’ believe they can roam about and use a system organized by themselves to annex and/or ‘acquire assets’ by seeking out loopholes and weaknesses in the system.
Let me nail that down.
I submit that was achieved in a way not too dissimilar from the way Nazis stripped Jewish owned enterprise after 1933 in Germany.

In OUR(we who once were industry) mind such is the worst sort of theft.

Your para 2 – Keating set the present mould after a fashion.
Howard had no choice but to adopt that – was the one who let that mould be used indiscriminately to systematically to kill private enterprise and industry in Australia.
If Howard had rebelled he would have ‘gone missing’ like Harold Holt.

Keating floated the dollar and introduced certain schemes to look after his greedy mates and appease his opponents.
Howard borrowed that in exactly the same way he borrowed Hansonist sentiment from the other side of the table.
Howard was nothing but a selective plagiarist – picking and choosing tufts from an already fertile and productive paddock.

It had nothing to do with exchange rate (artificially propped USD, etc)
It had to do with something in the system pre-Keating, (possibly/almost undoubtedly advanced by Hawke) – but going right back to “All the way with LBJ”
Since Korea/VietNam – the seppos keep insisting we blow all our excess credits on their futile wars.
They don’t do that because they want the help.
They only do that because they know it’ll f—k us continually, economically.
They do that to keep us in our place.

We are still paying off VietNam – so what the hell are we doing in Afghanistan?

Sorry mate – down to our para 5.
Easier to make money by doing nothing.
I’m stupid.
The only way I know to make money is by making something. By value adding.
By turning something raw into something useful.
My whole being rebels against middlemen and their exploitation.

Your 6
Spot on mate. She’s gone. I’m too crocked to care.
All I can do is hope the young ones wake up and withhold their skills and labour.
I’m convinced they are doing that in droves now by refusing to learn skills at all.
I don’t blame them at all.

After that I’m too bloody tired.
All I can add is that our anointed ‘masters’ are useless bastards.
They truly don’t care and have not a clue
Doesn’t matter which party they belong to – they are not of the party of the Australian people.
Recently, very recently, I have taken an interest again with Hunter S Thompson.
A shame he shot himself.

He would have made an infinitely better PM than Abbott ever will.

Comment from Tony
Time May 30, 2011 at 11:49 pm

Calligula: A good read. As you know more people have made a fortune in recent years trading in bricks and mortar than making anything. They will continue to do so until the bottom falls out of it. Then Australia will likely join the ranks of the austere nations of the world.

NB: Theft == accumulation by dispossession (land or other property/means).

Comment from John
Time May 31, 2011 at 3:28 am

You mean me post something Tony? Perhaps. Not sure which relations you mean. If you want to, go ahead.

Comment from Tony
Time May 31, 2011 at 10:18 am

Ideology, ethics and their relationship with material/economic conditions. Right now, I don’t think my knowledge of the area is deep enough to write about it.

Or do you know of a good short article on this better describing Marx’s position?

Comment from John
Time May 31, 2011 at 2:22 pm

Not sure if this is in the ball park but Lukacs’ History and Class Consciousness might be worth a read. Maybe, but again I am not sure, Lucien Goldmann: Is there a Marxist sociology?

Comment from Calligula
Time May 31, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Tony –
What you mentioned about bricks and mortar.
In about 1996 we met with our bank requesting project funds.
We went into that meeting with Westpac armed with an ‘Official Purchase Order’ from the commonwealth government.

We’d sent in with a bid for tender with our Defence Department – and somehow won the tender.
All we wanted to do was have an assurance that our bank would lend us money in the very unlikely chance that they might need to cover us if we had a bit of a shortfall toward the end of project.
We asked them if they’d tide us over until the cheque came in.

What’s it called – risk management in project.

They told us that they refused outright to even countenance providing us with what amounted to be nothing more than a short term overdraft on our account – unless we offered them collateral – some form of ‘bricks and mortar’.

The overweening arseholes actually said that, the f—king traitors.

They also said that a scrap of paper issued by the commonwealth was worthless – not worthy of any consideration.
We had been in the ‘blue’ with them for just about forever.
I’m sure the commonwealth was in a similar situation at the time.

Who’s side are those creeps on?

The big question is -“Who are these arseholes?”
The next is – “Why are our political masters following that same destructive game?”
There is no point asking the next and bloody obvious – “Why aren’t Australians rebelling against this?”
That’s because they’ve given up in just about every field of endeavour.
Basically too shit scared to ask what’s happening – objecting to what’s happening is above their radar – above the scale – impossible for the poor weenies even to comprehend.

Read that. I’m beginning to read like Arthur!

Comment from Tony
Time May 31, 2011 at 9:43 pm

Calligula: This will probably ring a bell with you (you may need to click SHOW),

Comment from Calligula
Time June 1, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Had no trouble opening the URL monologue Tony.

Bless you for digging it up.
I’ve tried to read it but it sends my blood pressure soaring up there with the eagles.

Not your fault but these ‘wordmiths’ have never had to beat a lump of steel toward behaving itself in man’s favour.

Sorry. It sounds good but ‘their’ pretence is crap in the shortrun.


Because idiots like me have been there – done this or that – and after this or that has been ignored by a universe of professional wordsmiths.
In their estimation real achievers never rate any mention whatsoever.

Ha – what a f–king joke.

Now I am a wordsmith! Now I try to be.
Once I was a creator of beautiful, useful and sublime machinery that once brought joy to both the connoisseur and the militarist maniac.
That age is past thanks to Howard, that wozzisname?-Rudd.
And now the Gillard/Abbott coalition.

Gillard/Abbott coalition?
Can’t get a grip on that, can you, people?
As it happens I can’t either.
In fact I don’t only FEEL betrayed. I know that I have BEEN betrayed along with most of the population.
So faced with such base betrayal – it affords me nothing (despite Tony’s best intentions) to sift through and tease out some excuse put together by one of the tools of the oligarchy like Mr friggin’, goddamned,crosseyed, dope smokin’, coke snortin’, smartarse, Mr. Global Warming Robyn Williams.
Don’t mistake me, Williams is central to our life on Sunday morning. We take bets whether he will mention global warming or come out with another ‘poo joke’ first.
We have a fiver on it – whichever is first and thus decide which of us shouts Sunday lunch.
Thus, in the common order of things, men like Williams are important – in their humble way offer much to the progress of our life.

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