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John Passant

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October 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)

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

Sick kids and paying upfront


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. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



Bring the workplace to the occupations; bring the occupations to the workplace

Occupy, occupy! For our side at the moment that is Moses and the Prophets.

Occupations and demonstrations have broken out across the US. The most well known, Occupy Wall Street, or OWS, had a demonstration of up to 20,000 last Wednesday, with a strong union presence.

OWS was the spark, but it itself drew inspiration from the Egyptian revolution and the occupation of Cairo’s Tahrir Square as well as the struggles in Europe including, especially, the sit ins in Spain and then more recently in the US and Wisconsin.

This is a movement of the working class and the oppressed, of those who feel powerless in the face of a machine that shifts more and more of the wealth they create to the small rich minority, that cuts their wages, the makes them work longer and longer hours, that spits them onto the garbage tip of unemployment, takes their homes, abandons them when they are sick and sends them to fight its wars against defenceless nations and to kill innocent people.

Clearly any movement that sees the ‘one percent’ as the problem has a class understanding of society. ‘Make the bosses pay’ is simple enough to comprehend. The movement is spreading like wildfire because that message resonates with so many working people after so many years of the bosses making us pay for their rotten system and its crimes.

The movement is against the way the world is today; it is against its poverty, its racism, its unemployment, its wars, its environmental destruction. It is a movement against the greed and inequality of the bosses. It is a movement of hope for a better world. It is a campaign for real democracy, where each voice, not just Rupert Murdoch’s and Andrew Bolt’s, can be heard. It is about justice and jobs, freedom and food.

Many of those participating are protesting against specific aspects of capitalism or imperialism. The movement is broad and has been able to welcome all with their justifiable anger and to express their despair and desire for change. So it is for example that the demands of OWS encompass a wide range of issues.The democratic expression of the occupiers, the New York City General Assembly has said:

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

They then go on to lay the blame for various issues at the feet, rightly, of big business – the one percent as they call them. These include their bailout by Government, their foreclosures, their huge bonuses, their racism, sexism and homophobia, their monopolisation and poisoning of the food supply, their destruction of the environment, their profiting off torture, their attacks on union rights, their imposition of large debts on students, their dominance of economic policy, their ownership of politicians, their wars around the world,  and so on.

The task as I see if for the Left is to help build the occupations and generalise these specific complaints into a wider understanding of capitalism and the fact the issues the occupiers have raised are specific manifestations of a system built on the exploitation of workers.  It is our task to encourage the movement to become a conscious anti-capitalist one. Making demands for progressive reforms is one way to do that. And linking to the working class will give the movement a strength and power it cannot have just by occupying alone.

According to the Christian Science Monitor the movement has now spread to 500 cities globally. This is because people are angry with the system or parts of it, and that anger has had little outlet in the past. These occupations allow that anger to be expressed.

The death of social democracy – left wing governments in Europe are as vicious in their attacks on living standards as right wing ones – and  the quiescence of the labour movement in capitalism’s heartlands has left many without hope of change. Obama offered hope briefly in the US but of course his election was never going to fundamentally change the unequal power structures in US society. As I pointed out at the time of his election in my 5 November 2008 article article All Change at Obama Station?  

Obama will not be able to deliver substantive change because to do so would require a challenge to the very structures of US capitalism.

It is a lesson those occupying have learnt or may be learning. Indeed Obama has now tried to bring the protesters inside the tent with warm words.  Don’t listen to him, or other fakirs of change like Julia Gillard.  They rule for the one percent.

It is the failure of traditional politics, of the Obama’s of the world, and the social democratic parties and trade unions, to fight for change and defend working living standards and jobs that has created the conditions for the storm now hitting Wall Street.

The cyclone is spreading to Australia. On 15 October there will be occupations in City Square from 3 pm in Melbourne and at the Reserve Bank Martin Place and Macquarie Street from 2 pm in Sydney.

Despite the seemingly good economy, there is deep seated underlying anger in Australia. We work the longest hours per week of any OECD country. The last 30 years of neoliberalism have seen a massive shift in the wealth we produce going from labour to capital , so much so the current share of national income going to labour is at its lowest and that to capital at its highest since records began to be kept.

Labor’s laws prevent unions striking except in certain limited cases.  Labor’s Australian Building and Construction Commission harasses and fines building unions for legitimate union activity. The Northern Territory invasion is  a racist income management plan that will now be spread across the country. Labor refuses to recognise equal love. The gender pay gap has increased udner Julia Gillard’s leadership. Our leaders have sent Australian troops to Afghanistan to terrorise and kill innocent people there. Our rulers’ racist refugee policies enrages many of us.

And our Aboriginal brothers and sisters die a decade or more before us on average. There can be no justice until we force our rulers to recognise the sovereignty of the Aboriginal people and the genocide capitalism has and continues to commit against them.  It belongs to them; let’s pay the rent.

Clealry there is much to be angry about. At the same time there are a number of unions campaigning for better wages and conditions – from Qantas to the public service to the building industry and in the community sector there have been spasmodic strikes and demonstrations. In New South Wales the O’Farrell Government is cutting wages by capping pay increases below inflation and slashing public services. The Occupations can give a lead and a space to these workers.   

The proposed occupation in Sydney and Melbourne are a fantastic response to the one sided class war the bourgeoisie have waged against us for the last 30 years. But they don’t challenge in any real way the power they identify as the problem. They focus attention on the problem, not the solution.

They don’t of themselves challenge the greed and inequality of the system that produces their specific grievances. A mobilised working class can do that.

It is vital for the long term viability and success of the occupations to have the working class as working class involved and at its centre. How? For a start support the workers currently striking, such as Qantas workers or campaigning for equal pay, such as community sector workers. Second, support demands for real job security, for better wages and conditions and for better public health, education and transport.  Equal pay for equal work now!

The silver lining in  the bankruptcy of Labor in power and the inaction of the trade union leadership over the last few decades is that few of them have any real credibility with workers. If a movement arises that challenges the dictatorship of capital then they may be swept aside by workers realising that it is action, not words and following or cosying up to Julia Gillard, that can challenge the rule of the one percent and win change.

Join the occupations if you can in Sydney and Melbourne.  Help build them and send a message to Labor and the Liberals, the smug parties of neoliberalism, that enough is enough.  

We are fighting back.  End the greed of the ruling class and the inequality that flows from it.

Bring  the workplace to the occupations; bring the occupations to the workplace.



Pingback from En Passant » Some facts to support Occupy Australia
Time October 11, 2011 at 9:59 pm

[…] Readers might also like to look at Can we dare to hope? and Bring the workplace to the occupations and the occupations to the workplace. […]

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