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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)

Sprouting sh*t for almost nothing
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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)

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 Greens talk left but tack right

If your only recent source of information about the Greens was media releases coming from acting leader Adam Bandt’s office, you could be forgiven for thinking the party was suddenly moving to the left writes Diane Fieldes in Socialist Alternative.

A 27 December brief claimed that the “Greens’ updated policy platform reaffirms our core beliefs, such as making big business contribute a fairer share to fund the services Australians expect, like good schools and a universal healthcare system”. Two days later Bandt issued a further press release calling for a 50 percent tax rate on millionaires, which would raise enough money to reverse the Gillard government’s cuts to single parents benefits that are due to come into operation on 1 January.

The call for millionaires to pay more tax is welcome. But this is window dressing for what has recently transpired in the Greens. The new party platform, which is a product of policy conferences in July and November, actually gets rid of a number of concrete left wing policies. In their place are more loosely defined aims and principles.

For example, while the revised platform supports “redirecting funding from subsidising private health insurance towards direct public provision”, it no longer specifies abolishing the 30 percent private health insurance rebate. It no longer calls for a freeze on Commonwealth funding for private schools, or for the immediate abolition of university fees. It calls for an increase in the mining tax but no longer proposes raising the company tax rate to 33 percent, or ending concessional arrangements for capital gains tax. Support for an inheritance tax on the wealthy has been dropped.

This means Greens MPs will now have “flexibility” in negotiating legislation – just like the MPs of the major parties do. The move further consolidates power in the hands of the parliamentary leaders and their staffers and advisers. This only further marginalises rank and file members of the party.

These changes reflect the Greens’ long term trajectory. The dominant forces in the party are driven by electoralism and an attachment to neoliberalism (or fiscal responsibility, as they prefer to call it). The announcement of the new policy platform itself contained that phrase beloved of those who want to get a say in running the system: “the Greens will go to the next election as the only economically responsible party”. The Greens continue to position themselves as moderates who can be trusted by the bosses with the balance of power in parliament. Fiscal responsibility is code for a commitment to austerity measures when the capitalist class demands them.

This does not mean they can’t shift left on particular issues – as the call to tax millionaires shows. But the real movement is in the other direction.

Previous experience of the Greens’ electoral success has already shown how little weight the wishes of those who vote for them carry. In Tasmania in 2011, Greens’ leader Nick McKim declared: “Just as the Greens supported previous Labor and Liberal minority governments when tough remedial budget action was required, we have rolled up our sleeves to take on a similar responsible role once again…The Greens welcome the move to a new fiscal strategy.”

In 2004 Bob Brown told the Australian Financial Review of the Greens’ previous success in standing up to their supporters in Tasmania when budget cuts required it in 1989-1992, the last time they had backed a minority Labor government there: “there were savage budget cuts. We had Greens’ supporters protesting outside our offices. We went to some very angry public meetings, but we Greens held the line”.

The long term trajectory has not changed. Since 2010 the Greens have devoted themselves to propping up the Gillard government, and their electoral advance has stalled since they committed to three years of “responsible” government and stability at all costs. In the Victorian and NSW elections held at the end of 2010 and the start of 2011 the Greens polled well below expectations. In the Queensland election, after a year of promoting the carbon tax, their vote fell.

Their commitment to stable government made this virtually inevitable, especially in the context of Labor’s right wing agenda. By remaining as virtual coalition partners with Labor they share responsibility for attacks which have included the elimination of 4,200 federal public sector jobs and cuts of $2.2 billion to government departments including welfare, health and education. Not surprisingly, they lost all but one of their seats in the ACT election in October.

Yet the desire to be a parliamentary player overrode any recognition of why this might have been the case. Shane Rattenbury’s primary reason for backing Labor when he, as the sole remaining ACT Green representative, had the balance of power was the offer of a ministry. It was time “for the ACT Greens to play a role in the government”. And in words that have now become something of a Greens’ mantra, the signed agreement between Labor and the Greens confirmed “their commitment to fiscal responsibility and the maintenance of a balanced budget through the economic cycle”.

Alongside this willingness to take on governmental roles and the anti-working class priorities that come with them has been a series of internal battles in the Greens, from abandoning support for the pro-Palestine BDS campaign to the ditching of the inheritance tax – all of them won by the right.

This outcome is not accidental. The more the Greens have electoral success, the more likely they are to bend to conservative pressure on “controversial” positions. In a very honest analysis of the July policy conference, one of the left wing founders of the Sydney Greens, Hall Greenland, reported Bob Brown’s reason for the elimination of the inheritance tax: “It was electoral poison and costing us one or two percent of the vote. That was it. Truly.” No doubt its unpopularity with the rich had something to do with it as well.

Could it be otherwise? The Greens are not an activist party. Electoral success is not about galvanising their members into extra-parliamentary action. It is a substitute for it. In particular, despite the fact of thousands of their members being workers, they are almost invisible as an organisation in the workers’ movement. Their industrial relations policy is well to the left of Labor’s, but they do not organise their members to challenge Labor’s industrial agenda inside the unions.

Nor do the Greens resemble anything close to a genuine reformist-type party. The idea of transcending the system, using parliament simply as a tool of the movement is not part of the Greens’ agenda. With the exception of a tiny minority in the party, the whole orientation is to electoral politics. This electoralism and desire to help run the system rather than attack it means that they have tied themselves to an unpopular federal Labor government. They have therefore been unable to build support among workers and students fed up with Labor’s right wing agenda.

Regardless of the odd press release tacking left, the Greens have just legitimised the neoliberal agenda Gillard is implementing. And as they have done so, they have further accommodated to the establishment.

For more in depth analysis of the Greens, see articles in the Winter 2012 and Spring 2010 editions of Marxist Left Review.

Comments(see the link under the heading) close after 7 days.

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Comments

Comment from Shane H
Time December 30, 2012 at 11:54 pm

Hi

As you know I agree with, as the saying goes, the ‘general line’ of this. I think the centralising of power by the parliamentary wing is a significant political shift and this is highlighted by watering down of various policies.

However the rest of the frame is wrong I don’t have time for a point for point rebuttal. Let me put it this way instead. The problem for the far-left is that in the last 20 years the Greens have grown out of a social movement from 1000 members to 10000 plus and hold about 10% of the vote on a platform that is well to the left of the ALP (anti-neoliberalism) and understood by most people to be so. Of course its not as radical as we would like or as radical as most people think it is (despite this the mainstream media coverage borders on hysteria when it can’t ignore them).

In that same time the far-left has remained almost exactly where it was. Confined to uni campuses with a few 100 members each and sub 1% of the vote. So instead of denouncing the Greens as ‘really right wing’ (with the ‘I told you so’ kind of style) the question is why have socialists in the period in which the Greens have grown to a significant ‘left’ force outside of the ALP failed to make any headway?

Comment from Lorikeet
Time December 31, 2012 at 9:44 am

I think socialists and others who have the interests of the underdog at heart will rise up in the near future.

With constant attacks on the real value of wages, working conditions and welfare, the people will look to those interested in providing solutions to homelessness and poverty.

As we know, the younger generations continue to be bombarded with Green ideologies in our schools and elsewhere. Despite most people thinking the Greens are on the way out, I think they could possibly rise up in the future.

When I attended a pre-election forum organised by the Greens in the federal seat of Brisbane in 2010 (Millennium Development Goals), certainly many of the supporters seemed to be both very well heeled and highly educated snobs.

The Greens have gone backwards with the electorate because most people don’t support their dangerous social policies or their environmental extremism. Ordinary people also have very little interest in being taxed to the eyeballs for electricity, fuel and water.

In regard to taxation in general, I think most people are now questioning how many times tax needs to be paid on the same money.

Why do we need an Inheritance Tax when people are living on assets tested pensions? Do you want to assets test the family home as well?

Comment from Geoffrey Kelley
Time December 31, 2012 at 11:38 am

How do you left-wing socialists feel about a party that forces women to work until they are 67 years old, up from 60?

Or a party that forces single mothers back into the workforce after their youngest child reaches the age of six?

Or of a gov’t that cuts $50 million out of the health budget and targets chemotherapy?

If Abbott and the Libs did any of these actions the socialists would scream blue murder.

So, what do you socialists demand of the gov’t? That they reintroduce taxes! Cut Federal funding to poor Catholic schools!

No wonder people like me think you are all a bit silly.

Geoffrey Kelley

Comment from John
Time December 31, 2012 at 11:48 am

Yes, Shane, the Greens have grown in Australia over the last 20 years, and the far left only has about 1000 members in various alphabet soup groups. The question is why and I think the more or less lowish levels of unemployment in Australia, the ongoing growth in the economy (even comparatively during the GFC), and the very low levels of class struggle, in part because of the class collaboration of most union officials, both reflecting and reinforcing industrial passivity, are all part of the explanation.

The Greens have grown because there hasn’t been much class struggle; their move to the right and respectability reflects this. They may be attracting left wing people, but their objective role seems to be to give left cover to the ALP’s neoliberal actions. I wonder whether they haven’t reached their peak and that the nature of those they attract is not broadly middle class or upper level white collar workers, with all the contradictions that contains. The Greens have no organised links to the working class, even through the trade union bureaucracy. So I disagree with you that the Greens are a left force.

Look overseas. Have the Greens grown in Greece? Of course not. SYRIZA, a coalition of the radical left, has and almost won government in June. They could be the government next year. Are the Greens growing in the countries hardest hit by austerity in Europe? What happened to them in Ireland when they were part of an austerity Government, the same logic driving the Greens here? They were wiped out and the left coalition group, including one SWP member, won 5 seats.

As I understand it the Communist Party of Australia hardly grew at all from its few hundred in the 20s. Its membership grew ten fold during the 30s in response not just to the obvious failure of capitlaism that was the Depression but also a radicalisation among significant sections of society and because of their actions in intervening in struggles. They were able to grow because their ten years before then had built a cadre and an organisation capable of intervening and making cogent class based arguments. Their Stalinism on the other hand failed them when the socialisation units in the NSW ALP appeared and they couldn’t relate to them because of the social fascist nonsense.

So instead of a static view I suggest we see the current situation in terms of the the underlying dynamics at play even slowly and the consequences of lack of class struggle, an OK economy etc. The saying well grubbed old mole comes to mind.

As you know, Socialist Alternative (www.sa.org.au) is leading a push for unity among revolutionaries. That may or may not coalesce a large number of revolutionaries in one group in Australia able to take up, assist, and very occasionally lead the struggles of importance today in Australia. It seems to me socialists and revolutionaries in the Greens and elsewhere and those disillusioned with the failure of reformism and social democracy after its constant betrayals should at least investigate what this unity project is about and even if it is suitable for them.

Comment from Hasbeen
Time December 31, 2012 at 11:54 am

If we were to tax business & millionaires more, the last thing we should do with the money raised is give it to the bludgers in our society. The first thing we should restore is the defense budget.

It is definitely time to tell, all single parents, bludging of mostly 2 parent families, it is time to pick up their own load. I have never been able to understand why lefties believe it is fine for both parents in most two parent house holds, to have to go to work, to pay their way. But not only do they have to pay their own way, they are expected to pay so single parents can sit on their fat butts & whinge.

I don’t believe in god, but I do like the saying that “God helps those who help themselves” I believe it is about time we contributed as much to single parents, & other bludgers, as they contribute to them selves, & the rest of the community.

Where that contribution is nothing, that is exactly what they should get back from the community.

Comment from John Bennetts
Time December 31, 2012 at 12:20 pm

The world is taking an odd turn when the Greens and the ALP appear to be to the right of the Sydney Morning Herald on base issues.

For example, read Ross Gittins’s latest assault on the moneyed classes and the power and influence that they wield.

It can be found here:
The four business gangs that run the US

Read Gittins about the four business gangs that run the US:
http://www.smh.com.au/business/-2c1e2.html

Comment from John
Time December 31, 2012 at 12:37 pm

Geoffrey, my blog is full of condemnations of Labor, including their single parent payment cut of $60 per week. I think the fight for better health,education, transport is ultimately only going to be successful if workers take action as workers to win better social services. Taxing the rich will be part of that. The article itself uses the tax backdown by the Greens to make the wider point that they are moving to the right and we’ll see hat more clearly in other policy areas soon enough.

BTW I don’t support cutting funding to poor catholic schools. I support redirecting money from rich schools to poor schools and taxing the rich to pay be better public education, health etc.

Here for example is part of what I wrote about the cut to the single parent payment on Te same day Gillard was making her “Abbot is a sexist and misogynist speech’.

It was a good fighting speech from the Prime Minister.

However Gillard stood up to Abbott’s sexism by in effect defending vile sexist Peter Slipper who, after Abbott’s motion was lost by one vote, then resigned as Speaker.

Worse, Gillard’s policies attack women.

The same Gillard that morning had pushed $750 million in cuts to the single parent payment through the caucus. 90% of the 100,000 recipients who will lose $60 a week when their youngest turns 8 are women, single mums.

Gillard runs a sexist (and racist) Government. She manages capitalism for the bosses and an important part of that is the bosses and their governments using gender and race to divide workers.

Instead of making poor single mums poorer, why doesn’t Gillard tax the rich?

See more at http://enpassant.com.au/2012/10/09/gillard-abbott-sexism-and-single-mums/

Here is part of what I said in an invitation to John Faulkner:

In fact John, I’ll let you in on a little secret. My invitation isn’t really aimed at you.

It is aimed at those people who already know the ALP is a crock of shit; those people who want to change the world; who know that capitalism isn’t working and want a real, fighting alternative that challenges the bankruptcy of Labor and all it stands for, so clearly being spelt out for us at ICAC.

So to all those who, unlike John Faulkner, do reject neoliberalism, do want justice and equity, do want real action on climate change, and who do think that capitalism can’t provide a decent future, or even just have doubts about that, maybe it is time to have a look at Socialist Alternative. (www.sa.org.au)

Come along to one of our meetings. Read our website. Check out the unity section of the Socialist Alternative website, and the debates and discussion about revolutionary unity on facebook and elsewhere.

Unlike John Faulkner, don’t waste your time on the Labor Party, a moribund organisation of high level time servers and careerists bowing down at the altar of profit.

Instead check out Socialist Alternative and consider becoming part of a growing movement of revolutionaries in Australia to help build the fightbacks needed today and ultimately to challenge the dictatorship of capital.

See more at http://enpassant.com.au/2012/12/09/a-party-invitation-to-john-faulkner/

Here are some other articles on the bankruptcy of Labor (and the Greens) and the need to fight.

http://enpassant.com.au/2012/11/29/the-banality-of-australian-politics/

http://enpassant.com.au/2012/10/31/excise-labors-left/

http://enpassant.com.au/2012/09/05/the-greens-one-step-forward-and-two-steps-back/

http://enpassant.com.au/2012/11/27/labors-concentration-camp-on-nauru-may-soon-clam-its-first-life/

http://enpassant.com.au/2012/09/02/the-blood-on-labors-hands/

http://enpassant.com.au/2012/08/28/grocon-labors-laws-and-the-states-thugs-combine-to-attack-building-workers/

Comment from John
Time December 31, 2012 at 2:14 pm

Geoffrey, it is not me who has been in partnership with the rotten ALP government for the last 2.5 years. All those rotten things you mention that Labor have done have been with the tacit support of the Greens. Why didn’t they say to the ALP – if you do that we’ll bring down the Government? As I argued in this article about minority government when the negotiation for it were being formed.

http://enpassant.com.au/2010/08/26/greens-make-the-parliament-unworkable/

And here are some thoughts I had on the ALP-Greens agreement eventually negotiated.

http://enpassant.com.au/2010/09/02/the-labor-greens-agreement-is-bob-brown-serious/

http://enpassant.com.au/2011/07/27/the-greens-sell-out-refugees/

http://enpassant.com.au/2011/07/04/the-greens-have-the-balance-of-power-its-the-end-of-civilisation-as-we-know-it/

Comment from billie
Time December 31, 2012 at 3:18 pm

I don’t believe that tax payers should subsidise non-government schools.

If Australia wants a strong education system is has to properly fund an equitable education system. Funding poor Catholic schools, or poor Catholic schools and poor church schools but not rich schools gives rise to introduction of a voucher system.

The school ‘voucher’ system implemented in the US has dubious curriculum outcomes, a system in Florida was caught using Federal funds for ‘management’. I imagine it operated in the same manner ABC Learning Centres operated and nursing homes operated by Moran run.

As a Greens voter with private health insurance, I am sorry to see the Greens drop their commitment to wipe out the Medicare rebate.

I will be sorry to see them abandon refugees if that is part of their platform.

Well heeled Greens supporters are not phased by paying their way for private schools, health insurance, paying their taxes.

My silence on death duties is because I don’t know the detail and I remember the threat death duties posed to the family business, but that’s waht a good accountant is for.

Comment from billie
Time December 31, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Hasbeen, “trickle down economics” has been thoroughly discredited, research by The Guardian newspaper showed that more money flows into tax havens than ‘trickles down’ to the lower orders. It’s an economic theory designed to entrench privilege rather than raise standards or living or quality of life. Millionaires usually inherit their wealth although each generation throws up a handful of spectacular sucess stories.

Extra money given to the people on the lowest incomes is more effective at raising economic activity, as they spend all that they get. Rich people just save their extra money

Comment from Lorikeet
Time December 31, 2012 at 4:12 pm

You made some good points here, John.

I would also add Labor’s support of Coalition attacks on poor middle aged and older people through Private Health Insurance reforms is a discriminatory antisocial manoeuvre, especially when it is so difficult to get into the public hospital system.

Clearly Hasbeen “has never been” walking in the shoes of a sole parent. I have raised 2 children with a father, and 1 child for 10.5 years on my own. I know who has the easier task.

I certainly earned my keep by looking after the elderly and devoting many years of free service in a public school, working with children whose parents were both working.

I also made gifts for various school stalls and fetes at my own expense, while the bulk of double income families gave little or nothing of their time, money or resources.

According to some people, both socialism and capitalism are failed systems of government. What do you think of a Distributist Economic Model?

Comment from John
Time December 31, 2012 at 7:50 pm

Billie, I don’t think the Greens have abandoned refugees. They still argue publicly for them but not much else. No real involvement in campaigns, no threats to bring down the government over its disgusting treatment of refugees. Re death duties, the Greens would have applied them to estates worth more than $5 m. Less than 1% of the population have such estates. But they have ditched even that tokenism. And there is a perfectly good bourgeois argument for death duties. If the rate is high enough it means the sons and daughters of the rich don’t just inherent wealth. They’ll have to work for it supposedly.

Comment from Shane H
Time January 1, 2013 at 11:30 am

The reasons you cite are germane (throw in collapse of the USSR as well) but again that’s saying objective conditions are against us but for some reason the Greens have been successful. I think unemployment is a huge problem that no one seems to address its just we have come to accept 10% as ‘natural’. Then Greens have the position they do because there is not much struggle on the ground which would be pressure to the left but in that they are a reflection of the broader society. I dislike the trend evident in the recent Greens policy manoeuvrings as I said BUT as Di makes clear they are the result of the 2 conferences in which the members debated policy. I think its a mistake (a shift to the right) but it was won on the floor of conference with the Left unable to put forward an alternative that could convince a broad set of delegates. Again this reflects objective conditions – the Greens represent a broad layer on the left of society then you have to accept that that’s what we are looking at as our audience. Socialist politics is about fighting and winning for our ideas and clearly we are losing that fight at present. That’s the reality we have to face (and try and change) it does no good to ‘explain’ it by objective conditions.

I think the whole discourse of respectability is a key problem (because I am a radical) but most people think its the way to be politically effective. They ARE attracting left wing people by the thousands (and the votes of many more) and in some ways they are running ‘left cover’, When you say they have peaked – this is just wishful thinking. I heard it 20 years ago when I joined the DSP and now I hear it from the bourgeois press. You speak as if the demise of the Greens would be a good thing when it would a huge set-back – and I can imagine you think this because you imagine the collapse of the Greens means (in some highly mediated way no doubt) the rise of the far-left when it would in fact signal a shift to the Right of a significant part of the population who is looking for an ‘alternative’ to the 2 party monopoly.

I think the problem is they are stuck on 15% of the vote and how to move forward is not clear. I’d like to think if they were more radical they would do better but I don’t think that’s true. In regional QLD there was a massive turn against the ALP to RIGHT to Katter’s Party the Greens vote stayed the same (because they are a LEFT alternative).

This talk about ‘middle class’ is just a repackaging of the old ultra-left talk of ‘petit bourgeois’. The composition of the Greens white collar working class – much the same as the far-left. I am an academic and you used to work in the Tax Office so by any measure we are white collar middle class by your accounting.

The ALP has historical links to the Working Class – and this is a complex problem for the Greens and I am not suggesting that many of the Greens see this as a problem in the way we do – they don’t. But again that reflects the problem – the decline of unionisation is across the board (less so in the Public Service where on the whole it white collar) and this is a social trend which is reflected in actions of union leaders and Greens. There have been discussions and support from ETU (who also supported KAP!) but there are limits. The Greens cannot deliver (electorally) the the way the ALP can and large sections of the working class are hostile to the Greens (as are many in the far-left) fed by the mainstream press who clearly see them as a Left alternative – and portray the slightest breach in the neoliberal consensus (and it is slight) as the end of civilisation as we know it (and I suppose for them and their backers it would be).

Of course its may be different if we were in charge but A. we’re not and B. materialist analysis would say that these patterns are part of the objective conditions (not the personal limitations of Union leaders or Green ones for that matter). Many working class people are hostile to any sort of sustainability agenda as are many unionists who see it as a threat to jobs. There have been attempts to remedy this like eco-worker – but its slow going. I think raising the issue of full employment (and some sensible ‘transitional’ economic arguments about how they could be achieved) would be a great starting point too.

I’d have to look at various patterns overseas The Greek Greens are a sub-branch of the European Greens. In general the experience seems to be a right-ward shift in Germany, England and so on – partly because the fight has been restricted to the parliamentary sphere both for subjective reasons (most people think that’s where real power lies) and for objective ones (the decline of the social movements on whom left leaders can rely as an alternative force outside parliament). Thanks for those examples I will look more closely at them but these are the things we socialists need to be pointing out. It drives me mad that the Greens in QLD faced with 14000 sackings (incl you’d think many of their own ‘middle class’ members) still have ‘Save the Reef’ as the banner on their website.

The CPA history is complex and objective conditions were different. The system was in ruins and the USSR which won the War was seen as an alternative. Class was seen as a objective fact in the way its not now. Images of fat capitalists in top hat and tails had real resonance and the CPA showed it could fight and win real gains in struggle on the ground (which didn’t translate into votes though which is interesting). They stayed pretty clear of criticizing the ALP too (except for that ultra binge which as you say cost them dearly). I might say a serious discussion of this history would serve us all far better than endless debates about Moscow 1920.

One can only welcome the current unity discussions (again I think its all part of the ‘rethinking’ that can really happen now). I will try and make the conference at Easter. It should be a no-brainer that everyone on the far-left get behind ‘Green Left Weekly’ (as the largest paper) and turn it into a forum for discussion about the way forward. The debate for e.g. about ‘socialism from below’ is a debate about what we mean by socialism in the 21st century its important but the phrase is not. We all agree that Cuba should be defended from US imperialism or Venezuela but since we are not in those countries our ‘position’ on them is secondary. Surely socialist revolutionaries can be a ‘party’ (well a propaganda group really) that accepts that we can learn something from Cuba but there are a range of views that don’t warrant separate political formations. Then again you and I can’t agree that the Greens are on the left so perhaps not.

I went through the formation of the Socialist Alliance between the DSP/ISO which happened because the London office of the ISO changed its view on elections so naturally the branch office did as well. The latter really wanted an electoral front while the DSP (who had more electoral experience) wanted it to be broader (no doubt to try and de-stabilise the ISO even further). When it failed this led (irony of ironies) to split in DSP (over unity!) in which the founders and long-term activists went back to the ‘Leninist’ model. So while I wish the re-groupment well but I am very skeptical about people who have made life in sect politics competing over a dwindling number of (mainly) students being able to merge – but I hope I am wrong.

Comment from Michael Dwyer
Time January 1, 2013 at 6:00 pm

Right or left, where is the issue of the environment these days from the Greens? It appears the Greens do not understand the concept of ‘footprint’ where Australia’s environmental footprint is made up of individual’s consumption times population.
Why does the Greens cheer increasing the population?

Comment from John
Time January 1, 2013 at 7:07 pm

Michael, perhaps because population isn’t the problem; production for profit is.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time January 2, 2013 at 3:56 pm

I think Australia’s environmental footprint should be made up of average individuals’ consumption times population, and then corrected against geographic isolation and total land space.

National environmental footprints should also include total emissions from manufacturing, along with transportation (import/export) of raw and value added materials back and forth.

Comment from Jonathon Rutherford
Time January 3, 2013 at 11:12 am

John, you write excellent stuff but, like almost everyone on the radical left, your writing makes clear you have not fully appreciated the severe ‘limits to growth’ and the truly massive implications this has for a) understanding the global situation, b) the nature of the alternative, post-capitalist society to be worked for, and c) the transitional/revolutionary process and the best strategy to pursue. As Saral Sarkar says, it is high time socialists learn their ecology lesson…

http://socialsciences.arts.unsw.edu.au/tsw/LEFTCRIT.htm

All the best

Comment from Lorikeet
Time January 3, 2013 at 5:35 pm

Jonathon, it is clear that you haven’t noticed that household economic standards are falling in various countries throughout the world, including here in Australia.

By 2050, the population of China will be crashing with an enormous thud, due to 30+ years of a One Child Policy and a shortage of women caused by large scale abortion of females foetuses.

The “ecology lesson” is at least partly scaremongering to justify the enormous cost of utilities (gas, water, electricity, fuel) that drives the profits of banks.

If the world had a shortage of food, Aussie farmers would not have been leaving fruit to rot in their orchards for 30+ years because nobody wanted to buy it.

As for the shortage of water, it seems to me that we are living on a planet which is fully self-contained. The amount of water can never increase or decrease, but the concentration in various parts of the world is subject to change, based on where rain is falling at any given time.

Comment from John
Time January 3, 2013 at 7:12 pm

Marx was perhaps the first ecologist. His ideas of metabolic rift have been built upon by socialists like John Bellamy Foster and others. The idea of limits to growth is essentially one that reflects capitalism and its commodification and accumulation processes nd its never ending drive for growth. A society in which production is organised democratically will by its very nature of satisfying human need eliminate growth as the basis for the organisation of production in society.

On the pint of capitalist limits, take for example food. One billion are starving because they are too poor. Yet there is enough produced to feed everyone. The problem is distribution not production.

We are seeing the dynamics of growth and profitability played out in climate change and the lack of action on it. A democratic society organised to satisfy human need would move to renewable energy to save humanity. Questions of cost become irrelevant and no longer stand as the barrier to human development and the capacity to address climate change and its consequences.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time January 4, 2013 at 8:59 am

There are also plenty of options available to increase the supply of food and utilise food waste more efficiently e.g.

1. It can be turned into fodder for animals, and the grain they are then NOT fed could be shipped to Africa.

2. It can be turned into mulch and natural fertiliser for crops.

3. It can be used to produce electricity.

On a TV program a couple of days ago, I heard that a European nation even imports other countries’ garbage for its thriving energy production business.

Australia imports lots of food from Asian nations, particularly China. If they simply ate it themselves, environmental damage from shipping would be reduced, and Aussie farmers would be able to sell their fruits and vegetables to locals.

Not long ago, there was such a glut of bananas in North Queensland that a large part of the crop was ploughed back into the ground. Perhaps the government could set up a factory which processes banana chips, and manufactures the skins into animal fodder or mulch.

I was recently reading that the banana skin is more healthful than the fruit, and that at least one Asian country considers fried banana skins a delicacy.

You can also boil the skins for 10 minutes and then put them through a blender to make a drink.

Greater consumption of vegetable and fruit rinds, skins and seeds would have multiple health benefits e.g. more fibre to improve digestive health, and more antioxidants to prevent multiple cancers.

Hybridising grapes to remove the seeds was probably a step in the wrong direction.