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John Passant

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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)

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

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
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Me on Razor Sharp this morning
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Labor’s reshuffle of hope – for big business

I am surprised Marius Kloppers didn’t get Resources and Lord Monckton the Environment in the cabinet reshuffle.

But not to worry, Gary Gray and Greg Combet respectively will step up to the mark.  In appointing him to the resources portfolio the Prime Minister praised Gary Gray for his resource industry experience. Gray of course, after he left the role of national secretary of the ALP, went to work as a senior executive for Woodside Petroleum.

It is a logical progression – from running an organisation whose business is managing capitalism for the bosses to running an organisation whose business is capitalism. And not just any brand of capitalism but mining capital. Then back again.

The mining maggots who destroyed Kevin Rudd and gave us Julia Gillard and her rotten Minerals Resource Rent ‘Tax’ now have one of their own in charge of Resources. Something about the fox and the hen house comes to mind.

Labor’s degeneration is complete when its leader sings the praises of a Minister because he comes from the dark side of the mining industry.  No doubt all that experience will see him expose the polluters.

Hang on. According to Mark Bahnisch in Crikey in 2007, Gray was a founder of the climate change denialist Lavoisier group in Australia. He has described climate change as pop science.

A climate change denier and a former mining company executive. That should have the big mining companies popping open the champagne.

Nothing like this could be said about Greg Combet, could it? Well, he isn’t a climate change denier.

However Gillard, in a stroke of genius, has merged the department of Climate Change with Industry.

This isn’t because she thinks it is industry which causes climate change. Who knows what she really thinks about climate change. She hasn’t spoken in depth about it, other than in defending the carbon tax forced on her by the Greens and the hung parliament in the 3 years she has been PM.

No, this looks more like the industrialisation or marketisation of climate change. With Climate Change under the control of Industry look for even more business friendly solutions to (not) address climate change. The fake dichotomy between jobs and climate change (which is really about profits at the expense of our environment) will become the mantra of both sides of politics.

These two actions – appointing former mining maggot and climate change denier Gary Gray to the resources portfolio and merging Climate Change with the Environment – are good examples of Labor’s bankruptcy; of its complete capitulation to neoliberalism and the idea that the market is the best way to organise society and profit the only god to be worshipped.

This is the twisted logic of social democracy, of managing capitalism, at work.   This is a bankrupt gutless Labor Party struggling over its neoliberal identity – right wing or right wing, totally pro-market or totally pro-market but incorporating the trade union bureaucracy to sell its pro-market policies to a reluctant working class. A plague a’ both your houses!

Reforms now are about making capital more profitable as a consequence of the fall in profit rates in most of the developed world.  Reformism as practice is dead. For progressive change the only solution is class struggle.

Like all posts on this blog, comments (see the link under the heading) close after 7 days.



Comment from Mike
Time March 26, 2013 at 9:11 am

I wish ‘reformism as practice’ (and related ideologies) was dead. But I doubt it.

One reason why neoliberalism today is so difficult to fight, and why it is so pervasive, is because it divides while it attacks.

The left too often characterises neoliberalism as constituting a sort of ‘frontal assault’ on the working class akin to two armies confronting each other on the fields of northern France in 1916.

But such implied military analogies are misleading. They oversimplify the relationship between neoliberalism and the working class.

Neoliberalism offers a route to growth by ruthlessly promoting competitiveness. But the impact of pursuing competitiveness is highly uneven across the working class depending on the position of workers within national and international divisions of labour. Some suffer job loss, work intensification and stagnant wages. Some become employed in the occupations and industries that grow because of neoliberal policies. And some workers don’t notice much difference.

Because, let’s be clear, if neoliberalism constituted an unmitigated disaster for most workers most of the time then the appeal of neoliberal political parties (and the marginality of the radical left) would be impossible to explain.

While the left is right to highlight the negative aspects of neoliberalism for campaigning and propaganda reasons, we should be clear in our analysis that the foundations of neoliberalism cannot be reduced to the machinations of a small number of career politicians and union bureaucrats. To understand neoliberalism in such terms may be good for our short-term political morale, but it makes for bad long-term political strategy.

Anyway, I look forward to hearing your talk on taxation in a few days time.

Comment from Dion Giles
Time March 26, 2013 at 11:26 am

A more eloquent climate change denier than Mr Gray is the weather itself.

Comment from John
Time March 26, 2013 at 11:47 am

Mike, I think its appeal is explicable in part by social democracy’s embrace of neoliberalism, the class collaboration of the union bureaucracy in adapting to it, the confusion this produces in workers, the lack of a revolutionary or even radical reformist left to make counter arguments, the fact in some countries it seems to work but the better Australian economy is actually explicable by other factors, that for a time (up to the mid to late 90s) it did globally seem to work to restore profit rates (and maybe as some sort of trickle down living standards in some countries), that the consequences are now becoming clearer in countries in Europe and the US of the shift of wealth to capital from labour etc..And the political fight back this is producing. By reformism in practice I mean the ability to deliver meaningful reforms that benefit workers. That I think is dead. The idea and the ideology are still alive – they flow perhaps from the very fact of selling our labour power. As to my talk on taxing the rich you can find a copy in the previous article on this blog.

Comment from John McRobert
Time March 26, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Unmitigated claptrap. Marx has been dead and buried for so long, why try to resurrect even his memory other than to demonstrate the stupidity of his ideas? Mining maggots??? Passant should immediately relinquish anything he owns which has been mined, turn off his power switches and migrate to Heard Island in a dugout canoe. Talk about a denialist.

Comment from greycells
Time March 26, 2013 at 6:52 pm

I thought all that theological stuff involving deniers & doomsayers, had all subsided, but apparently there still exists a requirement among some of us to replace logic with an ideological crutch.

Comment from John
Time March 26, 2013 at 7:11 pm

I also think, Mike, that the crisis of profitability that is around us is rendering a questioning, in some places in Europe at least, of not only neoliberalism but also capitalism. The fight there does resemble the Western Front industrially. In Australia there might be winners and losers, temporarily, from neoliberalism and the mining boom. Across much of Europe and the US that is not the case.

It is capitalism that is the problem, not just its current ideological variant known as neoliberalism.

Comment from John
Time March 26, 2013 at 8:35 pm

John McRobert, even Time recognises the resurgence of interest in Marx and his relevance today. Have a read.

Comment from Mike
Time March 27, 2013 at 12:31 pm

John, I am always a little wary of explanations that place too much emphasis on the role of leadership in reproducing reformism, capitalism and/or neoliberalism. It often overstates the extent to which workers accept capitalist norms in response to what leaders tell them, and understates the extent to which reformist and pro-capitalist ideas have their roots in the daily experience of life in a capitalist society (the sporadic nature of resistance, intra-class competition, commodity fetishism etc).

Having said that, there are moments when leadership can matter a great deal. The decision of the ALP and union leaders to support and enforce The Accord was, it seems to me, a very important means of introducing and entrenching neoliberal policies. However, now that important aspects of neoliberal ideology and practice have been embedded within party politics, public policy, media discourse and popular culture for several decades, I suspect the importance of that leadership in securing the reproduction of neoliberalism is much less than it was. It follows that replacing that leadership, while important, is only one necessary condition among many for successfully challenging neoliberalism today.

You might be right that ‘reformism in practice’ is over, but at present I don’t see a case for believing that to be necessarily the case. It seems conceivable that, in the context of sufficient growth, a future left-of-centre government, in response to a mix of electoral, industrial and community pressures, could introduce a measure that improves life for some workers.

Of course this partly depends on what is meant by ‘meaningful reforms that benefit workers’. If you mean reforms that dramatically increase the standard of living of nearly all employed people at the expense of capital and capitalists – then that is unlikely. But when has social democracy ever really tried to do that? If you mean reforms that improve life at the margins for several million low paid households – then that seems possible. How likely it is will depend on political circumstances and the broader dynamics of class struggle. But it seems unwise to rule it out.

Comment from John
Time March 27, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Mike, I thought my article, or at least my comment, made it clear that reformism arises from or is given daily life by the capital/labour relationship. I agree that reforms need to be fought for. It is one of the points I will make in my talk on taxing the rich on Saturday.