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John Passant

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August 2013



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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)



Neoliberalism and the cruel election

Kevin Rudd and Tony Abbott, the chief barbarians of political capitalism, will battle it out on 7 September. On those areas they both think they can win popular support and votes, like asylum seekers, they will try to outbid each other in cruelty.

Andrew Wilkie and Adam Bandt vote against while all the Labor and Opposition members vote for indefinite detention of asylum seekers

That helps to explain Rudd’s race to the bottom with his PNG and Nauru refugee ‘solutions’, expressions of Australian capitalism’s dominance in the region.

On other occasions Labor tries to hide its barbarism because to expose the reality of its actions might undermine support from its base.  The attack on payments to about 90,000 single parents, 90% of whom are women, is a  case in point. Labor did this on the same day the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard made her famous ‘I will not be lectured to by this misogynist’ speech.  The rhetoric hid the reality.

That is true too of the gender pay gap which is higher now under Labor than under Howard in 2004.

Similarly with cutting jobs and increasing workloads in the public service. Labor’s increase in the efficiency dividend as a one off last year from 1.25% to 4% saw public service numbers cut by more than 5000. Its announcement on Friday of an efficiency dividend of 2.25% over the next 3 years will ‘save’ $1.8 billion.

The CPSU, the do-nothing public sector union, reckons this will see 5000 jobs go. The real figure is likely to be higher as 2 decades of efficiency dividends have reduced non-staff alternatives to increased funding cuts.

I know. It’s not fair to call the CPSU do-nothing. They have helpfully pointed out that with proposed job losses of 12000 in the public service the Liberals will be worse. So 5000 plus the previous 5000 equals how many CPSU? 10,000 public service jobs. Much the same as the Liberals.

Why not fight both parties of neoliberalism, CPSU? And ACTU? Lead a fight against Labor’s neoliberalism. The way to fight Abbott is to fight Rudd.

The Australian economy is slowing as the crisis of profitability in much of the developed economies wends its way here via China. If it worsens both Labor or the Liberals in government will launch vicious attacks on jobs, wages and conditions to attempt to restore profitability.

The ALP’s links to the trade union bureaucracy mean it can get away with attacks on the working class that the Liberals could imagine but not deliver under Fraser.  Hawke and Keating cut real wages under the Accord by a level that Thatcher could only dream about. That in part is the beauty for the bosses of Labor in power. Not only that but Labor’s neoliberalism makes the ideas of the other faction of neoliberalism ,the liberals, more acceptable.

What Labor’s attacks on workers and others do is lay the groundwork for a resurgent conservatism to deepen and further Labor’s cuts.  Hawke and Keating led to Howard who led to Rudd/Gillard/Rudd and now, very possibly Abbott.  The trend in both parties has been to shift further and further to the neoliberal right and to cruelty against easy targets like asylum seekers and indigenous Australians, ‘the other’ as a distraction from their attacks on workers and others.

But cruelty to the other can then easily morph into cruelty and attacks on the non-indigenous poor and the working class in Australia. If elected an Abbott government will take the logic of Rudd’s disgraceful attacks on refugees with attacks on dole bludgers, the undeserving poor and an end to the age of entitlement.  This latter is code both for an attack on welfare recipients and spending on public education, public hospitals and public transport.

Labor is the party of almost disguised neoliberalism, although the mask is slipping off more regularly of late.

Take industrial relations and controlling workers, the centre piece of neoliberalism. The union movement is warning a Liberal Government will attempt to re-introduce WorkChoices. Yet Labor’s Fair Work keeps much of WorkChoices, including extreme restrictions on the ability to strike, the best mechanism workers have to defend themselves in the workplace.

Both Labor and the Liberals are the parties of war. Both are the parties of the racist Northern Territory intervention.  One is the party of climate change free market actioneers, do nothings and sceptics, the other of deniers, sceptics and free market actioneers.

The double helix of neoliberalism is no alternative.

Neither are the Greens. For example my union, the academics’ union, is endorsing the Greens because they oppose Labor’s $2.3 billion cuts to higher education.

Yet at the ANU, where I am studying, voting Green won’t change the Vice-Chancellor’s attempts to cut ten percent of administrative staff, replace older academics with younger, cheaper and more malleable ones, give us a pay increase of 1.5% per year (i.e. about 1% below the Consumer Price Index PI and 2.5% below pay increases at other Universities.)  This is also the University which is about to abolish tutorials in one major area to save money, enhance the students’ learning experience.

Only industrial action to shut the University down offers the potential to win a decent pay increase and defend jobs.

Similarly with asylum seekers.  Voting Green won’t save refugees. Massive demonstrations and increasing mass militancy has that potential. It is the same too with Equal Love. Indeed voting Green alone won’t actually address climate change either. Mass mobilisations on the other hand for action on climate change have that potential.

That is why it is good that the Greens have taken the first steps to joining the demonstrations in defence of refugees, although we haven’t yet seen them attempt to mobilise the 8 or 9 percent who will vote for them.  And whether there protest enthusiasm lasts past the election is another question.

The key is what workers do to defend jobs and increase wages.  And increase in economic militancy can produce an increase in the spread and depth of political militancy.

As the demonstrations of tens of thousands across Australia in defence of refugees show, the alternative right now to the Labor Party is struggle. It is the minority who want to fight back against cruelty and neoliberalism that we on the Left have to join with and relate to in the battle for a better world.



Comment from Mike
Time August 5, 2013 at 1:24 pm

The thrust of your argument seems to be: voting for any of the political parties will not solve anything.

This may be true in the context of a contrast between capitalism and socialism, but it is a somewhat abstract position to take in the context of the impending election.

Counterposing struggle to voting seems, to me, to offer an artifical dualism. It is possible to both vote Green and to mobilise in defence of refugees at the same time. It is not a zero-sum game.

The problem at the moment is that struggle for radical change to state policy that does not have party political representation will almost always fail. And the Marxist left is not presently in a positi0n to offer such representation.

Also, you say that ‘an increase in economic militancy can produce an increase in the spread and depth of political militancy.’

Yes it ‘can’. But in most countries with deeply liberal political cultures (such as the UK and Australia) it almost never does. This is because the sources of class radicalism (as distinct from class militancy) are not simply ‘economic’ in nature.

So the real choice for most left-leaning workers in the next election, in the context of the concrete circumstances of August/Sept 2013, is not between struggle and voting. It is about voting for a party that will make struggle for progressive change easier rather than harder.

I wish the real choices and credible alternatives open to workers were ones that involved counterposing capitalism to socialism – but they are not.

Comment from @landrights4all
Time August 5, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Was Leo Tolstoy right when he said that solving the land question means the solving of all social questions?

The maths on sustainability shows that even with amazing technological advances I will still need to live on MUCH less to come anywhere close to being sustainable. However I really need to maintain my current level of income, 1/3+ of which already goes on modest housing.

To keep my job I also need to maintain a certain image or lifestyle among work colleagues and friends, and that is both financially and environmentally expensive. My work itself depends on and promotes an unsustainable level of consumerism. I would like to reduce my dependency by growing more of my food for example, but to get serious about being more independent I would need to ask my boss to reduce my hours of paid employment. That would reduce my income to a level I could not live on, and it would make my job even more insecure than it already seems to be.

I really feel stuck with just doing things which I know are good, but little more than marginal in the maths on sustainability – recycling, growing a few veggies, turning a few lights off, cycling to work, holidaying locally etc.. This may be one step forward but I must maintain my unsustainable job/lifestyle to keep a roof overhead, and that is more than two steps backward. Everyone I know is in this situation and it explains why we are still headed towards global warming.

If I already had housing security and so only had to worry about building maintenance, I could get serious about collaborating with neighbours to become locally sustainable.

What ever happened to my birthright to life that I must now serve an increasingly unsustainable function? If I do have a right to life, surely I have a right to the elements provided by nature for life – including free access to land for shelter? Was Leo Tolstoy right when he said that solving the land question means the solving of all social questions?

Chris Baulman

Comment from kevin bennewith
Time August 5, 2013 at 3:27 pm

I’d agree that the Labor Party no longer has the interests of its votaries at heart. It has no real interest in delivering a real solution to the problem of illegal immigration. The only reason KRUDD is fiddling with his various “solutions” (PNG, Nauru) is so as to appeal to the working class, who don’t want to see an influx of cheap labor undercutting their wages and conditions, and introducing cultures whose values are completely at odds with the values of the white working class. Multiculturalism is great, when you don’t have to live amongst it. Of course, as a Marxist, your aim is to undermine the cultural underpinnings of our society, so that you can have your “coffee colored people by the score”. Nice genocidal strategy, John.

Comment from John
Time August 5, 2013 at 7:50 pm

Really kevin bennewith? Banned.

Comment from John
Time August 5, 2013 at 7:54 pm

‘Was Leo Tolstoy right when he said that solving the land question means the solving of all social questions?’ No, because it doesn’t address the question of the exploitative relationship between labour and capital. Second it doesn’t suggest what solution. Third, Tolstoy was I think being nation and context specific. In Australia for example the question of sovereignty for indigenous people and a treaty would begin the process of overcoming 225 years of genocide and dispossession, but that would or could only come about in the context of challenging the rule of capital.

Comment from John
Time August 5, 2013 at 7:58 pm

No Mike, they don’t involve socialism versus capitalism being on the agenda, and I am not suggesting that. I am trying to relate to that minority of a minority who want to resist the duopoly of neoliberalist parties. That may help build a socialist alternative in Australia from miniscule to small, but without any substantial links to the working class but which has that potentiality. I don’t think there is a party to vote for that will make struggle easier.

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