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John Passant

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January 2014



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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)



The degeneration of Socialist Alternative continues

Two important indicators of Stalinism are hagiography and abuse – hagiography of the great leaders and the correct line and abuse of those who disagree.

The merger of Socialist Alternative in Australia with the then dying  Stalinist current known as the Revolutionary Socialist Party gave a home to the 20 politically homeless and mainly aging ‘socialism from above’ proponents.

As I argued before the merger,  Socialist Alternative should have let them die politically. They would not have survived much longer on their own.

By bringing this current in,  the nature of Socialist Alternative has changed fundamentally, as I suggested would happen.  This is true both of its view of the world and its external and internal relations.

For example, the organisation abandoned, without any real debate, state capitalism and adopted a principle best described as  ‘the USSR was similar to fascism’.  It is nonsense of course but hides the differences that existed at the time of merger.

Its relations with the outside world have been both improving (joining community and union pickets, building Equal Love and rallies, helping in the refugee movement, organising as unionists in their workplaces) but also deteriorating for some time, unity talks nothwithstanding.

There is the SOS event in Brisbane with yelling and pushing, the chanting against and attempt to drown out Labor for Refugees at a refugee rally, the shoe throwing attack on riot police at a student demonstration in Melbourne, the NUS conference attack on Labor students and the hang Tony Abbott poster at Equal Love in Brisbane.

Then the organisation, in the words of one National Executive member, bullshitted about the shoe throwing student demonstration in its newspaper Red Flag.  In other words it lied to its members (including me) and to workers.  To me that is a betrayal of everything I believe a revolutionary organisation should be about.

There is also the organisation’s sectarian abuse of Reclaim the Night.

The Stalinist current in Socialist Alternative have made much of the 55th anniversary of the Cuban revolution. The rest of the former state capitalist organisation has remained silent.

Red Flag began in July last year. It is fortnightly. Not once, as far as I know, has it  published an article at all on state capitalism. The editors rejected an article I submitted on state capitalism, no doubt as part of the organisation’s commitment to free and open debate within the organisation and its newspaper.

As one of the current Red Flag editor Corey Oakley argued in 2011 in Marxist Left Review in Countering the Stalinist legacy, the Russian question is still relevant today. He said:

Today, more than 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is fashionable on the left to dismiss debates about the class nature of the USSR as being a sign of hopeless sectarianism, or disinterest in anything that happened more recently than 1930. And it is true that in 2011 the “Russian question” is not nearly as starkly posed as it was during the Cold War. After all, most of the “socialist states” no longer exist. But the questions of the past have not gone away. It still matters if your vision of socialism or a “workers’ state” can be stretched to include an authoritarian dictatorship. And the capitalist class did not stop attacking the Russian revolution with the collapse of the USSR. They might not do it with the same gusto as the Cold War warriors of the 1950s and 60s, but there is no denying that the ideological campaign to discredit the Russian revolution and Bolshevism continues. The Russian revolution is still taught in schools – and though the way it is taught varies, it is incontestably the case that the purpose of these courses is to demonstrate that the project of revolutionary change carried out in 1917 was at best misguided or naïve, and at worst was from the beginning a project of violent utopianism inseparable from the later atrocities of Stalin. The main objection people still raise to socialism is that it’s a good idea in theory but can never work in practice. The Russian experience is invariably offered as the proof of this contention. Without a clear analysis of Stalinism it is next to impossible to resist the anti-socialist arguments that dominate society.

Internally debate is a little like that Chomsky uses to describe how to keep people passive and obedient. It is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion but to allow debate within that spectrum.  What is acceptable opinion is leadership driven, and includes the fetishes of the Stalinist current, for example Cuba or support for Assad in Syria.

Now it is the turn of abuse. Socialist Alternative member James Crafti and part of the Stalinist current now describes me in these terms:

John isn’t interested in the argument. While there are all sorts of debates and discussions in Socialist Alternative these days (and most of them still have a State Cap position) most of them have at least bothered to try and understand the perspectives of the former RSP comrades (and visa versa).

Which is why Passant is so out on a limb and decided to resign. One only has to look at his resignation letter, conflating Cuba and North Korea, reducing the Cuban revolution to guerrilla struggle (which is only one part of a much bigger picture) etc. He isn’t interested in hearing other perspectives. While Socialist Alternative has stopped referring to us as Stalinist and saying we argue for “revolution from above” because even if they disagree with our theories they understand where we are coming from. John’s inability to do so makes him equally a poor academic and poor revolutionary.

There reason I am guessing most Soc Alt members aren’t running to agree with John is not because they don’t agree with many of his points (I know they do) or the “facebook police” i.e. people who from time to time suggest to comrades that a post is a bit moronic, but because he is so crude with his analysis and is using it to justify a very narrow perspective. There is a much better debate and discussion that is ongoing but it won’t be found on this wall.

I also suggest that the people on this wall who are arguing with John think about how quickly they swung in to hold up his resignation letter as some sort of significant proof of serious problems in Socialist Alternative. There are problems (like in all organisations), we are dealing with them but I wouldn’t take John’s critiques which are crude and all over the place as the sign of anything.

I know I am, compared to the great and wonderful god of Marxism James Crafti, a mere mortal of socialist thought. However let me proffer a few responses to this leadership inspired attack.

This sort of pathetic abuse is typical of Stalinists who cannot address the issues. And of course I am so crude that I have had a number of members privately express support for me and my positions. Others who had considered joining, some on the basis of my writing on this blog at least in part, are now less sure. I tell them to join if they were going to, but to do so with eyes wide open.

James’ attack might resonate in some quarters of Socialist Alternative in Melbourne. It may or may not go down so well in every other city, but I doubt the genius that James is understands or even recognises that.

What the comments from James indicate is that the sort of debate that occurs within Socialist Alternative is to vilify comrades who disagree with them, to follow the leadership unquestioningly on the big issues and to throw words and things at people who disagree because that of course is radical isn’t it?

Rather than debate it is abuse.

So the Stalinist current in the organisation defends the Stalinist regime in Cuba and worship at the altar of Castro, much as the CPA in Australia used to glorify the USSR. They abuse those outside the organisation who disagree or those within who don’t follow the script, the fake script of managed ‘debate’.

In my own crude James Crafti way I think the merger is an example of a slowed down get rich quick scheme rather than concentrating on doing the hard work of attracting people on the basis of eventually agreed ideas about what revolution is and building a cadre around debate and difference in that context.

Get rich quick schemes to build small revolutionary organisations into Revolutionary Parties have been a common mirage for the revolutionary left.  The decline of  Socialist Alliance and its degeneration are another example in Australia of a failed get rich quick socialist party building scheme.

They have never worked in the long term.

My question to Socialist Alternative is will you publicly acknowledge your mistakes and analyse why they have occurred? I’d suggest they have occurred because the sort of membership it attracts is young and crude and taught little Marxism by elements of the worshiped leadership other than to imagine rioting is revolution.

Admit you lied to the working class and your membership about the shoe throwing at the cops. Admit the Hang Tony Abbott banner was wrong; that the attack on Labor students was wrong; that the shoe throwing at riot police was wrong; that pushing and shoving people at SOS in Brisbane was wrong; that trying to drown out Labor for Refugees was wrong; that abusing Reclaim the Night is sectarian.

It won’t happen. To analyse these mistakes would require a real understanding of what Australian workers are thinking, how a revolutionary party can be built and getting rid of the leadership who have produced these rotten lies to the class and rioting outcomes.

Socialist Alternative is now a home for crude Stalinist hacks like James Crafti. It has no space for people like me. I think that perfectly captures its degeneration.



Comment from Ross
Time January 4, 2014 at 6:31 pm

John the only state capitalism our Govts should be involved in is Govt only should create the new money to = growth + inflation. Thus we will not need most of our taxes.

Comment from Chris Warren
Time January 5, 2014 at 8:07 am

They abuse those outside the organisation who disagree or those within who don’t follow the script, the fake script of managed ‘debate’.

But you are doing exactly the same against those who disagree with you.

Have you had any experience of a CPA member glorifying the Soviet Union? Or is this taken out of Trotskyite texts?

Your posts are wanton. You are not respecting the complexity of concrete action and real history. To the extent that bourgeois academic hirelings raise the rightwing spectre of supposed “glorifying” they omit to mention that this was a natural element in a pre-Khrushchev era and in the shadow of the all-consuming effort to defeat Hitler and the Axis powers.

All societies “glorify” different aspects of life at different times for different purposes.

You are running on a fake script.

Comment from John
Time January 5, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Um, Chris, you do know the history of the stalinist regime under Stalin don’t you? I am wondering what you you are refering to when you say: ‘the shadow of the all-consuming effort to defeat Hitler and the Axis powers.’ Do you mean the Hitler-Stalin pact? The German CP, by then thoroughly Stalinised, denouncing social democrats as fascists? You know, laying the ground work for the coming to power of Hitler? Then Stalin entering into a treaty with him?

Comment from Chris Warren
Time January 5, 2014 at 8:35 pm

Yes John

You can read all about it in “News Weekly”.

Comment from Mojo
Time January 5, 2014 at 9:16 pm

I was at the student protest in Melbourne. The shoes were being directed towards the building, not at the police. The cops, whom there were more of than actual protesters, went and stood under the building as the shoes were being launched.

A liaison from the VPD had approved the shoe throwing a week before. There was nothing against the law about it. We weren’t suddenly going to go and storm the building either. So what were the police doing?

If you were taking a piss and somebody came and stood under your stream for no reason, did you “piss on that person”? No. It’s all a question of where the intentionality lies.

Comment from John
Time January 6, 2014 at 7:38 am

So Mick was lying when he said we bullshitted but got away with it?

Comment from John
Time January 6, 2014 at 7:08 pm

Yes, Mojo, that appears to be the official line. But as Mick ranted, throwing shoes at riot cops is stupid and apolitical.

Comment from Shane H
Time January 11, 2014 at 9:48 am

SAlt is the same as its always been its just that you are an ‘outsider’ now so its obvious to you (plus you are on the receiving end).

Nothing you say will make any difference to them and throwing around terms like ‘Stalinist’ isn’t helping (and is a odd mirror image of their approach).

Leaving and finding a new way to practice politics is hard (I joined the Greens in Mackay so you can imagine what comrades made of that) but the best you can hope for in these early debates is self-clarification. I’m not sure that’s the way its heading.

Comment from Mike Ballard
Time January 11, 2014 at 11:52 am

Most workers don’t know Stalin or Trotsky or their differing political positions from a bar of soap and furthermore, they don’t care to know them. What workers are interested in are questions concerning how best to raise their standard of living. What most revolutionaries don’t understand is Marx’s critique of political-economy and why it was he focussed on the abolition of wage labour. The connection between wage labour and the workers’ interests in raising their standard of living should be the focus of revolutionaries attempting to organise support for social ownership of the collective product of labour.

Comment from John
Time January 11, 2014 at 3:58 pm

Well I should not have published this diatribe I wrote that is for sure. My characterisation of some members of the former RSP is in line with what some other members of Socialist Alternative think, or used to think. I am unsure why at times calling a Stalinist a Stalinist is inappropriate. However this should not have been one of those times. I shouldn’t have published it. Publish in anger, regret at leisure.

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