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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)

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)



The New McCarthyism in Australia: defending the Stalinists

Welcome to the new McCarthyism in Australia. The Australian ruling class is now using Tim Anderson’s outrageous support for the Syrian butcher Assad as cover for an attack on the academic left, the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions and the left and its ideas and practices more generally. This is about trying to suppress or marginalise all left wing views and dissent.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne has responded to the visit of Sydney University academic Tim Anderson to Assad with threats against universities that actually differ from the government line. Evidently views that upset the possible profitability of a University are verboten. According to The Australian Minister Pyne has warned that ‘academic extremism risks damaging the standing of Australia’s universities.’

Part of Pyne;s tirade included a call Universities to self regulate those who might
According to the Australian in another article on the issue:

The commonwealth government’s highest priority in higher education is quality, Pyne told Inquirer. Every vice-chancellor should always be reviewing whether their university is meeting high standards of quality in order to protect its reputation, but also Australia’s international reputation in education.

I dunno but maybe diversity and difference and debate actually make Universities better trainers of future workers as critical thinkers within the system able to turn out more profit for capital.

Pyne expressed a view of higher education that if implemented brings primary school to academia.

The new McCarthyism is not so new. It has been around for decades. As the tendency for the rate of profit reasserted itself in the late 60s and early 70s in the developed world, the ruling class shift from Keynesianism to neoliberalism required various forms of repression. In Chile the Pinochet dictatorship became the first country able to impose the ‘free’ market on a country. The election of Thatcher and Reagan saw increased attacks on unions and workers and the use of police and other forces to break strikes.

Recent revelations show that Thatcher was prepared to use the armed forces against striking miners. On top of that Roy Greenslade, the editor of the Mirror newspaper at the time, has admitted the paper lied and lied and lied about the miners during the strike and apologised to Arthur Scargill.

In Australia it was the Hawke Labor government in 1983 which introduced the neoliberal project but rather than attacking the working class openly it co-opted most of it through the Accord. In using co-option and class collaboration rather than confrontation the Hawke and Keating governments were more successful in shifting wealth to capital from labour than Thatcher was able to do.

However Labor brutally attacked unions which posed a threat to that class collaborationist Accord to shift wealth to capital from labour. With the agreement of the rest of the union movement it de-registered and thus de-fanged the most militant union in Australia, the Builders’ Labourers’ Federation in 1985.

In 1989, again with the agreement of the trade union bureaucracy, ¬†the Labor Party government used the air force to break the pilots’ strike for wage increases outside the Accord framework.

9/11 was a godsend for the neoliberal authoritarians. Under the guise of fighting terrorism US imperialism and its allies invaded Afghanistan and Iraq and tightened and tightened and tightened anti-terrorism laws. On top of that information collection became all-encompassing.

In Australia that trend to authoritarianism included not only an intensification of the onslaught against Muslims and refugees but new anti-terrorism laws which enable people to be locked up for weeks without charge.

As a consequence Mohamed Haneef spent 12 days in jail on suspicion of aiding terrorism, a suspicion which had no basis in fact.

Thousands of refugees (including over one thousand children) are locked up in concentration camps here and on Manus Island and Nauru without charge and having committed no crimes.

Laws attacking bikies are dictatorial and not limited to bikies. The real goal of the laws, apart from engendering law and order hysteria and creating an acceptable enemy within, is trade unions. When the next major protracted strike breaks out in Queensland it is quite possible that these anti-association laws will be used against unions and unionists.

The theme of the enemy within will also be used against the left. This unpatriotic, rabble rousing riff raff rent-a-crowd Left (or other words lifted from the Australian and elsewhere) will become a target because in a time of deepening austerity in Australia its ideas may become acceptable to more and more people.

However the Left in Australia is not homogenous, as the differences over Syria show. Tim Anderson’s disgusting support for the Syrian dictator Assad reflects a Stalinist current in the Australian left who often worship at the altar of Cuba (and before that the USSR) and use knee jerk anti-imperialism to justify support for dictators in the face of genuine popular revolution.

It is no accident that some of those who misinterpret the Cuban revolution also support Assad.

The unifying theme is its version of Stalinism, a contempt for revolutions from below, or more charitably misjudging political revolutions from above as both political and economic revolutions from below. Sometimes the mistake is conflating political with economic revolutions and mistaking nationalised property relations within state capitalism as an assault on capitalism.

Tim Anderson is part of this new Stalinist left and the logic of its Stalinism leads it to support Assad.

On the other hand, and to its credit, Socialist Alliance has condemned Assad and supported the revolutionary elements in the uprising against the dictator. I don’t know but like the other main organisation on the Left, Socialist Alternative, I assume there were and are differences of opinion over Syria.

Socialist Alternative is not free from criticism here. Under the guise of debating Syria its newspaper, Red Flag, has published what is effectively a defence of Assad by one of its members from the Stalinist current in its organisation.

Using sophistry about revolution, Sam King tries to argue there is no revolution in Syria and hence the Left cannot support the uprising.

Red Flag editor Corey Oakley destroyed this by arguing it comes out of what he has called elsewhere knee-jerk anti-imperialism. He says:

Even among those on the left who have little sympathy for Assad, the rhetorical hostility of the US to the Syrian regime, and the fact that Assad has from day one characterised the opposition as pro-imperialist, has had a profoundly disorienting impact.

The problem is that by publishing the ‘debate’ Red Flag commits the same political crime that Anderson has committed, giving respectability to Assad and cover for the Australian ruling class to increase its attacks on the left.

Anderson’s grovelling apologies for the dictator Assad deserve absolute condemnation from the Left. However we must defend these new Stalinists from ruling class attacks on their rights to organise, to speak, to work.

The ruling class will use the weak target of the Assad supporting left to target the stronger and more vibrant genuine revolutionary movements in Australia.

The best way to defend the Left from successful ruling class attacks in Australia on our right to organise is to politically destroy Stalinism in Australia by building a left absolutely free from any of its influences. The immediate task in doing that paradoxically is to defend the rights of the new Stalinists like Anderson to organise, to speak and to work.



Comment from Abas Abas
Time January 5, 2014 at 11:19 am

Cautious of its title in not calling for Peace in Syria, I attended the Perth ‘No War With Syria’ and hung back from the (small) crowd – Glad I did as it was an openly pro Assad rally (with some sentences thrown in about peace for all Syrians by two speakers). Yet checking in with a few attendees after, they considered it an anti war rally, despite the civil war in Syria killing non combatant adults and children. In this case it seemed that it was ZOG / USA conspiracy and not ‘Stalinism’ theory at play. First pro civil war I’ve ever been too. Sad times…

Comment from Jack
Time January 5, 2014 at 11:42 am

Good analysis and argument John, but do you think Anderson’s defensive attitude towards the Assad regime really makes him a full blown Stalinist? Rather his seems to be an unfortunate case of well-meant but overblown fellow-travelling. John Pilger has adopted a similar stance on Syria but few would call him a Stalinist.

Comment from Mike Ballard
Time January 5, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Pyne’s attack is geared toward purging the left or at least chilling free speech on campus. This is standard operational procedure for the LNP. The LNP would not mind if the ‘left’ was standing up for Ukrainians wanting closer ties with Europe. It’s an old war, not even a cold war to paraphrase Marianne Faithful.

Same goes for the Stalin/Trotsky faction fight. Seems endless to me and it doesn’t get the ‘left’ anywhere but into micro struggles with itself.

As for Syria, I don’t see how a communist could support either side. But of course, ‘the Stalinists’ supported Gadaffi and now they’re supporting Assad. Why? Because the Soviet Union did in the Cold War.

Because of these kinds of absurdities, the left makes itself irrelevant to the rank and file of the working class. Defending civil rights should be our consistent principle. Of course, that’s difficult, if we’re supporting Leninism, as Lenin and company were no respecters of civil rights.

Comment from John
Time January 5, 2014 at 2:24 pm

Good point Jack. I was unsure about it but think that his unflinching support for Cuba together with his knee-jerk anti-imperialism and support for Assad makes him what I call a new Stalinist. I’ll try to explain this more later on if I get time.