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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
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Nationalise socks and jocks!

Nationalise Pacific Brands.

The company is sacking 1850 staff in Australia and moving production to China and other countries. It makes singlets, jocks, socks, bras and the like.

What can the workers there do? 

Occupy the factories. Run production themselves. Demand the Rudd ‘Labor’ Government nationalise the company without compensation to protect their jobs.  

Sound ridiculous?  

In Ireland Waterford Crystal closed down its factory. In response the workers have occupied it and demanded the Government nationalise the company. 

In Dublin a few days ago 120,000 workers demonstrated against the Government’s failure to address the economic crisis.  Waterford Crystal workers led the march in a show of support from all Irish workres and to put even more pressure on the Irish Government to save these jobs.

And what happens here in Australia?  Kevin Rudd is leading the platitude stakes. He is ‘extremely disappointed’.  But unlike Pacific Brand workers he still has a job.  Until 2010 anyway. 

Kim Carr, a supposed ‘leftwing’ Minister, has said there will be more sackings in the textile, clothing and footwear industry in Australia.  So the ALP left will let capital trample over workers. 

Something about tits, bulls and usefulness comes to mind when Carr craps on. He is just another acolyte at the altar of profit. 

Workers want action.  From Labor and the peak union body they get words. 

Pacific Brand workers have nothing to lose if they occupy the seven factories around Australia.  They may well save their jobs.

To force ‘social democrat’ Comrade Kev to nationalise Pacific Brands will need will and resolve from Pacific Brand workers. And it will mean building a mass movement of workers against sackings.  

Solidarity is important. Their struggle is our struggle.  Anyone could be next. 

A victory for Pacific Brand workers would make bosses across Australia think twice about decamping and sacking their workforce.

The ACTU could organise mass support and action. It  could call out workers across Australia to force Rudd to save these jobs and those of any other workers threatened with mass sackings.

But the ACTU is ‘repsonsible’.  This means they too are lackeys of capital and bow down before the omnipresence that is greed.  So they won’t do anything concrete to help Pacific Brand workers stay employed. Oh, other than mouth platitudes too.

Workers can’t rely on the lapdog leaders of the union movement.  They will have to act independently of them, and contrary to their leaders’ do nothing ideas.

The 1850 workers at Pacific Brand could march in to the 7 factories today and start the machines up. 

They could run the factories and call for workers in the TCF and other industries threatened with job losses to follow their lead and come out in support.  They could force the ACTU to organise industrial action from other workers to support them.

All that is needed for that spark is action from Pacific Brand workers to occupy the factories and run it.

Really pressure the ‘Labor’ Government to save jobs.  Tell Rudd to put people before profit.

Clearly ‘stimulus’ packages don’t work.  Only direct action can save jobs.

The bosses are fighting dirty.  Workers should take their gloves off too. 

Occupying the Pacific Brand factories is the only chance the workers there have of saving their jobs and futures.  By doing that their gaol should be to force Rudd to nationalise the company and keep their livelihoods.

And  if successful they set an example for other workers threatened with the sack to follow.

Put people before profit Comrade Kevin.  Nationalise Pacific Brands without any compensation. Keep all the workers’ jobs there.



Comment from Brett
Time February 26, 2009 at 11:20 am


“Nationalise Pacific Brands without any compensation. Keep all the workers’ jobs there. ”

Are you advocating theft? What about the property rights of the shareholders?

Is the basis of Marxism really theft?

Comment from Ash
Time February 26, 2009 at 11:25 am

Great idea. Let’s do this with all the underperforming Australian companies. We will get into the same position as Russia where the cost of raw materials was worth more than finished product.
There were bread lines because not enough bakers and surpluses of unwanted pickled herring.
I’m all for management accountability but getting the government to produce unwanted King G pants is a waste of time for all involved.

Comment from John
Time February 26, 2009 at 12:36 pm


A brief response before I go home to see if we can fix my computer.

I don’t see this as theft. It is the comany that the workers built through their labour. They are merely gaining back what has been stolen (expropriated) from them.

What strategy do you suggest for these 1850 workers?

And Ash, I’m not sure how taking over the factory is stalinism.

Ths political and economic demand if successful can succed for a while and help lead towards workers beginning to run society democratically to satisfy human need.

Bread queues, job queues. Two forms of capitalism – one state capitallism, the other market capitalism.

Maybe socialism (instead of state captialism or market capitalism) is an answer – the democratic control of society to produce for human need. Pacific Brand workers taking over their workplace would be a small step towards that.

It would challenge the rule of capital.

Comment from Brett
Time February 26, 2009 at 12:49 pm


By your argument, if a kid walks around the local street mowing lawns on a weekend (and is paid for his or her labour) then they are entitled to part of the house that they mowed the lawn of.

Is this really what you’re saying?

No, just like the kid mowing lawns, the workers are paid for their labour. Unless they own shares then they have no claim of ownership. Therefore, nothing was stolen from them.

However, your stance will definitely steal from those who have legitimate property rights as defined by the laws of this country. So again I ask you, are you advocating theft?

Comment from Brett
Time February 26, 2009 at 12:57 pm

Apologies – i didn’t address your other question:

“What strategy do you suggest for these 1850 workers?”

I certainly don’t suggest keeping open a business that loses money. I certainly don’t suggest that workers “squat” on land and equipment which has been earmarked for sale. And I certainly don’t suggest that we, as a country, engage in activities that we are not competitive at.

Manufacturing in this country has been uncompetitive in this country for years. It is the equivalent of me playing tennis in the Australian Open and paying the other competitors to let me play – a waste of everyone’s time as I am terrible at playing tennis, there are others who are better at it and it’s a waste of money. Better that I spend my money on things that are “valuable”.

I would suggest that we, as a country, get out of manufacturing and get these workers into employment which makes sense in this country.

Comment from Abigail Petit
Time February 26, 2009 at 1:19 pm

So what? Will the sun not shine in the morning? Will the tides not turn? Who cares about such nonsense? Only John and his ilk.

Comment from John Passant
Time February 26, 2009 at 4:00 pm

Abigail asks: Who cares about such nonsense?

Most working people.

Comment from Arjay
Time February 26, 2009 at 6:57 pm

It won’t work John.Our Govts cannot run their own affairs let alone a business.
We have to overhaul OH&S ,workers comp the legal disease and all the Govt strangulation of small business via regulation before any business will consider staying in this country.

Comment from Jason
Time February 26, 2009 at 8:39 pm

The recovered factory movement in Argentina (eg the Brukman factory: ) could serve as a model here.

Comment from John
Time February 26, 2009 at 9:53 pm

Thanks Jason.

I’ll have a look.

Comment from John
Time February 26, 2009 at 9:54 pm

Thanks Arjay. The Government wouldn’t run it – the workers would.

Comment from Anthony
Time February 27, 2009 at 8:46 am

they should get the ceo’s to take a pay cut rather then pay rise to allow the company to stay competitive.

Comment from juan
Time February 27, 2009 at 9:08 am

“Unions say large pay increases for the top executives at Pacific Brands are obscene in the light of the company’s job cuts this week.
A total of 1,850 jobs will be axed after the company, which owns brands including Bonds and Berlei, posted a first-half loss of almost $150 million and said it was moving manufacturing off shore.
Last year the firm’s 13 top executives were awarded pay rises, with chief executive Sue Morphett’s pay going up from around $680,000 to more than $1.8 million…” (from the ABC Online 27/2/09).
So it seems that the only options left for the working class are to let the bosses screw us when times are good and to piss on us when times are bad. But in both cases we must let them (the bosses) rape and plunder the companies they are supposed to be running. Because if we don’t, then an even worst fate will visit us. Why don’t we ever learn!

Comment from STT
Time February 27, 2009 at 12:03 pm

John says:

‘The Government wouldn’t run it – the workers would’

Now this is going to sound like a horrible, racist comment, but it’s not intended as such.

Most of the people working at Pacific Brands are migrants with limited education and language skills. How are they going to run a business that size? They don’t have the management skills to run a business that has a turnover in the hundreds of milions. Who is going to lend them working capital? No bank would touch them, and I don’t want my tax dollars propping up romantic futility.

And what do you mean by ‘democratic control of society to produce for human need’? Are we going to hold a referendum every season to decide what colour undies we should be producing for the summer, spring, autumn and winter?

I’d prefer to leave those decisions up to the market, which is the most efficient mechanism we have for the exchange of infromation.


Comment from Andre
Time February 27, 2009 at 1:20 pm

Pacific Brands will presumably sell off all plant and equipment in light of this move. If the workers are able to organise themselves and get appropriate financing then they should be allow to compete in the market for these assets. Do you genuinely believe their subsequent operation would be competitive? (I am ignoring their liekly inability to secure intellectual property rights such as the brands, designs etc…)

Comment from Andre
Time February 27, 2009 at 2:58 pm

My presumption that the equipment will stay onshore may be incorrect, if this threat by various unions is based on fact:

Comment from John
Time February 27, 2009 at 4:40 pm


You beat me to it. I am about to write a piece praising the Transport Workers Union for banning shifting any equipment overseas. I haven’t read the reports yet but assume Pacific Brands wanted to take the equipment with them to China etc because they knew that selling it in Australia would get them very little and it was more cost effective moving it overseas. If the TWU is successful in stopping them taking it overseas then the equipment is here for the workers to take over.

Another issue. What are the other 7000 PB workers still in jobs here doing? Surely if they walked out that would force PB to keep the other 1850 unless the workers think that PB will threaten them with total closure in Australia if they take action?

But in relation to your main point, I am against wrokers working within bourgeois frameworks like efficiency and so forth when it comes to saving jobs and lives. To my mind a better criteria is satisfying human need rather than profit. In any event the Commonwealth Government runs many ‘inefficient’ industries and pays for them out of the public purse. Re-aligning t6ax policies to tax the rich provides a subsidy to run what you call ‘inefficient’ industries.

Anyway. hopefully I’ll have something on my site by Saturday morning.

Comment from John
Time February 27, 2009 at 4:50 pm


It’s not racist. It just presumes workers can’t run things. I think they can.

Democratic control means workplace democracy (regular meetings, electing representatives to say regional bodies, who then elect people to regional bodies etc, with the right of instant recall and being paid average wages.)

If the choice is between one colour of undies and cheaper quality food, I know what I’d vote for. In any event workers at PB would make that decision themselves if democracy extended to the workplace.

Comment from Jason
Time February 27, 2009 at 7:49 pm

“Do you genuinely believe their subsequent operation would be competitive? (I am ignoring their liekly inability to secure intellectual property rights such as the brands, designs etc…)”

Do you genuinely believe that if the factories were occupied and Bonds products “rebranded” as Aussie products made by an Aussie workers cooperative, that this wouldn’t appeal to Bonds primary customer base, the aussie worker??

As for the legalities, occupation and operation of the factories could be seen as just restitution for the millions in taxpayers assistance Bonds has received (which appears to have been funnelled to Executive pay rises), backed up by legilslation if necessary. Once the debt is repaid, a decision could me made whether the government or workers coop acquires the assets.

As for lack of managment expertise, some middle managers could be retained for this purpose if necessary (I’m talking about those in the $50K to $100K bracket, not the $500K+ corporate swindlers).

Comment from Ash
Time February 27, 2009 at 9:53 pm

I can’t believe you are referring to the great Russian Communist experiment as “State Capitalism”. Many Socialist workers lived boring, insignificant lives forced to produce worthless goods (as you propose) – and would be insulted at called supporting a capitalist society.

Unfortunately your new brand of socialism is fundamentally no different to the other versions and deserves the same flush into history’s sewer.

The real issue at PacBrands is mis-management, and there will be more companies that come to light like this. Let’s ensure the executives are held responsible for their tenure and their bonuses repaid accordingly.

As for repossessing factories – shouldn’t the space and people be better utilised on other activities?
If nobody wants King G pants then let’s retrain the workers to get new jobs making something more highly valued.