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John Passant

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August 2009



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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)



Rationality and reaction

Socialist are not only the children of the enlightenment. We keep alive its kernel – the idea of human rationality.

The enlightenment did not grow in a vacuum. As the burghers began the long process of becoming the bourgeoisie, part of the journey involved economic and political battles to overthrow feudalism. 

The battle often expressed itself in the thinking of the time – science against religion, religion against religion (or more accurately the religious against the religious) , nationalism over regionalism for example.

But new ideas – liberté, egalité and fraternité – also arose, reflecting the revolutionary nature of the bourgeois in its great historic battle against the landed class and the mysticism of religion.

Parallel and intertwined with this, science rose from medieval witchery in a desperate attempt to understand the physical world.  This too was, if not part of the bourgeois drive, a necessary adjunct for its success. 

But capitalism also needed to understand itself.  Great economists like Smith and Ricardo began to explore the nature of profit but pulled back from the terrible logic of their endeavors – that workers create the profit on which the system depends and survives. 

It was left to Marx to take English economics to this radical conclusion.

But as the bourgeoisie established its rule across the world, its role became reactionary, not revolutionary.

This meant that while scientifically the great thinkers could develop their theories and practices, they did so within the limits of profitability, not human need.

Socially and politically, as the bourgeoisie became reactionary, we saw develop bourgeois theories of economics and politics that reflected and reinforced the interests of capital in general and often certain blocs of capital in particular.

The process of capital production and reproduction cares nothing for the circumstances in which it makes profit.  This is how John Bellamy Foster put it in a Monthly Review article called Marx and the Global Environmental Rift:

In addressing these environmental issues Marx took over the concept of Stoffwechsel or metabolism from Liebig, describing the ecological contradiction between nature and capitalist society as “an irreparable rift in the interdependent process of social metabolism.”  Indeed, “capitalist production,” Marx explained, “only develops the techniques and the degree of combination of the social process of production by simultaneously undermining the original sources of all wealth — the soil and the worker.”  This rift in the metabolic relation between humanity and nature could only be overcome, he argued, through the systematic “restoration” of the metabolism between humanity and nature “as a regulative law of social organization.”  But this required the rational regulation of the labor process (itself defined as the metabolic relation of human beings to nature) by the associated producers in line with the needs of future generations.  “Even an entire society, a nation, or all simultaneously existing societies taken together,” Marx stated, “are not owners of the earth.  They are simply its possessors, its beneficiaries, and have to bequeath it in an improved state to succeeding generations as boni patres familias [good heads of the household].”

 And so the very organisational relationships of capitalism create the seeds of its own and humanity’s destruction.  At the same time it is potentially creating its own gravedigger – the working class.  The choice, as Rosa Luxemburg  put it, is socialism or barbarism.

Science is both the servant and saviour of capitalism – reinventing the exploitative process through new products and processes and helping to massively increase the productivity of working people for the benefit of capital and its accumulation.

This contradiction is captured in Einstein – a socialist whose ideas and work helped develop the epitome of capitalism, the atomic bomb.

And so it is today as the fossil fuel industry fights, like the Catholic Church in medieval times, to retain its pre-eminent position in society, aided an abetted by popinjay politicians, scientific scoundrels and the mendacious, malevolent, manipulative media, to defend the ancien regime.  

The capitalist state is both of and seemingly above this fray. 

While the state is the ‘executive committee’ of the bourgeoisie, if it becomes torn between major blocs of capital, paralysed by the short term needs of capital accumulation and the long term preservation of the system, and if it cannot escape these contradictions, then barbarism becomes a real possibility. 

Cap and trade systems around the world reflect the domination of the past over the future and, without a mass social movement for a new way of doing things and which puts humanity at its centre, mean we are moving closer to economic and environmental breakdown. 

To reclaim rationality for the benefit of all humanity and not destroy it in some human induced environmental and economic catastrophe, science must become the tool of those who can develop a democratic and planned society freed from the strictures of profit  –  ordinary working people.


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