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John Passant

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October 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
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The Greens and Clive Hamilton

The Greens have selected Clive Hamilton to run in the safe Liberal seat of Higgins in the forthcoming by-election.

The reactionaries in the Labor Party will not stand a candidate. Presumably a defeat for Rudd the Sun King would let slip his halo of invincibility and throw off track the momentum for an early election.

Hamilton is the Hollywood candidate for the Greens – a profile parachuted in to perform miracles.

So the Greens aren’t acting locally. 

The idea you can win a seat with a personality is bunkum.

It demeans the intelligence of people to think that more than a few might be influenced by the fact a candidate is a former football player, rock god or whatever it is the sellout did in their former life. 

In Hamilton’s case, admittedly, there is a little more substance to him than Peter Garrett or Pat Farmer or Hazem El Masri have.

He set up the Australia Institute, which in polite circles is called left wing.

But Hamilton isn’t left wing.

Here’s what the Australia Institute says on its website. (Yeah, I know, Clive isn’t there any more but it’s his philosophy.)

Our Philosophy

With new dilemmas confronting our society and our planet, a better balance is urgently needed. Unprecedented levels of consumption co-exist with extreme poverty. Technology has connected humanity as never before, yet civic engagement is declining. Environmental neglect continues despite heightened ecological awareness. If genuine progress is to be achieved, conscience, equity and concern for the future must be the guiding principles of our democracy. Socially just, environmentally responsible and economically viable solutions are possible, but only if insightful questions are combined with excellent research.

Our Goal

The Institute is determined to push public debate beyond the simplistic question of whether markets or governments have all the answers to more important questions: When does government need to intervene in the market? When should it stand back? And when regulation is needed, what form should it take?

What’s radical about this? It’s reformism, nothing but warmed over laborism.

Indeed, Clive’s book Affluenza blames working people for wanting a few consumer goodies.  For him over-consumption rather than overproduction is the problem.  Hamilton fears the masses.

On the environment there is much to agree with. Hamilton recognises the immense dangers facing humanity today. 

And his suggested course of action – radical activism – is a step forward from the usual rhetoric of the do-nothings (including, I think, the party he is standing for, the Greens.) 

But this radical activism is aimed at confronting the public rather than leading it. It is elitism or, in the language of we arcane leftists, substitutionism.

To imagine that change comes through Parliament (as Hamilton in standing seemingly does) is to downplay the need for radical activism. In other words Hamilton’s view of change is top down. 

There is a common link in all of Hamilton’s views. Change is handed down from the gods of Mt Olympus. This blends in neatly with his contempt for, indeed fear of, working people.

His radical activism is missing an important component – mass democratic action.

 Thus his statism.  He supports capitalist government intervention in the market to save the profit system. He supports state censorship.

And he is so keen to protect the profit system that he is prepared seemingly to accept a dictatorship to do so in the name of the environment. He has written:

Very few people, even among environmentalists, have truly faced up to what the science is telling us.

This is because the implications of 3C, let alone 4C or 5C, are so horrible that we look to any possible scenario to head it off, including the canvassing of “emergency” responses such as the suspension of democratic processes.

Now this just may be badly phrased.  I have begun to think that some of the consequences of climate change will so threaten the profit system that an environmental Bonaparte or Hitler could arise. 

The difference is I oppose such a development, and would counterpose mass democratic action from below as the solution to the climate change crisis.

Hamilton’s candidature for the Greens in Higgins is a continuation of his change from above approach and his elitist dismissal of the concerns of working people. 

The alternative is the long hard slog of building a mass movement of ordinary people to defend their interests – wages, jobs, a better environment and justice and equity. 

 If Hamilton ever had such a vision his candidature for the Greens is the final capitulation.

An elitist with contempt for ordinary working people – Clive Hamilton is the perfect Greens’ candidate for Higgins.



Comment from THR
Time October 27, 2009 at 11:30 pm

Good post, John. There’s another excellent critique of Hamilton by Tom O’Lincoln, to be found here:'lincoln.htm

Comment from David Jackmanson
Time October 28, 2009 at 12:24 am

A good place to get a look at Green arguments for running Hamilton in Higgins is at the Pollytics blog at Crikey – Scott Steel, the author of the blog, criticised the Greens in harsh terms. The main Green argument seems to be that running Hamilton will allow the Greens to bring a focus on climate change to the campaign. Tactically, that’s not such a bad idea.

But far more important is challenging the idea that Hamilton’s politics are left-wing in any way. I started at comment 82, arguing that Hamilton’s contempt for consumption makes him *more* right-wing than people like Howard or Rudd – it makes him like romantic mediaevalist reactionaries like B.A. Santamaria.

Humphrey McQueen also wrote a critique of Hamilton (I think of Hamilton’s “Afluenza”), pointing out the truism that wage labour is the problem, not workers wanting to consume (shock horror!). I can’t find this online though.

I think one of the most important things leftists can do right now is to take this argument to broader social-democratic arenas. “Leftism” is seen by the vast majority of people as something that approves of the dull grey police states of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and until leftists say, again and again, that we stand for the rights of workers to have a BETTER standard of living, not a worse one, we’re never even going to have a chance of cutting through. The article “What is the pseudo-left?” might be useful here.

Comment from David Jackmanson
Time October 28, 2009 at 12:31 am

Also, I assume that the article THR’s broken link points to is

Comment from Flower
Time November 2, 2009 at 1:04 am

“An elitist with contempt for ordinary working people – Clive Hamilton is the perfect Greens’ candidate for Higgins.” Huh?

Are we suggesting that the Higgins’ constituency should elect Kelly O’Dwyer who represents a party addicted to unsustainable growth?

Clive Hamilton makes perfect sense to me. I’m working class, having retired in 2001. Sure – so I now collect an aged pension – the first time I’ve been near Centrelink. The maximum wage I’ve ever earned is $29,000 p.a. and I raised two children on that wage, without any contribution from the “elitist” father.

Two years ago I purchased my third house to the value of $420,000 and despite the self-imposed economic restraints, I and my children have had a most fortunate life.

A couple of my former “top end of town” employers have gone broke – too greedy! A couple have dropped dead at an early age. Hmmm?

Now the working class have mortgaged themselves to the hilt. These days they want only to start at the top. Now many have become “middle” class because they live in obscene 4×2 mansions they can’t afford. They too have become greedy.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics advised in 1999, that over 63 percent of Australian men and 47 percent of Australian women were overweight or obese. One now reads that Australia has become the fattest nation on the planet.

Even the people living in government housing or humpies are eating themselves into oblivion with a voracious appetite for junk food.

Studies conducted among Australian children suggest that the obesity rate has doubled in recent years, reaching levels of between 12.5 percent and 30 percent. Yep – these are our predominantly “poor” working class people. Truth is I’ve never seen a fat marathon runner. And walking or running’s free but increasingly, cars, television, computers and junk food is reducing their mobility.

So when will you guys go after the multi-national junk food corporate fat cats who are killing off our working class – in all developed nations? The omnicide of the West by stealth. Is this what the politically au fait describe as the “free” market? So what about the cannon fodder? Or are jobs for the working class in the junk food industry more important than the health of a nation?

“The alternative is the long hard slog of building a mass movement of ordinary people to defend their interests – wages, jobs, a better environment and justice and equity.”

And why not give some credit to the visionary, Hamilton since the issue of least concern among the working class is “a better environment” or climate change as they continue to “spend themselves sick” and the average Joe Blow believes climate change is a hoax.

OK so I’m a political illiterate but you guys with all the ideas should get a grip on yourselves.

Comment from John
Time November 2, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Flower, I don’t think you are a political illiterate. Your well expressed views resonate with many people. I just don’t think we should blame the working class for the sins of capitalism. Indeed I see the working class as our saviour from those sins. (Sorry for the religious analogies – I am getting carried away with my own verbosity.)

I see a future healthy society as only possible under a planned and democratic system – ie socialism. I think there are systemic pressures to work longer, to have quick meals, quick relationships and quick solutions to any problem.

The common link to all is the insatiable drive for more and more profit.

Finally, I don’t support the Liberals in Higgins; but Higgins is one of the richest electorates in Australia. It is home to many of those who live off our labour.
If I lived there I’d vote for Clive and not the Liberals (and assuming there are no leftwing alternatives standing.). That doesn’t mean I can’t criticise the Greens and Clive for their essentially top down elitist approach to change.

And I agree about visionaries. There is much that the Left can learn from Clive about the problems humanity faces; but it is his view that ordinary workign people are the problem not the solution that means I fundamentally disagree with his solutions to the environmental and economic problems he has identified.
he sees the problems as stemming from over-consumption. I see them as stemming from the drive to make more and more profit. In the end this may put us on different sides.

Pingback from Kieran Bennett – Population Policy: An Invitation to Racism
Time November 5, 2009 at 9:25 pm

[…] Read more at The Greens and Clive Hamilton. […]

Comment from hotspot shield
Time November 6, 2009 at 1:53 pm

Great article . Will definitely copy it to my site.Thanks.

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