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John Passant

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December 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)

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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)

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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)



Climate change deniers and slavery

Slavery as a mass trade in people only developed under capitalism.

The expansion of capitalism from its European heartlands around the world saw up to 15 million Africans stolen and sold into slavery.

The slave trade itself built profits for the traders.

Some trade burghers became very wealthy. Liverpool for example was established on the trade in people.

Slaves built the sugar and cotton industries around the world.

The United States would not exist as it is now without slavery. Its systemic racism today is a consequence of the slave trade and the industries built on it.

In other words there were deeply entrenched industries whose profits depended on the continuation of slavery.

They resisted change that threatened their interests, their profits.

Wage labour is more efficient and more profitable (as more surplus value can be extracted from wage labour) than slave labour.

The pro-slave faction of the ruling class resisted any attempts to restrict the flow of wealth to it through replacing salve labour with wage labour. 

In the United States this resistance to wage labour led to civil war, with the more productive North eventually victorious.

It is  common misconception that brave individuals like Wilberforce ended the slave trade. In fact the development of capitalism as a form of wage slavery challenged the more outmoded form of production.

Further, the development of capitalism could only occur in the context in Europe of revolutions against the old feudal order. 

The progressive bourgeoisie emerged from the French Revolution with slogans of equality, liberty and fraternity. Napoleon took the modernising project across Europe with the force of arms.

In the US the colonists threw off the yoke of British rule and proclaimed all men to be equal. 

Yet that equality was limited to those who belonged to the same social system, gender and often class, and were of the same colour.  Slaves were not men.

In Haiti Toussaint L’Ouverture led a slave rebellion that won freedom for the slaves from the British, the Spanish and the French.

The abolitionists in Britain took 50 years to achieve their aim, limited as it was to the United Kingdom and its colonies. As climate change threatens to produce tipping points that unleash forces beyond our imagination the earth does not have the luxury of time.

Even then, slavery was phased out over time and massive compensation paid to the slave owners. Sound familiar?

Those who profited from slavery used a whole range of arguments in defence of their interests. 

There was n appeal to false science to show that the ‘different’ races were actually different species, with whites superior, of course. A subset of this was that slavery was good for slaves, much like some deniers who claim that CO2 emissions are good for us.

This appeal to false science finds echoes today in the climate change deniers claiming that the earth has actually cooled since 1998 or that sun spots are causing warming.

I do not need to make a distinction here between those who deny climate change is occurring and those who claim it is not caused by human activity. Both cases are rebutted by the vast majority of scientific research. Both cases rely on fake science and the false short term economic impacts of action to address change.

The pro-slavery profiteers scoured the Bible successfully for passages to support their position. Today the many political proponents of the irrationality of climate change denial appear to be spiritual irrationalists (for example Christians) too.

Like their forbears in the slavery debates, some argue that the Bible provides guidance to humanity’s relationship to the earth. For example in Genesis god told human beings to

fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every living creature that moves on the ground….I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it.

Some deniers use these sort of statements to justify continued pollution as part of God’s grand plan.

The slavers also used economic arguments. Abolishing slavery would destroy the British economy; it would merely see the trade move to other countries; it would diminish the power of British capitalism round the world. 

Sound familiar? The climate change deniers use exactly the same arguments.

Like the pro-slavers their arguments protect the profits of one corrupt and corrupting section of capital, in this case the polluters.

It’s time to consign climate change denialism and its enslavement of humanity to the museum of history.



Comment from Auntie Rhoberta
Time December 10, 2009 at 11:59 am

John! What an uncritical collection of false analogies! Despite the obvious vested interests on both sides of the ‘debate’ (fossil fuel industries versus finance sector), the actual question of who is right and wrong about anthropogenic global warming is a scientific question still unresolved & bearing no necessary resemblance to the pseudo-science of the slave-traders — or indeed the Nazis. Labelling critics ‘deniers’ without coming to terms with that complex question is a form of McCarthyism we do not need on the left. It is and was always easy to prove that people of colour are as human as anyone else; it is not so easy to interpret statistical projections reliant on archaeological-style evidence of global mean temperatures 1000 years ago. (Also, if we really have only a few years to cut infernal ‘emissions’ we’re probably toast.)
Personally, I think it would be better to focus on ending dependence on finite fossil fuels (which inter alia means producing less CO2) than trying to build a revolution on the back of a seething morass of climatological minutiae.

Comment from John
Time December 10, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Auntie Rhoberta, the science is settled. The theory that is Anthropogenic Global Warming has been tested and re-tested and always, no matter which way and angle you look at it, found to be the best theory to fit the facts of global warming. Those who says it is unproved have advanced no hypothesis to counter AGW as the explanation.

While finance capital has an interest in an ETS, that is not the driving force for the scientific explanations of climate change as being caused by human activity. Indeed building on teh overwhelming scientific evidence for AGW reinforces the case I think for a revolution in the way we produce goods and services, ie replacing the profit motive with democracy and planning to satisfying human need.

It is not just paleontologists who provide the basis for the theory of AGW. Their evidence reinforces a whole range of scientists from a range of disciplines.

Comment from Auntie Rhoberta
Time December 11, 2009 at 8:08 am

Is science ever settled? Also, while global warming can be used as an added justification for a revolutionary transition to democratic planning under socialism (which I endorse wholeheartedly), it is hardly necessary to that argument. In fact, if the latter is seen to depend on ‘climate change’ then any genuine overturning of the AGW theory would be disastrous.

Comment from John
Time December 11, 2009 at 10:40 pm

Auntie Rhoberta, In one sense science is never settled because a new theory can replace the old one (but not, I would guess, the evidence proved over time). I also agree that AGW is determinative f the liberationist project, but it does help in the arguments for addressing it.

Comment from John
Time December 11, 2009 at 10:40 pm

is not determinative…

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