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John Passant

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January 2010



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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)



Labor, triumphalism and the budget from hell

Former Hawke and Keating Government Minister Gordon Bilney reckons Labor are a shoo in for the next election. 

In ‘Iceman cometh – after a Minchin in dispatches’ in the Australian Financial Review Bilney says that ‘Rudd’s biggest task in 2010, getting re-elected, is effectively in the bag, even if it is a slim margin.’

According to Bilney the election of Abbott as their leader makes the Liberals unelectable.

This is hubris. 

In 2007 workers rejected Howard and his policies, including the hated pro-business industrial relations regime.

Abbott’s election as Opposition leader and his reactionary shadow ministry is the Liberal Party resurrecting the Howard past.

This should be electoral death, and Bilney certainly thinks so. But such Labor triumphalism misses an important point.

Labor have done nothing in power to build on that rejection of Howard. In fact in many circumstances they have continued his polices.

From refugees to Afghanistan to Workchoices Lite, Labor is Howard with nuance, conservatism without confrontation.

Even where there are differences the problem Labor has is that its pro-boss policies allow the Liberals to criticise them and gain an audience among workers.

Take Labor’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme. The Liberals say it is a giant tax that will do nothing to reduce carbon pollution.

They are right.

The way for Labor to bury John Howard and mini me Abbott, and in doing that win more support, would be to move to the Left.  Here is a wish list.

Withdraw troops from Afghanistan. Develop and implement a plan for green energy and green jobs. Impose a hevay tax and price control regime on the polluting industries. Mobilise workers in defence of jobs and for real pay increases. Nationalise the big battalions of industry.  Cut the working week to 30 hours. Welcome refugees.

It won’t happen. The 30 year victory of class collaboration and the relative quietude of the working class makes such demands seem outrageous.

Nor will more ‘realistic’ left wing policies become their common currency.  This is because Labor’s historic role is to rule for captial. 

If conditions permit there is enough to give some crumbs from the high table for those who made the meal. If not then we live on bread and water.

And that’s the second point of Bilney’s article in the Financial Review. He finishes off with this gem.

After Rudd wins, the serious action begins, with Labor’s most driven member of the Gang of Four, Finance and Deregulation Minister Lindsay Tanner, laying about him not with a razor but with a chainsaw. Cometh the hour, cometh the iceman. Believe it, and shiver.

Translated this is a call for Labor to introduce a horror budget in 2011 and attack worker’s living standards, social services, the public service and other pro-worker spending. Of course business will remain relatively unscathed, in the interests of the false god of profitability. 

The unions are unprepared intellectually or physically for the battles to come against Labor. In fact the leadership of most unions are  puppets and conduits for the ALP and its ideas.

The real left – not the fakes in the Parliamentary Labor Party like Gillard and Albanese – is too small and isolated to have any real ability to mobilise workers for the coming struggle, let alone influence in the struggle itself.

Workers may respond industrially to the attacks. It won’t be easy.

As recent action in Europe against austerity measures shows, strikes could break out here, despite the cowardice of the ACTU and its craven support for Labor.

Our hope at the moment must be that the apparently growing number of strikes and other industrial disputes in Australia boil over into a generalised campaign for wage increases, social services and jobs.

As Orwell wrote, if there is any hope it lies in the proles.



Comment from Dave Bath
Time January 9, 2010 at 1:49 am

Yesl The ALP and the Libs are a bit like Coke and Pepsi. At least with coke and pepsi the shareholders are different, but with the major parties, the donors (well, they get the dividends so should be considered as shareholders) are the same companies.

But the proles? What would motivate them? They seem happy in their consumerist fantasy. There’s a good recent essay on the politics of distraction over at OpenDemocracy that in part points this out elegantly:

Are we in for an Age of Capitalist Authoritarianism? In his 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death, social critics Neil Postman contrasts the worlds of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World:

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny ‘failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.’ In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.

We have the major parties pushing the opiate of the masses, and for those resistant to that mind-numbing addiction, there are other distractions… and even those few who try to pay attention to the news are fed spin-cycles and the sport of politics, rather than substantial debate.

Seriously John, how the hell can we expect the proles to be educated on these matters when they love their chains so much it’s best labelled a bondage fetish? They don’t want to listen.

Comment from Auntie Rhoberta
Time January 9, 2010 at 10:15 am

People don’t ‘love their chains’, they are demoralised by nihilistic ruminations like the one Dave quotes. ‘El pueblo unido’ require a confidence in human agency incompatible with Huxelyan pessimism & neo-Malthusianism. Let’s exacerbate the divisions within the ruling class for a start.

Comment from John
Time January 9, 2010 at 10:46 am

Thanks Dave. I think we need to be careful about not adopting a mantra of working class consumption being the root of all evil. I would for example defend so-called McMansions against these types of attacks.

In any event the wages system constrains consumption.

I also think we need to be careful not to mistake the present for the future. Time and again hsitory shows us workers in struggle move far beyond what a mainly petit bourgeois political commentary team tells us they are capable of.

The overthrow of Stalinism, May 68, the 74 Portuguese revolution, the 78/79 Iranian revolution…

Today in Iran for example the battle between labour and capital is fought out under different guises, especially religious ones.

One might have thought the overwhelming dominance of religious ideas would in fact have doped working class Iranians into catatonia. Not so.

Similarly with what some call the consumerist drug in Australia.

Working class consumption depends on the capitalist system providing goods and services and creating needs. That system is inherently crisis ridden.

During the Global Financial Crisis my memory is that most of the housing repossessions in NSW were in Western Sydney.

I think there can be a radical edge to working class consumption. The expectation is that the system will always be able top provide these goods and services and that wages and the like will be at such a level to afford them. That will not always be the case if Marx is right both about business cycles (which he is) and the tendency of the rate of profit to fall and the economic consequences of that, especially on the working class.
If we look around the world today we see war and environmental catastrophe unfolding. Capitalism seems locked into both.

Which social class has the power to change that? The working class, including the ‘mass consumerists’.

The task for the left is to chip away at the system and at this stage attract the ones and twos to our ideas so that we can take some sort of advantage of the next upsurge of working class industrial activity and build from small propaganda groups to a party where real political discussion can occur in society or some sections of it.

The sometimes hidden battle between labour and capital will in all likelihood break out over wages. Struggle for a better living standards is something the left must support.

In that struggle workers have the potential to transcend the ideas of the ruling class.

By the way I think Huxley’s fears about what we desire ruining us are built on the idea that capitalism is onward and ever upward without any crises.

Comment from Arjay
Time January 9, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Dave Bath,Coke and Pepsi.You’ve been watching” Fall of the Republic” this is an excellent movie by Alex Jones.The rent seekers have taken the whole system hosage and now want to implement a facist World Govt.This all all being done under the ruse of climate change.It must be defeated.

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