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John Passant

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August 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)



Election 2010: The Liberals sharpen their meat axes

If the Liberals win Government they will take a meataxe to Government spending and jobs.  They already have $24 billion worth of cuts lined up – to infrastructure, schools, training, health, climate change and the public service.

If they win the Liberals will, shock, horror, announce in solemn tones that the budgetary situation is much worse than Labor revealed and go much further in a horror mini-Budget in cutting spending to ‘save the economy’. They might even revamp Labor’s WorkChoices Lite on the back of the ‘shocking new figures’.

The problem of course is that it’s all bullshit and what they will do is cut a few percentage points off economic growth. In terms of GDP growth they will make Australia the Greece of the Southern Hemisphere, and that will in their minds justify more attacks on workers’ living standards and social services.

With a buffoon like Joe Hockey in charge of the economy and the Coalition believing their own neoliberal nonsense, this bunch will make George W Bush look competent. 

The baby Thatcherites will meet no resistance from the ACTU or most of its affiliated unions. Can you imagine Jeff Lawrence or Paul Howes leading an industrial fight to defend jobs and wages?  There’ll be a  couple of  half hearted television advertisements and then the ACTU will in its bravery and wisdom urge us all to vote for a Bill Shorten-led ALP in 2013.

Of course by then the Australian working class will be on the ropes. If we let them do this to us.

That is the big unknown.  Until the resource super profits tax most sections of the bourgeoisie supported Labor as both the better economic manager and more nuanced controller of unions and labour.

However a minor tax on the mining companies – which makes perfect bourgeois economic sense – galvanised opposition from that sector and saw it link up with the big polluters, the Murdoch media irrationalists and some others especially in finance capital who feared a similar attack on their mega-profits.

They deposed Kevin Rudd as Labor Prime Minister and installed Julia Gillard to do their bidding. She backed down almost completely on the Resource Super Profits Tax and vowed to continue doing nothing about climate change. Many of the mining companies and Murdoch Press smelt blood and the frenzied attacks on Labor, and from a bourgeois point of view completely irrational feeding frenzy,  have continued or re-started.

Of course it may also be that significant sections of the bourgeoisie understand that the global economy could well slip further into recession and they see the Liberals as best positioned to implement an austerity package to rival the attacks on workers’ living standards that occurred during the Depression. The aim of this would be to restore profit rates in Australia to something  acceptable for business to reinvest by driving down living standards by up to one third and allowing ‘inefficient’ big businesses to go to the wall. 

 Housing prices and superannuation savings, representing much of the wealth working class people hold, would plummet. All so that the billionaires can continue their  profiteering ways.

This move to the Liberals by significant sections of the ruling class is a high risk strategy for them. It opens up the possibility of turning passive acceptance of Labor’s attacks on workers into active resistance to the Liberals’ attacks.

The ACTU and the ALP are now so thoroughly discredited and such cronies of capital and nephews of neoliberalism that they will lead no resistance. The question is will rank and file workers ignore their bleatings and organise in their workplaces and unions to fight back? 

It is too early to predict, but certainly the struggles in Europe – for example in Greece, in Spain, and now developing in the UK – show that the working class is combative there. Some are drawing the hardly radical conclusion that they themselves have to organise the fight, against the wishes of their Labor Party type union and political leadership.

Australian workers can do the same.

If there is hope it lies with the proles.

In the next article I will look at the possibilities for struggle if Labor wins.



Comment from Arjay
Time August 4, 2010 at 6:20 pm

To defeat this corporate oligarchy John,we have to educate people about the banking system and how it creates money from nothing.This is the primary source of their power that perverts both our economic and Govt systems.

Now each year our banking system creates extra money for GDP and inflation.The both together average out at 6.5% pa.Who creates all this new money? One would think the RBA,(Reserve Bank of Aust) since the GDP and inflationary money should belong to all Australians.Not so.In 08/09 the Aust Govt got an exceptional dividend from the RBA of $5.9 billion.In previous yrs it was and average of less than half this amount.

Now our GDP is $1.2 trillion and 6.5% of this is $78 billion,but our Govt gets only $5.9 billion.Where did the other $72 billion go? Our banking system creates it as debt.Much of it borrowed from overseas.This money should be legitimately be created within Australia by Govt owned institutions.This is why we are in so much debt. $72 billion stolen,represents $7,000 per working person pa.

Many of us now use credit cards instead of using cash.The Govt mint no longer produces as much cash ,so VISA and Mastercard now create it as debt.

Nothing will change unless we tackle this most fundamental injustice.

Comment from Dr_Tad
Time August 4, 2010 at 9:18 pm

John, what you say about the ALP and ACTU leaderships under a potential Abbott government seems to imply a break from their historic ability to lead struggles in certain circumstances. I find it more puzzling because in Greece and Spain the industrial action has, in the first instance, been led by union officials, even if (of course) that has been under pressure to respond from their memberships.

You also seem to rule out the possibility that these forces will act when swingeing austerity is imposed. Yet surely there is a potential that when their own role is threatened (e.g. through political irrelevance or drastic membership decline due to mass sackings) they will act, despite their conservative instincts.

It seems to me that even if mass resistance emerges in response to austerity there will be a much more complex relationship than you project between the rank-and-file and its traditional leadership. There are likely to be elements of continuity with the long period of retreats we have experienced co-existing with new developments. Surely preparing activists for that more complex and difficult-to-negotiate reality is more useful than your stark counter-position if we are to develop strategies to break the stifling influence of these conservative forces within the workers’ movement.

Comment from John
Time August 4, 2010 at 10:22 pm

Thanks Dr_Tad. I think the role of class collaboration since the Accord, and the failure to fight back, leads to a defensible conclusion that the trade union leadership of almost all the affiliated unions is incapable of fighting back. The top down tightly controlled CFMEU campaign in defence of Ark Tribe indicates the malaise – a lack of any sense of struggle among most workers and their trade union leaders.

That can change rapidly. Greece is an example – and for sections of the class the movement has been to the left but within the context of the left wing of reformism, as far as I can tell, although the revolutionary left has also won an audience.

The same process could play out here – the less class conscious workers moving to the traditional reformist left but where do the more class conscious workers go? Maybe forcing that political leadership (if they are not in power and attacking the workers) and the union leadership to the left, but many might learn the lessons of history and think about their own political party expressing their own political interests.

I keep on having this vision of May 68 in France when workers moved rapidly to the left and ragged the traditional organisations that way but also created an opening for the revolutionary left. It was the PCF which railroaded the movement in the end, but there is no PCF equivalent in Australia today.

Comment from Dr_Tad
Time August 4, 2010 at 11:41 pm

“Incapable” is a strong word that suggests a more fundamental break than I think is warranted.

The thing I’m driving at is the ability of reformist leaders to be reinvigorated (or new reformist leaders to emerge) in a period of crisis and resistance like the Age of Austerity threatens. I agree with Colin Barker in seeing leadership inside movements as dialogical… and that this is true for reformist as well as revolutionary leadership.

So if it’s a process of contestation through dialogue *within* the movement, putting it in the way you do (about where class conscious workers “go”) is very one-sided. I also feel it telescopes what is happening in Greece now, or what happened in France in ’68 into too easy a formula of “good masses” v “bad leaders”. That may be true, but the solution is not the imposition of “good leaders” because leaders can only develop inside the existing process of contestation within the really existing movement.

Sorry about the very abstract shorthand there.

Comment from John
Time August 5, 2010 at 8:41 am


Maybe we are talking at cross purposes or to different audiences. I don’t disagree with what you are arguing.

I certainly am not arguing for good leaders versus bad leaders to bring enlightenment to workers. It is the struggle itself which brings understanding to workers and allows the revolutionary left the capacity to introduce its ideas to the working class. That struggle is day to day – the quantitative – and the upsurges – the quantitative to qualitative.

Certainly reformists can tack left. I just think that perhaps the last 30 year traps or limits the amount of movment that most union leadership have and probably has destroyed the ALP’s capacity to deliver up real reformists who can appeal to workers during an upsurge. There are some union leaderships who could tack left with some remaining credibility. But there would be an audience for revolutionary ideas too opening up the capacity for the revolutionary left to get a foothold in the working class movement.

PASOK did tack left before the election in Greece and then dumped it all to implement the austerity package. That has political and industrial consequences and creating conditions for the ideas of the revolutioanry left to win a wider audience and implant itself in the working class. That is not winning the leadership of the class, by the way, although that would depend on the struggle and its developments over time.

Leadership doesn’t just spring from outside. That’s why the history of the Bolsheviks and them building a mass organisation in and of the working class and leading the only successful but short lived workers’ revolution is important. They did what you are suggesting, didn’t they?

France in 68 saw the revolutionary left establish itself, not lead the class. It allowed it to begin the process of trying to build a revolutioanry left group (or groups as it turned out).
It would be stupidity of the highest order to imagine that no matter what happens the revolutioanry left can lead the working class without having built itself as the party of the class by organising the class conscious elements and learning from them. This relationship is dialogical and dialectical.

Comment from Arjay
Time August 5, 2010 at 9:26 am

Nothing will really change until the depression really starts to bite.Then people will pay attention.

The other really big issue at the moment is the intent of the neo-cons in the USA and Israel to attack and invade Iran.The alarm bells are ringing loudly.see

There won’t be an economic revolution if they open up another war front,since China and the Russia know what they’re up to.

Comment from John
Time August 5, 2010 at 9:50 am

Dr-Tad, here is an article in the Guardian which I think makes the point you are making, but in a more complex way given the range of signatories and I suspect given what is actually being organised on the ground. A united front of action; well a united front calling for action, but as individuals.

Comment from John
Time August 5, 2010 at 9:59 am

I think Arjay we need to be careful to think that an austerity program automatically means a fightback.

The slow austerity of the Liberals and Labor Party here in Australia has actually demobilised the struggle. The Labor Party and the trade union leadership were major contributors to that.

But swingeing attacks might see further demoralisation among workers; or short upsurges beaten by the state and capital and further demoralisation.

I might be guilty of giving the impression that I think major attacks produce major struggles. I don’t mean to. It is one possibility. There are a range of factors – the fear of job losses, the strength of the economy, what is in workers’ minds and memories about struggle, their history of turning to left reformists in times of crisis, the existence of pockets of resistance and rank and file organisation, the underlying anger etc.

So sometimes my heart overrules my head. But one spark can start a mighty fire. That is my hope.

Comment from Mervyn Jacobi
Time August 5, 2010 at 9:23 pm

When a person of a political party, starts accusing another party of poor performance, they should first look back to the 1930’s depression, and see that both parties set themselves to beat it, which they did. Unfortunately, since then, since1970, the action of both parties has deteriated and caused bad economic times, and my observation has been such that I think they have deserved to be called dickheads. The low top tax, in contradiction to the 66.6% tax of the ’50’s through to the ’70’s, has allowed those otherwise unrestrained, to increase their salaries,etc to obscene levels and this increases the costs of food, clothing, housing and services etc. This has caused a recession, and although we are told the recession is over, the effects linger on. Although Wayne Swan tells that we have full employment, there are a large number of workers are working only 2 or 3 days a week, and this is called “Full employment”, they are still losing their homes, the papers tell us that 4 families a week from each of the cities, are getting kicked out of their homes through failure to keep up with their mortgage

Comment from Arjay
Time August 6, 2010 at 5:04 pm

John,”One spark can start an almighty fire.” If there is to be revolution instead of evolution,there has to be a plan to replace the present status quo otherwise,it will mean chaos.

Above all else true democracy at a grass roots level must be achieved.

My view is that the oligarchs have over played their hand,and will take us to war, rather than relinquish their power.

Comment from John
Time August 6, 2010 at 9:42 pm

I agree about grass roots democracy Arjay. It is what socialism is all about.

Comment from billie
Time August 9, 2010 at 4:17 pm

[silly question time]

Why would the Liberals austerity measures reduce superannuation savings?

Comment from John
Time August 9, 2010 at 7:04 pm

Hi billie, not sure where the question comes from, but the Liberals don’t support the rise of the Superannuation Guarantee from 9% to 12% over the next decade.

Comment from billie
Time August 9, 2010 at 8:57 pm

Thanks for responding, you said
” Housing prices and superannuation savings, representing much of the wealth working class people hold, would plummet. All so that the billionaires can continue their profiteering ways

I was wondering whether there was something like an accelerator effect working in reverse to diminish super savings or whether Liberal policies were expected to lead to an economic slowdown, leading to lower company profits, hence lower company dividends, hence lower super returens.

I was one of the last of Joe Isaac’s economics students and I haven’t opened an economics book since.

Comment from John
Time August 9, 2010 at 9:11 pm

OK. Now I am with you. If the Coalition cuts government spending massively and attacks public services it could slow the economy down a lot – say cutting a few percentage points off GDP and sending Australia into recession. This might prick the housing bubble and could see the stock exchange drop in value. Superannuation funds invest a lot of their/our money in shares, especially Australian shares. So the Liberals could successfully plunge Australia into a recession and we could ‘catch up’ with the rest of the world – ie house prices plummet and share prices drop by twenty or 30 percent.

Comment from billie
Time August 10, 2010 at 9:35 am


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