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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)



Greens: make the Parliament unworkable

The Greens could make the Parliament unworkable until the new Government of whichever conservative hue gives in to some key demands.  Here are some non-negotiable claims the party which now controls the Senate could make on Government.

The immediate withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

A super profits tax on the miners to fund denticare, public health, education and transport.

A massive tax on the polluters, with the green cheque to be used to lift the poor out of poverty.

A massive program of green jobs and green retraining as needed.

An immediate price freeze on electricity costs.

An end to demonising boat people both in words and actions and their processing onshore and release into the community.

A viable same-sex marriage regime.

The abolition of the anti-worker Fair Work Act and the Australian Building and Construction Commission and the empowerment of unions in the workplace and of their struggles to win better wages and conditions and protect and create jobs.

An end to the racist Northern Territory intervention, recognition of prior aboriginal sovereignty and the signing of a treaty, coupled with more spending under the control of communities to address aboriginal disadvantage.

An immediate increase in pensions and other social security payments by $100 a week.

An immediate increase in the minimum wage of $100 a week.

A massive program of Government solar and wind farms and other renewable energy programs to generate enough energy to turn off the coal fired power stations by 2020.

Huge tax increases and new taxes on the rich to pay for these socially necessary spending programs.

Rigorous price controls over big business.

Nationalisation as  necessary of the big battalions of the economy if they threaten a  capital strike in response to these requests.

I know full well the Greens won’t do any of this. In fact, they won’t even make demands. 

Here’s how Sue Dunleavy in the Daily Telegraph of 22 August put it:

The Greens refused to outline any negotiating principles they will use in discussions with the major parties.

“I’m not a demander, the Greens aren’t into demands, we ‘re into getting the best outcome through negotiation,” Senator Brown said.

It was not right to presume The Greens would be asking for a carbon tax to be introduced in return for their support, he said.

It looks like the Greens’ leadership has abandoned its principles even before they negotiate with the Liberals and the Labor Party.

Yes, Bob Brown hasn’t ruled out negotiating with the filth that is the Liberal Party. Even the 3 conservative independents are having their doubts, but not Bob Brown.

The Greens, and the vast majority who voted for them, see the Party as being to the Left of the ALP. With the balance of power in the Senate now is the time to prove it.



Comment from Dr_Tad
Time August 26, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Did you post this ultra-left silliness just to get a rise out of people? 🙁

Comment from Shane H
Time August 26, 2010 at 11:05 pm

No Tad he does it because he believes that when the Greens sell out – as judged by the maximum program presented here – this will finally clear the way for the ‘real’ socialists in SA to rise to position of leadership as thousands of disillusioned Green voters look to the ‘real’ left.

Comment from John
Time August 27, 2010 at 5:27 am

No Dr_Tad I am serious (if in your view infantile). I want to see what the Greens actually propose to do in the Parliament to win what they stand for. It is an attempt to relate to those who voted Green in the expectation of change. I think the expectation of real change through Parliament without struggle from below is a chimera (and rife among Greens and their supporters). I believe the Greens are about to prove the case in spades if Bob Brown’s ‘we don’t make demands’ comments are any guide.

If the Greens have a strategy for using their balance of power in the Senate and turning their proposals for action on climate change, compassion for refugees, opposition to the war in Afghanistan, implementation of a Denticare scheme etc etc at a most propitious time, I’d like to see it. Tell me what it is.

Otherwise their parliamentary leadership is just the Democrats with a left face.

You know it is not a crime to criticise the Greens from the left, especially their parliamentary cretinism. In fact in my view it will be necessary for the left and left greens to organise in their workplaces and on the streets around issues like climate change, refugees, same sex marriage and the like, to keep the parliamentary faction committed to real solutions on these and other issues.

Because I suspect there are some Greens voters and supporters who will begin to understand that, and they are the ones I’d like to continue the discussion with. I won’t be able to do that if my position has been one of fawning acceptance of everything the right wing of the Greens do and of the Greens’ ultimately futile parliamentary focus.

Comment from John
Time August 27, 2010 at 5:34 am

Well actually Shane if you read my comments that is partly the case. But tell me about the Greens strategy for achieving their program, other than being elected to parliament. It looks to me as if the ‘vote for me’ strategy, is already showing its inherent weaknesses. That doesn’t mean thousands will flock to Socialist Alternative. More likely thousands will abandon politics in despair and disgust. A few might turn to the left, some to SA. But I think that would depend on a whole range of others factors including the level of extra-parliamentary, particularly class, struggle.

Comment from John
Time August 27, 2010 at 5:36 am

It was the magnificent same-sex marriage demonstrations which pushed the issue to the forefront at least for a short time of the election campaign. Not the Greens policy support but the organisation of the demos on 14 August and their modest success in terms of turn out (although large turnout in today’s generally do nothing environment).

Comment from John
Time August 27, 2010 at 8:27 am

From Yahoo news: Senator Brown said his Greens colleagues Christine Milne and Rachel Siewert could serve as ministers in either a Labor or coalition minority government.’ Serve in a Liberal Government! Or even a Labor Government. To all those greens voters thinking the Greens represented a left wing voice for progressive change, be afraid, be very afraid.

Comment from Dr_Tad
Time August 27, 2010 at 3:06 pm

John, you write: “Because I suspect their are some Greens voters and supporters who will begin to understand that, and they are the ones I’d like to continue the discussion with. I won’t be able to do that if my position has been one of fawning acceptance of everything the right wing of the Greens do and of the Greens’ ultimately futile parliamentary focus.”

This is the nub of the problem with your approach. All those who haven’t reached a revolutionary view of the Greens are damned in this formulation (not even worth talking to until they come to the grand realisation you expect from them). And the only acceptable view is one of abstract maximalism, which you demonstrate in your post. A more black & white ultraleftism it is hard to imagine.

It is odd that you come from an organisation that describes itself as Leninist because there is not even a modicum of “patiently explain” in your formulations. No sense of the way that the Bolsheviks had to spend long, patient years relating to reformist workers who disagreed with them on many things. Not just talking to them but organising very partial struggles around isolated political questions, including interventions into the parliamentaty arena is inauspicious circumstances.

Clearly I agree with you that the Greens are a reformist organisation, but so what? Recognition of that fact is not an excuse for me to drive a wedge between myself and those who hold illusions in the parliamentary road. I want to be able to discuss the concrete points of difference from a position of agreement (here the fact that the Greens represent a genuinely progressive break from the dead end of the ALP).

This is the ultimate problem with your demands for a maximalist, radical social democracy as evidenced in your post. It posits some idealised version of the Greens that doesn’t exist, and so therefore your demands merely serve to cut you off from where people are at on the issues raised. You are also actually demanding that the Greens act on a program that they haven’t even run on. That just makes your intervention look risible.

In fact, this is not an intervention at all, but an attempt to harden up those who already agree with 99% of what you say. It has the effect of widening the gap between leftward moving reformists (e.g. Greens voters) and the revolutionary project.

You say many will turn away from progressive politics in “despair and disgust” because the Greens sell out. That may be true. But your approach can only serve to encourage that process because you so obviously hold those who haven’t reached your advanced level of socialist consciousness in contempt. Scorched earth socialism is what this looks like.

Comment from John
Time August 27, 2010 at 6:19 pm

What is maximalist about putting the Greens program back at them? Withdrawing troops from Afghanistan is Greens’ policy. Taxing the miners’ super profits is greens policy. A denticare system is Greens policy. Abolishing the BCC is greens polciy. Improving pensions is Greens policy. Putting a price on carbon and not imposing a burden on the poor is Greens’ policy. Same sex marriage is Greens policy. I haven’t heard the Greens mention them in discussions yet. They are not even pushing them. Their silence has opened the door for the Country Independents to set the parameters of the discussion.

The problem I have is you are in effect apologising for the conservatism of the Greens and their failure to push their own policies. There is nothing maximalist about actually arguing for the Greens to implement their own program and using the power voters have given them to good effect.

Actually i think if the Greens called demos around climate change, Afghanistan and refugees for example that would change the dynamic and make the Labor Party at least listen.

But now they won’t even threaten to exercise their power of veto in the Senate to push their own programme, a programme most of the people in their camp voted for them on. This has the look of Meg Lees and the GST all over again. But it’s not for me to give the conservatives in the Greens advice on how to run their party. What I do want to do is position myself to be able to talk to that small minority who do draw closer to the Left as the Greens play their conservative games – for example proposing ministers in a Liberal Party Government and other machinations.

Comment from Marco
Time August 28, 2010 at 9:47 am

I think I understand the point John is trying to make here, and, if I am right, it’s a sobering one.

By the way, I don’t pretend to speak on John’s behalf (so, John, feel free to correct me if I am pissing off the chamber pot).

However necessary and positive, not one of the measures John proposes would cause a transition to socialism, which I suppose is our common goal here: capitalists would still keep their business going, bourgeois democracy would be in place, pro-capital parties would freely function and would be free to oppose and/or reverse all those measures.

The list of things John proposes is not a maximal programme. In fact, it would lead to something similar to the New Deal.

At best, if all of them were taken, we would end up in a situation that could be described as a stalemate. To put things graphically as an example only: mining magnates might be constrained; they won’t be able to buy a Ferrari every weekend anymore, just once a month; but boy, they won’t be sleeping at the Matthew Talbot hostel for the homeless, either, or riding a bike to work, cleaning toilets for 18 bucks an hour.

But even measures as limited in scope would not be taken, for the simple reason that pro-capital parties, and their backers in corporate Australia, would oppose them to the death. We have seen them doing this recently, for much less. I believe this is what previous posters had foremost in mind.

In other words: what even the most left-leaning party could achieve through Parliament is strictly limited to what is acceptable to capital.

And the need to self-restrict, and appease and negotiate would soon derail even the most sincere and devoted revolutionary. Hell, we have seen this amongst ourselves here, whilst talking about a strictly hypothetical programme.

If that’s your point John, I think we should all keep it in mind.

To try to lighten up the collective mood, have a look at this cartoon:

Pingback from En Passant » The Labor-Greens agreement – is Bob Brown serious?
Time September 2, 2010 at 6:47 am

[…] are some of the demands I suggested in my article Greens: make the parliament unworkable that the Greens could make from their position of power. The immediate withdrawal of troops from […]

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