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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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Where is Australia’s Tahrir Square?

I was only half listening to Gillard’s litany of lies about closing the gap. My mind kept wandering to a treaty, aboriginal control of aboriginal affairs, self-determination, real land rights, paying the rent and ending the racist Northern Territory intervention.

Instead I kept hearing about high disease and mortality rates, high unemployment, poor housing, low education levels and incredible poverty,a poverty that surpasses Third World countries. 

Aboriginal people are the Egyptians of Australian society – repressed, denied a voice and impoverished.

They do not however have the same social status as the freedom fighters in Egypt – they cannot on their own bring society to a halt.

Workers and the oppressed , all of us united, can.

On the surface Australian society is calm. Unemployment is low. Strikes are infrequent.

Major social movements are small and confined to the fringes of the left. Even when they capture mass support -as in the demonstrations against the Iraq war – they flare brightly then die.

Politics is anodyne, with the two parties of neoliberalism competing to be the most hairy chested defenders of ‘let the market rip’ orthodoxy, sometimes tinged with neo-keynesianism as a consequence of the Global Financial Crisis.

Underneath, tensions are building. 30 years of class collaboration have produced a tame trade union leadership whose main success has been the collapse in union membership and an historic shift in the rewards going to capital at the expense of labour.

This has produced a passivity in society and acceptance of the idea that benefits flow from above, from the goodness of the bosses and their two political parties – Labor and the Liberals.

The old mole of struggle is dead and buried, or so it seems. And yet, and yet….

The dead hand of control the trade union movement used to exercise no longer exists. Like 1968 in France, workers aren’t tied to a social democratic establishment party or its trade union outcrop. 

Second, the crisis producing tendency of the rate of profit to fall in capitalism means there is less and less social surplus to use to provide social democratic reforms. Indeed, much of it now goes to propping up capital rather than reforms for labour.

The spark in Tunisia was the self-immolation of an unemployed graduate. That spark spread to Egypt, and the tinder there has caught alight, inflaming the region and the world.

Yet even then, the struggle beforehand, especially in Egypt, for trade union rights and better pay and conditions prepared the way for the current upsurge by creating a network of working class fighters.

The Egyptian revolution is showing that ordinary people can take control of their lives; they can demand and win change.

The outcome is too soon to judge and the coming weeks may be crucial for the success or otherwise of the revolution. But there are powerful messages coming out of Egypt for workers around the world.

In Europe, political parties of the reformist left and the right have been imposing brutal anti-working class and pro-profit policies. The opposition to these attacks has been looking for models to organise the fight back. The left wing of the opposition can now point to Egypt as a model.

It is an incomplete model to be sure, since the working class as working class has yet to really enter into the  Egyptian revolution, although the latest reports indicate that might be beginning. Bu it is a model nevertheless – one that against overwhelming odds has battled a tyrant for almost 2 weeks and forced concessions from him and his regime.

Imagine for example if a group of the poor and oppressed in Australia or a major section of workers began to organise politically and economically, and took over one of the major squares in Sydney or Melbourne, demanding justice and jobs, freedom and food and called for strikes and demonstrations across the country.

It sounds far fetched because 30 years of class collaboration have dulled our senses to real life, to class and social conflict.

Egypt is blowing away the nightmares of the past.

Ordinary people there are challenging years of voicelessness, of bowing before the dictatorship of capital and its political repression, of the grand neoliberal experiments which have produced misery for most and riches for the few.

Those conditions of voicelessness, of poverty, of neoliberalism, pervade Australian society too. Our Tahrir Square might be closer than we think. I live in hope.



Comment from shane
Time February 9, 2011 at 9:21 pm

You are so wrong, so full of shit, so poorly informed.

Comment from Ross
Time February 10, 2011 at 7:58 am

Shane,show us some proof of your perceived shit.John is not always right but most of our pollies have got it seriously wrong time and time again ,and people like you keep voting them in. Ken O’Keefe is amongst it again in Gaza.Israel has just bombed a medical supply building in Gaza.Ken was there with a camera and posted it on the the web.

Comment from Cal
Time February 10, 2011 at 8:04 am

I read your response on the Drum to my comments and frankly I am appalled by what I characterise as rank hypocrisy. Don’t you believe in free speech? Don’t you believe we all have a right to express our views?
In my opinion, what you write is race hate, you call people murders and accuse them of crimes against humanity, you views are anti-Semitic and you proposes mass violent uprisings and all sorts of anarchic behaviour.
This is my opinion, my view, am I not entitled to it? Is this the way communism and socialism operate, by threatening to sue someone who expresses a contrary opinion?
You lot complain that your right to free speech is being curtailed by the withdrawal of advertising and then when someone expresses a dissenting view and makes critical comments, you cry ‘defamation’ and seek to bring in lawyers.
How is that not rank hypocrisy? How is that not seeking to curtail free speech? How is that not repressive of dissenting views? Your attitude is why we hear communism.

Comment from Duanne
Time February 10, 2011 at 8:31 am

Shane, you failed to explain your reasons as to why you disagree with John. (You are so wrong, so full of shit, so poorly informed.) Everyone has the enalienable right to free speech and to express their opinions, and yes they also have the same rights to disagree with others opinions, but it would be of beneficial help to readers if the explained why they disagree. I find John’s article thought provocing and must admit I do agree with some of it if not all of it. When I read a comment on an issue in the on line forums which attracts my attention I attempt to research the items in the article to learn and gain a better informed understanding then I make an informed opinion if the article has substance or not.

Comment from Ben Courtice
Time February 10, 2011 at 8:36 am

I’ve had the pleasure to be part of a couple of small scale uprisings like the MUA mass picket at Swanston Dock and the S11 2000 protest… very uplifting.

If we’re looking at where the next big one is going to come from, consider this: we just broke a big bunch of weather records, nearly took Queensland off the map among other things, while the government’s response includes cuts to climate programs like solar flagships. And the subsidies to the mining industry just keep rolling out. We have to battle against the denial industry to get our message across, but for anyone who is aware of the link between fossil fuels and global warming this is pretty explosive stuff.

Comment from Cal
Time February 10, 2011 at 1:20 pm

You don’t censor comments do you?

Comment from John
Time February 10, 2011 at 2:06 pm

Cal, no I don’t censor. Sometimes comments get held up for moderation because they contain elements that might indicate spam. But your substantive comments are libellous. They contain not a shred of truth. It is like me suggesting you are a Nazi. Licence is not free speech. I don’t actually believe in using defamation laws to shut people out as I made clear in my Drum comment in repsonse to your lies. But your comments are an attempt to shut down debate by characterising my comments as something they are not and thus not having to worry about responding to the reasoned arguments – namely that Zionism is genocidal, that it conducts war crimes and that our leaders are war criminals. Try to rebut the substance instead of launching into libellous abuse. Ah but you see, you can’t…

Comment from Cal
Time February 10, 2011 at 2:34 pm

How can free speech be libellous? How can the expression of views constitute the shutting down of debate?

What right do you have to call someone a war criminal and remonstrate that as your right to free expression, then castigate dissenting comments as libellous?

Defamation is the first resort of those who valorise the concept of free speech to underpin their own prejudices. It is used by those who cannot accept dissent or dissertations contrary to their fixed and often scurrilous belief system.

Your misuse of ‘genocide’, for example, is but an opinion. No court of law upholds this view, anymore than they uphold inane concepts such as the lawyer Geoffrey Robertson accusing the Pope of human rights abuses.

The onus of any accuser is the burden of proof. You must produce evidence – not second hand press reports, other internet sites or articles by like minded polemicists – supporting allegations of mass murder, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Opinions are cheap, evidence separates the prosecutor from the mob. To be the form requires forensic and peer reviewed evidence. Please provide.

Comment from Calligula
Time February 10, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Shane –
Between your lines – no; above and below your line (since there’s only one of the suckers) glow the profound secrets of the truly touched.
It’s the sort of thing I like to read and has me sitting stunned for hours – the sublime implications of your words.

When I was young and immortal I had the pleasure of attending a real domain and listening to a poorly informed old shit by the name of Webster.
Of course the hecklers there would come out with cheap, glib, one liners too.
The difference was that at that domain the hecklers actually needed the courage to stand in a public place amongst a crowd and look Webster and his ilk in the eye while sprouting their bombast.

Amazing thing is that I never saw any of those Shanes back then returning next week with their own soap-box and speaking themselves.

Like our modern politicians Shanes emit noises that fill a line or a five second sound grab leaving people wondering where they came from and worrying about why they’re here.
So there you have it John – you and I might be full o’ crap but, by God, the cyberspace is crammed with Shane these days.

Comment from Calligula
Time February 10, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Really the bottom line about capitalism (Australian style) is that the format of commerce is mandated by legislation.
Seriously folks; most agree that we are overregulated in comparison, say, to the good ol’ USA where even the democrats lean away from that sort of thing.

In other words our “grand neoliberal experiments – producing misery for most and riches for the few” is not a result of the free marketplace (as it more or less is in the USA) but the direct result of a series of decisions enacted as legislation by the parliaments of the Common-wealth of Australia.

This Common-wealth has no Charter of Rights – so no ‘subject’ (‘cos we certainly ain’t citizens) of this alleged Common-wealth has an inalienable right to CLAIM redress at statutory law or demand directly of Parliament that any law, no matter how unfair, should be overturned.

Catch 22 –
Of course an Australian national may seek redress at Common Law through the courts.
Obviously no-one wealthy is mad enough to resort to the courts to annul the legislation that made them wealthy.

With what we’re talking about a few score million credits might grease enough palms to have some tiny clause in some act deemed unconstitutional.
Upon which rare occasion the raffle winners nip back into the citadel and patch together an even sillier law.
Effectively we have no rights and therefore those of us without disposable wealth have no practical way of improving our lot.

End result – entrenched power, entrenched wealth and no means or incentive to change the situation.

In what way are we like Egypt?
Well, there it was on today’s news.
Real jobs – big-time down.
Part-time jobs – way, way, up.
Or so the propaganda ministry says.
Whatever – that’s the way it’s been going for years – less real work – less job security – more incurred costs – wasted resources – dissatisfaction – disincentive – more stress – frustration – illness – crime – a nice tidy little rollercoaster leading directly to the inevitable.

Oh. Except that Shane’ll magically appear at the barricades, pull the solution out of his hat, and send everyone home with a stern reprimand.

Comment from Ross
Time February 10, 2011 at 6:00 pm

Cal .If you want to get a grip on reality, watch Ken O’ Keefe on Hardtalk.He absolutely rips!

The facists have enslaved the poor countries,now they are coming after you Cal,the Western middle class.

Comment from mhab
Time February 10, 2011 at 9:02 pm

John, your say that in our society “tensions are building”. I see fewer and fewer “tensions” as the years go by. It is amazing how little general discontent we have in Australia, and the genuinely disenfranchised are much more likely to be self-destructive than rebellious. And even when some significant section of the community becomes rebellious about the two party consensus, it turns neatly into an energetic parliamentary movement (One Nation, Greens), rather than turn into “tensions”.

Comment from Calligula
Time February 12, 2011 at 10:26 pm

Mhab, Dear boy –
You must live in some gated community.
Fewer tensions?
Come and live here for a few weeks; it’ll educate you.
The peasantry self-destructive?
Hell yes – and while they’re at it make a fair mess of everything else while they’re busy scrapping.
They do that precisely because the increased societal tension combined with their perceived disclusion from that cute little society is tearing their souls apart.

Are you suggesting these tossers (for despite their sensibilities that is what we’ve made them) are only (so dismissively) greens and one-nation in their sober moments?

Or is it that you have a problem identifying who you’d, yourself, like to punch out down that dark alley one night.

Maybe your logic paths take you toward believing that those of lesser merit only associate themselves with lesser political parties. (herd thinking on your part too)
That is a convenient way of dismissing, therefore negating, the valuable opinion and heartfelt conviction of a fair amount of our population.

You must be a ‘divide and conquer’ person instead of one of those who shares opinion, listens and learns.
Or maybe I’ve misinterpreted what you mean.
Perhaps your society lives in a test tube and can be exploited or manipulated they way you want.

Perhaps you didn’t have any soul to put into your letter?

At the risk of upsetting you it is ‘tensions’ that drive society and the face of Mother Earth onwards against entropy and the turpitude of our final demise !

Comment from mhab
Time February 12, 2011 at 11:19 pm

Calligula, I couldn’t really understand most of the points you made. They didn’t seem to be addressing my points at all. I think we are talking past each other. I was referring to the fact that I come across quite a cross-section of the community, and I’m often struck by how few people seem to have strong political resentments (or any political interest at all). But those who do speak strongly about politics (resenting the status quo) are usually either of the “redneck” variety, or the “middle-class do-gooder” variety like me. And so often they are able to find ways to express their feelings through the political system, which prevents what I called their “resentments” turning into what I called “tensions”.

Comment from Calligula
Time February 13, 2011 at 10:40 pm

Mhab –
Then I’ll try again.

I come from a part of the world managed by a societal sub-set hell bent on trying to keep up with fashion.
Their women do that by wasting money in the obvious way known to all (bless ‘em, but only because they’re decorative, ‘pneumatic’, and occasionally available).
The men waste their dough on substance abuse, fast cars, Harley Davidson motorcycles and getting their ends in, preferably with anyone else other than their wives.
(Go figure)

Comprendez vous?
Pointless, outrageously silly, isn’t it?

As it happens some people resent this sort of behaviour.
Some wowsers claim it is immoral and wasteful of resources.
Some abhor the resultant social diseases.

Truth be told all the ‘socially disadvantaged’ punters want nothing more than a slice of that same action despite the risks.
Somehow they feel left out.

About the only incentive difference is that in God’s own country (QLD) the rednecks (squattocracy, nouveau riche, charlatans, politicians, churchmen, developers, confidence men, etc) all absorb so much resources that precious little remains for the peasantry and the wannabe meek at heart.

Admittedly a very few of one bent or another lurk about the fringes of society and oil the wheels by providing this or that service or commodity whenever necessary.

I’m sure you are with me about that – how the lords seek out the peasantry in order to find a good time.

The social contract –
Some just like to grow their own food and dope without bothering anyone else. Many moved up here from down south hoping for that situation.
(Believe me when I say that the authorities soon advise them of their mistake and bring them into line.)

Some like to do ‘good works’.
Not a problem so long as they are accepted by those same authorities as manage the lot above. (We must not have some ‘volunteer’ offering their services when that might scotch a well paid job ‘invented’ for someone of ‘quality’.)

Some were born here and expect that their ‘lifestyle decisions’ might resultantly have some precedent.
Oh No – they are subject to exactly the same authorities governing those above.
(Corrupt entities subsuming the shells of (what once used to be) local government to crooked property deals and mafia tactics.)

Some arrived here expecting a ‘fair deal’.
Guess what. They dip out too.
(Of course they’re subject to the same crooked ‘authorities’ governing the rest of all those poor suckers mentioned above.)

People, Mhab, tend to ‘resent’ levels of organized nastiness of which they are victims.

When such ‘crime’ (for such it is) begins to cause detriment to entire populations the populace becomes stressed.
(For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.)

I’m a simple engineer, Mhab, but I can tell you that when stress overcomes the resilience of the matrix – the result is strain.
Something has to give. Something ultimately fails.

In human society people rebel when applied drivel exceeds their ‘bullshit quotient’..

Perhaps, as you say, you are a middle class do-gooder or would like to be able to consider yourself as such .

Inform me then –
Are you ‘middle class’ like we have here – the wannabes puking their hearts out into the gutter outside the building contractor’s favourite pub every Friday night – or have you ‘made it’ to the ‘inner circle’ by being lucky enough; the beneficiary of the usual nepotism; or just selling your arse to the highest bidder on the open market?

None of those?
Bless you. There’s some hope after all.

But I suspect you’ll still pretend not to understand what I mean.
I suspect you never will admit. Understanding, that is.
I speak English of some archaic form – entirely beneath the comprehension of brats 20 years younger.
They get to say – “I hadn’t a clue what you meant, old fart.”

It’d be easy to say – “Ditto, maggot.”

Next time I shall.