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John Passant

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April 2012
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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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Me on Razor Sharp this morning
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Saturday’s socialist speak out – the Marxism 2012 report

I am at Marxism 2012 in Melbourne. It is inspiring. The first night panel on Thursday included activists from the US, the Philippines, Japan and Australia. I am sure they will agree with me that the night belonged to the brave, wonderful and fantastic Malalai Joya and her struggle, along with many of the Afghan people, against the US occupation of her country and her equally strong rejection of and fight against fundamentalism.

On Friday I went to 3 talks. One debunked the labour aristocracy theory, the idea that some sections of the working class in imperialist countries (or even sometimes all the working class in those countries) are bribed with some of the super profits that arise from the super exploitation of workers in non-imperialist countries and that this explains the attachment of workers to reformism. This is a theory that in practice could lead to the abandonment of the working class in imperialist countries as the agency of change.

It is also incorrect to imagine that there is a privileged layer of the working class or that a munificent ruling class exists that provides free of charge little extras to some workers. This denies history and the facts. The benefits workers win have been won by struggle, not largesse.

Another talk I went to was on money. It argued that money is not the root of all evil and that the problems of capitalism stem from the exploitative relationship between labour and capital, the tendency of the rate of profit to fall and that money as the universal commodity of exchange can be a surface symbol of those problems but addressing finance issues is not the cure-all. This ‘money is the root of all evil’ approach ignores the realm of production, where surplus value is created through the exploitation of labour.

The other talk – up shit creek without a paddle? – was a discussion of whether capitalism could solve its economic problems. The falling rate of profit, the need to attack living standards to address that but at the same time thereby cutting working class consumption, the inability to let big blocs of capital fail, all contribute to an assessment that economic stagnation probably will continue for some time, that the attacks on workers will deepen (including in Australia) and resistance in some form will continue or breakout anew.

There was a discussion too of what to do in response to this. One phrase coming out of that discussion stuck in my mind. When did Noah build the Ark a comrade asked? Before the storm. That is the task today for Socialist Alternative, to build a revolutionary fighting organisation that when the storm hits has the strength to build and eventually lead the resistance and in doing that lay the groundwork for a new world through working class revolution.

Then there was the incomparable Gary Foley, a man of wit and charm, showing us a side of history that the apologists for the elite ignore. It was a personal hsitory, based around his life as a young Aboriginal person growing up in Nambucca heads, moving to Redfern, involved in the Tent Embassy and then on to Melbourne. Go to his show is all I can say.

Today I will listening to Malalai Joya and going to a talk on the basics of Marxist economics, another on revisiting Lenin, the Bolsheviks and party organisation and finishing off with a report from one of the participants in Occupy Wall Street.

The Conference continues into Sunday. For more information visit the Marxism 2012 website,



Comment from Joe Lane
Time April 7, 2012 at 10:53 pm

A labour aristocracy ? I sort of recall somewhere that Marx wrote to Engels (or vice versa) complaining about the fact that Britain had not only a bourgeois bourgoisie and a bourgeois aristocracy but was well on the way to creating a bourgeois proletariat as well, or at least sections of the working class. I guess it must have been some time in the late 1870s or early 1880s, certainly before 1883 of course. Towards the end of the first volume of capital, somewhere near there, Marx worries about sections of the working class being favoured or bought off. After all, capitalism needed more and more lower and middle managers, supervisors, foremen and skilled workers. The working class, Marx seemed to worry, was already fragmenting as the productive forces became more sophisticated and developed and differentiated. In the 1860s and 1870s. But of course, not much has happened since then, in 150 years, has it ?

Comment from John
Time April 9, 2012 at 2:06 pm

Yes, and Lenin. But the figures now, and then, don’t stack up.