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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
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)



Brown leaves the Greens with a dilemma

Bob Brown has left a party that is, despite appearances and proclamations to the contrary, in a crisis of sorts writes Ben Hillier in Socialist Alternative.

Bob Brown has resigned from the Senate and as leader of the Australian Greens.

Most commentary is now focused on what now seems the obvious question: can the Greens survive without him? Given his standing in the party, and the electorate’s identification of the Greens with Brown, the question has merit. But the Greens’ future prospects are tied to issues much greater than personality. After all, Liberal and Labor seem to go on and on despite their cabinets having a depth of character that would be challenged by a mud puddle.

Bob Brown with new leader Christine Milne. Bob Brown with new leader Christine Milne.

Brown has left a party that is, despite appearances and proclamations to the contrary, in a crisis of sorts.

How can this be? It isn’t facing financial ruin. Aside from the Murdoch press-generated outrages in NSW, there are no party personality scandals a la NSW Labor in government. Its popularity in the polls by and large continues, despite a few blips, to be at historic highs. In terms of elected representatives in state and federal parliaments, the party is in the strongest position in its history.

The crisis of the Greens relates to their own vision and their capacity to go anywhere but backwards. It has been said before, and proven wrong before, but the Greens have now tasted a success which undermines their ability to present as an alternative to the mainstream parties. Brown today reiterated the party’s ambition to replace the mainstream parties – by which he means the ALP, a goal first articulated back when Labor was embracing neoliberalism in the 1980s.

Yet the Greens, under his stewardship, have proven themselves just as capable of worshiping the God of the market. Over time, the party has become more and more incorporated into the running of the capitalist system. The Greens voted to elect a Liberal Chief Minister in the ACT in 1995; in Tasmania they supported a Labor minority government in 1989-1992 and a Liberal minority government in 1996-98; in the ACT they have supported the Labor government from 2008; in Tasmania they are part of a Labor coalition government; and of course federally, they have provided an important prop for the neoliberal ALP government.

For a period the Greens cultivated the appearance of a more radical alternative party – particularly in the early- to mid-2000s.

Those days have long since passed. Brown strong armed the left of the party, interfering in state sections to discipline those he saw as reds or radicals who didn’t understand that radicalism was only supposed to be used in a pragmatic and sparing fashion. By and large he got his way – if not on all specific issues and outcomes, then undoubtedly with his broader political agenda, illustrated by supremacy of his “responsible and reasonable” narrative.

Brown has consistently pointed to the moments in government as proof of the Greens’ success. The party, he maintains, has a track record of providing responsible and reliable administration to the capitalist system. For the left that capitulated to him, seeing progress measured only in terms of respectability, these successes have proved a poisoned chalice.

The party Brown now leaves behind (not withstanding the notable exceptions of some left wing Greens who still attempt to provide some alternative vision to the mainstream) is a party thoroughly integrated into mainstream political life. This is the crux of the issue. And arguably, it relies primarily not on its own capacities, but on the failings of the ALP, and on the perception that Labor is, historically, finished.

There is widespread cynicism toward both the Liberals and the ALP. Opinion poll after opinion poll shows widespread support for some form of social democratic agenda – higher corporate taxes and greater efforts to provide quality public health and education.

Yet the Greens, despite the efforts of some in its left flank, have drifted away from solid commitments on these fronts. In some areas the Greens put it down on paper, but there has been a notable lack of will to seriously fight and campaign for reforms – nor to seriously build a political alternative to the ALP, rather than simply a type of organisational alternative. Under Brown the Greens have built a savvy political machine that in practice has become more and more like those the party says it is committed to replacing.

Therein lies the crisis and contradiction of the Greens Bob Brown leaves behind – the more it succeeds in its own terms, the more it fails to seriously deliver any actual alternative.

For a Marxist critique of the Australian Greens, see issue 1 of the Marxist Left Review.



Comment from Shane H
Time April 17, 2012 at 10:51 pm

Have you guys been taking your cue from the Murdoch press again.

And once the Greens have been exposed as mere petit bourgeois radicals perhaps the ‘crisis’ engendered by Bob Brown’s resignation will see the working class abandon them (and Bob Katter) and finally recognise the One True Leadership of Socialist Alternative.

Over 20 years the Greens have built an alternative to the Left of Labor while socialist groups have gone nowhere. So instead of analysing why we get an ‘analysis’ based on personalities and denunciations instead of asking why they have been so sucessful.

Either it was simply impossible to build a socialist alternative in the last 20 years – so there’s no point in condemning the Greens for not being that, Or it was in which case the question is why no-one did it.

Comment from peterr piper
Time April 18, 2012 at 9:40 am

err…who got more votes in QLD, the greens or Bob Katter? The people have spoken! Power to the people!

Comment from John
Time April 18, 2012 at 1:13 pm

For once PP makes a sensible comment. True, and from regional working class areas. Katter’s Australia Party has the potential to do well in similar seats across the country. Populist protectionism will resonate.

Comment from don coyote
Time April 19, 2012 at 8:28 am

I think ShaneH has made a very good point. I am surprised that there has been no followup discussion. Too painfull perhaps?

Comment from John
Time April 19, 2012 at 10:45 am

I was going to reply yesterday but other things keep cropping up. I think there is validity in some of Shane’s comments and want to respond, but I have various other deadlines to meet right at the moment.

Comment from John
Time April 19, 2012 at 11:23 pm

It is not about exposing the Greens, Shane, it is about trying to understand them. And exposés don’t move people to the left; other factors do. One true leadership? The Bolsheviks of 1917 were very different to the organisation of 1903, or 1905. It is a process, not of the infallible with the truth waiting for the masses to find us and basking in the revelations, but of growing over time by doing the hard work nurse unions, social campaigns, strikes, demos and the like.

It hasn’t been impossible to build a Socialist Alternative over the last 20 years, but it has been very very difficult. you can’t just ignore the factors that make growth difficult – the hold of reformism (which in part explains the rise of the Greens), the lack of class struggle, the small numbers in the organisation so we are a cork bobbing on the waves of society and have little influence at all etc etc.

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