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John Passant

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May 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)



The politics of the rising European left

Europe’s political leadership is bankrupt writes Alex Callinicos in Socialist Worker UK.  

This is true literally, as we can see with the latest stage of the banking crisis unfolding in Spain. If the eurozone continues to unravel, there simply won’t be enough money to save it.

It is also true morally and intellectually. And everyone knows it. This is the main lesson of the recent elections.

The pattern is clear. The centre—which stands for the austerity policies that Angela Merkel is determined to hardwire into the institutional structure of the European Union—is being squeezed. And there is polarisation further to the right and to the left.

The advances the extreme right are making are very frightening. Chrysi Avgi (Golden Dawn), which won seven percent of the vote in the Greek elections, aren’t Euro-fascists in suits. They are hard, street-fighting Nazis.

But it’s the growth of the radical left on which I want to focus. The clearest case is of course Syriza, the Coalition of the Radical Left in Greece, which got 16.8 percent of the vote in the elections ten days ago. Polls suggest that it might win 25 percent or more if there is a re-run in June.

To this we have to add Jean-Luc Mélenchon of the Left Front, who polled 11.01 percent in the first round of the French presidential elections last month. And there are other cases.

The Dutch government collapsed recently under the weight of the austerity policies it had helped Brussels impose. It was the right-wing populist Geert Wilders who pulled the rug from under the ruling coalition, but the radical-left Socialist Party is top of the polls.

What is the politics of this rising left? Over-simplifying a little, it is essentially some version or other of left reformism. It’s true that Syriza includes within its ranks an assortment of far-left groups, but the dominant force, Synaspismos, originates in the more accommodating and pro-European wing of the Greek Communist movement.


Mélenchon led a left-wing breakaway from the French Socialist Party after serving as a minister in the disastrous Plural Left government that held office in 1997–2002. The most powerful organised force within the Left Front is the French Communist Party(CP) which for decades has hung onto the coat tails of the Socialist Party.

A marked feature of the French presidential elections was the poor performance of the revolutionary left. Olivier Besancenot ran ahead of the CP in 2002 and 2007. But this time the candidates of both his New Anticapitalist Party and of Lutte Ouvrière, which in the days when Arlette Laguiller ran for it had a high profile, were eclipsed by Mélenchon.

It’s not surprising that left reformist parties are making the running against austerity. They are filling a space left by the rightward shift of mainstream social democracy. Parties like Labour and the French Socialists are now called “social liberal” because of their embrace of neoliberalism.

Figures such as Mélenchon, the Syriza leader Alex Tsipras, and, in this country, George Galloway are able to reach out to traditional social-democratic voters by articulating their anger in a familiar reformist language. Ed Miliband and François Hollande are trying to recalibrate their parties’ messages to relate to this anger, but their unwillingness to break with social liberalism leaves a big space to their left.

In any case, whether it is mainstream social democrats or their more radical challengers who are able to ride to office thanks to the rebellion against austerity, they will come under enormous pressure to accommodate with the German government and the financial markets.

After the Greek elections, Tsipras made an excellent statement demanding an end to the “barbarous” austerity programme. But then he wrote a much less confrontational letter to the presidents of the European Council and the European Parliament.

This kind of ambiguity is inherent in any version of reformism, which seeks simultaneously to express workers’ resistance to capitalism and to contain it within the framework of the system. But it underlines the necessity of building a revolutionary left that is part of this great movement sweeping Europe but maintains its own political identity.



Comment from Kay
Time May 20, 2012 at 7:18 am

I was a socialist when I was 16 too. Then I grew up! I had a family and had to provide for them. Then I had to provide for my retirement to ensure that I would not become a drain on other taxpayers or my own family. Now I am a self-funded retiree. Only capitalism could allow me to achieve this!

I think it was Margaret Thatcher who remarked that the problem with socialism is that eventually it runs out of other people’s money. That’s my problem with socialism! It is usually fervently supported by the ‘have nots’ who drool at the thought of getting their hands on the hard-earned money of the ‘haves’! But where does the money come from when the capitalists have been stripped of their money, and decide it is a lot less stressful to just join the queues of those waiting for a ‘hand out’?

No, I see socialism as a very short-sighted approach. I can see its appeal to people around the world seeing their savings and lifestyles crumbling because of the excessive greed of the few at the top of worldwide banks and other financial institutions. No, rather than socialism, how about better regulation and control at the upper levels? Even though Obama talked big after using tax-payers’ money to bail out various banks/financial institutions, in the end executives are still paid obscene pay packages, and the old financial ‘gambling’ approaches are still being rewarded (as evidenced by the huge bonus paid to a JP Morgan trader before his ‘gamble’ failed and he lost nearly $2B). There’s where the efforts should be directed – at the excessive, unregulated greed of the bank/financial institutions executives/traders!

BTW until I read this site, I hadn’t even realised that in this day and age, people were still debating the same socialist and Left Wing ideas I was attracted to in the 50s and 60s. I thought the world had moved on! But I guess it was just that I had moved on!

Comment from Bazz
Time May 21, 2012 at 8:56 am

They all have it wrong. We are now at the start of zero growth which is permanent.
Energy is at peak, both in world oil and coal.
Neither side of the European argument realise that growth depends on energy and not money.
Until politicians everywhere are prepared to acknowledge this fundamental truth and plan their policies to suit we will just keep going down the slope.

Comment from Denis L White
Time May 21, 2012 at 12:33 pm

Kay when I was 16 I believed in “all for one and one for all” a kind of social equality, for me nothing has changed in that respect in spite of the fact that I too have “grown up”. Like you I also recognised that we live in a capitalist monetary system and that one must play the game or become a victim of it. I trust that you as a capitalist managed your career and made your fortune without needing to keep your foot firmly on the heads of others. Thatcher’s comment might well be amended these days to say that capitalism is also running out of other peoples money given the evidence you present in your third paragraph. 1% own 40% of the wealth of the world, I wonder how many of them actually produced a single item, fiddling with figures does’nt actually shift one shovel full of anything. I agree that re-regulation on a global scale is vitally essential. The rot started in America, where most of it does, in the 70s when congress agreed to dismantle the “Glass-Stegall act” of 1933. This marks the point when the commercial banks were freed of all constraints and so joined the investment bank rat-race. This single event lays at the root of the worlds “economic problems”, l promise you it is worth researching. Milton Friedmann, may he rot in hell, was the prime mover behind the spread of neo-liberal free market economics which have been imposed on the world. His ideology underpins American notions of global dominance. Australia buckled under American pressure and de-regulated, at the same time dismantling our mechanisims of control and losing a significant degree of our sovereigty. The Hawke-Keating regimes knowingly demolished our manufacturing base when they reduced tarrifs to 4% across the board. Hence the comment from Hawke, “we must become the clever country” . I could go on.

Comment from jack
Time May 21, 2012 at 1:35 pm

the comment on the Golden Dawn was that they ‘aren’t Euro-fascists in suits. They are hard, street-fighting Nazis’.
Strangely, there was no comment on France’s new socialist leader being an advocate of riots and violence.
Blinkers off!

Comment from John
Time May 21, 2012 at 8:30 pm

Because he isn’t.

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