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John Passant

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July 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)



Just who are the real extremists – Labor or the Greens?

The people who gave you Julia Gillard are now attacking the Greens.

Sam Dastyari, the right wing head of the right wing party machine in New South Wales, called the Greens ‘…extremists not unlike One Nation’.

One Nation was a racist, xenophobic group and a mainly middle class party which may have been proto-fascist.

One Nation policies on refugees and Aborigines have been taken up by the two major parties in varying forms.

The Greens oppose the neoliberal consensus of the ALP and the Liberals over the brutal offshore processing of refugees. They oppose the Northern Territory intervention for the racism and paternalism it is, and they oppose income management (first practised on Aborigines in the Northern Territory) and its spread across Australia.

If this is extremism there should be more of it.

Labor continues and has extended these anti- refugee and anti-Aboriginal policies. So it would be more accurate to say that the ALP is an extremist party, not unlike One Nation.

Dastyari said the ALP should think about preferencing the Greens last in seats where it was ‘in the Labor party’s interest to do so’. In other words the ALP should preference the class enemy, the Liberals, before the Greens.

Dastyari will move a motion at the NSW state party conference next weekend calling for Labor to ‘no longer provide the Greens party automatic preferential treatment in any future preference negotiations’.

Dastyari can say this because to the leadership of the ALP, the Liberals, while they might still be the political enemy in the sense that they are the alternative government, are not the class enemy.

Labor does not see the world in class and class conflict terms. It has always been a contradictory party – a capitalist workers’ party committed to managing capitalism, not overthrowing it.

Sometimes that has meant implementing reforms, often pushed forward by workers on strike or by demonstrations, and sometimes by the needs of capital for a healthy and educated workforce when the economy can afford it (ie when profit rates are adequate).

Now that profit rates across the developed world have fallen, the welfare state is under attack in country after country and those attacks are often led by labour or social democratic parties because they are about managing capitalism and ultimately that means running the system for the benefit of the bosses to make a profit.

Labor’s links with the trade union bureaucracy meant that it could impose solutions on capitalists for the benefit of capital. Hawke and Keating could and did do that with, for example, the floating of the Australian dollar.

Because of their relationship with the working class through the trade union bureaucracy the ALP can also sell shit sandwiches to workers with the union officials as their snake oil salesmen and women. The Accord, Enterprise Bargaining and the rotten Fair Work Act come to mind.

The ALP’s capitulation to mining capital over the Resource Super Profits Tax may show that Labor has fundamentally changed and can longer take on the role of ruling for capital against sectional interests.

This paradoxically flows from the ‘success’ of the Accord in the 1980s which not only cut real wages but smashed independent rank and file organisation, concentrated power in the hands of the officials, and gave them a seat at the table of government. This destroyed class struggle in Australia – from up to 1200 days per 1000 workers lost to strikes in the early 70s to just five days per 1000 workers last year.

As workers became divorced from strikes, the trade union bureaucracy and the Labor Party became divorced from workers over time.  The ALP moved from being a capitalist workers’ party to being a CAPITALIST workers’ party.

But their influence was enough to enable Hawke and Keating to implement major neoliberal policies and shift wealth from labour to capital to address falling profit rates in Australia. 

Falling profit rates have been a global phenomenon in much of the developed world since the late 60s or early 70s and led to the bourgeoisie abandoning Keynesianism and adopting neoliberalism, the ideology of cut, cut, cut and attack, attack, attack.

Because of its relationship with the trade union bureaucracy the ALP can still impose pro-capitalist policies on workers, even if they are increasingly sectional ones, mainly through the influence and control of the union leadership in the key sections of the working class.

Their policies and those of their natural descendants in the Howard Government have been so successful that the share of national income going to capital is now at its highest since records were kept in 1960 and that to labour its lowest.

It is Labor in power, through its management of capitalism and embrace of neoliberalism, which has laid the groundwork for the rise of Abbott and his policies, most of which appear to be variations on the neoliberal or racist policies of the ALP.

Thus for example the ‘debate’ between the two major parties over refugees is not over onshore or offshore processing but how best to process refugees offshore to ‘stop the boats’.

And the ‘debate’ between the two major parties over industrial relations is not over whether to make strikes illegal but how best to do that.

Dastyari of course was in charge of the NSW ALP last year when the Labor Government in that State fell spectacularly. Can’t blame the Greens for that Sam.

And the rout of Labor in Queensland can’t be blamed on the Greens either.

The near loss in the 2010 federal election wasn’t the fault of the Greens either, Sam.

Perhaps the fault, dear Labor, is not in your stars but in yourselves.

Perhaps, just perhaps, it is Labor’s anti-worker policies that sees workers deserting it and some (though not that many) swinging to the Greens? Perhaps, just perhaps, it is Labor’s anti-worker policies that sees or will see many workers holding their noses and voting for the Liberal or National Parties or even Bob Katter’s Australian Party?

Far better to blame a bogey man party like the Greens than to actually analyse why Labor is on the nose with workers.

Union leader Paul Howes, in that well know union supporting paper, Rupert Murdoch’s the Sunday Telegraph, has taken up the theme.

Bizarrely he says that there might be no competitive team sport if the Greens grow in influence. No rugby, Aussie rules, hockey or netball. 

Howes sensationalises it by saying that New South Wales might never win another Rugby League State of Origin against Queensland.

In fact, says Howes, there might never be another State of Origin if the Greens were to win power.

This crap is even less believable than Tony Abbot’s ‘the sky is falling in’ campaign against the carbon tax.

Howes claims the Greens are opposed to the core values of the labour movement. 

In one sense this is right.

The ALP have often been the party of war. In Opposition in 2003 they supported the invasion of Iraq (including by Australian troops) and the death of over one million Iraqis as a consequence.  The Greens opposed this core Labor value.

The ALP have been enthusiastic supporters of the war in Afghanistan and Australian troops there, and the killing of tens of thousands of civilians. The Greens oppose this core Labor value.

Historically the ALP has been the party of white Australia and racism against the indigenous peoples of the country. They supported Howard’s racist Northern Territory intervention. The Greens opposed this core Labor value.

In power the Labor Government has extended the Intervention for another decade and expanded income management into others areas of Australia, punishing the poor. The Greens oppose this core Labor value.

Like the Liberals the Labor Party believe in stopping the boats and so want offshore detention in Malaysia with its barbaric conditions as a ‘solution’ to the non-problem of asylum seekers. The Greens oppose this core Labor value. They want onshore processing.

Howes referred to loopy and extremist policies and mentioned the Greens’ drug policies.  The war on drugs is a complete failure because it treats drug use as a crime and not as a medical issue.

For example the war on drugs in the US  is a way of criminalising and imprisoning many, including minorities trying to escape systemic racism and its economic consequences. The war on drugs also makes it more profitable for organised crime.

The Greens’ national drugs policy is about harm minimisation and non-jailing for personal use misdemeanours. They see drug addiction as a medical issue, not a criminal one. This is something many experts in the field agree with.

Of course the ALP gets major support from the main drug suppliers in Australia, the alcohol companies and the clubs and pubs where alcohol is consumed in huge quantities. 

Leaving aside tobacco, in terms of destructive effects, alcohol is the most dangerous drug. In the A.C.T where I live the Labor Party has received millions over the years from the Labor Club, a registered club which sells a lot of grog and makes  a lot of money from the pokies. 

The Gillard Government has kept Howard’s rotten Australian Building and Construction Commission and moved it into Fair Work Australia.  The Greens oppose this core Labor value. They want to abolish the ABCC in whatever form it takes.

The Labor Government was elected in 2007 on a wave of opposition to WorkChoices. The ALP repealed this odious anti-union anti-worker legislation but in a sleight of hand kept most of the repugnant anti-worker and anti-union provisions in the Fair Work Australia Act. 

And what about employment? According to Howes:

The Greens do not support working people. They would rather we all squat in share houses in Newtown than work in real jobs that actually make things.

Now I doubt even many rusted on Labor Party members or most of their voters actually believe this bullshit.

In fact a switch to renewable energy over the next ten years, while it would cost hundreds of billions, would also create more jobs long term than just digging stuff short term out of the ground will.

And it will give our kids a future rather than the threat that the current profit system through its emissions poses to the system’s long term existence. (My article ‘The carbon tax: heaven or hell? goes into this in more detail.) 

A policy of taxing the polluters and building the renewable energy systems necessary to provide the energy needs of modern Australian capitalism and workers might be possible, if the short term profit motive didn’t dominate the thinking of the bourgeoisie and their politicians.

Apparently the Greens are dividing the progressive cause (whatever that is). Thus Howes says:

The Greens juggernaut is now threatening to cause serious long-term damage to the cause of the labour movement and progressive politics in Australia.

By cannibalising the progressive vote, the Greens are paving the way for the election of the most feverishly conservative prime minister in Australia’s history. They are Tony Abbott’s secret weapon.

This puts the cart before the horse. It is Labor’s rush to the right, its embrace of neoliberalism, which has opened up a space for the Greens. To call the ALP progressive is to live in a fool’s paradise. That is why so many have left the party and why few people, especially not young people, are joining it.

Whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad. Howes and Dastyari are living examples of this Euripidean tragedy unfolding before our eyes.

The madness is spreading. In the Victorian State by-election for the seat of Melbourne the ALP have preferenced Family First ahead of the Greens. Family First is a reactionary, homophobic and anti-women’s choice organisation and the last time the geniuses from the ALP did such a preference deal Steven Fielding became a senator and opposed Labor’s agenda in the Senate.

None of this is to imply that the Greens are a real left wing party. There is no organised working class presence in the party. It has many left wing people in it. But it is not a left wing party, and that contradiction is being played out now both in terms of internal tensions and the parliamentary focus of the party at the expense of mobilising its members in campaigns around refugees, same sex marriage, Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and climate change, to name a few.

Imagine if the Greens joined with unions in a real campaign against the Fair Work Act, Labor’s WorkChoices, or the ABCC. The leadership of both groups however won’t mobilise their members in a way that challenges Labor. Maybe they fear their members more than they fear their enemies.

The membership of the Greens is mainly middle class, not working class. And their embrace of neoliberalism in the form of the ineffective carbon tax (the irrelevant discourse Andrew Glikson talks about) makes them something to be wary of in the eyes of many workers.

The Greens have benefited from the exposure of Labor in power as just another party of neoliberalism and the 1%.

But they are not left wing in any real sense. They have some left wing and progressive policies, but they believe strongly in the market and the profit motive.

When in power or coalition across the globe and in places like Tasmania they have sold out time and time again. 

In Ireland for example they were at the centre of imposing austerity and lost all their seats. The United Left Alliance (including a member of the Irish Socialist Workers’ Party) won five seats by opposing austerity.

In Germany their then foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, supported the invasion of Afghanistan, and had doubts about the opposition of their Social Democrat partners in Government to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. 

This is not because they have bad people in them but because of the nature of their party – a party that accepts the basic precepts of capitalism and so governs in that context and with that in mind.

Even their track record in alliance with the Gillard Labor Government isn’t that great either. Apart from a pathetic neoliberal anti-worker carbon tax, what have they really achieved?

The myth and hope of reformism lives on and the Greens benefit from that.  But that doesn’t make them a working class party.

The task is to build that party; to build a revolutionary socialist working class party that challenges not just aspects of neoliberalism but the system that produces neoliberlaism and inequity, that produces war and poverty.

When that happens then Howes can talk about extremism – the extremism of the pro-capitalist parties compared to the sensible and human centred policies of the revolutionary socialist party of the working class which mobilises and is mobilised by the working class.

For only through the spread of democracy into all aspects of society and the organisation of production to satisfy human need can humanity now progress.



Comment from John Richardson
Time July 9, 2012 at 9:47 am

Hi John,
A great piece – thanks.
Whilst I largely share your views, I’m puzzled by your assertion that ‘profit rates across the developed world have fallen’ & that this somehow explains why the so-called welfare state is under attack?
In your own recent piece If things are so good, why are we all so pissed off?, you made reference to the increased share of wealth that is going to capital versus labour, citing Ian McAuley’s piece in New Matilda in support of your thesis. The same situation exists in the US & the UK.
The truth is that capital is doing what capital always does & that is blindly pursuing a bigger share of the available pie. Labor’s failure to ensure that the weakest in our society reasonably benefit from that pie has more to do with the beliefs of the failed ‘managerialists’ who have taken-over both the party & the union movement in recent years. They wear the same ‘born-to-rule’ badge as Tony Abbott & the conservatives &, as you rightly observe, they serve the same interests.
Does anyone really think that Julia Gillard, a lawyer now receiving a salary of close to $500K a year & $100K more than POTUS, can relate to the 40% of the Australian workforce eking-out a subsistence-level existence on $17 an hour?
As you rightly observed, that’s why so many people are pissed-off & attacking the Greens won’t change that.

Comment from John
Time July 9, 2012 at 10:23 am

Thanks John Richardson. Marx identified a tendency for the rate of profit to fall inherent he argued in the way production under capitalism is organised.

Various left wing analysts (eg Andrew Kliman, Chris Harman, Michael Roberts and his blog, and a number of others with differing takes) have looked at the situation and concluded that profit rates in the developed world began to fall in the late 60s or early 70s.

The ruling class abandoned Keynesianism as a result and adopted neoliberalism as a way of addressing this decline. Thatcher, Reagan and Hawke and Keating came to power with neoliberal agendas in the decade after this switch.

In essence this neoliberalism meant a number of things. It meant attacking unions to then attack wages and conditions. It meant attacking social welfare to reduce taxes, and thus increase the amount of surplus value the bourgeoisie rather than the state could get. It meant privatisation and the concept of the market as the determinant of social good.

It meant increasing the working day to increase the amount of surplus value going to bosses.

All of these will in the short term counterbalance falling profit rates and that appears to have happened until about 1997. But since then the decline has continued with ups and downs. Some estimates put profit rates in major developed countries at about half what they were in the halcyon days of the long post war boom.

The other way to restore profit rates is to destroy capital either physically (eg through war) of by devalorisation. But now much capital is so big that to allow it to collapse would be to drag capitalism into another depression or worse.

So the state has bailed out companies too big too fail, reducing the impact of devalorisation and making each succeeding ‘recovery’ weaker.

Australia might be different. It may be that profit rates here have held up or recovered since 2001, built on exports to China and long work hours. Of course that might also be industry specific and we have some sectors doing well and others doing badly.

Even if average profit rates in Australia are OK, it cannot be sustained I don’t think over the long term. Australia’s boat might be floating in the sea of other countries but as the tide recedes our boat might well get caught on the rocks. too.

Comment from John
Time July 9, 2012 at 10:41 am

John Richardson, prompted by you I may write a piece explaining the tendency of the rate of profit to fall in simple terms.

Comment from John
Time July 9, 2012 at 10:58 am

John Richardson, just because they are getting a bigger share of the pie doesn’t mean profit rates aren’t falling. In fact they are grabbing a bigger share of the pie because rates have been falling. An article to explain this is in order I think.

Comment from Bazz
Time July 9, 2012 at 11:29 am

Why you do not understand what has happened to the Labour Party and the Greens, and to a lessor extent the Liberals and why the welfare state is under attack is because those parties do not understand that everything has changed under their feet.
The world has entered the “End of Growth” era and all previous economic theories, which rely on growth to function have become disfunctional because governments etc do not realise what has happened.
They believe our present troubles are temporary, but they are not, this condition is permanent.

Pingback from Just who are the real extremists – Labor or the Greens? via @JohnPassant » @howespaul #AusPol | The Left Hack
Time July 9, 2012 at 11:42 am

[…] For only through the spread of democracy into all aspects of society and the organisation of production to satisfy human need can humanity now progress. via […]

Comment from Darin
Time July 9, 2012 at 11:42 am

For mine, Paul Howes editorial last weekend lost it’s cred, when it tried to link the Greens to One Nation.

People like Paul Howes need to ask more fundamental (and less hysterical) questions.

How is it that in 2012, there are Trade Unions like the FBEU (NSW) that are not affiliated to the ALP?

How is it that there Trade Union leaders (like me) that are not members of the ALP, and are looking at the Greens as an alternative?

The ALP brokers need to look at that, because they are loosing their base, without which the rest matters not.

Comment from paul walter
Time July 9, 2012 at 8:08 pm

It’s a good article, but John seemed to miss the original, fundamental disagreement, always immanent, that has labor pro “development at any cost”, since it coincidentally thrives more and more on developer donations to stay afloat, whereas the Greens emphasise use value rather than exchange value, in a rational approach to “sustainable” development, consumer capitalism and avoidance of the “unconsidered life”.

Comment from John Richardson
Time July 9, 2012 at 8:15 pm

Hi again John.
Clearly I’m not an economist & maybe I’m not very bright, or perhaps I simply don’t adequately understand the term ‘profit rates’.
To me, whilst we can argue up hill & down dale about whether the current capitalist model can be sustained, including rates of growth, the fact remains that the % of GDP going to profits today vs the % of GDP going to labour has never been higher.
At the same time, the shift of wealth & its concentration in the hands of an increasingly wealthy few, at the expense of the rest of us, is enough for some to quit this game of monopoly.
Whilst I agree that both Labor & the conservatives inherently serve the same master, traditional Labor at least looked after its core constituency (at least I think it did), whereas today they seem content to ignore them.
Again, I would contend that one of the key reasons that there are so disaffected voters out here is simply the fact that they increasingly feel that their interests are not being represented by either of the major parties. In this environment, supporting the Greens – whether you like/agree with them or not – is one practical way to send the major parties that message.
The major parties ignore that message at their peril.
I look forward to your next piece, in the hope that ir adds to my better understanding of the economic issues.

Comment from Ross
Time July 9, 2012 at 8:36 pm

The Greens are truely the Water Melon Party.They believe in the UN ‘s Agenda 21 whereby their “New World Order” or Global Govt will rule over the whole planet with no democratic imput from us.

Ron Paul has betrayed his followers by backing Mitt Romney for president.Romney has been seen at the recent Bilderberg meeting where the Corporate Global Elites (Rothschilds, JP Morgan,Rockefellers,Goldman Sachs etc) decide their next strategy to subjuate the masses even more.

Do you believe in Global Goverance like Bob Brown and Labor John?

Comment from Denis L White
Time July 9, 2012 at 8:41 pm

John. Once again your analysis hits the spot. I have only been accessing OLO etc for a few months but it seems to me that there is a core fundamental missing from the debate. This fundamental is what I would call “trading on the disparities”. These disparities exist between the western economies and those of the poor economies. Up until the 70s the major economies operated within a Keyensian framework of government control which provided a protected and stable economic environment. Most of the western democracies prospered, the size of the pie grew and the workforce could argue for a fairer share. The advent of neoliberalism pulled the rug out from under the manufacturer’s and workers at the same time in every country which adopted them. The removal of the protections allowed international trade to exploit the cost differential between the poor countries and the rich. How can we argue for a bigger share of the pie in this current situation where the pie is being made by slave labour in Asian sweatshops and imported as a substitute for the wealth we once produced within the country? The Australian worker has been dis-enfranchised and substituted by $2 a day slave labor. There are only two remedies, either we work for $2 a day or we reform the protections which once isolated our economy from global corporate exploitation. We are confronted with two right wing parties, a neo-liberal in-doctrinated reserve bank and an ignorant and apathetic population so your call for a revolution of the necessary magnitude would regrettably seem to be a vain hope.

Comment from JN
Time July 10, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Dennis L White, you entirely miss the point and really would do well read some history.

Neoliberalism did not strike as some ideological bolt from the blue, but was a specific and calculated response by the ruling classes of the imperialist core countries of North America, Western Europe and Japan (and their subsidiaries and junior partners in countries like Australia) to the end of the post war “golden era” of high economic growth and high profits that lasted from 1945–1970. In other words, the ruling classes responded to the decline in profitability and the return of economic stagnation with a more or less coordinated program of attacks on the working classes beginning in the mid 1970s. In this context, it is a pipe-dream to hope that the capitalist ruling class in Australia will adopt autarky as a policy and cut itself off from global circuits of capital, into which it is completely integrated, while securing for itself in return nothing but a lower rate of profit than the global average.

Misidentifying the issue as the working class here being disenfranchised by “cheap labour in Asian sweatshops” rather than the continued rule of capital globally, leads you to propose the absurd solution of a return to regulated capitalism which, after the end of the long post-war boom, no longer has any material basis whatsoever.

Comment from Gregory
Time July 10, 2012 at 6:28 pm

The fight for the radical centre continues and Labor knows it must win the hearts and minds of the swinging voters if it is to have any chance at the next election. I for one think its too late for Labor to capture the voting imagination of many, indeed most punters are looking forward to having a stable goverment (of any political persuasion) and if it is to be a Labor government, then a change of leadership is the only chance they have of winning. Gillard will go down in history as the most ideologically impure PM we have ever had, she is neither here nor there, changing gears and direction on a daily basis -it makes your head spin. I have nightmares about listening and watching Gillard give her concessional defeat speech at the next election. Here is a politician whose political instincts and intuition are by any measure pathetic, naive, and hollow. Our first female PM and perhaps our last. Bring on the federal election !

Pingback from En Passant » More ‘extremist’ policies please Greens
Time July 10, 2012 at 9:42 pm

[…] Readers might also like to read another recent article of mine Just who are the real extremists: Labor or the Greens? […]

Comment from Lorikeet
Time July 11, 2012 at 7:36 pm

I think the comparison between the Greens and One Nation are quite good. They are extremists from opposite ends of the scale.

Comment from John
Time July 18, 2012 at 11:03 am

In answer to your question, Ross, no. I believe in the working class governing, before government withers away as classes wither away.

Comment from John
Time July 18, 2012 at 11:06 am

Thanks Den71. The rise of neoliberalism was a consequence of the fall in profit rates in the developed world in the late 60s and early to mid 70s. That fall in profit rates and resultant economic crises destroyed Keynesianism and its claim to deliver economic well being and improvement. Neoliberalism is basically an ideology to shift more and more wealth from workers to bosses.

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