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John Passant

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August 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)

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Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

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Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
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There’s a Labor Left?

Evidently there is a Labor Left. How do I know this? I read about it in The Australian.

Martin Ferguson, one of the Labor Left’s leaders The Australian informed me, was telling the States to sell of their electricity assets.

That worked a treat for Anna Bligh’s Labor Government in Queensland, didn’t it? How many seats do the have now in the 89 seat Queensland Parliament. Seven? Yes, seven.

And then I saw a photo of the vote in the House of Representatives in the Federal Parliament on the Pacific Solution and black-birding asylum seekers to concentration camps on Nauru and Manus Island.

The Opposition and the Government vote together  against a Geens amendment supported by Adam Bandt and Andrew Wilkie in Parliament House  in Canberra on Wednesday 15 August 2012. Photo: Andrew Meares 
Photo: Andrew Meares

Adam Bandt from the Greens and Independent Andrew Wilkie voted against it. One Liberal and one ALP member expressed their reservations.

Labor and the Liberals held hands to vote for the Bill. 148 or thereabouts for, 2 against.  It gives new meaning to the two party system.

All of the Labor Party, including this mysterious beast called the Left, voted for the abuse of refugees and their indefinite detention.

Anthony Albanese is a leader of the Labor Left. He said it was time for the Greens to put aside their ideological blinkers. FFS. Holding hands with the Liberals is adopting their ideology, Albanese.

And that is the problem. The adoption of the Coalition’s inhumane refugee policy is not some aberration in an otherwise perfect left wing social democratic party introducing a range of reforms to benefit workers and the poor.   

It is yet another example of Labor’s stampede to the right. And the further to the right the ALP moves the lower its vote, viewed long term.

This political degeneration first became noticeable in the early 80s with the Hawke and Keating leadership and the Accord. This was the agreement between government, business and unions for all parties to worship at the altar of profit.  

The Accord cut real wages over time, destroyed rank and file union organisation and limited strikes. It was class collaboration institutionalised.

It laid the ground for the victory of John Howard in 1996.

The Accord and later industrial relations arrangements were and are so successful that the share of national income going to capital is now at its highest ever; that to labour its lowest.

Working hours are well above the mandated 38 hours full time. It is so bad that one senior union leader at a May Day rally I was at last year remarked that we should begin a campaign for the 8 hour day.

The Accord and the move to class collaboration were an attempt to address falling profit rates across the developed world. The warriors of neoliberalism – the ideology of wealth shifting from labour to capital – included not just reactionary warriors Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher but in Australia Labor leaders Bob Hawke and Paul Keating.

Labor did what is has always done – embraced the dominant ideology of the time, in this case neoliberalism.

This market worship had political consequences, most noticeably not only a  shift to the ideology of the free market but the individualisation of politics, the destruction of mass participation in politics either directly on the streets or indirectly through parties.  

The political consequences of economic liberalism were in addition to this atomisation of political participation a fair dose of social conservatism, found for example in Julia Gillard’s forthcoming keynote speech at the Australian Christian Lobby orgy of reaction in a few months in Canberra. This of course is a reflection of her fierce oppositon to same sex marriage.

But it has also meant the user pays principle is entrenched in the minds of many so that resistance to, for example, the creeping privatisation of public education, public health and the like has become muted.

This lack of resistance is reinforced by the collapse in combativity of the unions whose strike levels are now about 1/200th of what they were 40 years ago.

This has all been possible because of what appears to be Australian exceptionalism. The economic figures, no matter how dodgy, show the Australian economy to be the envy of the world.

Low unemployment, low inflation, growing living standards, adequate social services, low government debt, all mark Australia as a gold medal economy.

This seeming economic nirvana has been built on that shift of wealth I mentioned, engineered with the connivance of the trade union leadership, the lengthening of the working day, often unpaid, increased personal debt among Australian workers and the booming Chinese economy. Australia is China’s mining quarry.

The irony is that despite the good economy the Gillard Labor Government is hated and will be tossed out at the next election.  The Conservatives will sweep to power and as the true neoliberal barbarians they are they will cut down the trees to see the weeds grow.

This Australian economic exceptionalism will be short lived as the Great Recession continues to wreak havoc in Europe and North America and spreads across the world. Thus the Chinese economy is slowing. 

As the Australian economy worsens, the conditions for the successful defence of jobs and winning better pay and conditions weaken.

On top of that there is no political expression of the left big enough to even make meaningful propaganda about an alternative way forward let alone lead struggles.

Which brings me to the non-parliamentary left in the ALP. The ALP has groups like Labor for Refugees and Rainbow Labor. It has trade unionists with good ideas about struggle and solidarity. It has radical social democrats who do actually want to improve the lives of millions of workers.

Surely now that the complete degeneration of Labor as a party of social democracy has become clear to almost everyone else in Australia, those good people in the left of the ALP should be rethinking their approach.

This is not to argue they should abandon politics. It is to argue that they should re-evaluate both their commitment to reformism and look again at the alternative, revolutionary socialism.

 It is to suggest they leave the ALP and join the revolutionary left or at least work closely with us.

That way we can fight together for immediate reforms, for refugees, for equal love, for better wages and conditions, in defence of jobs, for better government services together, without the left in the ALP being shackled to the reactionaries. And with the ultimate goal in mind – socialism, a democratic society where production is organised to satisfy human need.



Comment from Shane H
Time August 15, 2012 at 10:36 pm

And of course the Greens voted against it – thats Adam Bandt sitting next to Wilkie in the photo.

Given that the Centre Left Greens are being denounced as extremists – and the Conservatives have won huge victories in NSW and QLD – and presumably federally next year – why would the ALP Left think its a good idea to consider revolutionaary socialism. What social force would compel such a rethink.

Sure we should think beyond elections but its pretty clear that the population as a whole is moving to the right in protest. Outside of Brisbane the population in QLD voted for Katter by a 15% margin (with no time for KAP to organise) and not to the Greens). The Greens make some headway in inner city as an alternative to ALP but not elsewhere. There’s no left in the ALP since there’s no competing political visions – just a factional mechanism for allocating places at the trough.

Outside Parliament union strength is depleted theres no mass movement driving change (the gay marriage movement has some momentum which is good).

The population is convinced its hard done by, that we are about to go under, and we are being invaded by refugees (and in QLF 1000s of public servants are losing their jobs). So not much to look forward to there.

We need ideas but abstract calls for revolutionary socialism aren’t gonna move people – even less so the parliamentary wing of the ALP.

Comment from John
Time August 15, 2012 at 11:12 pm

It is a call to ordinary ALP left members to think about their positions and role in the party, not a call to Albanese and Ferguson. You may be right, maybe none of the remaining decent socialists in the ALP are moved by the events of the recent days on refugees. Calling on them to think about their role and to work with us makes perfect sense as far as I am concerned.

Comment from John
Time August 15, 2012 at 11:13 pm

And of course the struggle looks bleak, except Equal Love. So what better time to reflect on what we do and reflect on our roles and join together where we can in struggles of the day like equal love and for refugees?

Comment from Lorikeet
Time August 16, 2012 at 9:09 am

I think there are lots of people who cannot even get a full-time job. Unemployment and underemployment are both more of a problem than overwork in many instances.

Labor and Liberal governments continue to provide excellent opportunities for the banks to take over hospitals, schools and the housing market.

I’m sure the Labor/Liberals plan is to pass the vote to the Greens, so they can continue on with, and ramp up, their corporate/environmental agenda to bring the people of all nations down to the lowest common denominator.

Information that proves that a prominent former Greens candidate and bosom buddy of Bob Brown supports Infanticide and Bestiality has been removed from the internet.

I believe that the UN will soon ban offshore processing and close down the camps on the Thai/Burma border. The huge redistribution of populations that will follow will give the Australian government further excuse (after deliberate setup) to turn infrastructure over to the corporate sector.

Most people will accept this because they believe that the proceeds of various public ripoffs will be returned to them in superannuation.

I also anticipate that the retirement age will be lifted further (even for the older people) and most people will either die or be deliberately terminated before any financial reward is ever reaped.

The UN will set up 7 economic unions throughout the world in order to generically de-democratise the world and bring in a corporate neo-communist government, trading off a Greens agenda.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time August 16, 2012 at 9:27 am

Further to my previous comment, Shane is correct in thinking that an INITIAL MOVE by voters will be to the right of politics.

When they continue to hammer the poor and lower paid workers, and Joe Hockey brings in his “Asian style welfare system”, the vote will break up and go to the Greens and other socialist parties, Katter’s Party, and the Democratic Labor Party.

In other words, it will be the patriotic groups who support the poor, the worker and the small business person who will occupy the federal parliament in 2016, unfortunately also with a large continent of corporate neo-communist Green pretenders.

There are plenty of rich yuppies who support the Greens. This is probably because they wish to continue in their quest to land all of the pollution, traffic congestion and infrastructure on the urban working class, and to ramp up pollution in the third word, while they themselves enjoy a clean, quiet, pristine environment in semi-rural areas.

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