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Keep socialist blog En Passant going - donate now
If you want to keep a blog that makes the arguments every day against the ravages of capitalism going and keeps alive the flame of democracy and community, make a donation to help cover my costs. And of course keep reading the blog. To donate click here. Keep socialist blog En Passant going. More... (4)

Sprouting sh*t for almost nothing
You can prove my 2 ex-comrades wrong by donating to my blog En Passant at BSB: 062914 Account: 1067 5257, the Commonwealth Bank in Tuggeranong, ACT. More... (12)

My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/18-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-g20-meeting-age-of-enttilement-engineers-attack-of-austerity-hardship-on-civilians.mp3 (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. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2014/02/11/john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-2/ (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. http://sharonfirebrace.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/4-2-14-john-passant-aust-national-university-canberra-end-of-the-age-of-entitlement-for-the-needy-but-pandering-to-the-lusts-of-the-greedy.mp3 (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
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Sick kids and paying upfront

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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
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. http://sharonfirebrace.com/2013/12/03/john-passant-australian-national-university-8/ (0)

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Free speech, Afghanistan and treason

For 40 years I have been raging against the capitalist machine in all its manifestations – war, genocide, poverty, human rights abuses, working class exploitation, economic crises and the racism, sexism and homophobia which act as a glue for the system and the Labor Party and trade union leadership which are its staunchest defenders and the rock on which it survives.

So it is only occasionally that I am surprised by what the system does or vomits up.

I was surprised for example when a Law School colleague at the University of Canberra gave me a Nazi salute as their way of telling me I was a little Hitler for standing up against the further neoliberalisation of the University. I was surprised when the Dean of the Law School at the University of Canberra issued a gag order against me for correctly describing a group of bullying ‘Justice’ colleagues who had removed the commercial lawyers’ books and journal articles from the Faculty display cabinet as a faction.

However some thinking about the issue dissipated the surprise. The University of Canberra is at the forefront of the neoliberal ‘revolution’ in higher education and those who resist the privatisation of academia will be the target of abuse and ultimately the end of employment. It is no accident that for standing up against neoliberalism in the University sector I am now seemingly unemployable as a tax law academic.

Of course personal experiences are small beer compared to the slaughter of 1 million Iraqi civilians, the thousands of dead Afghan women and children, the billion people starving and the other billion malnourished. However they give flesh to understanding the beast and resisting it.

Sometimes the response of the elite or its paid popinjays can crystallise why you continue to fight for a world where all are fed, all are safe, all are educated and healthy.

Neil James’ call to criminalise dissent over Afghanistan under the guise of ‘reckless treason’ in his recent letter in The Canberra Times, clearly in response to my letter on Afghanistan, is one such instance. It did not surprise me; it shocked me.

Here is what he said, in part:

The recognition, discouragement, prohibition and punishment of irresponsible acts are necessary reciprocal obligations every Australian owes to the fellow citizens our government lawfully commits to war. As with many other offences, our treachery laws need further reform to also criminalise reckless acts.

My views were clearly the sort of ‘irresponsible’ act that needs suppressing.

What was it that inspired James to make this suggestion? What had I said that deserved amending the law to put treasonous bastards like me away?

Here’s what I wrote about Afghanistan: ‘We invade and occupy their country for over a decade, kill their kids and impose a puppet regime of warlords and drug thugs on them. Why on earth would they want to kill us?’

For this I should be called treasonous and potentially be jailed?

If James’ suggestion were taken up (and one wonders if an Abbott government might do this) the end result would be that people like me who express doubts about or disagreements with the Western invasion and occupation of Afghanistan could be charged with treason under his amended law and if or when found guilty jailed for a few years.

Neil James’ call is not some one off. It occurs regularly during capitalism’s wars. In World War I for example Tom Barker from the Industrial Workers of the World, or Wobblies, was jailed for twelve months for producing a poster which urged workers to follow their bosses into the trenches.

IWW antiwar poster

The recruitment poster that earned a gaol sentence for its creator, Tom Barker of the IWW. (Image from Wikimedia Commons)

In 1917 Billy Hughes made membership of the Wobblies illegal because they pointed out the reality that it was a war to carve up the world and were at the forefront of the anti-conscription campaign, attracting more and more support.

The state framed 12 members for fires in Sydney as a warning to radicals not to oppose the imperialist war.

During the second world war the thoroughly stalinised Communist Party of Australia was made illegal, until Hitler invaded Russia and then the CPA, following orders from Stalin, became the most fervent supporters of the slaughter in the second imperialist war. There were laws banning strikes, and suppression of the press and right to freedom of association.

During the Cold War Menzies banned the Communist Party, until the High Court found his law unconstitutional. The Commonwealth did not have the power to ban political parties, although presumably the States do.

During the Vietnam War protestors were framed on all sorts of different charges. In Queensland Joh Bjelke-Petersen’s authoritarian laws were used to suppress anti-war and anti-apartheid demonstrations and strikes and have become a template for today’s right wing lust for order over freedom.

Since 9/11 the ruling elite have used the war on terror to try to expand their power offshore and, as a concomitant, to strengthen their power at home with more and more restrictions on freedoms and rights.

In Australia a plethora of laws now exist to deal with ‘terrorism’. They alone are probably sufficient to deal with trouble makers like me if the State wanted. After all, with an ASIO file as long as your arm, and now a regular blog they can take material from to add to their files every day, it wouldn’t take much ingenuity to charge me with some outrageous crime. They won’t because Australian society has not yet swung to the left and in any event why make martyrs of marginals like me?

The reality is their oppressive laws are not about terrorism but about repressing dissent.

David Hicks, Doctor Haneef, Mamdouh Habib are all who have felt the whip of authoritarianism.

Guantanamo Bay, extraordinary rendition, torture, the imprisonment without trial of Bradley manning for two years in solitary confinement, the attempts to get Julian Assange to the US for a trail that carries the death penalty, the support around the globe for vicious but pro-western governments which kill, rape and imprison their citizens – these are not aberrations but a consequence of a system built on the drive for profit and defence of the particular concentrations of capital in certain nation states to steal the wealth we create for their own purposes.

This encroaching authoritarianism has been a consequence of economic decline. The crisis of Western capitalism began in the late 60s and early 70s as the tendency of the rate of profit to fall reasserted itself with a vengeance.

Neoliberalism became the ideological, economic and political expression of the ruling elite’s attempts to address the crisis with longer hours, increased productivity, cutting living standards and shifting wealth to the rich from the poor and workers.

In Britain, Margaret Thatcher came to power in 1979 bearing the torch of neoliberalism; in the US it was Ronald Reagan in 1980, and in Australia it was the election of the Hawke Government in 1983 which witnessed the adoption of a range of neoliberal policies in Australia to attempt to address the underlying crisis of profitability.

These included privatisations, restrictions on strikes which made most industrial action illegal, attacks on unions like the Builders Labourers Federation and the pilots who attempted to break out of the stranglehold of neoliberalism and class collaboration, exemplified by the Accord.

The ability to engineer a shift of wealth from labour to capital, as one of the main mechanisms to address the falling rates of profit, was made possible in Australia without much opposition because of the co-option of the trade union leadership and its class collaboration.

The end result has been a freefall in union membership over the last three decades, a massive shift in wealth to the rich from the rest of us, and a collapse in class struggle from its peaks in the late 60s and early 70s of about 1200 days lost per thousand workers to around five today.

Globally it looks as if the brutality of neoliberalism worked as capitalism stabilised and profit rates climbed somewhat from their lows of the early 70s.

However not allowing business that were too important to fail meant that the next recovery was weaker and the next recession deeper.  And on it went – weaker recoveries and deeper consequent recessions, until the Great Recession, known more commonly as the Global Financial Crisis or GFC. The GFC mark II is eating away at the economies of Europe and North America and spreading to Asia.

The long slow decline of the western economies and the rise of neoliberalism as the ideological justification for making workers pay for the crises of capitalism requires an ongoing and creeping authoritarianism.

This authoritarianism manifests itself in various ways – gag orders at work in my case, unemployability for challenging the neoliberalisation of Universities, but more generally restrictions on the right to strike, security legislation allowing people like Doctor Haneef to be held without trail for 12 days, turning back the boats, locking up refugees in onshore and offshore concentration camps, and allying ourselves military with the major world power, at the moment the US.

It means screening at airports not to catch terrorists but to warn us – you are being controlled. It means Nicola Roxon using ‘terrorism’ as the word to justify forcing ISPs to keep 2 years records of all communications.

Part of the neoliberal agenda is to use the state to control or destroy unions and strikes. Thus Labor and the Liberals in government have tightened the restrictions on the right to strike so that now all strikes are illegal in Australia except in certain limited circumstances.

When building workers in Melbourne recently fought for representation on site at the Grocon Emporium building to enforce safety, they were met with at one stage over 1000 cops, court orders, Fair Work Australia orders, contempt proceedings and threats of fines and jail for their actions.

Meanwhile the 50 building workers who die a year lie dead, buried and forgotten. More will join them.

It may at first blush seem ironic that we are fighting for democracy in Afghanistan by suppressing it in Australia. When we realise we aren’t fighting for democracy in Afghanistan but for US imperialism and the expansion of the power of the Australian ruling class in our immediate region the irony hopefully disappears.

Militarily it has been the case of Australia following the leader.

Since 1885 Australian capitalism has attached itself to the dominant imperialist power for two reasons. The first is to provide it with an insurance policy if it is threatened. The ANZUS Treaty is the latest version of that insurance policy and Australia’s dead in Afghanistan and elsewhere are the price the Australian ruling class pays for that.

Second it gives Australian capitalism the opportunity to expand its influence in the region. The occupation of East Timor, the Solomon Islands, the ‘aid’ to the South Pacific are part of that strategy.

The US invasion of Afghanistan was not about terrorism. The Taliban had offered to hand Osama bin Laden over to another Muslim country for trial. The invasion was part of US geopolitical strategy to show its military strength to the rest of the world and as part of its attempts to contain China.

Now if Neil James gets his way, under for example an Abbott government intent on imposing austerity on Australia and needing draconian laws to enforce their slash and burn agenda, then analysis like this that you have just read will become illegal. The ‘James’ amendment’ would end our ability to resist the one percent’s wars and fight against the war mongers and war criminals that they and their mouthpieces are.

If all of this means that sometime in the future I’ll have to write my articles from a prison cell then so be it. I won’t be the first and I certainly won’t be the last revolutionary imprisoned for their views.

The rise of China as an imperialist challenger to US rule mirrors the period before the first world war when an encircled Germany attempted to break out of its confinement by militarily challenging Great Britain, the major imperialist power doing the confining.

The difference is that the economic relationship between the US and China today is so enmeshed and interdependent that any military conflict threatens both economies and the global economy. With both powers having nuclear weapons the possibility of major catastrophe is real, so the situation also has echoes of the Cold War and mutually assured destruction.

Given that the US is still the dominant military power by far, this means it will use its military force to intimidate any potential long term challengers to its imperialist domination.

Australia has a role in this. Our troops in Afghanistan are part of that US containment of China policy, just as they were in Iraq. The Iraq invasion, using the lie of weapons of mass destruction, was about securing US dominance in the region and being able to shut off the flow of oil to China.

That is partly why China is looking to Africa for minerals and resources. It is why China is encouraging fossil fuel exploration in its own country and toying with alternative energy sources.

All of this means that a declining US economically makes for a more dangerous world as it will be more inclined to use its military power to defend its still significant economic power.

Australia is playing a forward role for US imperialism not just through supplying cannon fodder in Afghanistan but also setting up a US military and drone base in Darwin. There is also of course the valuable role the US spy bases in Australia perform for US imperialism.

Now if Neil James gets his way, under for example an Abbott government intent on imposing austerity on Australia and needing draconian laws to enforce their slash and burn agenda, then analysis like this will become illegal. It will put at risk the ability to take a different view and to fight against the war mongers and war criminals that our ruling class and it solutions are.

If all of this means I’ll have to write my blog from a prison cell then so be it. I won’t be the first and I certainly won’t be the last revolutionary imprisoned for their views.

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Comments

Comment from stephen p
Time September 9, 2012 at 1:22 am

May you live free and long my brother !!!!

Comment from Ross
Time September 9, 2012 at 10:42 am

An excellent article John.Billy Hughes was a nasty Imperialist suck up.The Commonwealth Bank for the first 11 yrs of it’s life created some of the money for our growing economy and Huges took that power away thus making us debt slaves to private banks.Hughes was also warning then that Japan needed to be contained because of their successful industrial base and their independant financial system.

The USA forced Japan into WW2 by restricting their trade and trying to cut off their energy supplies.They wanted to subdue Japan just like they are now trying to subdue China.

Malcolm Fraser is now speaking out against this Imperialist push for Global Dominance.He has resigned from the Liberal Party because it has aligned itself with this imperialist push that has no consideration for individual rights or their well being.

This is a time in our history, no matter what your political beliefs to stand up for free speech,in being able to express the truth and basic have human rights.They are all being stripped away as you have noted John under the guise of terrorism.

We see in todays papers the head of ASIO warning about home grown terrorism and the need for laws to be beefed up to strip away even more of our rights.

Far more people are killed by their wars than any so called terrorist could ever achieve.

It is now revealled that the Gulf of Tonkin incident which was the trigger for the USA to attack Nth Vietnam ,did not happen.It was the excuse for the USA to profit from the sale of arms and the chemicals such as Agent Orange which are still affecting people there to this day.

Keep up the good work John in speaking the unpalitable truth.They are looking for an excuse to have a conflict with China and Russia.

Comment from peter
Time September 9, 2012 at 6:12 pm

“I certainly won’t be the last revolutionary imprisoned for their views”.
A mild revolutionary at that. No mention that the US China containment policy is behind US support of the “rebels” in Syria or behind the hounding of Iran, for example.
Excellent article by the way.
Nor that China is about to beat the US in the race to exploit mineral mining in Afghanistan. Although I suspect we will hear more of that anon.
I would join you in prison had I not just decided to close down my website. Still, with prison to look forward to …?

Comment from John
Time September 9, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Perhaps because the Syrian revolutionaries – the masses – are fighting a vicious dictatorship for freedom and food and helping open up the possibility of eventually defeating imperialism in the region.

Comment from V. George Venturini
Time September 10, 2012 at 2:57 pm

Dear Citizen Passant,

I wonder if you would be good enough to send me your e-mail address, so that I may share something/s with you.

I look forward to the pleasure of hearing from you and thank you in advance.

Warmest regards,

George.

Comment from John Richardson
Time September 10, 2012 at 7:38 pm

Hi John.
Try not to worry too much about our friend Neil James … he’s ‘barking mad’ & always has been … still hasn’t acknowledged that the torture of ‘detainees’ by the US, Britain & Australia military forces & their surrogates is anything to worry about … morally bankrupt.
Incidentally, I’m not aware that Australia has declared war on anyone since the 2nd world war, so to oppose our involvement in foreign adventures, based on lies & deception & in support of the likes of Bush, Blair & Howard, is an obligation not a crime.
Maintain your rage, with my support John.

Comment from Denis L White
Time September 10, 2012 at 8:46 pm

Hi John and to other commentors a word of encouragment. I have read many of your posts and comments which to me seem securely based on a strong sense of humane justice. I raise no argument with such lucid and justified comment. Clarion voices in a wilderness of ignorance and apathy on one hand and stupidity and self interest on the other. 40 years john, Jesus spent only 40 days and nights according to the word. What ever it is that sustains you , may it continue. I draw strength and inspiration from posts such as yours and have joined the fight against neo liberal greed, corruption and exploitation. Under the sun all on earth are equal.
Den71

Comment from Rigby Taylor
Time September 10, 2012 at 9:27 pm

Alarmingly true – all of it, and alarmingly depressing that it is simply the natural way for humans to behave and there’s nothing we can do about it. I’ll visit you in jail.

Comment from John
Time September 10, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Well, I was being a bit hyperbolic about the jail stuff. At this stage anyway. But there is something I reckon we can do about it – resist. Rage against the machine. And most importantly organise.

Comment from John
Time September 10, 2012 at 10:15 pm

Thanks John.

Comment from John
Time September 10, 2012 at 10:16 pm

Thanks Denis.