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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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Greens support Labor Government in the ACT

Shane Rattenbury, the Greens’ one remaining parliamentary representative in the local ACT Legislative Assembly, has decided to support a Labor Party minority government.

With the Liberals and Labor equal on 8 seats each in the 17 seat Assembly as a result of the 20 October election, Rattenbury was the kingmaker. In a written agreement with Labor, he has crowned the ALP’s Katy Gallagher.

The election was a disaster for the Greens. They lost 4.9% of their vote and 3 of their 4 seats.  Their conservatism in the last 4 years, when they supported a minority ALP government and wrung few concession from them, saw those looking for real change desert the Greens.

Some returned to Labor. Some went to the Liberals, and some went to the Bullet Train for Canberra Group, which won 4% of the vote.

The new Government will be sworn in on Tuesday. Rattenbury has accepted an offer of a Ministry. It is not clear yet what his likely multiple responsibilities will be.

Although he won’t be bound by Cabinet solidarity, the decision to accept a ministry condemns the Greens to further play the parliamentary game at the expense of mobilising their base and challenging the essential conservatism and neoliberalism of Labor and the Liberals in the Territory.

Instead of being outside the tent, Rattenbury will be in it up to his armpits. His attention will not be focused on his base and his constituency voters but often narrow issues.

In other words instead of re-focusing on his supporters he will abandon them for power, a power constrained by a conservative Labor Party and pretend progressive government.

Neoliberalism is the dominant theme of the agreement. Its very first point, its Grundnorm, is, apart from the usual stuff about supporting Labor, a commitment to ‘fiscal responsibility’ (whatever that means).

This is done through the prism of Labor’s neoliberalism. This means the ‘maintenance of a balanced budget through the economic cycle.’

Why? What is so special about Budget surpluses when so much needs to be done to address climate change and the ACT could be the exemplar for the rest of the nation?

But that would involve making the rich pay – a super profits tax on the banks here and a wealth tax on the rich come to mind – but neither Labor nor the Greens are going to do that.

On tax, Rattenbury agrees with Labor about the need for more ‘efficient’ taxes. This is code among bourgeois economists for shifting the tax burden more and more on to workers.

There is some apparently good news in the agreement. ACT Labor has agreed to support or implement legislation for marriage equality.

Rattenbury should make it his first task to introduce a wide ranging Equal Marriage Bill before Christmas. Put the acid on Labor now, not 3 years down the track. Equality cannot wait.

There is no legal or constitutional impediment for the ACT Assembly to pass such legislation.

Labor will try to restrict it with, perhaps, arguments about residency requirements and the like, and the Gillard Labor Government may try to overturn the ACT law in the Federal Parliament.

However Gillard would require majority support from both houses to do that and given more than 60% of Australians support equal love, my guess is not even Gillard would risk the backlash from the public and from some of her own colleagues. Then again this is the Prime Minister who accepted an invitation to speak at the Australian Christian Lobby’s annual conference before Jim foot in mouth Wallace sprouted more of his bigotry against gays.

The task for the equal marriage campaigns is now to get a commitment from Rattenbury to move quickly and not accept any watered down proposals from Labor.

Before the last election the Greens accepted a compromise civil unions Bill, to appease the homophobes in the ACT Labor Party and to prevent any embarrassment for Gillard. Pathetic really. The time for equality is now, Shane.

What else is there in the agreement?

Well there’s the usual floss about battery hens and sow stalls. All well and good, but hardly earth shattering initiatives to save the planet or improve education or health services.

And there will be an allocation of $85 million of Murray-Darling Basin Plan funds to establish new wetlands and clean up the Lakes.  All well and good but…This is the biggest spending item in the agreement. Lakes evidently have a higher priority than health and education.

On education, the parties have agreed to ‘commit to working in good faith with the Federal Government towards the implementation of the revised Gonski recommendations, “National Plan for School Improvement,” under the banner of “Better Schools”.’

Gonski of course is not about reducing education spending on the rich; it is a mechanism for the continuation of supporting wealthy schools. As I wrote about Gonski in February:

Taking the money that currently goes to the rich private schools and adding in the extra $5 billion to spend on public schools and working class private schools would be a start in addressing the crisis of ‘on the cheap’ public education that successive governments, Labor and Liberal, have imposed on us as part of their surreptitious privatisation of public education.

The Rattenbury Agreement looks like a fudge on education.

The Agreement also commits the parties, in classic bureaucratic style, to ‘progress’ light rail. James Hacker will set up a statutory independent authority to implement the project. There is even a target date for ‘the laying of tracks for the first route commencing in 2016.’ This is the year when the next election is due. One can imagine there will be blowouts and delays, so 2016 might become 2017 or 2018.

But wait, there’s more. Attachment 4 to the agreement, detailing Labor’s policies, says the ALP government will establish ‘the ACT’s first large-scale private sector partnership to plan, finance and develop the first stage of a Light Rail Network for Canberra Capital Metro.’

No actual funding.  The funding for the light rail network will come from what appears to be a private public partnership. Let me suggest there will be no private funding forthcoming.

Before the election the Greens promised to commit $200 m from the 2013-14 Budget for light rail with construction beginning in 2015. The Rattenbury agreement appears to have abandoned that. Be suspicious.

There is an extra $24 million for improving the bus system. It isn’t enough and is fiddling at the edges. Why not just buy more buses, hire more drivers and make the buses free?

There is also a commitment to implement a new renewable energy consumption target of 90% renewables by 2020. Again this is a long way off, and it is not clear how much this will increase electricity bills for the ordinary consumer. Ongoing monitoring of progress to this goal will be required to show if the government is serious, and the impact on less well off households should be at the forefront of any action here.

There is a target of 40% greenhouse gas emission reduction by 2020. Again there is a need for ongoing monitoring of progress, as with the aim to make government carbon neutral by 2020. There are no costs given for these commitments.

And for health? The perennial junk food advertising ban during kids television hours gets a run, hidden amongst bureaucratese about working with other jurisdictions to implement it. It is the Greens first health priority.  Mental health will get an extra $35 million.

Now there is nothing wrong per se with many of the smaller elements of the agreement. The priorities seem misplaced – more local government than leading the nation. There is no grand vision – other than muttering about a sustainable and productive economy and weasel words about compassion.

Take housing and homelessness for example. The Rattenbury agreement commits Labor to finalising the CommonGround housing project business case. Wow, finalising a business case. What progress!

Meanwhile the 5000 or so homeless in the ACT will remain without board and lodgings as the occupancy rate in local hotels and motels sees about 5000 rooms per night unoccupied. 

What about jobs? There is no mention of jobs in the main body of the agreement. Attachment 4, which is the ALP’s policies, merely mouth platitudes about supporting jobs growth in the private and public sectors through sound economic management, tax reform and implementing the business development strategy. Let’s vote for mum and apple pie too.

As with the previous agreement in 2008, we may well look back and say, well, yes? Is that it?

The ACT Greens had a chance to be bold and implement a grand vision for the Territory. Instead we got a milksop of an agreement which all but guarantees that the political isolation and decline of the Greens will continue over the next 4 years.

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Comments

Comment from Mary
Time November 5, 2012 at 8:36 am

Both major parties aim to discredit the Greens because they take away votes from them. Real Greens know this and critics of Greens don’t even read any of their policies.

Comment from Gary
Time November 5, 2012 at 3:50 pm

Sorry John, but there are just so many things wrong with this.

As I have said before, you and the SA won’t stand or put yourself before the electorate, yet you bag out those who do. The Greens got 10% Territory wide – 10 % more than Socialist parties got!

Now, you say Marriage Equality comes before the environment, wetlands & waterways and education – it doesn’t. It is symbolic but not as important as people and the planet.

You should also look at what the Greens did. Like the ACT having the best mental health reform in Australia, like the changes to disability and social housing, like banning plastic bags and more.

Light rail and transport is vital to reducing carbon and cars and breaking the capitalist model – yet you bag out Shane for promoting these measures.

Buy more buses? What, more petrol using polluting buses on our roads? More oil from Saudi Arabai, more Greenshouse gas? Really, that’s what you want? And free – where’s the money coming from?

How about cutting uni funding, or schools, or the new MRIs at the hospital, or raising rates and taxes. Which is your proposal – and why not test the support at the 2016 ACT election.

Several times now I have written here asking why you don’t stand and all i get back is murky rhetoric about the masses leading movements.

You can bag out Shane all you like, but he’s in there trying to reduce pollution, improve our environment, save animals from torture, stop waste and give millions more into health and mental health.

And you do little more than be critical.

I think the socialist side of politics is deeply jealous of the Greens and what they have acheived. I think you envy 10% and a seat in cabinet.

I think you are being narky for the sake of it John and you should read your views back again and mention how much the Greens have done.

Comment from John
Time November 5, 2012 at 7:31 pm

I don’t say marriage equality is a higher priority. i say it can be down now, and inf act if the Greens had any guts they would have tried to deliver it in the last Parliament instead of getting into bed with Labor on the cop out that is civil unions. That’s not a one off but a problem with running for Parliament and now taking a ministry.

I am not jealous of Shane. He has turned his back on activism for parliament in the mistaken belief you can achieve real change through parliament without a mass movement. You can’t, and the last 4 years show that and the next 4 years will amplify it.

Look you can talk all you like about reducing pollution but the Greens efforts in the ACT and around Australia are mickey mouse compared to the challenge we face. Beyond Zero Emissions says we could be totally renewable by 2020 at a cost of, from memory, $370 billion. That isn’t going to happen with more Greens (or, if the trends continue) less Greens in Parliament, but in challenging the power of the one percent. I don’t see the Greens doing that. By playing silly parliamentary games in the bosses’ limited democracy they are part of the problem, not the solution.

Comment from John
Time November 5, 2012 at 7:32 pm

I do. That is why there is a link to the Parliametary agreement – the policies in practice.

Comment from John
Time November 5, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Regular and free buses would take thousands of cars off the road every day if it were done properly. Given Canberra is a road city and the infrastructure is already there, rather than spending $200 m for the first stage of light rail spend $30 m to make the buses free. Then buy some more buses – electric rather than petrol – to deal with the increased demand. It isn’t rocket science. Of course others will have done the sums so if they have let’s hear from them.

Comment from Jolly
Time November 5, 2012 at 9:51 pm

Blind Freddie could have seen the Labor-Green marriage at the ACT. One would expect the Liberals to win but the stumbling block for the Liberals continues to be Abbott. A change in Liberal leadership will surely ensure a majority win for the Liberals at the fed elections. We simply cannot afford to see the Gillard-Union-Green borderline govt again for another 3 years. Wake up Liberals!!

Comment from Kay
Time November 6, 2012 at 9:26 am

I agree with the sentiments expressed by both Gary and Jolly. I believe the 2010 Federal election was the zenith of Greens support in this country. ‘Climate change’ was ‘all the go’ at the time and there was a lot of sentiment against the 2 major parties. The Greens’ support had been growing over time as a ‘protest vote’. Just like the Australian Democrats grew over time “to keep the bastards honest”. But now that they have been part of the minority Labor government, voters have had a better opportunity to look at Greens policies and are not so supportive.

I also agree that it is high time we got rid of this high-spending government that would, if unchecked, lead Australia into another Greece or Spain type economy. As effective as Tony Abbott has been in keeping pressure on the government, I too believe it is time for a leadership change to Malcolm Turnbull. He is clearly more acceptable to the electorate as a whole, and certainly more in line with my ‘little l’ Liberal ideas.

I doubt that the Socialists would be prepared to face the reality check that standing for election would bring. I think support for socialism is so low in Australia that the vote would barely register. And once people realised how narrowly-based and impractical their policies are, any pick-up they gained from the ‘protest vote’ phenomenon would quickly dissipate. What I read again and again in John’s comments is a very undemocratic ‘call to arms’ – a revolution that would just create a new, moneyed, repressive elite just like in the USSR. People are people – even the ‘workers’. I believe we are much better off overall with the”neoliberal” major parties we have today. Their broadly 50/50 vote distribution means that they are both bound to implement policies that favour the bulk of the population – and that is reflected in their overall vote, which is complicated only by virtue of a small vote for minor parties and independents. The last thing we need is some extremist government who think they ‘know what is best for us’ – and under our current democratic set-up, thank heavens that would be unlikely to happen!

No, I am quite happy to have a broadly ‘middle of the road’ government. I prefer the Liberals to Labor, but either way, neither are extremists.

As for John’s comment about the ACT government thinking more like local government, well I suspect the size of the ACT budget is more in line with that of a local government. Some time ago (not sure of the figures now) Brisbane City Council’s budget was bigger than Tasmania’s. I think you will find that most people around Australia consider the ACT government more like a local council looking after the nitty-gritty aspects of the greater city of Canberra, much like local councils do elsewhere – dealing with those aspects of community needs that are normally dealt with by a combination of State and local government administration, but because Canberra is so small, these 2 levels of government are more or less rolled into one. As for the ACT government being “the exemplar for the rest of the nation”, I think you will find most people elsewhere in Australia think that Canberra is a very narrowly-based public service town, with great infrastructure and services, and little more.

Comment from John
Time November 6, 2012 at 9:45 am

Socialists have won seats on local councils in recent Victorian elections, standing as socialists – Google for example Stephen Jolly and Sue Bolton. Sue Bull stood as a socialist for Mayor of Geelong and won 10,000 votes.

But having said that, your point is correct. If we stood for election we would do poorly. That mistakes the present for the future. Mubarak’s rule looked solid until it fell. And the project we have embarked on is to overthrow capitalism, not capitulate to it.

Parliamentary elections are elections to manage capitalism, not overthrow it. Our task is to build a mass movement and party of workers to set up their own democratic institutions to run production to satisfy human need. A look at history, from the Paris Commune to Iran in 878/79, shows workers begin to set these up and in some cases do so successfully even if only for a short period of time, e.g. Russia in 1917 when workers transferred power from the bourgeois provisional government to the workers councils, known by the Russian word Soviets.

Socialists standing for elections in a bourgeois parliament would be part of that process of building a revolutionary party, but it is just a tactic to give militant workers a voice, and further the ultimate goal of a totally democratic society. Running for election is not an end in itself. And given the various socialist groups are so small, and the vote we would get would be very poor, the idea of concentrating our efforts on elections rather than in our unions, in campaigns for equal love, refugees, workers’ rights and the like would be madness

Comment from gary
Time November 6, 2012 at 11:44 am

John
If you want more busses and more drivers, do you also support split shifts for action drivers? Or will you stand with the workers and oppose split shifts? And if you’re with the workers, can you provide a costing of how for $30 million goes over the forward estimates for full-time drivers and new buses?

Comment from Kay
Time November 6, 2012 at 1:47 pm

It is interesting to note that the only member of a Communist Party to be elected to a parliament anywhere in Australia was a Queenslander, Fred Paterson. Fred Paterson, Rhodes Scholar, unionist, activist and lawyer was elected to the north Queensland State seat of Bowen in 1944. Prior to that he was an alderman in the City of Townsville City Council. He retained his seat in the 1947 state election. An electoral redistribution, and Bob Menzies’ virulent anti-Communist campaign at the time, contributed to his loss at the 1950 state election. However, he was involved in the successful push against Bob Menzies’ moves to outlaw the Communist Party.

Although I lived in NSW as a child, I did know about Fred Paterson at the time – at Communist Party meetings there was discussion about how he was just the first of a hoped-for long line of Communist Party parliamentarians. Alas, not so! Bob Menzies’ campaign was highly effective and later infiltrated the Labor Party, with the subsequent formation of the breakaway extreme Right Wing and Catholic Democratic Labor Party. And that was the end of the Labor Party til Gough Whitlam’s 1972 success.

Comment from John
Time November 6, 2012 at 5:05 pm

It is a lot cheaper than $750 million for light rail. And yes I stand with the TWU on this. Light rail is in part about attacking jobs.

Comment from John
Time November 6, 2012 at 5:10 pm

So do the Greens oppose more buses and more jobs for bus drivers and better conditions? Says it all really – just another bosses’ party.

Comment from gary
Time November 7, 2012 at 8:36 am

I thought the Greens opposed more polluting buses and drivers given part time split-shift jobs, not full-time jobs.

But the real issue is about political parties representing a percentage of the population. The Greens vote ranged from 6% to 15% in the ACT, averaging about 10%.

This is for a party that delivered the best mental health funding in Aust, a major boost to disability support and social housing, a lakes/wetlands policy, banning plastic bags, transport that removes the stranglehold of multinational oil capitalists and more.

I think workers in the ACT want their city to be free of pollution and traffic jams with giant diesel buses spewing filth into the air.

I think workers want the best possible health system and an education system that gives their kids quality schools.

Workers want better OH & S laws and better oversight of building sites (which the Greens did).

All i hear from Socialists is a call for strikes and mass action against neo-liberalism. i don’t see costed policies about how our health system will improve under socialism. How will the ACT retain specialists and buy new medical equipment under socialist policies?

I don’t see the SA putting up policies on carbon pollution. Will socialism reduce greenhouse gases, and if so, how? How can socialism do this and not close coal and other mines and take jobs away?

Even if workers own the means of production (e.g. mines and manufacturing), isn’t it a given they will protect their own jobs, even if that means more pollution, more waste, more greenhouse gas in the air?

The reason there is little support for socialist policies is because you do not present us with costed policies and leaders to debate and discuss. You just present rhetoric about workers and mass movements and ideology that was relevant 100 years ago but is no longer.

I’d like to see your alternative (costed) policies for the ACT; how you’d pay for them, how they would improve the environment and the health and well-being of working people.

Comment from John
Time November 7, 2012 at 9:44 am

Costed policies? You mean posted as part of the bourgeois process? I dunno – let’s start with taxing the rich. That’ll fund enough for dental health care for all, public education for all, renewable energy by 2020. Read my article on this site called A left wing Budget? about really taxing the rich. (https://enpassant.com.au/2012/05/09/a-leftwing-budget/) The Greens won’t tax the rich, although I see from today’s Financial Review that moves are afoot to investigate the $120 billion in tax expenditures. That will probably involve takign away tax benefits for working people.

The ACT Greens had costed policies on light rail and a commitment to spend $200m on it in the next year and construction to begin in 2015. Funding is conspicuously absent from the Rattenbury agreement. No money is there for light rail at all – apart from in the appendix ALP nonsense about what appears to be a public private partnership. And the Rattenbury agreement talks about 2016, not 2015. I$200m and construction beginning in 2015 was a never never promise, which Shane abandoned anyway to become a Minister. So much for costed policies.

Comment from gary
Time November 7, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Can I move this on from the local to the national and posit this John: why are policy costings part of the bourgeois process?

Surely budgets – be they yours or my household, or national – are needed so we know how much we are spending and what the priorities are?

Surely all forms of governance, be they capitalist, communist or something inbetween, require a budget that accounts for income/revenue and expenditure?

For example, I believe transport that is non-polluting, is the way we should proceed. But if, for example, light rail or monorails or magentic trains, cannot be built without taking monies from elsewhere, then that is an issue needing transparency.

If increasing taxes is the solution, is this infinite? If we tax the rich at say 50%, will we reach a point where there are no more rich people and that revenue stream dries up.

There are some countries where the rich are few and far between, so while increasing tax is something I favour, is it the only mechanism to pay for other policies?

And what if we are like the UK in the 70s when many professionals left due to high taxes? What if medical specialists and engineers and university professors and scientists left Australia because of high taxes, would that impact on our ability to provide for workers?

So I argue that we need representatives from the socialist side (and all sides) to stand at elections and put their plans forward so we can see what the country or territory will look like under their proposals.

I guess John I am confused that you want us to see your perspective and politcal outlook as being for the better of us working people, but you don’t provide us with the details of how this will be brought about and what it means to each of us in terms of our society and economy.

Comment from John
Time November 7, 2012 at 6:58 pm

The ‘details of how this will be brought about and what it means to each of us in terms of our society and economy?’ How about full democracy where decisions are made by all, where production is organised democratically to satisfy human need. Taxing the rich is a slogan and practice for today not for a future when no rich exist because no money or wages exist. Why the focus on elections? They don’t change the system. They don’t even challenge it. It is for the puppets who at best want minor changes. Costings have constrained the Greens. Where is the grand vision, the hope for a saved planet? Nowhere. My task is to build a socialist alternative from the tiny group it is today to a much larger one that is truly a revolutionary party of thousands and which can then influence the class struggle and other struggles. Wasting our time on elections is a distraction from that. Costings and the like – which i note the Greens didn’t do but submitted to the Treasury to show their bourgeois respectability and to show the working class they could run capitlaism for them – are irrelevant in this context. But the cost of true democracy for the bourgeoisie would be the loss of their system and their theft of profit from workers. The attraction or not of these ideas depends ultimately on the level of struggle in society. No struggle means a right wing society and the Greens are not immune from that.

Comment from John
Time November 7, 2012 at 8:26 pm

I think the issue is you imagine Gary that change, real change, comes from Parliament and I think it comes from the struggle – eg against Vietnam, apartheid, the stalinist dictatorships, the US puppets and not so US close puppets in the Middle East.

So I see the issues you raise (eg spending priorities) as being decided by workers in democratic institutions where all the information available is at hand to enable the debate to be had, and driven by the desire to satisfy human need, not to make a profit.

That means building a party that can do that. It means not getting bogged down in parliamentary games.

One problem with this approach is that it divorces us from most workers, people who do have illusions in Parliament, the Greens, the ALP or even the Liberals.

But that isn’t going to last forever as the fight against austerity in Greece and other countries shows. And so it is necessary now to build that party around a clear set of ideas that attract or can attract the most militant section of the class to join and fight. It is running to where the ball will be, not where it is.

That doesn’t mean not having policies. Moving to a totally renewable society by 2020, closing down Nauru and Manus Island, welcoming all refugees, ending the Northern Territory intervention, taxing the rich (which will as you say possibly see some of them leave or not invest so nationalise those companies under workers’ control), increasing spending on health and education (eg move to the Finnish model), end the wars of ours bosses, abolish anti-strike laws and anti-worker laws, increase the level of Newstart, the pension, implement equal pay immediately and so on.

The problem with costings is that it puts profit before people (or can do so.) Instead of shroduign ourselves in bourgeois economic respectability we want to satisfy human need and that changes the conservatives and the rich who always say where’s the money coming from. Our response – from you, for a change.

The money is there. We are a low tax country and if capital or capitalists flee take over their companies.

Comment from Gary
Time November 8, 2012 at 8:00 am

Thank you John for a most considered response.

But surely even if you are right, there has to be some system of parliament or government based on elections, where ideas and values are contested?

If the revolution of workers happens as you aspire to, surely we will still have elections and a parliament of some sort where the people choose who represents them?

Socialism, as I understand it, doesn’t mean dictatorship. So parliament, or a place where people can be represnted, must continue.

Therefore, the people have a right to know the ideas and values and priorities of the people who say they’ll represent them?

I am lost a bit in your answer because I read it as implying parliament doesn’t matter. Yet it is only through administrations that we end (or start) wars, that we redistribute wealth, that we creat universal health care and modern transport and so on.

Who else can change the taxation system or address media ownership or remove our military but a central governent? The people cannnot just rise up and take away mining royalties or close industries – unless that is by armed revolution, and I hope you’re not advocating that.

In South Africa, you are right, it was a mass movement of workers that ended apartheid. But then the ANC stood at elections and won the right to form government.

Now the ANC put up policies and budgets and run election campaigns – are they neo-liberal too? Is the ANC a bourgeois party?

Who will restore Greece’s economy? A mass rabble of violent protesters destroying shops and houses and cars of fellow workers, or a political party?

BTW, the Greens have a grand vision. Bob Brown articulated at the Press Club and in writings and speeches. It’s a beauty too!

Comment from John
Time November 8, 2012 at 8:35 am

There can be no socialism without democracy. But as revolution after revolution, from the Paris Commune in 1871 to Russia in 1917 to Hungary in 1956 to Iran in 1979 and Bolivia in 2005/06 shows, that democracy arises from the working class setting up, or beginning to set up, its own institutions of governance, or workers councils. We know them by their Russian name – Soviets – a short lived democracy that died because of the destruction of the working class, the Civil war and foreign intervention and most importantly the failure of the German revolution in 1918/19 and 1923. But that is another story.

It is in these mass democratic councils – immediate recall, average wages, elected from the workplace and other recognised groups – that debates about the future of society – renewables for example and how to move quickly to such a society – can be debated and decided, free from the constraint that stops all the current debates – is it profitable to do this? That question would be replaced by does it satisfy our needs as human beings to do this? And I would have though climate change and hunger would be the first key priorities any international socialist society addresses. Not in terms of is what we are doing going to make a profit but in terms of – these are basic human needs – for food and for a harmonious environment – that we need as humans.

Re South Africa, the biggest and most respected left party, the South African Communist party – thoroughly Stalinised – had a two stages theory of revolution. First the democratic revolution with victory to the bourgeoisie to develop and increase capital relations across the country and at some far off time socialist revolution when workers are more developed. Of course it was South African workers, especially through COSATU, who were the main force in overthrowing apartheid and had the potential then and there to begin the socialist revolution. The SACP didn’t provide the leadership to do this because of the 2 stage theory of revolution they clung to. Their influence in the working class meant no alternative theory let alone practice could gain an audience.

The end result has been the defeat of political apartheid but not economic apartheid. That is the task for South African workers today. That puts socialist revolution objectively on the agenda there (it has been there for decades in reality) but in all honestly not subjectively on the agenda.

Yes, the ANC is a thoroughly capitalist party, and cannot even challenge the rule of capital to provide for better conditions for the mass of its supporters. This could present an opening for left demagogues in the ANC to preach change and hope. But in the end it is the overthrow of capitalism in South Africa by workers that offers hope for workers and the poor there.

There is I think another point. The best reformists are revolutionaries. So as we get bigger and put forward progressive policies – eg increasing Newstart, opposing dumping single mums on th dole after their last child turns 8, moving to a totally renewable society by 2020, the question of cost becomes important and so for example on that latter point I adopt the Beyond Zero Emissions analysis of costing $370 billion over ten years to become totally renewable energy society. Where’s the money coming from? The polluters, and from those who more generally benefit from the polluting system – big business. It is a class issue – it is their pollution, make them pay.

I thought Bob’s vision was fairly narrow and based on conservatism and neoliberalism. He doesn’t challenge entrenched power, he bows before it. The logic of this is McKim in Tasmania attacking public schools.

Comment from Lorikeet
Time November 8, 2012 at 9:04 am

The Greens are certainly good at fooling some people into believing they are the new Messiahs. Luckily most people can see through them.

I thought socialism and communism were largely the antithesis of democracy.