ga('send', 'pageview');
John Passant

Site menu:

November 2012



RSS Oz House



Subscribe to us

Get new blog posts delivered to your inbox.


Site search


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)



What’s the alternative to the two parties?

There isn’t a significant left-wing alternative on Election Day this year. Lance Selfa, author of The Democrats: A Critical History, explains in Socialist Worker US what it will take to get there. Although written before the outcome was known, Lance’s points are relevant in understanding the need to organising the fightback against President Obama and 4 more years of his austerity and war.

EVERY PRESIDENTIAL election year, we’re told that this is the “most important election of our lifetime”–and that there are huge differences between the Democratic and Republican candidates.

But this year, one of the most remarkable things has been the narrowness on which the Democrats and Republicans have campaigned for support. Not only is the focus on seven to nine “swing states”–essentially ignoring roughly four out of every five people in the voting-age population–but the issues being contested are also so narrowly conceived.

Huge questions–from an ongoing global economic crisis to climate change to the stunning growth of inequality–face working people. Yet it’s hard to find much real discussion of these fundamental problems in U.S. electoral campaigns.

Even mainstream commentators have noted how many important issues didn’t even come up in the presidential debates. Tim Price, a blogger at Next New Deal, counted 37 mentions of the federal deficit during the first debate between President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney–versus zero references to climate change, immigration or labor rights, and only four mentions of women, with two of them being about the candidates’ wives.

On this score, the third and final Romney-Obama debate probably marked an even lower point. There, the entire discussion of U.S. foreign policy revolved around the “war on terror,” Israel, the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and relations with China. Completely absent was any acknowledgement of the European economic crisis or any substantive discussion at all about Latin America.

Despite a few poll-tested shades of difference in their rhetoric and well-practiced rhetorical “zingers,” Obama and Romney offered no differences of substance on any of the foreign policy issues they “debated.” When debate moderator Bob Schieffer asked Romney to comment on Obama’s use of unmanned “drones” to fight an undeclared war in Pakistan, Romney answered:

Well, I believe we should use any and all means necessary to take out people who pose a threat to us and our friends around the world. And it’s widely reported that drones are being used in drone strikes, and I support that and entirely, and feel the president was right to up the usage of that technology, and believe that we should continue to use it, to continue to go after the people that represent a threat to this nation and to our friends.

So there you have it: Mitt Romney pledging to serve Obama’s second term.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

SOCIALISTWORKER.ORG readers can no doubt make a list of critical issues that have been almost entirely ignored in the 2012 electoral circus: the massive expansion of attacks on civil liberties and the means of repression under Obama; Obama’s assertion of the right to assassinate U.S. citizens; the prison-industrial complex, the failed drug war; and increasing privatization of U.S. education, to name a few. These issues are ignored for a reason. Both major parties have essentially the same positions on them.

But even on the issue that Election 2012 ostensibly turns–the economy in the aftermath of the Great Recession–the mainstream debate is far removed from the concerns of the majority of the U.S. population. Instead of a discussion about rising income inequality and the continuing crises of jobs and housing, the two candidates and their parties have once again elevated the deficit into the most crucial problem facing the country.

Even Obama’s campaign for moderate tax increases on the rich, which sounds like a response to rising income inequality, is actually more about his plans for a “grand bargain” to lower the federal deficit. The other side of that grand bargain–accounting for at least twice as much deficit reduction as additional revenues–is massive spending cuts, including in Medicare and Social Security, with devastating consequences for millions.

No matter how many times the opinion polls show that concerns about the deficit pale in comparison to concerns about jobs and inequality, the mainstream debate always seems to revolve around the deficit anyway. Romney openly talks about sacrificing the social safety net to “balancing the budget.” But Obama’s plans for a “grand bargain” does the same. As the liberal economist Robert Kuttner wrote on Huffington Post:

So what is our president doing to shore up his support by reassuring voters that things will pick up in the next four years? More public investment, more jobs, more overhaul of the financial system, more relief for the mortgage mess, right?

Well, not exactly. While he gives lip service to these goals, Obama is preparing to do a major deal for deficit reduction, which will only add to the drag on the recovery. His administration has bought into the argument that the business elite and the money markets expect deficit reduction, and that it will also play well with the voters.

So when Socialist Worker asks: “Who will be the next President of the United States of Austerity?” we know that “Romney” and “Obama” are both correct answers.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

GIVEN THIS bipartisan conspiracy against the interests of working people, the question is: Where does the alternative to a grim future of austerity, war and inequality lie.

To answer that question, it’s necessary to look away from the multibillion-dollar electoral extravaganza to examples of politics away from the ballot box–like the uprising in Wisconsin in early 2011, last fall’s Occupy Wall Street movement or this fall’s Chicago teachers’ strike.

Each of these struggles, in its own way, represented an attempt to provide some response from working people and their organizations to the bipartisan assault on their living standards.

The Wisconsin mobilization against right-wing Gov. Scott Walker’s attacks on the poor and on public-sector workers featured a sickout of the state’s teachers and the weeks-long occupation of the state Capitol building. Although the Wisconsin uprising ultimately did not succeed in stopping Walker’s assault, it marked the first major outpouring of a working-class response in an economic crisis that has devastated millions.

In many ways, the Occupy movement picked up on Wisconsin’s inspiration and set many thousands more people into motion in protest against a political economy rigged on behalf of the “1 percent”–the wealthiest and most powerful people in the country, whose wealth and power increased during the Great Recession. Occupy likewise didn’t produce needed change, but its emergence did more in a few weeks to inject the issues of economic inequality and political corruption into the national consciousness than years of blather by the politicians.

A Pew Center poll taken in the wake of the Occupy upsurge last year found that two-thirds of Americans named conflict between the rich and the poor as the most important divide in society. In 2009, the same poll reported that most Americans saw the chief conflict in society as being between immigrants and citizens.

This was one illustration of how Occupy helped to crystallize class anger, while giving thousands of youth and working people a sense that they could take action on behalf of the 99 percent.

It’s instructive to look at how the Democrats, the supposed “party of the people,” reacted to the Wisconsin uprising and to Occupy. In Wisconsin, the Democrats and their liberal satellites in leading unions ultimately succeeded in channeling the upsurge of energy and working-class protest into a series of elections aimed at recalling right-wing state senators and Walker himself. That strategy failed miserably.

In relation to Occupy, Democratic-led city governments, with coordination coming from Obama’s Department of Homeland Security, organized military-style raids to push activists out of the public spaces they had occupied. This happened around the time that Obama, launching his reelection campaign, started to describe himself as a “warrior for the middle class.” As in Wisconsin, the Democrats were happy to appeal to the sentiment that Occupy represented, while making sure that no independent movement challenging the bipartisan consensus continued.

Today, national politics has moved away from the “big picture” issues that motivated Wisconsin and Occupy and back to the small-bore conflicts over candidate gaffes and focus group-tested appeals to specific slivers of swing-state voters. Unions and civil rights organizations, which could be mobilizing their memberships to press for more far-reaching change, are absorbed into the multibillion-dollar election machinery as appendages of one of the two parties of corporate America.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

MILLIONS OF people rightly fear that a Romney/Ryan administration would attack the “99 percent” on behalf of the “1 percent.” Whatever they really hope for, they see the reelection of Obama as a “lesser evil” to the disaster they anticipate from Romney/Ryan. The Democrats are happy to play to this sentiment, without having to offer anything positive for their core supporters to vote for.

For those who, in the words of Eugene Debs, want to vote for what they want, even if they won’t get it, can they find a real alternative on a ballot?

There are referenda and initiatives, where voters can make some positive change (by supporting equal marriage measures in Maryland, Washington and Maine) or at least stop measures that would take us backwards (such as harsh restrictions on labor’s political voice under California’s Proposition 32).

But when it comes to elections for political office, the U.S. electoral system provides very few means for working people to vote for an alternative to austerity and war.

For those looking to register their protest against the two-party duopoly on Election Day, there are candidates on various state or local ballots to consider.

On the national level, the Green Party presidential ticket of Dr. Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala provides an alternative for those who want to vote for full employment, single-payer health care, breaking up Wall Street banks and cutting the military budget in half. In California and other states, voters can make a similar statement with a vote for the Peace and Freedom Party candidacy of actor Roseanne Barr and anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan.

But we have to understand that these campaigns are shoestring efforts–certainly without the movement backing that recent campaigns of Ralph Nader had, especially his 2000 Green Party candidacy. Back then, Nader captured the imagination of thousands of activists across the country–many of them newly radicalized by the global justice movement. Nader and the Greens posted the highest left-of-center third-party vote since 1948.

No similar left-wing electoral alternative exists today–not on the national level, nor the state or local. So we need to spend our time building on the lessons of the upsurge of struggle of the last two years–from the Wisconsin uprising to Occupy Wall Street to last spring’s anti-racist protests against the murder of Trayvon Martin. Although confined mainly to one city, the recent Chicago teachers strike provided another example of how working people and their allies can mobilize and win against the bipartisan austerity and corporate education “reform” agenda.

Above all, our side will need to figure out how to confront the austerity and oppression that will continue to come our way, no matter who wins in November.



Comment from ross
Time November 8, 2012 at 7:58 pm

You and I know John that the two parties like here, are owned and controlled by the banking military industrial complex.

The solution is to remove the private banksters power of the creation of money from nothing, so they don’t have absolute power.

The other remedy is a proper constitution like they used to have in the USA,that protects the people from their Govt.

Bush and Blair have been found guilty of war crimes in a Nuremberg style court in Kuala Lumpa.It would be good to see them and many others face real justice.

Comment from Gary
Time November 9, 2012 at 3:03 pm

Ross, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed but President Obama – the man you say is controlled by banking military industrial complex, withdrew US forces from Iraq and is doing the same in Afghanistan.

He is also cutting the military budget and changed the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ rule .

I’d hate to see a President that was captive to all these bankers and military types … oh I have: Putin in Russia, that so-called communist/socialist nation-state!

I think the reason there is no alternative party in the US and Australia is as I’ve argued with John before. Unless you show the people what your policies mean, how they will be implemented, what will happen when you close down industries and banks and the military, when you confiscate assets and wind back structures, when you redistribute wealth and reduce revenue.

I agree with quite a lot of what John writes – he is articulate and clever and has much of worth to say – I just wonder though about the view of strikes and revolutions and tearing down these neo-liberal structures and attacking the banks when you’re doing so from the point of people WITHIN these same structures.

I can’t complain about banks when I have a credit card and a loan. It’s my choice. I can live without these. I don’t have to own a car or house. I can grow my own food. I can walk to work or cycle if I don’t mind a two hour hike.

I can not read Murdoch papers or watch commercial TV or participate in neo-liberal universities or with neo-liberal politicians.

My question is, by participating in these things, are you not helping to prop up the very system you say needs to be brought down?

Comment from ross
Time November 9, 2012 at 7:08 pm

Gary I believe in freedom of the human spirit for all humans and with our new amazing new technology,it is possible without being a burden on the environment.

An elistist view of a few who know best,whether it have a socialist or fascist bent ,will always mean enslavement for the masses.

Comment from John
Time November 9, 2012 at 10:25 pm

Conspiracy theories Ross are the classic elitist theories and you my friend are full of them and the secret knowledge the rest of us aren’t privy to or convinced of.

Capitalism is a system of exploitation and alienation. To break the chains requires an overthrow of the system that enslaves us. This isn’t just ‘banksters’; it is the whole system of exploitation, of paying us less than the value we produce, of war and hunger and discrimination and oppression, of our divorce from our human nature and the rest of society.

Comment from John
Time November 9, 2012 at 10:33 pm

No. One has to participate in capitalist society to survive. However if workers withdrew en masse in an organised fashion from that society – i.e. went on indefinite strike – the system would grind to a halt and the obvious question of what to replace it with, or how to organise production to stay alive, would arise. The answer then becomes democracy and production organised to satisfy human need. We produce enough already to give everyone on the planet a good standard of living. The problem that stands in the way is profit and the accumulation process. Accumulate, accumulate, that is Moses and the prophets or some such Marx wrote.

Comment from ross
Time November 10, 2012 at 9:44 am

John I think you are in denial about who holds the reigns of power.The US Federal Reserve a private cartel of banks creates from nothing all the money for the US Govt to function.This means the increases in productivity and inflation get excpressed as debt by private banks.They own us and our Govts.They can turn on or off the money tap at will.

JFK just before his death 0n 4th June 1963 signed excecutive order 11110 which was going to eliminate the powers of the Private US Fed to create money.He had money already printed in the name of Congress ready to be distributed.Unfortunately he was assassinated in Nov 1963.

Eventually all the money in our economies is equal to all the debt.Our total debt is 85% of GDP.US debt is now greater than their GDP.

Obama under left cover has been worse than Bush.He expanded the wars into Pakistan, Lybia and now is strirring trouble in Syria.He brought in Preventative Dentention,legalised the assassination of suspected terrorists,and now The National Defence Authorisation Act,yet people like Gary see him as some sort of saviour.

Pres Dwight Eisenhower went to great lengths to warn us about the Military Industrial Complex.They now own the two major parties and it makes little difference the people vote for.

The eilites have always conspired for power no matter what their nationality.The Brits,Yanks and Israelis have just been sneakier ,more ruthless and worked harder at it that most.

Both Paul Keating and Malcolm Fraser have warned us about following the US policy of encircling and containing Russia and China.Are they conspiracy lunatics too?

Comment from Lorikeet
Time November 13, 2012 at 9:44 am

I’d say there is plenty of merit in the opinions of both John and Ross, and see no reason why they could not happily co-exist.

The grossly misnamed superannuation system has the western world by the financial short and curlies. Clearly when people’s financial existence in retirement depends upon the abuse of workers by bankers and other large corporations, eventually an incredible backlash is going to occur.

When wealthy people can put large amounts of money into the “tax haven” of superannuation, the government misses out on collecting taxes on the income each year. Then global banksters feel free to regularly create a GFC (great financial crime) , thereby collecting that “taxation” for themselves, gaining control of, and abusing, the workforce and also buying up the government’s income producing assets and utilities.

An increase in superannuation contributions to 12% will make it difficult for small to medium sized businesses to remain afloat, and I think we have good reason to suspect that wage levels will also be sacrificed.

Keating and Fraser are a pair of idiots who do not care if we are sold out as a nation. In fact Keating can probably take the greatest responsibility for our nation’s backsliding economy.

At this point in time, both Australia and the USA are moving (along with the rest of the world) towards the development of 7 economic unions designed to bring all nations on earth down to the lowest common denominator.

Neither the USA or Australia is encircling Russia or China.

I’m sure China would like to develop an Asia/Pacific EU by 2020 (supported by Rudd), but the USA will ensure they only get the upper portion.

Russia will eventually form an EU with the Ukraine and Middle Eastern nations.

Obama will set up his own EU comprising North America and surrounding nations, once his warships have finished sorting out the Asian and Pacific EUs using a large military presence in the Pacific.

So I guess there is a bit of essential containment happening there.

Write a comment