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John Passant

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January 2013



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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)



Labor – a party of bigotry

Labor has traditionally been a party of bigotry, a party of ruling class bigotry.

Its formation after the defeats of the strikes of the 1890s saw many workers and their leaders substitute Parliament for direct action as the motive force of history, as the agency of change.

One of the first acts (and Acts) of the Australian Commonwealth in 1901 was to implement the White Australia policy. This was a policy born of British colonialism and an expression of the role of Australia as a white settler state in Asia.  It was a ruling class strategy to protect British and Australian capital in the country.

The Labor Party supported it enthusiastically against other workers on the basis of their skin colour to supposedly protect wages and jobs here.

Just as ever since it has supported whatever the dominant ruling class position has been on imperialism and war, racism and women’s oppression, homophobia and religious intolerance, and keynesianism or neoliberalism. Occasionally, and mainly in response to the forces of the left and working class mobilising and forcing it to do so, it has taken minority ruling class positions that can perhaps even give it the cover of progressiveness. On rare occasions it is forced to attack capital to buy off mass movements and perhaps even halt their development outside the bounds of the system.

Attacking unions, privatisation, floating the dollar, attacking single mums, gays and lesbians, racism and sexism, and now accepting religious bigotry – that is what a reformist party, intent on managing capitalism, and looking for ways to ‘Stockholm’ the working class, does.

Labor’s lack of direct links with the ruling class in the past enabled it on occasion to impose solutions on capitalists in the interests of capital.  However the class collaboration that now dominates the union movement, and has done since the Accord discussions in 1982 with Labor, has destroyed the fighting left in the unions and concentrated power almost exclusively in the hands of the class collaborationist retailers of labour to the bosses.

The end result has been an ALP which is thoroughly neoliberal, or as John Quiggin puts it, market liberal, that attacks Aborigines through the Northern Territory intervention to further dispossess indigenous people and help put downward pressure on wages, that blackbirds refugees to concentration camps offshore and onshore, that refuses to recognise equal love and under whose time in Government the gender pay gap has increased and now seems stuck around 17.5%.

Despite the revisionist attempts of former economics professor and current Labor MP Andrew Leigh to reclaim the ALP as a liberal party since its inception, standing supposedly in the tradition of Alfred Deakin, the change is more recent. Andrew’s arguments are an attempt to justify its retreat into and complete surrender to market liberalism.

There is or should be nothing surprising about this. Labor in government has always adopted the dominant ruling class economic ideology. Indeed it was the Hawke and Keating governments which started the neoliberal project in Australia and laid the groundwork for Howard and the rehabilitation of his right wing ideas, policies and ‘persona’.

The latest example of Labor’s capitulation to bigotry is its Human Rights and Anti-Discrimination Bill. As David Marr put it in the Sydney Morning Herald, ‘It’s a bigots’ charter.’

It allows religious institutions, and the schools and hospitals and other services they run with public funds, to discriminate in employment against people who don’t have the anointed faith. Further it allows them to discriminate against employing gays, lesbians, unmarried people ‘living in sin’, bisexuals, transsexuals and single mothers. These ‘sinners’ have no place in the world of the pure. Just ask some of the paedophile priests whom the Catholic Church has protected and protects.

Labor’s Bill will entrench discrimination by those who claim a higher calling for support for their rotten bigoted positions.

As Marr points it this also means these ‘sinners’ have no employment security in religious institutions.

The ALP was too gutless to even distribute school funding from rich private schools to poor schools. It is too gutless to attack bigotry masquerading as religion too.

OK. Gutless is not the right word. It takes real guts to impose the bosses’ agenda, including its bigotry, on working class resentful in its core to the increasing inequality, pay and other limitations and restrictions attacks on jobs and unions.

Some of Labor’ policies might resonate with the less unionised and class conscience section of the class. However the problem then becomes the workers, accepting the logic of capital accumulation and all that goes with it including racism, homophobia, sexism and religious bigotry might vote for the original rather than the carbon copy.

Thus the social conservatism and reaction are the logical conclusion of the ALP being a party of capital, even if it also has links to the working class though the trade union bureaucracy, that group of vultures hovering over the working class waiting to sell its carcass to the bosses for the best price. Labor is a CAPITALIST workers party.

The first step in fighting this bigotry is to recognise that for 30 years workers have chaffed under the restrictions of neoliberalism. While average wages have increased, the share of national income going to labour is at historic lows. In other words the gains of the last 3 decades have gone disproportionately to capital.

When the unwritten compact collapses, eg with the spread of the economic crisis engulfing Europe and North America hit Asia and Australia, that uneasy alliance may be broken.

However what is required then is an organisation with working class roots, with a working class approach and an understanding that the crises of capitalism, economic and environmental, can only be overcome eventually by a revolution of the majority, the working class, in the  interests of the majority.

That’s why it is important to fight every manifestation of Labor’s neoliberalism now, its attacks on workers, its racism, sexism and homophobia, its kowtowing to religious bigotry.

But that will not be enough because any gains, even if won though mass action, itself problematic in today’s environment of class peace, will be under attack as the needs of capital for more and more profit reinforce the attacks on women, Aborigines and the discrimination against gays and lesbians and the acquiescence to religious bigotry of all parties in government, Labor or Liberal.

A revolutionary workers party, big enough to offer an alternative vision of real democracy and production to satisfy human need, is needed now. That is what Socialist Alternative and its unity project is about.



Comment from Kay
Time January 15, 2013 at 7:18 am

I’m glad to see that at long last you have woken up to the dangers of the proposed new anti-discrimination legislation. I did raise this concern a month ago, but, as usual, you just dissed my concerns! The first I was aware of it was from a speech by renowned jurist and ABC Chair, Jim Spigelman (December 2012).

You should be worried! Freedom of speech is under attack. Under the legislation, it is sufficient that you merely ‘offend’ someone on the basis of a listed attribute. You are then guilty until you can prove your innocence (i.e. the onus of proof is reversed). And then, despite your proven innocence in court, you are still required to pay all court costs. A feast for lawyers!

I am pleased to see that at long last the press is starting to raise concerns about this draconian legislation.

Comment from John
Time January 15, 2013 at 7:38 am

Hey Kay, did you actually read the article or did whoever writes your stuff on this shift just make your response up based on a few sentences? I don’t see this as an attack on free speech. The real attack on free speech is the private ownership of the media.

Comment from Mike
Time January 15, 2013 at 10:58 am

It could be argued that the conditions for the independent revolutionary left have been quite favourable over the past 4 years: a global crisis of capitalism and very little enthusiasm for the traditional labourist/social democratic parties. And yet in countries like the UK and Australia the revolutionary left is a marginal political presence.

It is not clear to me why a regroupment involving SAlt and SA will make much of a difference. In the absence of a significant revival of class struggle politics I strongly suspect any merger will prove to be a somewhat stressful relationship.

Comment from Kay
Time January 15, 2013 at 6:20 pm


I was merely picking up on your reference to David Marr’s comments criticising the proposed Human Rights and anti-Discrimination legislation. I too have concerns.

Have you actually seen the draft legislation? I can only assume you have no problem with anti-discrimination law that falls completely outside of similar relevant international law, and is outside of similar legislation in any other liberal democracy around the world. And nor do you have a problem with ‘guilty until proved innocent’? You seem to be very happy with Nicola Roxon’s latest efforts.

I would have very grave concerns about the government controlling the media outlets. Then we’d see the sort of freedom of speech that exists in China, the former USSR and North Korea. Great! But maybe you’d think it fantastic – no private ownership.

Comment from John
Time January 15, 2013 at 8:12 pm

Mike, I think your statement: ‘In the absence of a significant revival of class struggle politics I strongly suspect any merger will prove to be a somewhat stressful relationship.’ has a lot of merit. I think the difference is that I see building the nucleus of a revolutionary organisation to party in the here and now to be able to position itself for when the class struggle revives of vital importance. It is what I wrote about as running to where the ball will be. But let’s see. Regroupment may allow that to occur. It may not. As to stressful, yes, I think there will be moments once the euphoria does down and reality hits. One good thing for me so far is the strengthening and forging of links with left groups in other countries, the much wider hands on international experience and the space opened up for discussion about feminism and women’s liberation.

Comment from Mary
Time January 15, 2013 at 8:46 pm

You are so right about the ALP biggots and the catholic influence within the party that controls pre selection. Hence the poor position of women in the party. The fact that after all these years and many ALP governments women still do not have equal pay! The class society is advanced by the ALP inner circle that define policy. The only time the community are involved is at election time. I speak from experience of being a member of state executive in the 80’s. I saw no democracy within the operations of the party then and it is the same today. The problem is it is difficult to get people involved in a new party or a revolusion as they are always fed cake to keep them quiet, or sport.

Comment from Vacy
Time January 21, 2013 at 11:35 am

Brilliant article John, thank you

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