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John Passant

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March 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)



Saturday’s socialist speak out

Gillard and Abbott are using racism to try to win the vote of sections of the working class. Since Labor can’t win that support by badmouthing refugees and locking them up in concentration camps its new approach has been section 457 temporary employment visas and the racist argument that they are used to take ‘Aussie’ jobs.

Some unions have pushed a similar line. The danger of course in all of this is that the unions legitimate concerns about 457 visas being used to undermine wages and conditions has now morphed into pitting some workers against others who happen to be from another country.

The idea behind section 457 visas is to use them to make up for skills shortages in Australia, in boom industries especially, like mining. Australian capitalism has only survived and grown by importing both capital and labour. In the early part of last century that immigration specifically excluded non-whites, but that changed in the 60s and 70s as capital’s needs, in particular its growing relationship with Asia, forced a change to more open immigration policies.

Immigration has the added advantage from the point of the Australian bourgeoisie of getting trained workers on the cheap. Other countries have paid to train the labour and we purloin them. Of late, the 2 neoliberal parties in Australia have cut back on funding education and training with the result the capitalist class needs to import even more skilled labour.

Racism is a tool of the ruling class to divide us and stop us blaming the real culprits causing economic problems. Foreign workers don’t take ‘Aussie’ jobs. If anything they create them by contributing to growth. Unemployment is a function of the profit system, not immigrants or refugees. However from the point of view of the bosses having workers blame refugees or 457 visa holders or to paint Muslims as the enemy shifts blame from their system to another usually powerless group identifiable as ‘different’ becuase of certain characteristics, often race, but sometimes religion.

Some workers respond positively to this racist scapegoating because the nature of work under capitalism is alienating. Under capitalism, the product of our labour is stolen from us. The work itself is often dull drudgery where the boss rules with an iron fist. Democracy in the workplace, and expression of the growing power of workers, would address partially the alienation and susceptibility to racist arguments some workers feel.

On top of that, in some areas unemployment is much higher than the manipulated average rate. The latest figures show the rate of unemployment in Australia is 5.45, although the latest Roy Morgan survey shows it to be more than double that at 10.9%. On top of that nearly 9% of workers want to work longer hours.

In the Western suburbs of Sydney for example the level of unemployment is, on the official figures, between 2% and 3% higher than the national average. This itself is likely to be an under-estimate. So extrapolating from the Roy Morgan research, it is possible that unemployment in Western Sydney is close to 14%.

Western Sydney has a large number of migrants, often from Muslim countries. The visibility of ‘different’ people adds to their likelihood to be scapegoated.

Unemployment is the key. As Laurie Ferguson, the Labor member for Werriwa in Western Sydney said:

We have deep problems in regards to unemployment in western Sydney. People see there’s an insecurity in the workplace. They connect this with the use of 457s.

So part of the solution would be to address unemployment. That would involve a massive program of government spending on for example public housing and renewable energy projects (neither of which the Labor government has any interest in) paid for by taxing the ruling class and the rich (something Labor also has no intention of doing.)

Another part of the solution would be to empower unions to enforce enterprise agreements on all sites for all workers, and in the case of 457 visa holders, to ensure they are being paid the right wages, are getting their proper conditions, are working in a safe environment and are living in appropriate accommodation. Again that is something Labor won’t do becuase its pro-boss industrial laws are aimed at hamstringing unions and as the Grocon dispute shows all levels of the State are about putting profit before lives.

The solution certainly won’t be found in having more women as bosses, which is the theme of the rich white woman’s International Women’s Day, a day when rich white women partied at $100 lunches and wanted more female bosses. This deliberately replaces class with gender. Thatcher, Gandhi, Meir and Gillard aren’t aberrations – they are an expression of capitalism. That is why they attack other women, most recently in Julia Gillard’s case cutting the benefits of up to 90,000 single mums by between $60 and $110 per week, sending them deeper into poverty. The gender pay gap is higher in Australia under Julia Gillard than it was under John Howard in 2004. That is not an argument for John Howard but a condemnation of Gillard.

At the Mardi Gras in Sydney last Saturday in two separate incidents police attacked attendees. A demonstration on Friday of thousands protested outside the Surrey Hills police station to demand the cops stop beating up LGBTI people. What a magnificent response to a police force whose role is to oppress the oppressed and those fighting for equality.

The first challenge to the brutal neoliberalisation of Australian Universities has begun at Sydney University where a successful strike on Thursday closed down much of the University. A two day strike is planned in the near future if management doesn’t back down from its anti-union and anti-worker positions.

In Venezuela Hugo Chavez has died. Chavez was a magnificent fighter against neoliberalism and used his country’s oil – Venezuela is the fifth biggest oil producer in the world – to drastically improve the living, health and educational standards of the poor. He won every election he stood for by margins of between ten and 20 percent. He stood up to US imperialism. None of this makes him a socialist. Socialism is the self-emancipation of the working class, the working class setting up its own democratic institutions to govern in the interests of the vast majority of the people, not for the one percent and their profit.Venezuela did not have that and despite all the bluster and hyperbole about socialism wasn’t on the way through any self-emancipatory process to working class emancipation. Rosa Luxemburg put it well when she said in Reform or Revolution:

It is contrary to history to represent work for reforms as a long-drawn out revolution and revolution as a condensed series of reforms. A social transformation and a legislative reform do not differ according to their duration but according to their content. The secret of historic change through the utilisation of political power resides precisely in the transformation of simple quantitative modification into a new quality, or to speak more concretely, in the passage of an historic period from one given form of society to another.

That is why people who pronounce themselves in favour of the method of legislative reform in place and in contradistinction to the conquest of political power and social revolution, do not really choose a more tranquil, calmer and slower road to the same goal, but a different goal. Instead of taking a stand for the establishment of a new society they take a stand for surface modifications of the old society. If we follow the political conceptions of revisionism, we arrive at the same conclusion that is reached when we follow the economic theories of revisionism. Our program becomes not the realisation of socialism, but the reform of capitalism; not the suppression of the wage labour system but the diminution of exploitation, that is, the suppression of the abuses of capitalism instead of suppression of capitalism itself.

Exactly. Le’s examine dispassionately Chavez’s legacy instead of descending into a cesspit of sycophancy. Of course the desire to see really existing socialism in place (witness the outpouring of Chavez and the love of the Cuban regime) is hard to combat. But combat it we must, and analyse the real class forces at play in Venezuela nd Chavez’s role in continuing capitalism there.

Like all posts on this website comments (see the link under the heading) close after 7 days.



Comment from Chris Warren
Time March 11, 2013 at 7:54 am

Bye, Bye Capitalism …..

As if Marx was not vindicated enough already. Now the ILO has published new data demonstrating that labour is being exploited everywhere and continually.

1) Wages receiving less of their own product over time

2) Capitalist profits accumulating a greater and greater share of wealth

So which university course provides the necessary tools to cope or even understand such long-run structural tendencies?

How do our so-called “post-Keynsians” explain this?

What papers by the Treasury, Department of Finance, EPAC (defunct), Productivity Commission, or Bureau of Industry Economics (defunct) predicted this?

Comment from John
Time March 11, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Thanks Chris. These will come in handy for my research and my blog work highlighting the labour theory of value.

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