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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)



Can we bring the ideas of Hugo Chavez to Australia?

The disaster for Labor in the Western Australian election is part of the pay back for Labor’s 30 years of neoliberalism, of shoveling more and more wealth into the lap of the rich. If only people like Rinehart, Murdoch, Palmer, Packer and Forrest were made even richer we’d be so much better off. Ha!

Western Australia’s economy is going well. The resource boom has created a demand for jobs in mining areas and provides the State with a revenue base which means it can pork barrel with its revenue for regions program and other handouts. The money isn’t used to address disadvantage, poverty, lack of public housing. But it means that the minority Liberal government in the west didn’t need to take a meat axe to public servants or public services. Now that they can govern in their own right the ideology of neoliberalism might see that change.

Meanwhile in a land far away Hugo Chavez died. If you read most of the mainstream media he was of course a dictator. Why, he had the temerity to win each of the presidential elections he stood in between 1998 and 2012 by margins of between ten and 20 percent. President Jimmy Carter described his 2007 election as the fairest of the many he had observed.

By the way, Chavez’s smallest victory was last year when an organised opposition won 45% of the vote compared to his 55%. That 55 to 45 margin is the same margin polls are giving to the Liberals and National party over Labor federally. If  it is a forthcoming landslide for Abbott on 55% then it was a landslide of democracy for Chavez too.

Chavez set up a campaign to enroll millions of poor people to vote, obviously an anti-democratic move if you are rich. He did lose one vote – a referendum on constitutional changes and like all true dictators accepted the people’s verdict.

His opponents of course are all democrats. Many of them supported the coup against Chavez in 2002. The US, that great democratic nation recognised the new coup d’etat government, before a mass movement of millions defeated the coup and re-instated Chavez as their president.

Chavez obviously also controlled the media. How else to explain millions of poor people voting for someone not only talking about addressing their poverty but actually doing something about it? Of the 7 major media conglomerations, five support the opposition and only one gave support to Chavez.

It is true that the State television was biased towards Chavez. Just as it was with its massive 5.4% audience reach to every other President.

Of course in Australia press freedom is alive and well with 70% of newspapers owned by Rupert Murdoch.

Chavez reduced the poverty of millions of Venezuelan people. He did this on the back of oil revenue. Venezuela is the fifth largest exporter of oil. After the coup attempt, and then an oil strike by capital, Chavez nationalised the oil producers and has used the revenue to improve the life of millions.

Here are a just a few of the things he did for his people, according to Venezuela Analysis.

1. Introduced universal health care;
2. Quadrupled the number of doctors per thousand of the population from 20 to 80;
3. Introduced universal access to education, with illiteracy eradicated in 2005;
4. Decreased the poverty rate from 42.8% to 26.5%;
5. Decreased the rate of extreme poverty from 16.6% in 1999 to 7% in 2011;
6. As a consequence of his policies the GINI coefficient, which calculates inequality in a country, fell from 0.46 in 1999 to 0.39 in 2011, the most equal society in South America.

The US Gini coefficient was almost the same as Venezuela’s. Australia’s Gini is almost 0.33. In 1982, before the election of the Hawke Labor Government it was 0.28. In other words while inequality is falling and living standards improving in Venezuela inequality is increasing and living standards are falling in Western countries like the US and Australia.

What about workers? Venezuela Analysis again:

33. Since 1999, more than 50,000 cooperatives have been created in all sectors of the economy.

34. The unemployment rate fell from 15.2% in 1998 to 6.4% in 2012, with the creation of more than 4 million jobs.

35. The minimum wage increased from 100 bolivars ($ 16) in 1998 to 247.52 bolivars ($330) in 2012, i.e. an increase of over 2,000%. This is the highest minimum wage in Latin America.

36. In 1999, 65% of the workforce earned the minimum wage. In 2012 only 21.1% of workers have only this level of pay.

37. Adults at a certain age who have never worked still get an income equivalent to 60% of the minimum wage.

38. Women without income and disabled people receive a pension equivalent to 80% of the minimum wage.

39. Working hours were reduced to 6 hours a day and 36 hours per week, without loss of pay.

What the rich around the globe and in Venezuela object to is Chavez’s anti-neoliberalism. They hate his redistribution policies from the oligarchs who used to run Venezuela as their own fiefdom to the poor and workers.

He has offered an alternative vision for millions inside and outside the country. It is a successful model that the dictators of capital and its latest ideology and practice, neoliberalism, cannot abide, and cannot allow.

That vision isn’t socialism, although Chavez may have set in train a process which leads to a radicalisation among workers and sees them possibly setting up their own councils to democratically run society. That would involve smashing the very state Chavez used to redistribute wealth to the poor and working class.

Chavez wasn’t always the pure saint some of the radical reformists of the left have painted him as. His anti-US imperialism led him to support repressive regimes like those of Ahmadinejad in Iran, Gaddafi in Libya and Assad in Syria. And within Venezuela a state capitalist bureaucracy is developing, what some call a bolibourgeoisie, whose interests are not those of workers and the poor.

Accepting these criticisms, Chavez stands like a giant compared to say Julia Gillard, the women who has sent 90,000 single mums into deeper poverty, who designed a minerals super profit tax that has collected a pittance and whose government oversights the ongoing shift of wealth to the rich and powerful.

In the Western Australian election on Saturday Labor’s vote fell to 34%, a swing of 2.3% against it. the swing against the Greens was 4% ad against independents 3.7%, according to Antony Green’s ABC website last updated late on Saturday night and with 75% of the vote counted. The swing to the Liberals was 8.8%.

All the usual waffle and misanalysis has begun. Labor is in trouble federally. Gillard should resign.

I have a suggestion for Labor. Abandon neoliberalism. Adopt a radical program like that which Chavez put forward. Tax the rich to improve the lives of the 2.2 million Australians in poverty and fix up the 17% gender gap. Use this money to negotiate a treaty with Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders.

That of course would just be the opening salvos of a radical program to fundamentally challenge the rule of capital.  It would involve nationalising the banks, mining companies and the other big battalions of capital and massively increase spending on public health, education, transport and social payments and develop a real program to address climate change.

It won’t happen because reformism is not a matter of will but of social circumstances, in particular the level of class struggle in society and the amount of surplus value available to the state to tax to provide for improved social services and welfare. The surplus value, the wealth we create and the bosses expropriate, is there. The class struggle isn’t.

Even from a purely vote winning perspective you’d think some of the ALP geniuses might twig that racism over 457 visas isn’t going to be a winner but that rhetoric about taxing the rich to make the lives of workers and the poor better might win some votes. It might also open up a space for class struggle to win wage increases on the job.

That is why, along with the fact Labor has been thoroughly infected by neoliberalism for over 30 years, that this rhetorical let alone actual radicalisation from them won’t happen.

It is up to us as workers to radicalise the debate, policies and outcomes.  Striking for better wages would be a good first step to win back some of the ill-gotten gains from the bosses would be a good start. Let’s give the bosses a dose of real class war.

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



Comment from Peter
Time March 12, 2013 at 10:17 am

Excellent information about Venezuela, very good analysis of the current situation, and excellent proposals for redressing the imbalances in our society. Such a shame it runs counter to the beliefs of most Australians in the absolute superiority of the USA way of governing, because to believers, the only facts that count are those that support their beliefs. It’s why human societies only react to catastrophe.

Pingback from En Passant » Truths the neoliberals dare not print
Time March 12, 2013 at 7:32 pm

[…] so far submitted but unpublished article, based to some extent on a previous article by me called can we bring the ideas of Hugo Chavez to Australia? I have cut and pasted from that and added in a bit about how pathetic Labor look in comparison to […]

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