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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)



Truths the neoliberals dare not print

I have published below an article I submitted to all the major mainstream newspapers in Australia. Only the Financial Review had the decency to get back to me to reject it ten minutes after I submitted it. I had submitted it first to them because of their sickening editorial crowing about the victory for the wealth creators in Western Australia.

Now it may be that I write crap. Fair enough; but let the editors tell me that.  Of course the real issue is the politics of the piece, a sort of warmed up social democracy for Australia. That doesn’t suit the interests of the one percent so they don’t publish radically different views. They do publish differences but thy are disputes within the neoliberal tent, not outside it usually. It is part of the manufacture of consent Chomsky talked about, a regime that dissident voices challenge and so cannot be published, normally.

Occasionally the Murdoch or Fairfax media will publish an alternative voice,  a socialist or radical social democrat railing against the world as it is and its injustices. It might do this to show its broad mindedness, or to appease a section of its readership fed up with the usual neoliberal diet shoved in their face day after day and not impressed by the dross the so-called left wing journalists dish up.

We readers might even tire of the safe leftists like Krugman and Quiggin, writers whose analysis does not challenge the dictatorship of capital but in the end reinforces it.

Sometimes mainstream media will publish an article by a socialist because it tells them something abut their own system they can’t learn from the usual sources, stuck as those usual sources are on the surface of capitalism and never understanding its deeper drivers. They see the tip but not the rest of the iceberg.

Here then is my 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 Chavez or even moderate social democracy.

I am not sure about the conclusion, or even about giving advice to the ALP, but that can be discussed in the comments section. The advice is really just a mechanism for highlighting the conservatism of labor.

So what do you think?



The disaster for Labor in the Western Australian election is part of the pay back for the ALP’s 30 years of neoliberalism, of shoveling more and more wealth into the gullets 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!

Meanwhile in a land far away Hugo Chavez died recently. What did Chavez do? He lifted millions of Venezuelans out of poverty. According to Venezuela Analysis his redistribution policies decreased the poverty rate from 42.8% to 26.5% and decreased the rate of extreme poverty from 16.6% in 1999 to 7% in 2011.

He did this on the back of oil revenue. Venezuela is the fifth largest exporter of oil. After the 2002 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. Don’t tell anyone, but Australia is a cornucopia of mineral wealth with 2.2 million people living in poverty and with the number increasing over time.

Chavez introduced universal health care and quadrupled the number of doctors per thousand of the population from 20 to 80. He introduced universal access to education, with illiteracy eradicated in 2005.

Venezuela is now the most equal society in South America and close to America’s and catching up to Australia’s rate of equality. While Venezuela is becoming more equal, the United States and Australia are becoming more unequal.

Chavez created more than 4 million jobs in his 14 years in elected office. Unemployment fell from 15.2% in 1998 to 6.4% in 2012. At the same time the minimum wage rose by over 2000% over that time to US $330 in 2012, the highest in Latin America. Chavez cut working hours 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 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 capitalism and its latest ideology and practice, neoliberalism, cannot abide, and cannot allow.

Let’s be clear. Chavez’s vision isn’t socialism; it is radical reformism within capitalism.

However Chavez stands like a giant compared to 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 while poverty increases.

Instead of meandering aimlessly to disaster at the forthcoming federal election, some sections of Labor could consider a radical shift to the left to try to win back working class votes. Whether we would trust the ALP after 30 years of ruling for the rich is another question.

Imagine a Labor party campaigning on lifting the 2.2 million poor Australians out of poverty, taxing the rich, free health care for all, cutting the working week to 30 hours without loss of pay and increasing pensions and other welfare payments so the recipients can live in dignity.

I have a suggestion for these namby pamby radicals in the ALP. 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 and redistribute their land back to them.

That of course would just be the opening salvos in 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 increasing spending on public health, education, transport and social payments and developing a real program to address climate change.

It won’t happen because Labor’s reformism and neoliberalism 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.

There has been a class war conducted over the last 30 years – a one sided class war by the bosses. Workers haven’t fought back, yet. That has to change if the ALP is to have any long term future as a ’Labor’ Party. Class struggle and a radical redistribution program from big business and the rich to wage earners and the poor offers a way forward for workers and for the ALP.

The choice for Labor is the Hugo Chavez route or oblivion.  Goodbye Labor.



Pingback from En Passant » Truths the neoliberals dare not print | Universal Health Care Advice
Time March 13, 2013 at 5:01 am

[…] offered an alternative vision for millions inside and outside the country. … Visit link: En Passant » Truths the neoliberals dare not print ← The History Problem – Mumble Blog | the […]

Comment from John Turner
Time March 13, 2013 at 9:13 am

Have you seen the transcripts of Noam Chomsky’s recent speech on Common Good and education. On Saturday and Sunday the speech was available in two sections as part of the Alternet email I receive each day. You should be able to access the two sections from the site. If not I have them as files or could supply the site addresses.

Comment from Mark Dowden
Time March 13, 2013 at 9:53 am

More power to you John! I just hope someone, somehwere will listen – and I am a business owner, so probably not your typical socialist. There is a lot that could be put right in the world with this approach.

Comment from John Quiggin
Time March 13, 2013 at 10:08 am

I’m a bit puzzled by this. As you observe, Chavez, like me, is, in economic terms a reformist “whose analysis does not challenge the dictatorship of capita”. And, I’ve written in favor of most of the things you mention: shorter hours, renationalisation in banking, public ownership of mineral rights, taxing the rich etc etc.

So what is the difference you are pointing to here? If these policies ultimately reinforce capitalism when I put them forward why isn’t the same true of Chavez, and of you?

Comment from John
Time March 13, 2013 at 11:24 am

John, in one sense it is true of all of us. Indeed that is one of my criticisms of Chavez; that he didn’t actually directly challenge the rule of capital. But he frames the discussion in terms of anti-capitalism as well as anti-neoliberalism, and he may, I stress may, as a consequence have set in train or further spurred anti-capitalist forces in Venezuela to ultimately overthrow capitalism there and begin the process of moving to socialism. I doubt it but accept it as a possibility. You and I on the other hand make similar recommendations for addressing the ills of today, and for improving the lives of the vast majority, me with a view to pointing out capitalism in Australia cannot deliver on them or will only do so in the face of mass struggles and hence to radicalise people in the revolutionary struggle. Your view is that capitalism is reformable. Hence we argue for similar outcomes for different reasons.

Comment from John
Time March 13, 2013 at 11:24 am

Thanks Mark.

Comment from paul walter
Time March 13, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Thinking the same meself this morning.
Labor probably won’t reform internally, it has had ample time to do this but is captured by the white collar righties.
The hope of the Tories doing any better is of course risible: they not only operate by neoliberalism, but joyously embrace and are driven by, all its worst subjectivites.
So, we are up shit-ally without an oar in sight.
Still, the weather is “noice” this morning, after the belated arrival of the cool change; best enjoy it while I can, as the frogs are put in lukewarm water, for the impeccably measured slow boil.

Comment from John Quiggin
Time March 13, 2013 at 12:31 pm

I agree that mass struggle is necessary. But, on your account, Chavez has delivered these reforms with the backing of a popular movement, but within the framework of democratic politics and a capitalist economy (using capitalism broadly enough to describe all existing economies that way). So, doesn’t your argument imply (in fact, doesn’t your piece state) that if only the Labor leadership would wake up and mobilise the masses, they could do the same thing, or something similar adapted to Oz conditions.

Comment from Michael Harris
Time March 13, 2013 at 2:34 pm

You are right twice. You generally do write rubbish but I did finish this article. The paper is the second right. Well done.

Comment from John
Time March 13, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Yes John. But that still keeps in place the exploitative relationship between capital and labour, and in a developed world where profit rates have been falling so the amount of surplus value we workers create and which funds reforms is drying up relatively, those social reforms become harder and harder to win. Australia like Venezuela might have the wealth to provide these benefits for a period of time – some recent as yet unpublished research indicates the rate of profit in Australia is higher than almost everywhere else, dragged up by the mining industry (and maybe the finance industry, I would add), but that doesn’t mean the system globally or even in Australia can satisfy human need overall or in the long run. I think in the struggle for reforms can be born the struggle for a new democratic and human centred rather than profit focused world.

Comment from John
Time March 13, 2013 at 6:59 pm

John, to be frank, people would lap up your stuff, e.g. back at the Fin, and not mine. Reformism exists as a result of the nature of a society built on the reality of work under capitalism and your ideas inspire many. Mine are on the sidelines. For the moment, I comfort myself with but that may be self-delusion. Who can know when the working class will move?

Comment from Chris Warren
Time March 16, 2013 at 6:08 pm

In theory I am more with John Passant than John Quiggin when it comes to the role of Capital. But I would not commentate too much on the tactics adopted by Chavez and associated social movements.

The problem with Krugman, Quiggin, and many others, is their approach to capitalism at the level of first principles.

Like Passant, I do not think in the long-run capitalism is reformable, and the ILO charts provided earlier, plus other OECD analysis (I have cited previously), demonstrates this conclusively.

The only question now is what to do to clarify in the minds of the masses, what capitalism is, how it emerged, what it has led to, what it portends, and what we must do about it.

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