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

Site menu:

July 2013



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)



The myth of Labor’s progressive values

Labor's inhumanity as asylum seekers find out they will be blackbirded to PNG

There is a widely held view that Labor is the party of compassion and justice, of equity and the fair go of progressive values. Or rather there was a widely held view. After the Rudd government’s decision to deport asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea some may be starting to see the party in a less favourable light.

That is a good thing. But this PNG decision isn’t a sell out or a result of a takeover of the party by the forces of evil. It is consistent with everything Labor stands for and has stood for in its 123 year history.

Labor’s is a capitalist workers’ party. Its raison d’etre is to manage capitalism. If that means, in the view of its parliamentary leadership, deporting asylum seekers to PNG it will do so.

Certainly as a colonial settler state the ideological glue the Australian ruling class has used to unify workers with their class enemy, the bosses,   has been fear of the other. Initially (and still) that was indigenous Australians, part of the de-humanisation of Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders used to justify killing them and stealing their land.

It has also involved fear of the other from other countries, expressed most most notably in the White Australia policy but also more recently in the Yellow Hordes and the Red Threat sweeping down from Asia into Australia.

Changes in the Asia region, especially China’s move from state capitalism to market capitalism, and the needs of Australian capitalism for skilled workers from the region, ended that particular version of the threat of the other.

Boat people, refugees, asylum seekers became the new acceptable ‘other’ that doesn’t alienate the ruling class and workers of countries with which we trade heavily  and from which we import skilled and semi-skilled labour.

The new target means the ruling class can vilify and demonise asylum seekers in the hope that it will cement workers to the bosses rather than any sort of class solidarity that might challenge the dominance of capital. It is the new White Australia.

Labor is as aware of the value of this ideological glue to capital as the Liberals, and until recently was losing the argument with and votes to the Opposition. Its decision to deport asylum seekers to PNG is its attempt to both strengthen the glue and win lost votes back.

Of course because the ALP is both a capitalist party and a workers party, it reflects to some extent the desire of workers under capitalism for a better world, for reforms, for equality and fairness. However as a generalisation progressive demands are only on Labor’s agenda if there is a campaign, especially by workers as workers, or a mass movement of tens if not hundreds of thousands fighting on the streets for change.

Indeed it is often only in times of heightened class struggle over economic demands that progressive political demands can be won, and vice versa. The anti-Vietnam War protests in Australia built and fed into industrial militancy and that industrial militancy (e.g. the general strikes in 1969 to free jailed union leader Clarrie O’Shea and smash the penal powers) fed into and strengthened the anti-Vietnam War movement.

The three decades of class collaboration, begun by Hawke Labor and the Accord, have destroyed working class militancy and rank and file union organisation. Strikes are now about one or two percent of what they were in the late 60s and early 70s and the consequence is a Labor party totally wedded to neoliberalism and the occasional rationalisation of services dressed up as reform.

Across the globe the welfare state is under attack as profit rates decline. Marx argued that there would be a tendency of the rate of profit to fall because of the way capitalism is organised.

Workers are the source of value. Yet competition drives bosses to invest more and more in capital at relatively less on workers. This means, even with countervailing tendencies like lengthening the working day, cutting workers pay and state services like health and education,  and increasing productivity that profit rates will fall over time. Only a massive devalorisation of capital – the creative destruction some capitalist economists talk about – can restore profit rates, but then only at terrible human cost.

As the pool of profits out of which state services can be funded dries up, Labor, like the Liberals, attacks them. Whereas the Liberals want to use a meat axe, the ALP at the moment uses a scalpel.

Labor’s recent history as the party of war or support for it, as the party now of the racist Northern Territory intervention, of cuts to public service jobs (over 5000 went last year), of refusing to increase Newstart, of not seriously addressing climate change (other than through half baked market ‘solutions’ to a problem the market creates), of increasing inequality with over 2.2 million Australians living in poverty, of attacking single parents, of an increasing gender pay gap, of oppressing gays and lesbians, of sending asylum seekers to PNG, all raise an important question.  Why support Labor? Why be a member?

For many activists and young leftists that question is already answered. They don’t support Labor. They aren’t members. In fact membership numbers have declined and those who remain are mainly older. The recent upsurge in membership might drop off after the PNG decision, or if not may well peter out as the Rudd sugar hit wears off.

But they are looking for a political home. the Greens are one option, although they aren’t particularly radical and my summation of them is they don’t want to challenge the status quo, they want to be the status quo under capitalism.

What is missing from Australian politics is a radical, indeed a revolutionary and specifically socialist alternative to the ALP, one big enough to be the  home for all those who want a better world here and now but understand that ultimately that can only happen fully and permanently, given the crisis ridden nature of capitalism, through a democratic revolution in which production is organised to satisfy human need. That is socialism.

The 2 major revolutionary groups on the Left, Socialist Alternative and Socialist Alliance, are in discussions about unifying our forces to fight for a better world here and now but also for a world in the long term free of exploitation and oppression. Even a successful merger would still only see something less than a thousand socialists in one organisation working together on the issues of the day and making the more general arguments about capitalism.

If you want to join the fight against the barbarities of capitalism, if you want to fight the system that breeds injustice and inequality, war, racism and homophobia, that sends vulnerable asylum seeks to rot in PNG, or even if you just want to find out more given that Labor is not an option,  then you should consider one of the revolutionary socialist groups in Australia like Socialist Alternative.

For a more reflective piece on the nature of the ALP read Ben Hillier in Marxist Left Review in 2011.


Forthcoming demonstrations and meetings in defence of asylum seekers include:

Saturday 27 July 13:00 State Library Lawn Melbourne. Facebook details are here.

Thursday 25 July 18:30 Trades Hall 54 Victoria Street Melbourne. Socialist Alternative public meeting  No crime to seek asylum: Oppose Rudd’s fortress Australia and let the refugees in . Facebook details are here.

Saturday 27 July 12:00 Woden Square Canberra. Facebook details are here. The ACT ALP are holding a conference in Woden so the demo will be in Woden to let Labor know we oppose their rotten, reactionary and racist policy of deporting asylum seekers.

Saturday 27 July 13:00 Murray St Mall Perth. Facebook details are here.

Sunday 27 July 12:00 Sydney Town Hall. Facebook detail are here.

Sydney West: Sunday 28 July, 12 pm, Mount Druitt Hub
Brisbane: Saturday 27 July, 1 pm, King George Square
Adelaide: Saturday 27 July, 1 pm, Parliament House

Like all posts on this site, comments close after 7 days. To comment or see what others are saying hit the comments link under the heading.



Comment from Wyatt
Time July 23, 2013 at 5:09 pm

I just can’t believe the drivel you write.

Comment from John
Time July 23, 2013 at 9:59 pm

Neither can I Wyatt, neither can I. Perhaps your great intellect could point out the errors ( I am sure they are many oh wise one) to my readers. We would all benefit for your elucidation. So come on, please help the dumb ones like me.

Write a comment