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John Passant

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July 2014



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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)



The carbon tax is dead; long live a price on carbon?

The ruling class is a band of hostile brothers. They unite against workers but fight among themselves for a bigger share of the surplus value workers create.

This means some capitalists will have life and death interests in fossil fuel. ‘Some capitalists’ may be an underestimate since the whole system is dependent on fossil fuel for its continued operation.

It is this material base, protecting the current global and fossil fuel dependent and ‘efficient’ arrangements for the extraction of surplus value from workers, which provides the breeding ground for the climate change deniers and sceptics and finds political expression in the repeal today of the carbon tax, with effect from 1 July this year.

Another faction of capital and elements of the state understand the existential threat greenhouse gas emissions pose to capitalism but also worship at the altar of profit and the market. This imposes real constraints on their ability to take strong measures which address climate change and do so quickly, both on a national and an international level.

Their compromises accept the market, and the need to hasten slowly. The result in Australia has been a carbon tax putting a seemingly high price on carbon but one too low to have much medium term effect on emissions, but a carbon tax in which many polluters  were compensated up to 92.5% of the cost of their pollution permits.

The alternative, which Labor argues for now, is an emissions trading scheme linked to the European market. The price there at the moment is $8 a tonne, well below the inadequate $25.40 this year in the just repealed carbon tax.

The Labor Party and the Greens support some form of price on carbon, in other words a market solution. They do this because their politics is neoliberal; the politics of the market.

Yet the market, and market failure – think externalities not priced in – are the reason we face a long term threat to humanity’s continued existence.

There is a capitalist logic to not pricing in externalities, in this case the price of the destruction of the environment through the production of greenhouse gases.

They are not part of the production process, do not involve the sale of labour power or the use of machines; in short they don’t give rise to an increase in the price of the commodity being produced.

It is the community which bears the cost in terms of the warming Earth but ultimately that warming threatens capitalism itself. Socialism or barbarism comes to mind, although given the failure to act in any significant way by the big economies and the decline of class struggle across the developed world, barbarism in the future is a safe bet.

The Coalition’s Direct Action plan is a furphy, designed to give the impression of doing something about climate change without actually doing anything real.

Of course the repeal of the carbon tax highlights the reactionary and backward nature of the Abbott government.  The anti-scientists are in the political ascendency.

The price on carbon people don’t inspire confidence either. The price is always too low, and tries to use the market, through government manipulation of the price, to influence consumer behaviour.

This Pigovian approach as mentioned above doesn’t lead to a price on fossil fuel extraction and use that compensates for the environmental damage done. If it did the price would be in the hundreds of dollars, not the carbon tax price of $24.50 per tonne or the European ETS of $8 per tonne. T

hat would be catastrophic for workers and undermine one of the basic tenets of capitalism that workers sell their labour power at around its value.

The problem in the class divided society we live in is which class should bear the burden of addressing climate change – those whose labour produces the wealth or those whose capital locks us into fossil fuel use and slow extinction?

The Labor Party and the Greens want to make workers pay for the environmental crisis. Some in the Coalition do too, while others just want to continue to let the bosses pump shit into the atmosphere as the logical expression of free market capitalism, even when it threatens the market’s very existence in the medium to long term.

The answer to me is in making the bosses across the globe, those who profit from the environmentally destructive way capitalism is organised, pay for their crimes against the environment.

One radical reformist solution involves a net wealth tax of 1% on the top 10%. This would yield about $40 billion annually, about the amount needed to adopt the Beyond Zero Emissions Stationary Energy Plan to transition to a renewable energy Australia over a decade.

This side of socialist revolution the only way that can happen is through a strong state pushing through or imposing restraints on the fossil fuel sectors of capital to save capitalism itself. Australia under Labor and the Coalition does not have a strong state capable of imposing its will on capitalists for the benefit of or rescue of capitalism.

To overcome the fossil fuel branch of capitalism and its power such a strong state would need I think to be a dictatorship. No socialist is going to argue for a dictatorship of the capitalist state.

I oppose the carbon tax and an ETS for two main reasons. First they wouldn’t be effective in addressing climate change globally in time and secondly they impose the cost on workers, not bosses. They reflect the current skewed arrangements under capitalism in which we work and they profit.

Making workers poorer so the bosses can continue to exploit us is not a strategy for success.

A net wealth tax of 1% on the top 10% would yield about $40 billion annually, about the amount needed to adopt the Beyond Zero Emissions Stationary Energy Plan to transition to a renewable energy Australia over a decade.

The fact that capitalism in Australia and elsewhere is built on fossil fuel use means it will take a revolution to achieve a totally renewable energy society. Why? Because only a democratic working class revolution can put people before profit.

As the entrenched interests of capital and the drive for profit emasculate or defeat any real action on climate the choice is becoming clearer – climate change or system change.



Pingback from The carbon tax is dead; long live a price on carbon? | OzHouse
Time July 17, 2014 at 9:11 pm

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Comment from Jim Brash
Time July 18, 2014 at 1:21 pm

John, when will the need to reduce energy needs and therefore a radical reduction in the size of of national economies become part of the equation. Even if all the energy used is renewable, humankind is still heading towards a catastrophic situation because we are using to much energy. Even too much renewables could turn out to be a bad thing. We need electric cars, but more importantly we need more mass transit options to reduce the need for cars. We also have to reduce meat production which is a major contributing factor in climate change. Just a few thoughts comrade.

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