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John Passant

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October 2014
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Keep socialist blog En Passant going - donate now
If you want to keep a blog that makes the arguments every day against the ravages of capitalism going and keeps alive the flame of democracy and community, make a donation to help cover my costs. And of course keep reading the blog. To donate click here. Keep socialist blog En Passant going. More... (4)

Sprouting sh*t for almost nothing
You can prove my 2 ex-comrades wrong by donating to my blog En Passant at BSB: 062914 Account: 1067 5257, the Commonwealth Bank in Tuggeranong, ACT. More... (12)

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)



Gough Whitlam


Gough Whitlam has died at age 98 writes Tom Bramble in Red Flag.

I await the torrent of tributes from politicians who will praise his government’s social reform program in Australia but who themselves have spent their entire careers trying to bury it – free education, expansion of welfare programs, land rights, women’s rights, improvements to public service conditions and so forth.

Whitlam’s was the last Labor government that actually introduced reforms that improved working class life as opposed to the “reform” agenda of subsequent governments that have stripped away the meagre protections afforded Australian workers.

But the Whitlam government was a product of its time: it emerged out of a wave of working class and student militancy in the last years of the long post-war economic boom. This drove Whitlam into terrain that no subsequent Labor government has gone.

Its main priority was to give Australian capitalism a new lease of life, modernising it by cutting tariffs, recognising China and expanding public health and education to improve productivity (i.e. the rate of exploitation).

It needed to do these in an environment where workers, students, immigrants and Aboriginal people were banging on the door demanding change.

Whitlam, although having the image today as a crusading reformer, was right wing. On taking over the leadership from Calwell in 1967 he pushed the party’s policy on Vietnam hard to the right; he purged the left wing Victorian branch and made an open pitch to the middle class.

He supported state aid to private schools, opposed union action on political issues and strongly backed the US alliance. Whitlam joined the Liberal government in denouncing the 1969 motion passed by Victorian unionists calling on Australian soldiers in Vietnam to mutiny. If the left in the party today hails Whitlam as its hero, its predecessors hated his guts.

The ruling class, which had been prepared to give him a go in his early years, turned on the prime minister in 1975 not because he was a mortal threat. The working class militancy which had driven his reform program did not abate during his term in office. In 1974 the strike rate peaked.

At the same time the world economic crisis arrived on Australian shores. The ruling class now demanded a savage attack on the working class to squash strikes and roll back wages and welfare reforms. The government tried to oblige. The reformist treasurer Jim Cairns was sacked and replaced by the right wing former Ipswich cop Bill Hayden. The new treasurer’s first budget put the whole reform program into reverse.

And when the crunch came, the limits to Whitlam’s reform project were demonstrated starkly. Whitlam came from the establishment – he was a QC whose father had been Crown Solicitor – and he never broke from it. When the ruling class turned on him in 1975, he capitulated.

While urging his supporters to “maintain your rage” against the Kerr Coup, his actions (helped in large part by the ACTU and left union leaders) demobilised the hundreds of thousands of working class Australians who saw the coup, rightly, as an attack on the things they had won. They were loyal to Whitlam as a symbol of the gains that they had made since the late 1960s. Whitlam, however, betrayed them by channelling their anger into an electoral contest which, once the mass campaign had been choked off, had only one possible outcome – a landslide to Malcolm Fraser.

Labor leaders, crying today for Whitlam and waxing lyrical about the wonderful era of reform, have moved so far to the right that Fraser, the wealthy grazier from western Victoria and tool of big business, is now to their left. That is the best indicator of Labor’s entire trajectory since 1975 and confirmation that the party is an absolute barrier to a revival of the radicalism with which Whitlam is today so fondly (and wrongly) identified.

Like all posts on this site comments – hit the comments link under the heading – close after 7 days.



Comment from Kay
Time October 22, 2014 at 6:38 am

Well, I’ve read a lot of rubbish on this blog site over the years, but this (Tom Bramble) article takes the cake! I have never read such a ridiculous, twisted critique of the Whitlam years!

The Labor Party wallowed in the wilderness through 23 years of Liberal/Country Party rule, completely unable to attract voters. Throughout that time, Labor was ruled by the “faceless men” who clung to their old socialist-based policies, policies which NEVER had traction with the voters! Caldwell? What a joke! Whitlam realised that policies were useless without the power to make them happen, so he modernised the Labor Party (like Tony Blair did), and made it appeal to the average voter, not just the socialist unionists who had driven the party into oblivion. The party tried to expel him, but fortunately it failed dismally! Sure, he was a ‘silver tail’, but he had a passion for equality of opportunity for all. And he set the standard for the next generation (Hawke et alia) of Labor politicians – intelligent, educated, pragmatic and capable of forming a valid alternative government.

Perhaps Tom Bramble wasn’t around during the late 60s? The Libs were completely out-of-date and needed to go, and as soon as possible, but even my communist and staunch unionist Labor-voting parents could not support Caldwell and his bunch of loony left equally out-of-date union bosses – a very unattractive bunch. Whitlam was the man Australia needed to take it forward. And thank heavens he won in 1972!

His achievements? He recognised and visited China before any other Western nation did; he recognised indigenous land rights, and started the march towards Mabo; he created Medicare; he legislated no-fault divorce laws and other modern Family Law provisions; he stopped conscription and pulled our troops out of Vietnam; he introduced many welfare payments, including support for single mothers; he made it easier for all to get a secondary and tertiary education; and he introduced many other long-needed social reforms. Have the socialists achieved anything like this – no, they’ve achieved nothing!

His problems? A world-wide economic downturn that exacerbated the failing revenue problems he faced; a Cabinet selected by the “faceless men”, based on long-term loyalty, not ability or ideas. His Cabinet was largely incompetent. Whitlam also had little interest in, and understanding of, economic matters. Labor drove the government into debt, and then Treasurer Jim Cairns (real loony left) and Resources Minister Rex Connors illegally tried to raise Arab-based (petrodollars) money from some carpet-bagger (Khemlani), completely by-passing Treasury. There were several scandals, and a strong impression of economic incompetence. Whitlam spent his later period of government swanning around overseas, anything to escape the mess his incompetent colleagues had created, but he could not fix. He even ran away from the Cyclone Tracy disaster. He lost all credibility. He would not call an election to sort out the mess. So, like it or not, Fraser was forced to act. And Whitlam’s own GG pick, the drunken, pompous and equally incompetent John Kerr, acted to dismiss him and give the voters what they wanted – an election.

And after all the scandals, and with economy in tatters (high unemployment, high inflation, diminishing revenue, out-of-control spending), of course Fraser won in a landslide! The Fraser government proved to be a do-nothing government, but at least it stabilised the economy a bit. The Hawke Labor government was the one that actually did all the ‘hard lifting’ required to modernise Australia’s economy – a very competent government.