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John Passant

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June 2016



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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)



Social democracy or revolution? A reply to Tim Ginty

Tim Ginty has written an important and thoughtful article in defence of Labor Party social democracy. (A tale of two campaigns: The Spanish and Australian elections compared. If the ALP wants to avoid a fate similar to the Labor type Socialist Workers Party in Spain (and SYRIZA, the equivalent in Greece, I would add), and avoid losing most of its support base and being outflanked by new more radical political groupings, Tim says Labor ‘must rebuild itself as a genuine party of the left. ‘

Tim starts off by reminding us that Marx and Engels were social democrats. Well, true, but social democracy had a revolution meaning in their time and Marx and Engels were revolutionaries. In fact the Critique of the Gotha program is one example among many that divorces them from the 20th century social democracy Tim is defending.

The return of ‘real’ Labor is a theme common among many social democrats. The party was so much better in 1972 than today.

Yet real Labor 44 years ago is real Labor today. The party’s main role is to manage capitalism. In my view it is a contradictory party aimed at doing that – a capitalist workers’ party. Today it is a CAPITALIST workers’ party perhaps on the way to becoming a CAPITALIST party, although its support from the union bureaucracy and partial expression of that bureaucracy may make that a step too far. We shall see. In part it depends on social movements and what rank and file workers do in the future.
And that is what is missing from Tim’s analysis, in my opinion; the role of social and industrial struggle in the rise of SYRIZA and Podemos for example indicates that it was the mass movement of workers and others against austerity that built these groups.

SYRIZA I think shows the limitations of social democracy. The goal of winning state power within capitalism, when the economic base for the provision of the demands of your supporters for basic social democratic policies no longer exists, because of the reassertion of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall since the late 60s and early 70s in the developed capitalist world, is unachievable, in my opinion. Hence the collapse of SYRIZA as a social democratic force after only a few months in power.

Of course the pressure from the ruling class on them was immense, but SYRIZA’s goal of winning state power under capitalism made that inevitable, as did the failure of the governmental wing of SYRIZA to mobilise its supporters to fight for those social democratic demands through strikes and protests. To do so of course may have opened up an alternative vision and reality, a new society in which production is organised democratically to satisfy human need, not to make a profit (i.e. socialism).

Can Labor in Australia, as it continues its neoliberal program and rightward trajectory (reflective of its essence of managing capitalism, in my view) be outflanked on the social democratic left? Without those mass social struggles we have seen in Spain and Greece and elsewhere, I doubt it. What we do have is a leakage away from Labor in terms of votes supposedly to the left like the Greens. Some of the Greens social programs are to the left of Labor but its goal of managing capitalism mirrors the problems of Labor, and who in power – Nick McKim in Tasmania comes to mind let alone the disaster of Greens internationally implementing austerity or supporting governments that do – show themselves to be neoliberals on bikes.

The other worrying aspect of this is not just the shift to the non-Labor left but the rise of centrists like Xenophon today and protest votes for opportunist billionaires like Palmer in 2013. The search for soft centrist or even radical alternatives within capitalism is futile, as the collapse of PUP shows here in Australia and the destruction of SYRIZA as a progressive anti-austerity force and government shows internationally. .

This shift away from Labor (and the Liberals) reflects the lack of social struggle, which at least can help lift the fog of reaction from the eyes of workers and others. Without that mass social struggle they will search for solutions in the context of the old parliamentary game and some will find temporary relief in voting Xenophon or Palmer or worse, Hanson and the even worse social reactionaries in that pool of slime.

The fact that Xenophon will get more votes in the Senate in South Australia than the ALP suggests the degeneration of the Labor Party as a party of social change reflecting the aspirations of workers is almost complete, but the inevitable failure of Xenophon and others to deliver to working class voters what capitalism cannot in its present economic circumstances deliver suggests more political volatility ahead. Some voters may return to Labor, or swing to the Greens as the latest expression of misguided hope. Some may turn to the racist, reactionaries and even fascists. That depends in part on how bad the economy gets.

Without mass social struggles to fight for better wages, jobs and defence of the oppressed, and out of which a radical and revolutionary left can build and grow, I see a bleak future for social democracy and for all of us. Our primary task should be to build a fighting working class spirit and mass social struggles and with it a revolutionary alternative to Labor, not to try and revive the Labor Party corpse of reformism in Australia.

John Passant is a member of small revolutionary group Solidarity.




Comment from chris gaffney
Time June 24, 2016 at 7:53 pm

A good response. I left the ALP in 1975 when Whitlam was dismissed. I thought if the ALP wouldn’t fight for themselves what chance they would fight capital

Comment from Chris Warren
Time June 28, 2016 at 9:45 am

Chris Gaffney demonstrates a long tendency that wrecks havoc on class struggle.

Yea – a lot of damage was done – other than the dismissal – by those who took their bats and deserted.

The same happened when ALP Conference endorsed the Three Mines Policy.

So I blame these deserters – they made ALP policy much worse in the long run.

At each point, the trade unions supported the ALP’s stance in 1975 and even after the Three Mines policy (this was due to the machinations of Bob Hawke).

So did you leave your union as well? Will you leave your union if it’s members disagree with you?

If your local parents and citizen association takes a position you don’t like – will you leave it too?

If a Marxist group adopts a position you don’t like will you leave it too?

Just how small is your fragment now?
Try thinking more about united class struggle than boutique activism.

Comment from John
Time July 5, 2016 at 12:52 pm

I join things like unions that protect me or like Solidarity that share my general political understanding. Labor does and has neither.

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