Cross-posted from Larvatus Prodeo. Thanks to Mark Bahnisch for convincing me to return to this subject.
I have to confess that I couldn’t bring myself to watch Monday’s Four Corners on the scandal of Australia’s “offshore” asylum seeker processing regime. I’m on the Sydney Refugee Action Coalition email list and read horrifying stories from Manus Island on an almost daily basis. Rather than being numbed by this atrocity exhibition I am scared I will simply lose control of my rage and frustration if I have to actually see the human cost on TV.
What makes me doubly angry is that it is a Labor government doing this. Now, I’m one of those hardened Marxist types who expects the reformists to do bad stuff, but there is something debased in this government’s attempts to surpass Howard’s record in “toughness” on refugees. To hear that Labor is now back-flipping on its policy of keeping children out of mainland detention centres just days after the Four Corners special suggests that their strategy is to plough ahead undeterred by basic questions of human decency. Clearly this government is not for turning; at least not in this race to the bottom. Continue Reading
A few weeks ago the right-wing Australian think-tank the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) held a gala dinner to celebrate its 70th birthday. The event garnered extra attention thanks to a small but spirited protest outside the venue, which was ritually condemned by police and politicians. While the protesters’ political objectives struck me as diffuse, they reflected a more widespread fear on the Left that society is increasingly manipulated by shadowy cabals of right-wing corporate leaders (Rupert Murdoch and Gina Rinehart attended), politicians (Tony Abbott, Dennis Napthine and Robert Doyle), pundits (Andrew Bolt) and neoliberal intellectuals (the IPA itself). In particular, the IPA’s wish list of 75 policies for an Abbott government and other material by their members is seen by some as his blueprint to implement a neoliberal agenda far more radical than Coalition policy describes.
While Left Flank has previously looked at the contradictions in the libertarian ideology of the IPA, the increased interest in the power of neoliberal elites makes this a subject worth returning to. I want to do this through a review of the groundbreaking 2008 collection edited by Philip Mirowski and Dieter Plehwe, The Road from Mont Pèlerin: The Making of the Neoliberal Thought Collective (TRFMP). Already this book is considered a classic of intellectual history and the definitive account of the international network of neoliberal thinkers and activists whose prescriptions became economic orthodoxy after the collapse of the post-WWII “Keynesian consensus”.
If there’s one thing the entire Australian Left agrees on right now it’s that “Thatcherism was a very bad thing”. But beyond that, it may be appropriate to ask what exactly it is that people think was a bad thing. The answer to that question rests on one’s interpretation of what exactly was going on in the high neoliberal period of the 1980s, and what followed it. There is an uncomfortable fact that many local progressives are also trying to dance around, one that impacts on their view of the domestic political situation. That fact is that the highpoint of the ALP’s federal political success with the Hawke and Keating governments shared much of its DNA with Thatcher’s neoliberalism, here understood as a political project to shift the balance of forces in the class struggle towards capital, and thereby enact a historic redistribution of wealth and power upwards.
Liz and I are pleased to be speaking at the Australian Left Renewal Conference: Secure Jobs in a Green Future, to be held at the University of Technology, Sydney, next weekend, 6-7 April. The conference is co-organised by The Search Foundation and the UTS Cosmopolitan Civil Societies Research Centre. Among the highlights will be a speech by Kostas Isychos of the Greek radical Left party, SYRIZA.
I’ll be part of Participatory Forum II: Uniting to Fight the Abbott Coalition, from 10-11.30am on Sunday, alongside Sally McManus from the Australian Services Union, NSW Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann, Greens candidate for Grayndler Hall Greenland and the Victorian ALP Socialist Left’s Andrew Giles. My talk is: “How having the Left in government made life easy for Abbott — and what we can do about it now”.
Liz will be part of Workshop 15: Left Responses to the Global Capitalist Crisis, from 12-1.30pm also on Sunday, alongside left-wing economist Graham Larcombe and Solidarity’s Jean Parker. Liz’s talk is: “Alternative Economic Strategies: The Question of Agency”.
The full program can be viewed here.
The Facebook page for the event is here.
It’s best to register online via trybooking.com here.
For inquiries: Troy Henderson on (02) 9698-4918 or email@example.com.
This is the speech I gave on Monday this week, at the forum ‘IRAQ 10 years on: Remembering when the world said NO to war’ — organised by the Sydney Stop the War Coalition.
Soon after the fall of the Berlin wall, American political scientist Francis Fukuyama declared that the moment signalled ‘the end of history’ and the absence of alternatives to the neoliberal hegemony. For ruling elites, Margaret Thatcher’s assertion ‘there is no alternative’ was unquestioned. The next decade in Australia saw John Howard in office continuing to roll out the ‘economic rationalism’ first introduced by Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, in addition to dog whistling to his Right – taking up the policies of Pauline Hanson and regaining much of the constituency he’d lost to One Nation. Politics seemed grim, and many on the left were despondent. But in November 1999, a watershed moment occurred in the heart of world capitalism – on the streets of Seattle, in the United States – when Teamster unionists, environmentalists dressed as Turtles and many others joined forces to dispute that there was no alternative. Their target was the World Trade Organisation meeting, which was negotiating a new round of free trade agreements, and their blockades of the venue and mass rallies shut it down.
That story of dissent against multinational corporations, and the government structures that facilitate them, was not just to be the story of the US however; or only the story of Prague, Davos, Genoa or Gleneagles. It is our story too. Thirteen years ago we saw magnificent protests in Australia that both criticised the way the world was, as well as imagined a different future. ‘Another World Is Possible’ was the slogan of the World Social Forum, and it reflected sentiment around the globe. In Australia the Global Justice Movement exploded at the s11 protests, when we blockaded the Asia-Pacific Summit of the World Economic Forum at Crown Casino in Melbourne – and 20,000 people shut it down. It was a protest that said no to the ruling class agenda of prioritising profits above people and the planet, and it was a celebration of the diversity of those who imagined a different world. Similar events and movements across the globe questioned the structures and the priorities of capitalism – if in confused ways at times – and it was the formation of a global anti-systemic movement.
By KEVIN OVENDEN
My previous post was written early on Monday morning, London time.
Since then events have proceeded rapidly and dramatically. They will continue to do so. This update is meant to highlight the political significance of some of those developments in a fast moving crisis.
1) Despite desperate protestations it is now clear, as I had stated previously, that it was the Cypriot delegation in talks with the Troika in the early hours of Saturday morning that opted to sacrifice the mass of the population through raiding whatever deposits they had in the domestic banking system.
An angry Cypriot depositor drives an excavator into a bank
GUEST POST by KEVIN OVENDEN
Two months ago, perennial optimists were telling us that the worst of the Eurozone crisis was probably over. Then came the Italian election. Now the great Cypriot bank heist.
By Sunday morning it was dawning on tens of millions of people what had happened, as the news spread from the specialist financial commentary to front pages and top television news across the continent.
At one stroke, the Troika of the Eurozone finance ministers, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund had, with the new right-wing Cypriot government, stolen between 6.7 and 9.9 percent of the money of all depositors in Cyprus’s ailing banks. All in the name of a bank rescue.
Iraq – 10 years on:
Remembering when the world said No to war
Monday March 18 at 6-8.30pm — Mitchell Theatre, Sydney Mechanics School of Arts,
240 Pitt Street, Sydney
This month marks the tenth anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq. It is a timely reminder not just of the brutality of the war in Iraq, but its length. A decade of war has ravaged the Iraqi people and decimated public infrastructure. In 2004 and 2006 epidemiologists and others associated with Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in the US published research in the international renowned journal The Lancet, estimating the number of ‘excess deaths’ due to the war. The second report states that 650,000 people had died as a result of the war in Iraq, a figure that is likely far greater given the intense fighting that occurred after 2006 and the ongoing health and social crisis in the country. And let us not forget those injured and maimed.
It is also time to recall the the tenth anniversary of the largest protest in Australian history, on February 15 2003, when between 300,000 and 500,000 people protested in central Sydney. That weekend between 600,000 and 900,000 protested across Australia, alongside many millions around the world.
The Sydney Stop the War Coalition is conducting a forum next Monday to remember when the world said no to war, and consider what the situation is in Iraq now and what can be done to prevent more wars. I will be speaking on the panel alongside Donna Mulhearn, who was a human shield during the first ground invasion and has recently returned from another visit to Iraq.
I will be focussing my contribution on the impact and legacy of the protests. While the antiwar movement did not stop the invasion of Iraq from proceeding, it had a significant effect in the outcome of future political events. It shaped international and national politics, and one cannot imagine the comprehensiveness of Howard’s defeat in 2007 without it. For me, an important question is also the difficulties we had of uniting the Global Justice Movement with the anti-war movement in Australia.
How the SMH visualised the end of NSW premier Nathan Rees
That aspect of the modern crisis which is bemoaned as a “wave of materialism” is related to what is called the “crisis of authority”. If the ruling class has lost its consensus, i.e. is no longer “leading” but only “dominant”, exercising coercive force alone, this means precisely that the great masses have become detached from their traditional ideologies, and no longer believe what they used to believe previously, etc. The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.
— Gramsci, 1971, Selections From The Prison Notebooks, pp. 275-6
Watching last night’s ABC Four Corners one could easily think that Eddie Obeid is just the latest (and most extreme) exponent of the systems of patronage which have long characterised ALP influence in NSW. But Obeid’s singular power and murky dealings were also a function of how the party’s factional structures have had their social and political meaning hollowed out in the neoliberal era.