On holiday last week I read the latest book by French philosopher Alain Badiou available in English, The Communist Hypothesis. Fittingly for the former Maoist, his book was smaller than your average paperback, bound in a red cloth cover and embossed with a gold star. Badiou is one of the few French thinkers of his generation to refuse to be pulled in by the post-structuralist fashion that swept academia in the wake of the failure of the May 1968 events to transform society.
In recent years he has been involved with building a movement in defence of the sans papiers, immigrant workers who have repeatedly been attacked by the government and the far Right. Intellectually, he has faced down the demoralisation many on the Left read into the election of Nicholas Sarkozy as President, with a polemic that was prescient in its estimation of the weakness of the right-wing leader and the political class he emerged from.
Badiou has also been preoccupied with resolving the impasse of the radical Left in the age of neoliberalism. He was part of organising the sell-out London conference, The Idea Of Communism, which pulled over 1000, mainly young people in March last year. I’ve only read two of Badiou’s books and a handful of shorter pieces, so I cannot pretend to have a handle on his philosophical oeuvre.*
However, Badiou makes a very important point that the broader Left’s degeneration has in part been due to its attachment to politics that lie within the logic set by the state, either on the Stalinist or social democratic model. It is fitting to have a think about this when one considers the release of another little red book, the Red Book written by Treasury for the incoming ALP government, which has been leaked to the media in a censored (“redacted”) form. For anyone hoping that the current government will be socially progressive, it makes for chilling reading.
That new paradigm thingy didn’t last long, now, did it?
At least not the world of “kinder, gentler” politics that Tony Abbott was promising. Nor the ability of rural Independent MPs to rise above the fray of deal-making and remain untainted by “old-style” party politics. Nor, of course, the dream of politicians finding more “consensus” rather than squabbling along partisan lines.
Yet there is a paradigm — one of growing social and political polarisation — that is playing itself out in a new way because of the election result, now unable to be hidden behind a mask of apparent governmental stability.
A friend and fellow blogger at wrong+arithmetic has translated recent comments from French philosopher Jacques Rancière, regarding the expulsion of Roma in France. Given the use of racism for political gain here, the translation of the comments is timely. It is worth taking a look.
It was a bit of a shock to read Crikey last week and find that Guy Rundle, usually reliable for a left-wing view of the world, had descended into railing against adoption by male same-sex couples.
Rundle’s piece can be found here. My reply was paywalled, but the text is copied below. Rundle then replied at the bottom of this, and there was one more salvo from a Luke Wallace here.
Make of it what you will.
- Iraqi child killed by US bombing campaign
While John Paul Young’s euphoric pop-disco classic “Love Is In The Air” could’ve been the theme song for the Greens’ election night success, it seems that the Liberals and the right-wing media have latched onto Bob Brown’s push to allow the territories to legalise euthanasia as a reason to suggest the party would prefer the air to be filled with the stench of death.
Much of the euthanasia debate is driven by statements about abstract absolutes like “the sanctity of life” and “the right to die (with dignity)” which may help guide personal choices but have little purchase in the field of social decision-making. Clearly in our society there is no absolute commitment to the sanctity of life as Christopher Pyne unwittingly demonstrated last night on the ABC’s Q & A when he followed anti-euthanasia statements with strong support for the bloody invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan (where estimates of lives lost in the two wars together come scarily close to one million).
As I blog this, liz_beths is writing the conclusion to her Masters thesis, which analyses the rise and fall of the Global Justice Movement in Australia. She wrote a bit about the arc from S11 2000 to 9/11 and the present day on the Overland blog last weekend. Rather than simply re-use hackneyed categories that have confused the Left when faced with apparently non-class-based movements, she’s gone back to Marx and Gramsci to develop some fresh ideas about social movements in general and the nature of activists’ intellectual and practical activity in particular.
There has been much discussion in the left-leaning blogosphere about the stridency of the Murdoch media campaign against the “legitimacy” of the Gillard minority government. As Left Flank noted on the weekend, The Australian has editorialised that it is committed to having the Greens “destroyed at the ballot box”.
In the AFR on Friday (paywalled, but article in PDF form here) Laura Tingle, perhaps the nation’s best mainstream political correspondent, analysed the tensions that had developed between Kevin Rudd and The Australian during the life of the last government. She also reported that Bob Brown had broached the topic, attacking the Murdoch flagship for going beyond its traditional Fourth Estate role in trying to get its preferred result from the electoral impasse.
Yesterday was ten years since thousands of Australian blockaded the Asia Pacific Summit of the World Economic Forum at Crown Casino in Melbourne. You can read my blog post about our s11 and the impact of the 9/11 terrorist attacks at the Overland Journal Blog (and reprinted below).
THE uncomfortable irony surely has not been lost on the Gillard government: the Labor Party, which is so weakened that large segments of its own electoral base are simply marching away, holds on to office only because four men who have never been part of the ALP have decided to give it a bare parliamentary majority.
—Shaun Carney, The Age, 8 September 2010
There is a fundamental confusion at the heart of most of the mainstream analysis of the 17 days of post-election crisis and its eventual “resolution” on Tuesday, a confusion that combines two quite separate dynamics into one. The commentators have correctly recognised that something different happened on 21 August because voters gave neither major party a mandate. But in reporting the novelty of the eventual outcome — a minority government supported by a variety of parliamentary actors — they have assumed that the political process that delivered this result had been primarily about addressing the problems voters were identifying.
If we are indeed going to witness the return of the state, and enhanced need for security and resources that only a government can provide, then we should be paying greater attention to the things that states can do.
—Tony Judt, Ill Fares The Land, 2010, p198
Australia must tackle climate change and that reducing carbon
pollution by 2020 will require a price on carbon.
—From text of ALP-Greens agreement, 1 September 2010
Yesterday Lord Nicholas Stern, the UK’s guru of climate economics, was speaking at the National Press Club, and the line he was pushing was hard to discern from that of the just-formalised Labor-Greens agreement. Brimming with enthusiasm for action despite the setback at Copenhagen, he focused on the need to maintain the fight for carbon pricing and spoke of governments needing to involve private capital more deeply in what he termed “the Industrial Revolution of our century”.