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
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.
With a sense of crisis swirling around the government, last Friday’s post on how the ALP’s problems run much deeper than a faulty “narrative” was republished at ABC’s The Drum. Then Christine Milne announced the end of the Greens-ALP agreement, and The Drum commissioned the piece below on the Greens. Now that comments are closed at the ABC website, we’re reposting it here.
Greens in 2013: Between a rock & a hard place
By Tad Tietze
Karl Marx once wrote, “The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living.” In the case of the Australian Greens one might say that the party’s now-dead alliance with the Gillard Government weighs like a nightmare on their current political options. Continue Reading
In a considered piece at ABC’s The Drum on Thursday, Jonathan Green highlighted a phenomenon that seems to overwhelm Australian politics — the inability of simple facts about the Gillard Government’s performance to overcome the stench of crisis hanging over it.
He is correct to point out “that in assuming that the mere facts of its record should be enough to carry the political argument, this Government fundamentally misunderstands the question.”
Immigrants protest against Greece’s neo-Nazi Golden Dawn
Just before 2012 closes out, I’m reposting my last Overland blog of the year, which originally appeared here. In some ways it is a summing up of themes we have developed at Left Flank since we started in mid-2010; chiefly in our attempts to present not just a general ideological or theoretical approach to the topics we covered, but to concretely analyse actually existing politics — something that we thought had not been focused on enough by the Australian Marxist Left in recent years. We hope readers have found the blog and our writings elsewhere stimulating because of that focus, and we look forward to developing these ideas more next year. Thanks to all of you for your readership, comments, criticisms and support.
The political prediction business is not one you should engage in unless you’re either willing to repeatedly admit erroneous forecasts (one of Ben Eltham’s most endearing qualities) or to march on obliviously ignoring them (most of the rest of the commentariat). It’s even worse for us Marxists, as we’re notorious for having accurately foretold five out of the last two recessions. The problem is that history unfolds dialectically in the real world, and not simply through a logical derivation from some initial starting point.
Asylum issues behind them, Gillard and Bowen address, er, new asylum issues
When I wrote the Overland blog entry below, it was just before Newspoll showed a big jump for the ALP to a (still disastrous) 35 percent primary and 47 percent 2PP. As usual many in the commentariat saw this brief upward blip as an excess of swallows presaging summer, replaying the familiar tropes about Gillard having “cleared the decks” on asylum seekers and the carbon tax, and now being able to focus on “Labor” issues like disability and education. Suddenly Tony Abbott had to shape up or face losing the next election. And the chances of Kevin Rudd being an option were evaporating (although one would’ve thought that the ritual character assassination of Rudd in February was enough to make him an improbable choice no matter how bad polls got).
Tears in parliament, but no solution in sight
Left Flank has been away on holiday, but we’re back now. Below is a repost of my response to the sickening asylum seeker “debate” that happened in late June. Since then the issue has been shifted off to an elite “expert” committee which, as The Piping Shrike has pointed out, represents the exhaustion of the Gillard government’s agenda in political terms.
MUA protest against the Enterprise Migration Agreement
I’m reposting a recent piece I wrote for Overland Journal’s blog, in response to the debate over the contentious Enterprise Migration Agreement negotiated between the Gillard government and Gina Rinehart to allow the mining billionaire to import up to 1700 skilled workers from overseas. It was written as an open letter to Paul Howes after an op-ed he wrote. He has indicated he’s interested in responding formally at some point.
For some background on the question of migrant workers in the context of the notorious “British Jobs for British Workers” campaign a few years ago, this excellent essay by UK-based political economist Jane Hardy is highly recommended.
And here is an excerpt from a speech by AMWU Western Australian State Secretary Steve McCartney at a fringe event at the recent ACTU conference.
Today, I’ll be reviewing George Megalogenis’ book, The Australian Moment, for you*. It is notable for two things. Firstly, it is hymn to Australia’s class war from above reform era of the 1980s and 90s — but tinged also with regret that since about 1993 the political class has lost the will to fight the good fight. Secondly, in making an argument that the reform agenda can be resurrected with popular consent today, he must engage in a lot of contortions and self-contradiction.
Megalogenis has something of a following on the mainstream Left, perhaps because of his wonkish persona and apparently moderate politics for someone working at The Australian. But a deeper reason is that he reflects a strong residual view that the ALP’s economic rationalist turn was “a good thing”. Mainstream Left politics, whether in the ALP, the unions or even the Greens, operates in the shadow of those times. You can see it in Megalogenis’ scribblings on the weekend supporting Swan’s budget cuts as “hard truths” that must be realised. So how does his pro-reform argument stack up?
When watching the last few episodes of US cable TV series The Walking Dead, it struck me that the title has a double meaning, that Sheriff Rick and the other survivors of the zombie apocalypse are also among the dead who roam the planet’s surface. They’re still animated to do all the usual human things — eat, sleep, play, laugh, cry, get jealous, fight with each other, screw up — but really only kept going by the residues of the past and not any sense of a goal or a future. The edginess in the best episodes emerges from watching as human pettiness overtakes the survivors time after time, leaving them ever more vulnerable to being eaten alive; destroying each other over very little indeed.