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.”
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).
Since when did building a climate movement mean cheerleading neoliberal government policies?
In the last post I argued that the deep crisis of the Gillard government is also a crisis of the Greens and the Left more generally. By effectively entering a “Left” government the Greens have replicated the disastrous strategy of Italy’s main party of the Left, Rifondazione Comunista, in joining a centre-Left coalition in the late 2000s.
The alliance partners in happier days. Er, two months ago, that is
The stench of death surrounds the Gillard Government.
It is impossible to exaggerate the historic depths to which the ALP has fallen in the polls, with last week’s 27 percent in Newspoll confirming that there would be no “bounce” once the carbon tax announcement was digested by the electorate. Even the temporary revival of sleaze allegations against Craig Thomson was more about the government’s crisis than the substance or seriousness of the “affair of the credit card”. The current race to the bottom on asylum seeker policy, with the High Court and even Tony Abbott managing to hold positions clearly to the Left of the ALP, will undoubtedly create even greater electoral problems for the party’s standing. Continue 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.
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 Flanknoted 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.
When we started this blog in July, we addressed the “democratic deficit” in Australian society. Yesterday’s result, of a likely hung parliament, is a reflection of the inability of the main parties to even create the illusion they have won a mandate to govern.
The election was a disaster for the ALP. Having killed the sense of progressive hope that gave him a landslide victory, Rudd was knifed by a party who ultimately did the same to remaining hope. This was Gillard’s function, to triangulate Abbott by simply appropriating his most noxious policy positions. In doing so she legitimated his right-wing agenda and gave him a veneer of respectability that many had thought impossible. Even in those late moments when the ALP tried to speak to its working class base, their campaign could offer only piecemeal reforms that didn’t fit into its neoliberal narrative. And while sympathetic commentators managed to get Gillard to recognise, “It’s the economy, stupid,” the stimulus tale of massive state intervention didn’t sit logically with the rest of the party’s fiscally conservative image, focused on how responsible their spending would be and how little they could give their base because of the pressing need to get back into surplus.
Soon after becoming leader, Mr Abbott stated in parliament “I have even been accused from time to time of flirting with the deputy Prime Minister”. And in rising to congratulate him, Ms Gillard reciprocated the banter with “obviously I know Tony well, we spent a lot of time chasing each other round…we were for a while a Punch and Judy show for Australian politics”.