Kevin Rudd, anti-politics & the ends of Laborism

by · June 27, 2013

Shorten & the unions: Just in time or a little too late?

In Capital, Karl Marx elucidates the inner workings of the capitalist mode of production by making certain assumptions about the behaviour of real people. He describes capitalists as mere “personifications” of capital and other social relations. But these assumptions are just that: assumptions for the sake of clarifying underlying social processes without having factors like individual personalities, tactical blunders, historical accidents, etc., muddy the waters.

The space in which politics operates, then, is that place where the real living human beings who make their own history do so within the social relations and institutions that dominate the society in which they make policy, argue ideology, and manoeuvre for position.

So it has been with the Rudd-Gillard battle, which finally ended last night with Rudd’s return to the prime ministership (assured by Katter and Wilkie backing him in any confidence motion — the Greens being too scared to risk Abbott being installed by the G-G). Too many commentators have been so obsessed with a whole set of secondary features of the conflict that they have missed what is the single biggest issue in Australian politics for the last seven years — the crisis of the institutionalised political system that dominated the 20th century.

My point is not to discount the role of misogyny and feminism, or Rudd’s sizeable ego, or Gillard’s strength under pressure, or policy mistakes and successes, or deals with minor parties and Independents, or problems of purpose, ideology or narrative. But it is to say that they were shaped within the structures and institutions of a hollowed-out, destabilised political system. Unless we start with the shape of politics as a totality, we cannot understand how these details played a part in the outcome.

So, for example, unless one understands the crisis of authority of the political class, it is impossible to understand how ugly misogyny could have been deployed with apparent effect against the nominally most powerful person in the country. The decision by someone in such a powerful position to then mobilise a bizarre quasi-feminist response in her defence makes little sense either.

Laborism exhausted

As we now look back on the three years and two days of Gillard’s prime ministership, it’s therefore important to not ask why Gillard the person did so badly as PM; rather to look at the political institutions she represented. And this doesn’t require much detective work — her ascension to the leadership was the reassertion of the power of the ALP machine, dominated as it is by ossified and ideologically empty factional power bases, in turn linked to a historically weak and bureaucratised union leadership ruling over a membership that accounts for just 18 percent of the workforce (a union density that never fell below 40 percent between 1914 and 1990).

One of the simple facts about the ALP that has been glossed over in recent times is that the party is not just any kind of social democratic party, but a labourist one (as Gillard made clear in her infamous speech to the AWU). That is, it is not the product of the party and union members (workers) but the trade union bureaucracy — a bureaucracy that has in its history been deeply conservative, as evidenced by its past, decades-long commitment to arbitration, protectionism and White Australia. Even if the unions managed to partially break from such positions in the latter part of the 20th century, they then signed up for the Accord, which constituted not only a massive direct attack on the living standards of Australian workers (one not achieved by either the Fraser or Howard governments) but was a central part of implementing the neoliberal political project in Australia, which included the breaking up of the old industrial order that gave them stability and influence. Given the social effects wrought by this agenda, a period also characterised by a significant shift in the balance of class forces against labour, the social weight and relevance of the unions was deeply damaged.

These transformations flowed through to a weakening of the ALP as the political wing of the union bureaucracy, creating a long-run crisis of social democracy. But this was just one side of a wider crisis of political representation that destabilised the Coalition, which found itself suffering similarly from internal warfare, crumbling party organisations and deep unpopularity at the state level during the Howard years. Whatever Rudd’s personal qualities, he represented a kind of fix for Labor’s problems, articulating a vaguely progressive technocratic dismissal of the old politics.

After the Gillard coup in 2010 the political moves of her backers displayed the same kind of genius that had kept Labor in the federal wilderness for 11 years. There was the “lurch to the Right” on asylum seekers, the neutering of the mining tax and the attempt to ditch climate action — the latter prevented by the need to do deals with the Greens and Independents. The result was completely unwarranted legitimacy for Abbott and the Coalition, whose electoral support rests on shaky foundations, but in the process even greater popular revulsion at events in Canberra.

The contradictions of anti-politics

The anti-politics element of Rudd’s agenda is perhaps the hardest thing for political insiders, even on the radical Left, to understand. Despite his privileged social position and objectively insider status, it has allowed him to play to public bitterness at the self-interested Canberra elite. The unprecedented personalised public attacks carried out by the Gillard camp have actually served to cement his outsider credibility among many voters. It is why the Liberal attack ad showing his colleagues (as well as Mark Latham, the last person one should look to for character assessments!) excoriating him will actually help Rudd make his case for radical reform of the ALP and politics in general. And it is why in his presser last night Abbott looked unsettled, unsure of himself and very much a relic of the “old politics” that Rudd attacks so effectively. Rudd’s anti-politics also allows him to appear to actually want to take on Abbott. By raising the global economic crisis as the most pressing threat to Australia he is able to both draw on his record in the GFC and sweep away the ideological obsession with Budget deficits and austerity that Gillard and Swan surrendered to.

But the remaining institutional weight of Laborism has not disappeared simply because Rudd is leader. The pressure exerted by unions on their caucus affiliates only cracked because of the catastrophic electoral situation facing the ALP. For example, the ASU’s snap poll of members showed 36 percent would’ve voted Labor with Gillard, but 56 percent with Rudd. It means power brokers like Bill Shorten are left damaged because they clung to their union loyalties until very late. Shorten and other late converts will have greater problems staying on message (as Bob Carr’s hesitations on Lateline showed). And despite multiple resignations by Gillard loyalists decreasing the immediate need for bloodletting, Rudd may need to throw his weight around to convince voters he really is in charge. All these factors mean it is likely Rudd will give himself time and an early election would be counterproductive. He needs space to mess with Abbott’s head and show he’s in control.

Such considerations mean that Rudd cannot represent some kind of coherent and durable form of political rule to replace the old setup that is unravelling. A Labor victory also remains far from assured in such an unstable political situation. And if the economic crisis really does hit Australia hard, the kind of rapid fragmentation of politics we see in countries like Greece and Spain could happen here (especially if this provokes resistance from below on a much larger scale). Rudd may be anti-politics but he is no anti-capitalist.

Understanding what the conflict in the ALP is actually about is vital for those wanting to build some kind of alternative project. It is important not to fall into thinking that the relative lack of ideological difference between Rudd and Gillard meant that their battle had no political meaning, as some on the Marxist Left are implying. They presume that an Abbott victory is still certain and that the political environment has not shifted. This either misunderstands what politics is, or is an attempt to pretend that politics can be gotten around.

Importantly, while Rudd may be a right-wing anti-politics technocrat, he also inspires hope that things can be better than Australia’s failing political system has allowed. This contradicts the idea that post-neoliberal Labor needs to return to a clear social democratic program to have electoral success, and that the only correct position to take is a simple “plague on all your houses”. This is part of the reason the Greens have been much more disoriented by Rudd than by Gillard; he infringes on their anti-politics appeal — an appeal now much eroded by their alignment with Gillard. Rudd (the political phenomenon) therefore gives us a unique insight into how the crisis of politics creates the possibilities for new political projects. He also teaches us that if such projects are to succeed they cannot simply try to recreate a version of the old order that has shaped all our histories.

Discussion16 Comments

  1. Bro says:

    If we are concerned about trivial unexplained analyses, this throwaway reference to the supposedly scaredy cat Greens seems interesting: “So it has been with the Rudd-Gillard battle, which finally ended last night with Rudd’s return to the prime ministership (assured by Katter and Wilkie backing him in any confidence motion — the Greens being to scared to risk Abbott being installed by the G-G).”

    • Dr_Tad says:

      They would be scared for very good reasons, not trivial ones: Refusing confidence would risk Abbott getting the chance to form government. To do so over no more than a change of Labor leadership near the end of a term of government would be a massive risk — especially if that leadership change looks like it can stop Abbott becoming PM.

  2. Ravenred says:

    Well one thing for me is that we’ve got absolutely no idea what Ruddism is. He can quote Bonhoeffer all he likes, but we’ve got no idea about what a Rudd-based Labor party would be like. Does he have an internal reform agenda? How would the internal governance / power structures change? Does he actually have a vision of what he believes Australia to be like (for mine, Gillard did, for all that she was incapable of putting it succinctly or powerfully)?

    The original Rudd/Gillard prime ministership (which arguably lost the latter half of the appellation as it went on) doesn’t offer huge guidance, though you can argue that the GFC response took a lot of the rhetorical and policy energy which might otherwise have been expended.

    So we’re left with exactly what we had on election night 2007, someone who promises to take politics in new directions, but without clear signposting as to what directions they’re going to be.

    As an aside, my father took me to an ALP fundraiser in 2006 or so where JG was the keynote speaker. There were questions afterwards, and I asked whether or not the ALP could continue to be a labour-based party or whether it’d have to shift to a social democrat model. JG deflected my question like the political pro that she is/was, but IMO the question itself remains relevant.

    • Dr_Tad says:

      I don’t think Ruddism is ideologically coherent. That’s not what it is. Rather, it is a way of running the party given the hollowing out of its base, by appealing over the head of the party’s power structures (and against them). Therefore it’s not necessarily democratic either, and I think the technocratic element will be more prominent now that the ALP is even less socially representative than in 2007.

      How things end up is difficult to know. It will depend on the balance of forces more widely in society. Labor may yet have its PASOK moment.

  3. Peter Boyle says:

    ” Even if the unions managed to partially break from such positions in the latter part of the 20th century..”

    When did that happen? I must have missed it.

    People comparing the union density today with periods before enterprise bargaining, etc have to take into account that in the hey dey of Australia’s compulsory arbitration there were a huge number of relatively automatic but ineffective union members. None of this is to minimise the negative consequences on trade unionism of the Accord and Keating’s Enterprise Bargaining but don’t read too much radicalism or militancy and radicalism into the union density and strike stats of the 1970s. Laborism was thriving then – even if the ALP factions still had some political semblance to their names!

    • Dr_Tad says:

      Peter, unless you want to claim that the Australian settlement of protectionism/arbitration/WAP remained completely stable as the post-WWII boom progressed, then I’m not sure what you’re trying to say here.

      And I have not been making any claims about past radicalism and militancy. Rather, I’m saying that the long-run institutional strength and stability of the unions (including their relationship to the state) was greatly weakened by the fallout from the Accord and neoliberal reform period. I am saying that the stable incorporation of workers’ aspirations and demands within the system is much less.

  4. jeff says:

    Hi Tad,
    I think this is interesting, and you raise some very perceptive points. But I still have the same worry as in our previous debates: that you’re overcooking the analytical pudding (how’s that for a metaphor!) and it’s distorting your immediate analysis.

    You write: “The anti-politics element of Rudd’s agenda is perhaps the hardest thing for political insiders, even on the radical Left, to understand. Despite his privileged social position and objectively insider status, it has allowed him to play to public bitterness at the self-interested Canberra elite. The unprecedented personalised public attacks carried out by the Gillard camp have actually served to cement his outsider credibility among many voters. It is why the Liberal attack ad showing his colleagues (as well as Mark Latham, the last person one should look to for character assessments!) excoriating him will actually help Rudd make his case for radical reform of the ALP and politics in general.”

    Where’s the evidence that Rudd has ‘cemented his outsider credibility among the voters’?

    Sure, there was no doubt sympathy for him, at least initially, on the basis that he was knifed by the faceless men.

    But I just do not see him now presented as in any way an outsider. Actually, over the last 24 hours, it’s been Gillard who has been widely discussed as the anti-political candidate, the idealistic feminist crushed by the blue-tie wearing Labor men, of whom (in the public’s eyes) Rudd’s seen as representative.

    Two examples.

    The first is a press release from Adam Bandt. It reads, in part:

    ‘As the country’s first woman Prime Minister, Julia Gillard has done a pretty good job of negotiating with the Greens, country independents, other independents and Labor to get people on the same page and progress some significant reforms.

    ‘She has never really been given a fair go by her own side. For the last couple of years, the NSW factional heavies in particular have been intent on undermining her and now they have got their way.

    ‘Labor’s decision to hack down another PM sends a clear message that opinion polls and the Labor factions run the country and that no matter what good things you get done you can be sacked at a moment’s notice. Not a good day for democracy and I think a lot of people will be very disappointed about that.’

    For Bandt — and much of the liberal Left — last night was about Gillard standing up against the party heavies. It’s the argument that Anne Summers and all the power feminist types are putting everywhere. It’s also being voiced in the Age and the Guardian and other liberal papers. No sense of Rudd as the anti-politics candidate — rather the reverse.

    But it’s not just the Left Clive Palmer who, like Bandt, knows something about anti-politics. has a similar analysis. This is from the Herald Sun:

    ‘The Palmer United Party founder says it doesn’t really matter who won the Labor leadership ballot on Wednesday night because Labor powerbroker Bill Shorten has ultimate control.

    ‘”Poor old Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard are just faces, smiley faces that you send on emails,” he told ABC radio on Thursday.

    ‘”They’re both PR people for Bill Shorten. He’s running the country at the moment and has been for a long time.

    ‘”Kevin Rudd knows he can’t do anything at all unless Bill Shorten agrees. Julia Gillard knew she couldn’t do anything unless Bill Shorten agreed.”‘

    OK, I guess you could say that Palmer’s counterposing Rudd to Shorten. But there’s absolutely no identification of Rudd as some anti-political alternative to Gillard. On the contrary, Palmer’s line is that it’s business as usual.

    I appreciate things might look different from _inside_ Labor. But I don’t see any evidence of a public impression of Rudd as the outsider in the way you’re arguing.

    • Dr_Tad says:

      Jeff, I appreciate your detailed comments.

      I think you’re looking to precisely the wrong sources to find an understanding of Rudd’s anti-political appeal. I’ll go through them:

      (1) The MSM has been largely incapable of understanding his popular appeal — which was unprecedented and protracted, from the end of 2006 when he became leader to the dumping of the ETS in early 2010. This should not be surprising as the professionalisation of politics and the erosion of the social base of the major parties has meant that the media is much more the only channel from insiders to the public, and often for talking among themselves (e.g. backgrounding against rivals, etc.). The resulting hothouse atmosphere has led journalists to identify with the politicians they are closest to, and hence get so caught up in the political set-up that they cannot even notice its decay. This is why they repeatedly note the scale of the volatility in politics yet cannot conceptualise a wider crisis of political authority.

      (2) Gillard has been presented as anything but a political outsider by Summers and the other liberal feminists. Rather, they are merely repeating the identity politics claims that they made when she was still in charge, and indicating that while she was an insider the other insiders don’t like women/didn’t like her politics. There is no sense that she is or was seen as someone taking on the political system (at least not since the period in the mid-2000s that she was interested in ALP reform) — rather she was always someone who broke through the glass ceiling to become the consummate insider. Let’s recall the endless praise for her backroom negotiations, her ability to bring disparate politicians together for the greater good, her astounding skill in guiding record numbers of laws through parliament, etc.

      (3) It suits Bandt and the Greens to argue that Gillard was a victim of the ALP heavies, given she was actually installed by the factional heavies but the Greens then happily signed on to her government on the basis of a heroic “new paradigm” of parliamentary wheeling and dealing. They publicly backed her against Rudd in 2012 and again in 2013, they said barely a word against the public flogging Rudd was subjected to during the 2012 challenge, and they have shown little interest in posing themselves as challenging the insider culture of Canberra in the last 3 years. There is certainly a strong technocratic strand in the Greens, but that is very much posed as needing to be within the system, not against it. Indeed, Christine Milne’s theoretical views about politics are derived from a reading of Machiavelli that is all about shifting the system from the inside. The shift from “replacing the bastards” to “keeping the bastards honest” is one sign of this.

      (4) Clive Palmer wants to look more anti-political than Rudd, so he would make those idiotic and confused claims about Shorten. It’s not far from what Abbott is saying. The reality is that Shorten saw the writing on the wall (very bloody late) and saved himself from complete humiliation. There has been no deal with Shorten, and the coming months will prove that pretty decisively.

      The point about anti-politics is not that one is an insider not currently in control. It’s that you stand against the current state of politics as a whole (including, usually, your own side’s institutions). Few people in the political class grasp it because they want the existing set-up to be perpetuated, and the Greens are the classic outsiders who only wanted to criticise the system when they were outsiders. Once they were legislating it worked just fine thank you.

      To be an anti-politics PM therefore requires being against your party and the system *even when you are running them*. Rudd certainly showed disdain for both when PM — with his 2020 Summits overcoming the need for parliamentary and party policy development. He also showed disdain for the factional power structures, and this is probably why he was called a “psychopath” (he kept telling them “no”).

      • jeff says:

        Hi Tad,
        Like I said, I’m not trying to be carping. You do make an interesting argument, raising points that no-one much else is.
        So I hope you take what follows in that spirit.
        As I have said elsewhere, I worry you are establishing a schema that’s innately unfalsifiable, an approach that allows you to impose your analysis upon the situation against the available evidence.
        For a long time now there’s been a general but vague hostility to the political establishment such that almost every candidate now presents themselves as, in some senses, an outsider. No politician puts his or her hand up and says, oh, I’m a perfect product of my party’s machine — both here and in the US it’s de rigueur to announce that you are going in there to shake up the status quo with the sound common sense you possess as an ordinary salt of the earth battler, etc.
        Now, that’s a much weaker phenomenon than the one you are describing but it does mean you can find ‘anti-political’ statements from just about anyone. Yes, Rudd announced the 2020 caper but then again the current parliament also opened with much bloviating about the ‘new paradigm’ and how it represented a different kind of politics, etc. That was anti-politics — it was just opportunism.
        I am not convinced that Rudd’s initial popularity was based on a widespread public perception that he represented something qualitatively different, which is what your claim about anti-politics required. Within the ALP, sure, Rudd’s relative hostility to the various kingmakers might have been seen as profoundly new (though I’m not even sure about that: was that the first time someone short-circuited the machine via personal popularity?). But how many voters knew or cared anything about the ins and outs of the internal party machinations? That’s an issue about which insiders are fascinated, not something that impinges on the punters. Yes, he staged the 2020 stunt but, again, 2020 was pitched explicitly at getting the intelligentsia on board. The kinds of people who argued that 2020 was indicative of a new sort of politics are exactly the kinds of people who are now writing pieces about how Julia Gillard brought a feminist sensibility into government before the machine tore her apart. Everything you write above about response of the power feminists to Gillard applies far more so to 2020, a initiative that was all about insiderdom. It fascinated the intelligentsia but I doubt anyone else paid it any attention at all. It was an invite-only event, and those who got the Golden Tickets were a roll call of the political establishment. I mean, if you wanted an exact list of Australian insiders, you could do worse than look at the attendance sheet for that event.
        Yes, Rudd presented himself as an ordinary bloke from Queensland but, as I said, that’s a pretty standard political persona these days. I don’t see the evidence that there was mass support for him on the basis of expectations that he was going to radically transform either the political institutions in general or the Labor Party in particular. On the contrary, he gave plenty of major speeches that consisted largely of assuring the public that a Rudd administration would be pretty much like a Howard administration: that he was, as he said, both an economic conservative and a social conservative. That wasn’t pitched as an anti-politics: he wasn’t saying, hey, the problem with Canberra is that it’s been too scared to be be economically conservative but I’m going in there to overturn the way things have been done. On the contrary, Rudd’s line was: you can vote for me if you want to get rid of Howard without fearing that anything will change too much. In a sense, I guess, there was an implicit rebuke of Labor traditions in that (since he was implying he was more conservative than previous ALP leaders) but it’s scarcely an anti-politics in the way you describe it. In any case, there’s almost no senior Labor figure now who hasn’t, at one point or another, paid lip service to the idea that the party structures must be reformed.
        Anyway, that’s by-the-by, as largely historical.
        When we come to the situation today, where’s the evidence of any widespread expectations that Rudd ‘stands against the current state of politics as a whole’? I just cannot see it.
        Insofar as Rudd has said anything about his plans, he’s talking about consulting his colleagues, about not purging the Gillardites, about giving cabinet more say. Again, within the party itself, he might be seen as the man plunging traditional institutions into chaos — but no normal people follow those debates. That’s an insider preoccupation — I am very sceptical that there’s terribly much voter awareness of precisely where Rudd stands vis a vis Penny Wong or Bill Shorten or David Feeney or whoever.
        The Piping Shrike says (below) that the evidence for Rudd having cemented his outsider status with the voters simply comes from his persistent popularity.
        Is it not far more likely that, to ordinary voters, he was simply seen, as you put it, as ‘an insider not currently in control’, that he was able to rebuild his popularity on the basis of sympathy (given he was stabbed in the back by his colleagues) and, more importantly, because he wasn’t responsible for Gillard’s unpopular policies and thus was able to posit himself as the road not taken? I can’t think of anything he did or said in his time out of the leadership that would convince the public that he was a man standing against parliamentary politics as a whole.
        On the contrary, as I said above, if that label’s being applied to anyone at the moment, it’s Gillard. Here’s a comment on Overland at the moment: ‘Misogyny, accompanied by bullying (commonly seen as an acceptable and common practice in today’s aggressive power broking processes), whether by Murdoch’s press minions or politicians themselves, together with an increasingly manipulated and dumbed-down population; what a debacle, what a sad and sorry day. My heart-felt thanks to Julia, the sacrificial lamb, who helped raise all of these festering sores into the light of day where, hopefully, they can firstly be recognised as real and then finally lanced and remedied.’
        That stuff is everywhere at the moment. It’s all over social media and it’s running throughout the liberal press: a notion that Gillard was done over by the political establishment, which is the exact opposite of what you’re arguing the public perception is.
        Compare Bernard Keane:
        ‘Many in the media were happy to act as uncritical and unsceptical echo chambers for the Rudd camp, enthusiastically reporting that Rudd’s numbers were growing, hyping his chances, criticising Gillard, beating up small incidents to portray him in a more positive light. Some of this was mere freelancing by Rudd’s more enthusiastic backers, done without the direct support of Rudd himself (yes, that’s Joel Fitzgibbon); other times it was by Rudd himself. Frequently it had no substance whatsoever; when time came to challenge in February 2012, Rudd’s support was embarrassingly low; he couldn’t even bring himself to throw his hat in the ring in March this year.
        ‘Frequently it looked like the middle-aged males of the Rudd camp working closely with the middle-aged men of the press gallery to undermine a female prime minister. …
        ‘But if she wasn’t ready for the prime ministership, too many people weren’t ready for a female prime minister.’
        Obviously, this is all overheated. But I just don’t see how you can look at the current situation and claim that Rudd’s overthrow of Gillard is widely seen in the public as an anti-politician stepping up to overthrow political institutions. It seems to me that most people see it as precisely the opposite, in the way Keane describes: the triumph of the institutions (the Canberra insiders, both political and journalistic) over someone who didn’t fit the norm. Watching the vox pops on the news last night, even the punters voicing approval for Rudd were putting it in very traditional terms. They thought it was good he was back because, without him, Labor would lose. That’s not anti-politics — it’s politics, precisely the calculation made by most MPs.
        Yes, Rudd’s enjoying a honeymoon now — but so too did Gillard, immediately after Rudd was axed. Wouldn’t a simpler explanation of that be that anyone not in power currently seems preferable to those running the show? That’s an argument about anti-politics, too — but it’s a much weaker claim than the one you’re putting forward, and accords more with the evidence.
        Obviously, time will tell. I am very sceptical that the Rudd bounce will last. IMO Rudd will go to the election on pretty much the basis that previous Labor leaders have: a small target strategy, coupled with the embrace of a few key ideas of the populist right (probably to do with stopping the boats).
        But we shall see.

    • Jeff raises some interesting points. On the evidence of Rudd having ‘cemented his outsider credibility among the voters’ I would say it’s his popularity, which has endured to such an extent that it was sufficient for caucus to over-ride the wishes of the power brokers and reinstall him as a game-changer.

      But anti-politics has always been a feature of Australian politics (especially in Queensland due to the historical weakness of the two-party system) and at various times successful Australian politicians have exploited it. It’s just that due to the erosion of the Labor’s institutions, Rudd’s use of it has become highly disruptive. Palmer uses it, the Greens use it and even Gillard, willing stooge of the power brokers as she was, exploited it near the end, presumably because, as factional support drifted away, she had nothing left to lose.

      Even the Liberals, Australia’s last real political party, use it when they talk of Labor’s “faceless men”. I think it would be pretty clear that Rudd was dumped by the power brokers and returned despite them. Nevertheless at the moment this is not as clear as it could be. His position is tenuous. It is no surprise that Palmer, Greens and the Coalition are already trying to use it on Rudd while he cannot make it clear. Whether it succeeds, depends what Rudd does from here I guess.

      I discuss it here for what it’s worth

      Finally, what this means for social progress is an interesting point. I have my own thoughts, but I think the very nature of politics is under question and arguably its true nature is becoming clear. It would be an interesting discussion as things evolve.

  5. blaqswans says:

    One of your best pieces. Given the tangible real in-vivo situation that unfolded, it helps understand where you were getting at in some of your previous writings on the crisis of authority of the political class, which would have been a bit more theoretical. Analysing Rudd as an anti-politics technocrat is purely excellent, and I cannot help thinking it does echo in a loose way the anti-political nature of the European Commission, or of former PM Mario Monti in Italy. Projects that are simply against party politics – albeit not exactly from your school of thoughts 🙂

    • Dr_Tad says:

      Before you get carried away with the praise, I should credit four sources of inspiration for thinking about this issue. (1) The Piping Shrike’s thought-provoking blog. (2) The anti-politics of the Spanish indignados movement. (3) The way that the political class (and not so much the technocrats themselves) got blamed for the austerity measures of the Papademos and Monti governments. (4) Beppe Grillo’s rise.

      Now you can continue being carried away! 😀

  6. Really interesting piece. Further to your warning to the far left about thinking that the events have no political meaning, there’s been a fair bit of FB chatter about whether Rudd will be more or less left wing than Gillard. Well we know he won’t be qualitatively to the left of Gillard. But in order to carve out his populist space against the image (if not the substance) of both the Gillard and Abbott, I think we will see him adopt both populist right wing and left wing stances. For example it’s already being suggested he will be “tougher” on asylum seekers but also restore the single parents pension. As you say, he won’t be able to keep up the smoke and mirrors for long if he gets returned as PM and economic crisis really hits.

  7. […] Tad Tietze: Kevin Rudd, anti-politics and the ends of Laborism […]

  8. […] the Greens have suffered politically and in the polls from their association with Gillard and the “old Labour” project she represented. But it is not easy for the Greens to go back and admit their strategy was flawed, because such a […]

  9. […] even more than his first term, simultaneously prime ministerial and anti-politics. Of course, as I have argued elsewhere, the social content of his project is deeply in favour of the prevailing social relations, and so […]