Does the radical left have a better idea?

So the dust has settled with the G20 in Brisvegas but a inkstain in your favourite Murdoch rag and I’m wondering about the smorgasbord of analysis on offer, ranging from a typically anti-Abbott portrait by Ben Eltham to this communist comment from comrade Dave over at The Word from Struggle Street.

There’s plenty more but I am really taken by Ben’s perseverance and some logical inconsistencies Dave offers.

Ben’s problem is he has to write something and he has to write it for his audience. That’s not to say what he’s written is bad, but it smacks of superficiality. Yes our beloved Tone fucked up and reinforced the suspicions of most that he really isn’t up to the job, his subsequent fawning over China’s Xi even too much for the radical right’s motor mouth Alan Jones, but that’s not really the issue. In a sense that’s just the charade of politics and how it is examined. That doesn’t make it less newsworthy but it does continue more or less normal political commentary.

On the other hand, Comrade Dave cuts to the chase. The G20 is about the capitalist order and the lack of anything substantial emerging from it tells us the capitalist system hasn’t found its mojo despite the abundant navel gazing. But I have some problems with the songbook Dave and Dr Tad seem to reference, our so-called alienation from others in the form of capitalism’s exploitative hierarchical social relations. Just to be clear, I think there is something of merit in the argument that identifies the root of capitalism in the way social relations are structured, for instance Naomi Klein makes a similar claim vis-a-vis our disconnect from natural world. For Klein, humanity’s relationship with the planet mirrors the exploitative dominating attitude capitalists seem to express towards the rest of humanity. Klein, in my view, correctly locates the origin of this worldview in the western christian tradition where the Garden of Eden is given to Adam and Eve so they may exploit and prosper. Alternative worldviews such as aboriginal myths around the globe support the idea that the Christian exploitative relationships both to the planet and each other are but one way we can relate to others, or even one express our selves as human beings.

So my problem with any Marxist analysis is this. Basically it seems that a Marxist view remains in the social domain, the Marxist world is the form that emerges from a different set of social interaction compared with say the existing liberal democratic model that is the form of capitalist interactions. However, imagining a anti-capitalist world seems fraught with certain contradictions.

There is firstly the problem of revolution which as Derrida observes, carries within the seed of the next hierarchic order or state. It is tempting to believe a revolution grounded in communist values may negate or avoid the self imposed contradictions of a capitalist system but two recent examples, the USSR and China seem to suggest that the communist order is no more successful over time than its opposite. Again, the more durable example seems to be the older indigenous order with a somewhat submissive relationship with the natural world and decentralised power, reminiscent of a cellular structure as opposed to the west’s obsession with pyramids.

The second problem I have is this notion of so-called anti-politics. I fail to see how the struggles of non mainstream activists operating outside the traditional institutions of state politics is anything but politics in a different place. The old feminist motto, the personal is the political should be sufficient to explain this phenomenon but it seems the Marxist left are somewhat incapable of accepting a widespread social expression of shared values can transcend the limited scope imposed by Marx. Yes our personal relationships ground the social but the world is more than the sum total of our relationships with each other, it is also a product of our relationship to the animal within and without.

How we get there peacefully, en masse and with the planet intact is perhaps the single biggest challenge humanity has ever faced.

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Outrageous public boo Prime Minister #itstime

Oh dear, the right honourable our PM, Mr Abbott and his preceeding neoliberal footsoldier Little Johnny Howard got booed when they turned up to Whitlam’s funeral. Clearly these people haven’t been reading the Daily Telegraph long enough to know their lines. Don’t these disgusting filth realise Australia needs Tony?


Just in case you aren’t getting the message, here’s how the “tele” covered the funeral


And just to make sure, they are running this insightful bit of journalism somewhere.

Take a bow Rupert. I wouldn’t piss on you if you were burning.

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White Male Republicans take back what is rightfully theirs

So US midterm election results have given the Republicans the senate but I could not help but notice in the two fotos appearing in the age a certain commonality. The pointed raised finger it isn’t, nor the red ties. Rather I was rather taken by the fact that in both pictures you have a confident middle aged white male flanked by a gaggle of mostly young white women.

White Man #1White Man #2
This is traditional hetro family values written large but also quite obviously, white family values. The story says something about Obama’s lack of popularity but I’m getting the impression this result is a taste of the barely contained racial divide that seems to be such a feature of US politics.

And it’s worth noting, the Keystone XL pipeline is big on the Republican agenda.

Republicans capture control of Senate in US midterm elections.

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Two steps backward

Today Australia has a new government policy on carbon reduction, Direct Action.

You might think that’s a good thing, Direct Action is after all what is required to meet the greatest challenge we humans face in the foreseable future but before you get to excited the Direct Action policy legislated last night is anything but direct or action. Like most names politicians give things, it sounds good but is undoubtably far removed what you might think is meant by the terms “direct” and “action”.

The idea is this, funds will be set aside to pay individuals, groups or companies that can come with ways to reduce or capture carbon emmissions. Planting lots of trees for example, improving carbon capture by the soil, paying inefficient coal stations to modernise and presumably continue operating for another 25 years, the list of possibilities is almost endless. The government will kick in $3 billion over a few years to make this possible and expects to get a 5% reduction in carbon emmissions for the money. Paying polluters not to pollute or farmers to plant trees, yay!

Now depending on how worried you might be about global warming, this might seem quite reasonable and prudent or alternatively it might sound a little bit sus or even outrageously inadequate. Australia used to have a price on carbon, it’s now gone, presumably because it was bad for business. Now we have another plan which is presumably good for business because it removes a tax on their bottom line. Good for the planet, who cares? Let us not forget, Coal is Good for humanity.

Maybe the government listened to the scientists, oh I forgot this government doesn’t think we need a department for science. Maybe they don’t really believe the science anyway and there’s plenty of proof that denial lives large in parts of the Liberal National Party government.

Even one of their senior ministers once described Direct Action as a fig leaf. Pretty big fig leaf, one that hides the awful truth that this country is firmly in the pocket of the coal industry whose continued existence and growth is the very thing we should be working against. For our own sakes, because after the storms rage and the ice caps melt there will still be a planet but there might not be any humans.

Direct action would be to close the coal mines and the coal fired power stations, put in place a 100% commitment to renewable energy over the next decade and commit this country to getting off its lazy arse and doing something positive. I’m sure it would upset a few people like Gina and Clive but them’s the breaks folks, a few losers and lots of winners. I think most people understand that.

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Amanda, the gift that keeps giving

Bless her socks, Amanda Vanstone is a GEM! The Age must be tickled pink by their star recruit.

First, her latest article of faith inspired 677 comments, more than twice the number cheering Our Tones as he goes mano a mano with Vlad the impaler in the battle of shirtless men. But then there is some big money in Vlad’s corner so maybe Tone was wise to back down while he could. On the other hand the best the Age could do was summon up some lefty gook economist from the Oz Institute to respond to Amanda’s insightful prose.

The second observation about Mandy is she seems to be gifted with the rare talent to ignore the blindingly obvious and steadfastly maintain that black is indeed white. Such vision is rarely seen in someone so esteemed in this country although I am told it is more common over in the US and elsewhere in the World according to Rupert.

Amanda will not suffer the fools who assert sheeplike the communistic mantra that inequality is a bad thing. It is about time someone came to the defence of the poor beleaguered rich folk who want nothing more than a quiet night at home and to help their fellow man in times of trouble. People like the late great Kerry Packer who single handedly built the greatest TV empire known to mankind, dragged himself up from the gutter to become a leading light to those aspiring to the sort of social mobility Mandy so rightfully defends. The late Kerry’s philanthropic deeds are only matched by his son’s great passion for investing in such job creating wealth distributing enterprises as the Melbourne Casino. Like the poor downtrodden Gina who had to suffer such terrible deprivations under the previous Labor government, these people are only ever thinking of what they can do for AUSTRALIA! The hundreds of druggies and commies frothing at the mouth who vented there rage at Amanda for daring to call it how it is should really just take a chill pill and thank their lucky stars we have such noble spirits doing their bit to keep this great country great.

Sure, Gina might be a bit inclined to ask her hard working book keeper to make sure she gets her tax return right, but just like the late great Kerry, Gina probably thinks it’s her patriotic duty to make sure the gubberment isn’t ripping her off to pay the bleeding heart dole bludgers to skive off and smoke cones all day. It’s no wonder we acknowledge such nationalistic endeavor with state funerals, it sets the bar high for personal achievement and gives the rest of us something to look up to.

Oh poor Amanda to be so cruelly misunderstood, to think she has even be called “a political hyena who takes delight in attacking society’s most vulnerable” when all she is trying to do is stand up for those who shun the limelight and avoid the rewards they so richly deserve.

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Instructions from Rupert

I think the front page headlines that assault you in the supermarket or newsagent are a good snapshot of what we are supposed to be preoccupied with as we go about our daily business. Remember this gem…

Well Australia this is apparently what we needed Tony for…


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Dissent in the 21st Century


What is so remarkable about Hong Kong isn’t the huge potentially tragic problem it poses for the Chinese Government in the shadow of Tiananmen. This might be the emerging western narrative but in that story no one will question where is the dissent in the west.

As a student of history I am struck by how successful governments in the west have been in creating orderly society, especially over the last hundred years or so. I am definitely curious about how this has happened and it seems that a simple explanation might be at hand, so-called western prosperity.

The idea is this, it seems likely that the price of dissent free orderly society in the west has been the carrot of achievable personal comfort, if not relative affluence. Consider what we enjoy in the west, electricity, communications, transport, public health, shelter, clean water and possibly most telling, abundant food.

Certainly these things are not evenly spread around, that would be communism, but it is significant that these general social conditions form part of an unspoken social pact between the governed and the government. Democracy is supposed to enable this process but my cynical view is that democracy is not the vehicle that enables socially beneficial self government in the sense that Derrida was fond of. Rather it seems that democracy is merely a vaneer, painted a different colour from time to time that hides the real decision makers and their decisions from public scrutiny.

A sample of today’s news illustrates the point. Two “issues” currently doing the rounds in the media are the new spy laws and the budget emergency. These are not unrelated issues although they appear to be dissimilar, one a question of personal liberty and the other a question of economics. I think both of these issues are but two sides of the same coin.

The justification for the new surveillance laws is as hysterical as it is unfounded in logic or practical experience. No one has died from a so-called terrorist attack in this country since the 1970’s. The existential threat to everyday Australians is close to zero. Furthermore the police operations currently underway are taking place within the existing legal framework. The question then arrises, what about the future, remembering that the label of terrorism is a bit like the label of witch. The terrorist is defined as so alien to the us that we are justified in taking whatever course of action is deemed necessary to remove their threat, no matter how these things are in a more objective sense. In other words there is no logic to the terrorist question, rather its premise is irrational fear or hatred. This situation or definition is easy to reappropriate, just as in previous times heretics or witches were called out by representatives of the prevailing order. If you are wating to see how this might evolve consider how easily the idea of eco-terrorist has entered into the lexicon.

The other side of the coin is economic, or simply wealth. The 1% problem is hardly new but the success of the neoliberal agenda has seen the an exponential growth in the magnitude of inequity to the point where we are almost approaching feudal conditions. The so-called budget emergency concocted by the current fascist government of Mr Abbott is simply a statement of economic fact, government spending on the things that comprise the social pact is relatively stable but the amount of money coming into the government in the from of tax receipts has suddenly declined. Why? Because those that can have massively started to avoid paying taxes. This governments response has been informative, social spending has been cut, the office that polices taxes has been gutted whereas the muscular arm of state violence has been flexed with talk of war abroad as well as the extension of the all seeing eye.

The point of this rather long winded little rant is this. Dissent Hong Kong style has been bought off for a time here in the west but the cost of doing so has apparently become less attractive to the 1% who are busy withdrawing their financial support of social democracy while simultaneously securing their position from dissent with increased police powers. These two directions speak to our future, one which might bear more resemblance with what takes place in Hong Kong than what we are led to believe.

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Turnbull gives Community TV the heave ho

Superficially Malcolm Turnbull is applying free market logic however his government’s ideology is steeped in fear and loathing for the community sector, unless it’s the mining community or banking community or property owners community…

Clearly this is not an issue about the viability of broadcast free-to-air TV in general since the minister is not directing other TV networks to vacate the spectrum. It is kicking off community TV because they can’t pay the ransom fees the other players pay. When Turnbull says he can get more money for this spectrum elsewhere, he’s probably right but he is also protecting the existing TV networks from any similar competition, a fact that probably wont be forgotten.

However you do have to feel for the community TV players. Told to fend for themselves from the beginning, the only government help was lower licence fees and access to the RF spectrum, which paradoxically left them totally exposed to the whims of the new right wing junta currently flexing its muscles in Canberra. Slowly they have evolved into cultural icons perhaps best illustrated by Melbourne’s Ch31 only to fall victim to the new right’s culture warriors.

I think this is the real battle. It could be just about the money but several points don’t make a lot of sense unless you factor in the Libs natural antipathy for anything communal or socially based. For example, Turnbull is on the one hand telling the world we don’t need faster internet and then telling content generators that the internet is their future. Huh? How does that work? If you look at traffic generators on the web, video gobbles up bandwidth faster than anything. Horses, carts anyone?

Of course the dark side of me also says wait a minute, the thing about free to air TV is you can’t actually tell who is watching stuff whereas as we all know these days the government knows exactly what you are doing on the internet. Could this be a not too subtle effort to get deviant left leaning community TV watchers onto the web so their thoughts could be monitored? Just another case of making sure everything is monitored and controlled? Surely the party of freedom and Bob Menzies wouldn’t be so motivated would they?

Of course in the meantime it will disrupt the noisome rabble and allow the ruling class to get on with business. The fifteen month transition window is hopelessly inadequate and similarly speaks to the minister’s ignorance on how things work in the real world. Broadcast TV is not a Youtube channel. I can be a Youtube channel with nothing more than camera-phone and an internet connection. There is no standard I have to adhere to (other than some prudish Google rules and some Byzantine copyright interpretations), I don’t have any professional obligations, if I choose my anonymity is virtually guaranteed, I can do and say virtually anything. I also don’t need elaborate studios, personnel or technical infrastructure, offices or general managers. But best of all I don’t need to broadcast according to some rigid timetable, I can just make shit up as I go along. Yes Minister, the future of TV is the internet but not TV as we know it.

The real 21st century solution to both spectrum allocation issues and cultural plurality is actually denied by this government’s decision to restrict the NBN to fibre to the node. Again it speaks to the technical ignorance of this mob who think the internet is the sum of Google and Facebook, with the odd email thrown in. It is possible with increasing bandwidth and reliability to distribute media via the public internet but that requires a different mindset to the Youtube mentality. Critically it also depends on the sort of infrastructure the NBN was supposed to be. In a nutshell it boils down to doing cable TV on the internet which of course leads to talk about how the Lib’s NBN is payback to Rupert and Foxtel.

So, in rather typical fashion, the gubbermints decision is superficially about one set of economics but seems to be about another set of economics with some serious cultural implications tossed in (and aside). If Turnbull was fair dinkum he would devote some of his department’s energy into investigating how broadcasters like CH31 can transition to a cableTV/internet model. The keystone objects are largely in place with payment options (pay per view, subscriptions etc) and technical delivery systems already established, but working models are few. Inquiring into this sort of stuff is the sort of things governments are good at, but then again it probably wouldn’t happen inside of 15 years let alone 15 months.

In one sense Tunbull is right when he says the future for TV is the internet, but either he is wilfully ignorant about how the two differ culturally and economically or he doesn’t care as long as he silences the annoying rabble amongst the clattering class.

Community TV gets pushed onto internet.

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The 40hr Week

There is another way. It’s not just an idea or a name of a song but rather it’s what we have to do. The alternatives aren’t too hot.

Lets look at the possibilities. Automation, robots, technology, innovation haven’t given us, the ordinary people, abundant work or exciting new “career” options. Instead we stand at the crossroads as post WW2 manufacturing and cosumption based economies struggle to find meaningful ways of employing every increasing numbers of people.

The solution according to some is simply to say let the market decide. The meat market, the employment market where people compete with each other for work. Because work is what sustains a lot of people, it provides money to pay bills and put food on the table. But while competition might produce “winners” it also produces losers and the facts are that market based solutions produced stratification, a few big winners, a few more not so big and so on, down to a whole bunch of losers.

However contrary to the prevailing market based theory, the distribution of wealth is not an accident unrelated to social conditions or public governance. Instead it is a consequence of those large scale settings. Increasing competition serves not only to maintain the inequitable distribution of wealth (by way of wages), it also seems to promote further inequality.

That there is a lot of pressure to continue down this path seems obvious but to what end? More gadgets, more services, more consumption just to drive the current economic model?

What if instead, a living wage could be had for working less? Not just for some but for all? Let the machines do the work, we could have a world of less stress and more pursuits of genuine happiness. The problems that just don’t go away, the millions who die because they don’t have clean water or decent food, the mountains of rubbish piling up, the toxic dumps in the oceans, the silent killers of human spirit. Aren’t we smart enough to figure out these problems don’t fix themselves, but rather are symptoms of the fact we aren’t doing anything about them? Instead of making bombs or new cars, we could be fixing some of this.

It could be otherwise, but this anaylsis misses the obvious point. Generally systemic failures of the type I alluded to above are usually attributed to some local or specific cause. We often see for example unemployment blamed on some sort of personality defect in the unemployed and much is made of the argument that it is not a consequence of the economic system in general which is portrayed as a neutral setting or so-called level playing field. The extent to which this depiction serves some interests and not others brings to mind what Nietzsche said about Platonism and christianity, it ignores the question of perspective and assumes that the truth (of the level playing field) is universal.

No. The economic system and existing social order are co-conspirators in a structure that perpetuates an elite minority who can enjoy everything life has to offer while condemning the rest of us to wage slavery. What is surprising perhaps is the extent to which the large majority still comply. Progress hasn’t just been in terms of science or technology, somehow dissent has all but disappeared.

Are we all sheep?

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