Left Flank - @Liz_beths @Dr_tad
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Labor The Greens
It was difficult to know how to approach Paul Howes’ Confessions Of A Faceless Man , his public “diary” of the 2010 election campaign. Was it to be a tell-all insider’s account delivering anecdotes that journalistic efforts would miss? Was it to be a re-evaluation of the problems the first-term federal government got itself into, a thoughtful introspection on how the ALP went from astronomical to disastrous poll ratings in very short order? Or was it to be a meditation on the long-term trajectory of a Labor Party that, as Howes is keen to tell us on his book tour, needs to have some serious debates about “big picture” ideas. As it turns out, none of the above, and that perhaps explains some of the very critical commentary that has derided Howes for either being one of the vapid apparatchiks who caused this mess , for providing little real “insider” insight , and for generally having a really bloody short memory.
In the last decade there has been a dramatic reconfiguration on the Left of Australian politics. The ALP’s support has dropped to levels not witnessed since the dark years of the Great Depression. Labor has also experienced an excruciating crisis of identity in full public view.
Greens leader has been clashing with the government over the Tasmanian forestry deal Picture: Ray Strange Source: The Australian THE bonds between the government and the Greens are strained by complexities. Some involve the relationship between the two.
Iraq and the Australian antiwar movement But in November 1999, a watershed moment occurred in the heart of world capitalism – on the streets of Seattle, in the United States – when Teamster unionists, environmentalists dressed as Turtles and many others joined forces to dispute that there was no alternative. Their target was the World Trade Organisation meeting, which was negotiating a new round of free trade agreements, and their blockades of the venue and mass rallies shut it down. Continue reading 'Iraq and the Australian antiwar movement' 2012: The year that politics disoriented the Left
the Quiggin Debate: Marxism without revolution
I’ve mentioned Erik Olin Wright’s Envisaging Real Utopias a couple of times, and I’ve also been reading David Harvey’s Enigma of Capital and Jerry Cohen’s if You’re an Egalitarian How Come you’re so Rich . In different ways, all these books raise the question: what becomes of Marxism if you abandon belief in the likelihood or desirability of revolution?
I’m writing series of posts examining the question – what is left of Marxism, as a way to understand the world, and as a way to change it, once it is accepted that capitalism is not going to be overthrown by a working class revolution. Last time I talked about class . This post is about crisis. As before, the shorter JQ is “there are lots of valuable insights, but there’s a high risk of political paralysis.”
I’ve been writing series of posts examining the question – what is left of Marxism, as a way to understand the world, and as a way to change it, once it is accepted that capitalism is not going to be overthrown by a working class revolution. The first was about class and the second about crisis . Now for the final instalment: capital. By the way, the first post got translated into Spanish, here .
Greek workers march on Finance Ministry, finding common cause against austerity Thanks to @liz_beths for her helpful comments and suggestions. The economist John Quiggin — whose valuable book Zombie Economics I reviewed last October — has just completed a three part series on “Marxism without revolution” at his blog . The three posts cover Marx’s ideas on class , crisis and capital . In responding it is difficult to know where to start because the case he mounts is tautological, often well astray in its representations of what Marx said, and replays well-worn tropes about how Marx got it wrong in terms of the economics without seeming to have much awareness of the substantive debates.
John Quiggin recently ran a series on “Marxism without revolution”, with posts covering Marx’s ideas on class , crisis and capital . I began a response here . In this post I look at his claims about Marx’s theory of crisis and his approach to Left strategy. John’s attack on Marx’s crisis theory, specifically the “law of the tendency of the rate of profit to fall”, is different to his criticisms of Marx’s “value theory”.
2012 end of year reflections
For the last post of 2012 we were asked to reflect on politics over the last year. In thinking on this for the last week I’ve drafted about ten first paragraphs. The writer’s block arises not from nothing to say, but from a place that wonders how many ways there are to describe how awful the Gillard government is. How many ways there are to verbalise that the political crisis of the Australian elites is playing out in increasingly cruel ways: from the demonising of asylum seekers and placing them in harms way to the smearing of Indigenous communities and the implementation of policies that stigmatise. From cutting single parents benefits to forcing people living with disabilities onto Newstart, to the rollout of the Basics Card, to the poor who are supposedly incapable of managing their government benefits in Bankstown. All these are policies roundly condemned by non-government bodies and many international welfare agencies.
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. Anyway, I had a go at forecasting in mid-2011, and when recently prompted to return to this by Colin Barker I was surprised at how well my scribblings had stood the test of time.
A family picture of Jacintha Saldanha Of course, as Austereo CEO Rhys Holleran told reporters , nobody could have ‘reasonably foreseen’ that a prank telephone call made by two Australian radio presenters would set off a chain of events that included the apparent suicide of a nurse – Jacintha Saldanha, a mother of two teenaged children – on the other side of the world. If there is one thing you learn early in psychiatric training, it’s that we have few (if any) good predictors of an individual’s risk of killing themselves. But the furore that has erupted over whether the DJs’ actions ‘led’ to a suicide is in many ways a distraction from a more insidious process: the way that the capitalist media creates entertainment from a culture of humiliation in which ordinary people are invited to laugh at the misfortune of the weak and vulnerable.
1 Explaining the age of austerity: Beyond the conjunctural, the organic crisis re-emerges - Left FlankLeft FlankHow did it come to this? Just two years ago everything seemed so different: The GFC was crashing across the planet, provoking the largest internationally coordinated program of state intervention in human history. Prime Ministers were writing quasi-erudite essays damning “market fundamentalism” while disinterring Keynesianism and social democracy. Progressive thinkers spoke hopefully of Green New Deals and the return of the welfare state after a long “retreat”. But now all that is gone as we are told to accept the need for an “age of austerity”, where public services are pared back, “overgenerous” benefits removed and work — very hard work — is the organising ideological principle of progressive governance. Keynesianism is put in its place as something that is for the economy and not society, while tax cuts for big corporations and the rich must remain or be extended.
Austerity (noun): 1. Enforced or extreme economy. From the Greek, austēros , meaning “harsh” or “severe”. The conversion of the present ALP federal government from new-era Keynesian stimulus apostles to sovereign debt doom merchants did not take place overnight, but if it happened anywhere it was in Toronto at the G20 meeting exactly a year ago.
3 Beyond the age of austerity, a new pattern of resistance and revolution emerges - Left FlankLeft FlankIn apparently “normal” times we Marxists are given a hard time, derided for our economic determinism about the crisis-prone nature of capitalism, scoffed at for suggesting that revolutionary movements could possibly occur in modern times, and accused of totalitarian impulses if we suggest that conscious revolutionaries should try to cohere their forces. Often the most strident criticisms come from those who are apparently closest to us politically, Leftists who share our anger at the injustices of existing society but adhere to social democratic principles. So it was during the long economic upturn of the early 1990s to 2007, when talk of new paradigms and the victory of consumer capitalism bewitched many usually critical and clear-thinking minds.
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