For socialism and democracy

As I mentioned a while ago, in the years that I’ve been blogging, I’ve described my political perspective as “social-democratic”. In earlier years, I mostly used “democratic socialist”. My reason for the switch was that, in a market liberal/neoliberal era, the term “socialist” had become a statement of aspiration without any concrete meaning or any serious prospect of realisation. By contrast, “social democracy” represented the Keynesian welfare state I was defending against market liberal “reform”.

In the decade since the Global Financial Crisis, things have changed. Socialism still describes an aspiration, rather than a concrete political program, but an aspiration to a better society is what we need now as a positive response to the evident failure of neoliberalism.

On the other side of the ledger, nominally social democratic parties nearly all failed the test of the crisis, accepting to a greater or lesser degree to the politics of austerity. Some, like PASOK in Greece, have paid the price in full. Others, like Labor in Australia, are finally showing some spine. In practice, though, social democracy has come to stand, at best, for technocratic managerialism, and at worst for capitulation to the demands of financial capital.

So, I’ve changed the description of this blog’s perspective to socialist. I haven’t however, adopted the formulation “democratic socialist” which was used, in the 20th century, to emphasise a rejection of the Stalinist claim to have produced “actually existing socialism” in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. That’s no longer necessary.

As has been true for most of the history of the modern world, the only serious threat to democracy is now coming from the right. So, it’s important to defend democracy as well as advancing the case for socialism.

98 thoughts on “For socialism and democracy

  1. Speaking of socialism, the idea of a royal commission into banking was derided by John Howard as “rank socialism”, where by “rank” he presumably meant “having a foul or offensive smell”.

    The government commissioned the rank socialist royal commission with all the enthusiasm of a man walking to the gallows. Now ministers can’t contain their effusive praise for it, with the Belgian waffle saying today that if it needs more time and resources of course the government will be delighted to provide them.

    Australian politics is such a clown show.

  2. Shane From Melbourne :
    … If people want to discuss the issues I’m talking about and put up a countervailing viewpoint, no problem. …

    My countervailing viewpoint is that, like epicycles, phlogiston, and the luminiferous aether, there are no such things. All that leaves for discussion is how you came to make the mistake of thinking there were, but that’s something we can’t guess unless you’re prepared to be more forthcoming than you have been so far. We can’t find the mistake in your working if you won’t show us your working.

  3. It might perhaps be worth my adding to my previous comment that I am generally unimpressed by performances of the Gish gallop.

  4. @Shane From Melbourne

    The discussion of dysgenics and eugenics came from Curt Doolittle. Your posts have mentioned “demographic winter”. Upon analysis the “demographic winter” thesis can be shown to have white supremacist and eugenics underpinnings. It’s a pity you mentioned demographic winter because the other items on your list are supportable, at least as possibilities.

    “The successive waves of crises and system shocks could bring the whole system of systems to collapse.”

    Yes, you are right here. Capitalism could collapse from endogenous and exogenous crises by 2050.

    “It will not be business as normal by 2050.”

    This is true. If we attempt to continue capitalist business as usual our system will collapse before or by 2050. If we can divert on to a substantially new path, say eco-socialism, there is a chance to avert complete collapse and replace it with a managed landing into some sort of circular, sustainable economy. I say “a chance”. Even this is not certain. We might still collapse into barbarism or extinction. With any of these possibilities, it certainly will not be capitalist business as usual, that’s for sure.

    There will indeed be stresses brought about by climate change, “including such effects such as food shortages, water shortages and mass migrations. Peak resources has other causes but climate change can affect peak resources too. Demographic winter and fiat currency collapse are very unlikely as primary causes of any crisis but might occur as flow-on effects of that crisis. Fiat currency collapse, for major nations, would only occur after governmental collapse or rank governing incompetence.

    The state could become “increasingly authoritarian and panoptic introducing such methods of population control as rationing, universal photo ID, facial recognition through CCTV, social credit, RFID and kill switches in cars.” This is much more likely to happen in a right-wing corporate, capitalist state or under state capitalism (mis-labelled Communism) of the old Soviet or current Chinese style. It is less likely to happen under eco-socialism.

  5. @Shane From Melbourne

    Brandolini’s law: “The amount of energy needed to refute bullshot is an order of magnitude bigger than that required to produce it.”

    Say something adult (and intellectual) if you want to taken seriously, don’t just string together random talking points.

  6. @Ikonoclast

    “disturbing – references to dysgenics, eugenics and demography from a couple of bloggers above.”

    Dysgenics and eugenics seems to have issued at #6 stillborn.

    “When it comes to demographics, the stated concern seems to be the world will run out of babies. That doesn’t seem to be the problem at the moment.”

    Well, it is the prime reason given by proponents for the crazy high rate of net overseas migration here. They either run the country or otherwise would do so. The Big Australia boosters claim that baby production is so low the sky would fall in on us without the crazy migration rate.

  7. @Svante

    The Big Australia boosters are “future eaters” to pinch Tim Flannery’s term. If we exceed our ecological footprint we will essentially eat our future, ending up with overshoot followed by collapse.

    High net immigration is a relatively easy way but historically temporary way to increase GDP and even possibly to increase per capita income over what it might otherwise have been ceteris paribus. Finally, this only works while we can eat our future up to the point of collapse following overshoot.

    Finding ways to stay inside our carrying capacity, keeping our total ecological footprint sustainable, running a circular, steady-state economy (quantitatively) and doing this while keeping the economy strong and equitable is a lot more difficult and almost certainly requires some form of eco-socialism. Our leaders and all the usual advocates of capitalism have squibbed on this challenge.

  8. “High net immigration is a relatively easy way but historically temporary way to increase GDP and even possibly to increase per capita income over what it might otherwise have been ceteris paribus. Finally, this only works while we can eat our future up to the point of collapse following overshoot.”

    Its not possible to increase per capita income by this method with our current financial dysfunction. Since cheap loans are no longer going to business renovation, but are going to all sorts of non-wealth creating undertakings, then the current system is basically Malthusian. Whereas in the 50’s and 60’s it was more like a Julian Simon setup. We can get nothing right without reform of money and banking.

  9. Oh ha ha here is a review of ‘demographic winter’. This is another piece of conservative crazy that I didn’t know about. It is reminiscent of late 19th century fears that white middle class Australian women weren’t having enough children – there was even a Royal Commission into it!

    All those years studying history do lead to some mild amusement sometimes.

  10. Imagine a list of stereotypical opposing masculine and feminine characteristics such as aggressive – passive ,big – small, getting – giving, strong – weak, individualistic – collaborative, logical – emotional , etc. In many ways we live in a world made by men for men. I think humanity has become too masculine and am starting to think most problems can be seen as gendered ones. Masculine behavior is rewarded and the feminine undervalued.
    Popular Feminism today often only seeks acceptance in our mans world on their terms, thats not good enough. For example the ABC podcast of ‘inspiring stories about women ‘is called ‘Fierce Girls’ ,and highly paid female CEO’s are the stock role models. Changing women into men wont do – the world needs to be feminised . Feminism was always about collective action not just individual consumption.

  11. One gets a sense of turn in the environment. You can see it with the shock at the revelations coming out of the Banking Royal Commission. You can also see in the IPA’s increasingly fevered embrace of the nativist Right. They’re worried and circling the wagons.

  12. @John Quiggin
    Oh thanks JQ that’s fascinating. That title sounds familiar, I wonder if I may have come across your mother’s work previously, although I may be because she was quoting a well known phrase, of course.

  13. @Nick
    Thanks Nick that’s really interesting also. There have been so many women in each generation who engaged in debate, then somehow were forgotten, then sometimes rediscovered. I don’t exactly see it as sunshine puts it, as a masculine and feminine principle, but I certainly do think there are male and female voices and female voices too often are forgotten.

    However there is the issue sunshine is getting at, which is that women are sometimes persuaded that becoming more like men is liberation, whereas it is just another form of oppression. I do wonder if Flora suffered from that delusion a bit? I’m not suggesting that men and women should be exactly the same in what we do, historically that seems unusual, but rather that we should value diversity and value the contributions of both women and men, within a situation where there is a lot of flexibility and overlap between what men and women do.

  14. Well,this is certainly a bunch of impressive concepts.Philosophy aside,we’ll just have to agree to stop passing money around.Grow-up and stop relying on politicians,we have to govern ourselves.Communism means anarchy.We have the tech. to be a global civilisation and are too immature to realise the potential utopia past the notion of “free stuff”.

  15. Getting back to what Ikon was saying above, I think one of the biggest political challenges is to bring ‘socialists’ in a broad sense together with feminist and Indigenous and postcolonial / people of colour activists (liberatory politics as sometimes called).

    From my perspective, the biggest challenge is often white ‘socialist’ or ‘progressive’ men, who do sometimes talk as if they are the voice of universal ‘rationality’ while others are ‘special interest groups’ pursuing ‘identity politics’. They don’t seem to get the idea of unity in diversity and also seem to get very offended when challenged on this. Others may see it differently, but that is my experience.

  16. Once I heard that what the different forms of Socialism have in common is that disadvantage should not be allowed to become entrenched anywhere. In those common stereotypical gender terms I mentioned above Socialism could be seen as feminine and capitalism as masculine .If you comment using Socialist logic on right wing blogs/websites others will generally assume you are female and if they find out you are not they will label you a ‘cuck’ -a man whose wife has sex with other men because you are not manly enough! .Test that for yourself, it happens every time .Eventually you will be blocked from the blog/website.

  17. @Val

    “From my perspective, the biggest challenge is often white ‘socialist’ or ‘progressive’ men, who do sometimes talk as if … Others may see it differently, but that is my experience.”

    If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

  18. @Val Sounds very much like the distress felt by the privileged at having to be equal.

    “Supremacy turns to hate when the feeling of innate superiority is openly challenged”.

  19. “women are sometimes persuaded that becoming more like men is liberation, whereas it is just another form of oppression. I do wonder if Flora suffered from that delusion a bit?”

    Val, I’m not sure, I didn’t pick up on that. I thought she spoke in the other direction, arguing for women as the natural educators, caregivers and ‘household managers’ of men. She seemed to be echoing Wollstonecraft, but from a socialist perspective. From my limited reading, I think her personal views were close enough to sunshine’s: masculinity as an ideal is based on oppression, selfishness, ‘winner takes all’; femininity on altruism, compassion, public welfare etc. She was convinced society needed female leaders.

  20. @Val

    I found the “No More Boys and Girls” documentary on gender very powerful and informative as well as positive. Change isn’t that difficult provided the will to change exists.

    I would like to see gender neutral schooling rolled out across the country but you can bet conservatives would raise hell if a progressive government tried to enforce it.

  21. I wasn’t aware how much the aftermath of the French Revolution really kick started first wave feminism, and how appalled women were at that time by the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man. That the freedoms they’d fought for didn’t exactly turn out to be ‘universal’. In response to their protests, from the web: “The Civil Code of 1804, systemizing family and property law, denied a woman all civil and political rights, banished her from professions, and did not allow her even to enter into a contractual agreement without the written consent of her husband or father, much less to live outside of his domicile.” That’s the backdrop of what Tristan was railing against politically a few decades later.

    I came across this last night, which also shows these schisms are very old:

    I was sorry to read in your last number, as also to hear from some of my own acquaintances, that there is a jealousy in the men against Female Unions. What can be the cause of this, but the tyrannical spirit of the male? Is man not yet willing to relinquish the rod of authority… If they deny our right to unite, and claim equal privileges with men, then, Sir, I say, we deny their right to unite and claim equal privileges with their masters. But it is clear enough, from this whispering spirit of jealousy that is going about with its venomous tittle-tattle, that the men are as bad as their masters; that, in fact, they want to be masters themselves; and that life would not be worth having if the slave trade were completely abolished, and woman emancipated. But, I hope, Sir, that my fellow-countrywomen will despise these insinuations, these fears, and jealousies of the men, and consult their own interests, for it seems to be a law of nature that every species and every sex take care of itself, for there is a tendency in every other to make a slave of it. If we depend upon men, they will become our masters; therefore, I begin, now, to rejoice that there is an opposition to our Union, for it may stimulate us to self-exertion, which is the only way of effecting our deliverance. Then let our motto be, ‘Woman for herself and man for himself’. A Woman, ‘To the Editor of the Crisis’, The Crisis (8 March 1834), vol. 3, no. 28, p. 230

    Hopefully in another 180 years we’ll have resolved that dilemma! I also read correspondence from Marx in the late 1800s along the lines of ‘women’s issues, suffrage etc, will just have to wait because how can we get eg socially conservative Catholics on side with all this talk of women’s lib’. There were many other socialists at the time, female and male, who thought the exact opposite.

  22. One of the problems talking about gender is that it very complicated and easy to get wrong. However my research suggests that it is not sex or even gender roles per se that are the basic problem (most societies seem to have some differentiation in gender roles though it is certainly a problem if they become too distinct and too rigid) but rather the organisation of work in patriarchal institutions and hierarchies.

    In my study, both men and women did ‘caring’ work in voluntary groups, but in paid work in hierarchical organisations it was overwhelmingly done by women. The numbers in the study were small but broader demographic evidence suggests they are representative. I don’t want to oversimplify, but I certainly suggest it’s our institutions, and particularly the way we organise work, that are the major problems.

  23. As a suggestion, we initially need a practical socialist and democratic program looking at current best extant practice around the world. The idea would be take a wide and comprehensive survey of existing economic and political policies in what are generally regarded as mixed economy democratic countries. Every country from “socialist” Sweden to “capitalist” USA would be surveyed. The idea would be to cherry-pick the most socialist and most democratic policies from around the world and put them into one platform after adjusting for policies which are not complementary and then also adjusting for ecological sustainability, real economy workability and fiscal workability to get a sustainable policy set in its entirety.

    The implementation sequence would need to gradualist and logical. Admittedly, in the first iterations this is a reformist path and not a revolutionary path. However, a long reform sequence of relatively small steps could eventually arrive at the effective equivalent of revolutionary change to the political economy. The reform process is begun with the implicit understanding that the long term goal is to go beyond mere reform of capitalism. The long term goal is to reform capitalism out of existence.

  24. Candidly, despite the obloquy hurled at ‘socialism’ over the 20th century, I find the term ‘democracy’ far more problematic. While I certainly favour the informed and free agency of working people and their marginalised peers over public policy, I’d not these days propose ‘democracy’ without this rather longer caveat.

    ‘Democracy’ in the mouths of those with the agency to give it content in societies where power is unevenly distributed (i.e pretty much everywhere) can mean anything at all. Wars can be fought for it, people imprisoned and/or displaced, the rule of capital can be unfettered — in short the worst aspects of civilised usage can sit neatly under its umbrella.

    In short, it’s a vapid slogan rather than a specification for how conflict should be resolved.

    Socialism implies classless communities in which power over policy is authentically a common endeavour, unfettered by the circumstances of one’s birth or contribution to social labour. That will do me, even though it leaves unanswered how we get from here to there.

    I very much favour the unity of form and content which is why, in the interim, I favour policy that nurtures inclusion, equality, solidarity, internationalism, peace, evidence-based reason, ecological integrity and which, if consistently implemented, would lead to what I’d call ‘authentic community’. We are a long way from there, and sadly I doubt I wll survive long enough to see it, but we who have at least sone agency today must press for it as insistently as we can.

  25. I agree with the respective conclusions of Fran and Ikon but it is the detail of how we get there that is the problem (as ever). I think we need to go beyond what is on offer even in the Scandinavian states and aim for complete equality (socialist ideal I guess) but we also need to rethink work and the social organisation of work (and concepts of ownership of course). I take on board what people said above about Marx but still suspect that there is an element of apologise in it, because certainly some of the things Marx said in Capital vol 1 were dismissive of both ‘nature’ (ecosystem) and caring work.

    This still seems to be the case in mainstream economics where it is the work of producing commodities that is seen as real ‘production’ or real work, and nature and caring are only of value in so far as they can be used in, or support, that process.

  26. Sorry autocorrect keeps changing what I’m saying – it should be ‘apologism’ as everyone probably realises!

  27. @Val

    “certainly some of the things Marx said in Capital vol 1 were dismissive of both ‘nature’ (ecosystem) and caring work. ”

    Do you have any easy access to quotes illustrating your point? I think there are at least three possibilities if passages can be found which appear to support your contention.

    (1) The passages are clear, unequivocal, without caveats and in form and context support your point.

    (2) The passages involve caveats or intentional simplifications for illustrative purposes or development of a specific argument.

    (3) The passages involve sarcasm or irony and are not meant to be read literally at all. Marx certainly writes with acerbic irony at times.

    People also learn and evolve intellectually and morally. They don’t always support things they said, wrote or did earlier in their lives. Perfect consistency escapes us all. I think we have to judge a person’s entire oeuvre and known totality of life actions to come to some conclusion of what on balance was their final, mature position and what their legacy is. We won’t find anyone who was perfect of course. And some people who were “great” in some ways can be found to have terribly muddy feet of clay in other ways.

  28. Fascinating. I think the ALP has finally given up on the Chris Bowen inspired project to stop describing its objective as ‘democratic socialisation’. So hard since socialism got equated with central government direct ownership of the means of production as opposed to simply whoever owns it being required to have social not just financial goals. Only Milton Friedman really objected to that.

  29. @Fran Barlow

    I think you have some good points. We need a form of sortition. Anything to remove professional politicians who are now mostly form lawyers, bankers, union officials and other such unsavory and unrepresentative types. But don’t forget about “Democracy at Work”. There is a web site of that title. The Marxist Professor R. D. Wolff also has a lot of worthwhile things to say about democracy at work and worker cooperatives.

    As well as representative democracy, we need inclusive democracy in every workplace plus economic democracy. Economic democracy would entail, among other things, the understanding that excessive wealth disparities are inherently undemocratic. Wealth buys power and corrupts politics in very many ways. Thus, an essential element in removing power disparities is the removal of excessive personal wealth disparities. A limiting factor of 10 would be eminently reasonable. If the Aussie adult minimum wage were currently $40,000 (which it could reasonably be in a more equitable economy) there would be no need or social permission for anyone to earn an income (from any and all sources) of more than $400,000.

    Australia’s per capita wealth per adult is currently about $225,000. Again, there is no need in any way for any person to have more than ten times this, that is to say $2.25 million accumulated wealth in today’s dollars.

    We could arrive at this state over time by a raft of measures. People’s expectations could be conditioned over time until the point was reached that scarcely anybody could conceive or feel the need to have more than that (i.e ten times an average living income). Indeed people who verbalized or attempted to enact such a “need” would come to be regarded with moral opprobrium as being anti-socially greedy and the moral equivalent of those who advocate the return of slave-owners and slaves.

  30. Pr Q said:

    In the decade since the Global Financial Crisis, things have changed. Socialism still describes an aspiration, rather than a concrete political program, but an aspiration to a better society is what we need now as a positive response to the evident failure of neoliberalism.

    Well we can all dream. Vague “aspirations for a better society” are a recipe for con-artists and an invitation for tyranny, when things go pear-shaped as they invariably do.

    Anyone proposing a comprehensive reconstruction of the national (global?) economy has an obligation to present the citizens with a concrete program, components of which can be subject to piece-meal criticism. Poppers strictures against “wholesale social engineering” still apply.

    This goes double for proponents of 20thC “socialism”, most of whom either actively justified, or at least conveniently ignored, the genocidal crimes committed in the name of this ideology. With precious little in the way of mea culpa, which the erstwhile supporters of fascism at least had the decency to do.

    Pr Q said:

    So, I’ve changed the description of this blog’s perspective to socialist. I haven’t however, adopted the formulation “democratic socialist” which was used, in the 20th century, to emphasise a rejection of the Stalinist claim to have produced “actually existing socialism” in the Soviet Union and elsewhere. That’s no longer necessary.

    This is really putting the glass up to ones blind eye. It implies that all forms of (“Stalinist”) dictatorial socialism have long since been consigned to the Dustbin of History. And thus contemporary socialists need not concern themselves with the totalitarian potential of the state owning all forms of enterprise capital.

    Most people with eyes to see note that the PRC is a predominantly state-owned economy, run by the Communist party. Which is still nominally committed to a socialist market economy. And that this is perfectky consistent with, indeed amplifies, socialisms totalitarian potential.

    The Party still manages political affairs in a soft-core Stalinist way. And one does not have to subscribe to the strong version of Hayeks “Road to Serfdom” to acknowledge that the status of China as a “company town” makes Stalinist political control much easier and more potent. As Orwell said, in his sympathetic review:

    It cannot be said too often – at any rate, it is not being said nearly often enough – that collectivism is not inherently democratic, but, on the contrary, gives to a tyrannical minority such powers as the Spanish Inquisitors never dreamed of.

    The same criticism goes for the sundry other remaining forms of socialist construction still littered aboud the post-Cold War, from Castros Cuba through Kims Korea onto the Chavezinistas Venezuela.  Not to mention the “African road to socialism” being paved by tyrants such as Mugabe and Zuma. This socialist ideological zoo does not inspire hope for a progressive future.

    At this point a typical SJW will come back with a “no true Scotsman” line suggesting that a Marxist-Leninist political administration is not really “Leftist” or that a state-owned economy is not really “socialist”. I trust Pr Q will not resort to such transparent ruses.

    Pr Q said:

    As has been true for most of the history of the modern world, the only serious threat to democracy is now coming from the right.

    The phrase “most of the history of the modern world” is a slippery construction. If one wants to start the clock on political modernity from, say, the English Glorious Revolution in 1688 then sure then, sure, for most of the past 500 years the Right-wing has been the strongest ideological opponent to democracy. Typically in the form of the ancien regime coalition of feudal landowners and clerical ecclesiasts digging its heels in to resist extensions of franchise and civil rights. But the last vestiges of ancien regime had vanished with the fall if European imperial houses after WW1.

    But if one fast-forwards modernity to the past 100 years, ie living memory, then Leftist totalitarian socialism has been the most invidious opponent of democracy, winning hands down.  That is measured over both time (1917 to present) and population (most of Eurasia, plus large fractions of Africa, middle east and Latin America).  Pretty much all of these regimes combined socialist economy plus dictatorial polity.   It is a natural fit given that the top-down management principle applies to both socialist Party Boss and socialist factory Boss.

    When one turns to the contemporary West the story does not get much better. The emotional fuel of contemporary Leftism is driven by hate of conservative cultural identity rather than hope for progressive social equity. The Left have more or less abandoned a general theory of Progress in favour of a free-floating SJW program of hate …(fill in the oppressor blank). Clintons “basket of deplorables” “gaffe” was a dead-giveaway. Whatever one thinks of Trump, one cannot trust a movement that feels that way to run an entire economy.

    I would have more confidence in contemporay socialism if they took on board George Orwells criticism of socialists:

    there is the horrible — the really disquieting — prevalence of cranks wherever Socialists are gathered together. One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words “Socialism” and “Communism” draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, “Nature Cure” quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.

    By contrast, the contemporary Right-wing is mostly majoritarian “populist”, which is nothing if not democratic in temper.  (The conservative Visegrad governments have not, despite Leftist hysteria, suppressed democratic opposition.  Trump has not done anything except energise Leftist opposition.)

    And the populist Rights most insistent political demand is the restoration of free speech rights in civil society. A demand which has been bitterly resisted by the “liberal” media-academia complex, who are mostly committed to political correct thought policing of any criticism of their scientifically discredited cultural ideology, a betrayal of both their scholarly vocation and civic obligation.

  31. @Ikonoclast
    I am going out now Ikon but I will send the quotes later, probably tomorrow. As per the discussion before, Maria Mies is also very useful in analysing this issue but I don’t know if I have any quotes handy,

  32. @Jack Strocchi
    There’s a few valid points amongst your scattergun, Jack Strocchi, but there’s several egregiously invalid ones as well. In your final three or four paras you are peddling the Andrew Bolt view of the world, which is to attack a fictional Leftist strawman. The Left “driven by hate of conservative cultural identity” doesn’t exist. You can’t put Clinton’s name forward as a representative of the Left. If she believes in anything, it is probably the neoliberal world view which is antithetical to Leftist social justice and environmentalism.

    The contemporary Right in the USA and Australia is most assuredly attempting to suppress democratic opinion. In the USA, through blatant gerrymandering and voter suppression; in Australia not so successfully, but attempts have been made to close electoral rolls early, deny the vote to prisoners and declare certain people non-citizens.

    In Australia, the liberal-media-academia complex doesn’t exist. The majority of newspapers are owned by News Corporation which peddles a peculiar Rightist world view which is riddled with inconsistencies: demanding that 18C be rolled back and yet running campaigns of intimidation against people who express views that the company doesn’t like: Gillian Triggs, Yassmin Abdel-Magied for example. Climate scientists for another example. So much for free speech. With AFR in their stable, you can’t even rationally label Fairfax as Leftist.

  33. “over both time (1917 to present) and population (most of Eurasia, plus large fractions of Africa, middle east and Latin America). Pretty much all of these regimes combined socialist economy plus dictatorial polity. It is a natural fit given that the top-down management principle applies to both socialist Party Boss and socialist factory Boss.”

    It was/is rather post western colonial dictatorial kleptocracies installed and maintained by and acting at the direction and serving at the pleasure of the economic and military hit men of right-wing ‘democracy’ touting western governments themselves mere minions of Western far right capitalist elites who act solely to pleasure themselves. You don’t have to look far from home either, eg right next door, the 1965-66 Indonesian genocide and installation of the West’s darling Suharto.

  34. @Jack Strocchi

    Eric Arthur Blair (aka George Orwell) also wrote this:

    “The world is a raft sailing through space with, potentially, plenty of provisions for everybody; the idea that we must all cooperate and see to it that everyone does his fair share of the work and gets his fair share of the provisions seems so blatantly obvious that one would say that no one could possibly fail to accept it unless he had some corrupt motive for clinging to the present system.”

    And this;

    “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism, as I understand it.”

    Eric Arthur Blair was a misanthrope I guess and capable of careless hate speech if he didn’t watch himself. Nevertheless, he managed to remain “for democratic Socialism” as he understood it.

  35. @Ikonoclast
    Hi Ikon
    In answer to your question, I have reproduced a passage of analysis from my thesis below. I apologise for the length of this but I thought it would make the point more clearly than just the quotes by themselves.

    Marxist theory analyses societies in which private ownership, commodity exchange, capital accumulation and nature as a source of ‘use value’ were already established. Karl Marx critiqued private ownership and capital accumulation but not commodity production and exchange, nor the idea of nature as use value. In Capital, Marx (1944) (first published 1867) acknowledged other forms of social organisation, including what he described as “the patriarchal industries of a peasant family” (1944, p 51), but he did not include them in his analysis. Marx was interested in the value that “men” [sic] added by their labour to that which was provided by “nature” (1944, p 31), but only in the production of goods for trade and exchange, not the value added by unpaid subsistence and domestic work (Mies, 1998). Moreover, while Marx acknowledged that ‘nature’ provided raw materials, he did not analyse the contribution of nature, but took it as a given. Indeed, Marx used a specifically gendered metaphor when speaking of “material wealth, of use values”:

    “As William Petty puts it, labour is its father and the earth its mother” (1944, p 31).

    (William Petty was a 17th century English economist and theorist).

    This exemplifies Merchant’s (1989) analysis that ‘men of science’ saw both nature and women as belonging to the sphere which men ‘improved’. Marx (1944) acknowledged that this kind of society was the product of historical development but did not analyse this process, although, as previously discussed [in the thesis] Engels later attempted to do so and asserted that Marx would have, had he lived longer. Marxist feminists later attempted to use a schema of ‘production and reproduction’, which recognised that labour had to be ‘reproduced’, to analyse women’s unpaid work of caring and procreation (Caine, 1998, p 70). Marx, in discussing this issue in Capital, actually elided maternity and the caring work of women, stating only that payment to a worker had to include enough for “his children” (1944, p 121). Even without this elision, however, the Marxist feminist schema is unsatisfactory because it positions the adult worker as the normative person and locates caring work as subordinate, rather than understanding the work of caring as work in its own right (O’Brien, 1989). Thus, while Marxist theory is useful in understanding some forms of inequality and exploitation, it does not provide a sound basis for an ethical position that values caring and ecosystems (‘nature’) in their own right.

  36. Val,

    Re gender issues, this is not the best article to suggest Marx was a bit more nuanced than Mies perceives him to be. But it is the best article I can find quickly.

    Re ecological issues search Monthly Review and more widely for the term metabolic rift.

    To negatively criticise Marx for not developing gender studies and ecological studies to 2018 standards (if you are doing this) would be much like critcising Ada, Countess of Lovelace (Augusta Ada King-Noel nee Byron) for not developing the field of programming and software engineering to 2018 standards. Both had collaborators (Engels-Marx , Babbage-Lovelace) and both, with those collaborators, inaugurated new fields of endeavour leading to a great many subsequent advances.

    “In his book, Idea Makers, Stephen Wolfram defends Lovelace’s contributions. While acknowledging that Babbage wrote several unpublished algorithms for the Analytical Engine prior to Lovelace’s notes, Wolfram argues that “there’s nothing as sophisticated—or as clean—as Ada’s computation of the Bernoulli numbers. Babbage certainly helped and commented on Ada’s work, but she was definitely the driver of it.” Wolfram then suggests that Lovelace’s main achievement was to distill from Babbage’s correspondence “a clear exposition of the abstract operation of the machine—something which Babbage never did.” – Wikipedia.

  37. This is the left today. Not thinking enough about high wages, full employment, raising the tax free threshold, small business opportunity and debt slavery. More interested in weird gender and other slave issues. Totally misdirected from the top. But the environmental issues are more than valid. At least most of them. We have our own homegrown answer to these problems. Its called “permaculture.” Whatever the question is permaculture is likely to be the right answer.

  38. @Ikonoclast
    Hi Ikon, I read the linked article and I read some of the earlier discussion about ‘metabolic rift’ in this thread (although I can’t say I’m fully across it yet). There could be an extended discussion about this but as the discussion in this blog has mainly moved on to the next post now, I’ll just try to summarise my thoughts for now.

    I’m not ‘negatively criticising’ Marx in the way you suggest, rather saying (as I said in my comment above) that a Marxist approach can help us understand aspects of inequality but isn’t sufficient alone for addressing the complex, related issues of inequality and environmental degradation that face us now. Marx may have had the basis for a more complex understanding of gender and nature (ecosystem), but given that we now have ecofeminist scholars like Merchant and Salleh who have extended that understanding, why not draw on them? It doesn’t mean rejecting all Marxist insights.

    In particular I think such scholars (and many more) give us a basis for an ethic of care towards other people, other species and ecosystems rather than seeing them primarily in terms of their value (whether direct use value or exchange value) to us.

    Apologies in advance for any typos I’m doing this on my mobile in the tram and sometimes when I try to check what I’ve written I just end up losing it all.

  39. @Graeme Bird
    I will try to explain briefly some of those ‘weird gender issues’ so that you can have a better informed understanding and not write rude and patronising comments in future. In simple terms, patriarchal capitalist systems such as the one imposed on Australia 230 years ago, saw nature (ecosystem) or country as something to be used and exploited for profit, and imposed hierarchical systems of competition and inequality. Within this, the work of caring was seen as an inferior, subordinate sphere.

    If you believe that caring for people, other species and ecosystem is important (as I think most permaculture users would), then presumably you wouldn’t agree with such a system.

  40. Geoff Edwards @89 said:

    The Left “driven by hate of conservative cultural identity” doesn’t exist. You can’t put Clinton’s name forward as a representative of the Left. If she believes in anything, it is probably the neoliberal world view which is antithetical to Leftist social justice and environmentalism.

    Actually HR Clinton is a perfect exemplar of the grotesque perversion of post-modernist liberalism in both its Right- and Left-wing aspects. In one of her many self-destructively stupid campaign speeches she managed to link the fortunes of Wall Street to the rainbow coalition of Mean Street:

    “If we broke up the big banks tomorrow,” Mrs. Clinton asked the audience of black, white and Hispanic union members, “would that end racism? Would that end sexism? Would that end discrimination against the L.G.B.T. community?,” she said, using an abbreviation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. “Would that make people feel more welcoming to immigrants overnight?”

    At each question, the crowd called back with a resounding no.

    This encapsulates what Steve Sailer calls the High/Low v Middle Culture War that has fuelled the Left ever since it lost the rusted-on support of the white working class around about 1980. (I sometimes refer to it as globalists/tribalists v nationalists). Precisely the demographic that Trump wedged and who won him the election.

    But if you dont buy Clinton as a Leftist, then I see you and raise you with Corbyn’s faction, particularly the adorable Seamus Milne. Theres a guy who never met a traditional cultural identity he didnt hate.

    Hatred of the traditional nation is what is driving the post-modern liberal Left. And they want us to trust them with all the money in the world.

  41. @jack strocchi
    Are you being serious, Jack? Is there no nuanced position anywhere between machine politician HR Clinton and Jeremy Corbyn?

    Katharine Betts’ differentiation between cosmopolitans and parochials is another description for globalists versus nationalists, but this axis cuts right across a Left versus Right axis. The cosmopolitans are more likely to be jetsetting financiers or captains of industry than the Leftists whom you want to push into that pigeonhole. Your typology doesn’t explain why News Corporation, which is so dismissive of its host nation state that it doesn’t even pay taxes here, sits to the very Right of the political spectrum. And nobody, repeat nobody in Australia is waging a cultural war more vigorously than News Corporation.

    It is easy to make fun of the archetypal post-modernists who don’t believe in bedrock anything, but these don’t represent the Left. There are some overlapping causes, that’s all.

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