A small win in the class war

The comprehensive drubbing received by the LNP in yesterday’s by-elections has a number of implications. It’s another effective repudiation of the absurd literalism of the High Court: candidates claimed by the Court to be ineligible to represent us due to supposed dual loyalties have yet again been re-elected after jumping through the required hoops.  Meanwhile, a number of Parliamentarians whose paperwork met the Court’s absurd standards, but who were shown to be actual agents of foreign influence, have been forced out by public pressure rather than court rulings.

More importantly, though, it’s a defeat for the Turnbull government’s class war agenda, including huge tax cuts for companies and upper income earners, attacks on Shorten’s union background, and the nomination of hereditary member Georgina Downer in the family property of Mayo.  Labor campaigned successfully on the theme of “money for hospitals, not banks”. As a result, the government is now facing internal pressure to drop the tax cuts for big business that have not yet been legislated.

A side effect is that speculation about the Labor leadership has been killed off. Before Saturday, poll results were suggesting that Labor would win narrowly with Shorten, but easily with Albanese. However, to the extent that Albanese was positioning himself for a run, it was on the basis of unconditional surrender in the class war. Clearly, that would have implied a very different campaign to the one that actually worked for Labor.

28 thoughts on “A small win in the class war

  1. It does appear that only the electors of Braddon from all the seats that have had to vote again on dual citizenship have not given the Court of Disputed Returns the two fingers!

  2. A small win in the class war, yes. Much more is required. A Green Socialist government in power in both houses is what is really required. When the climate, ecological and economic collapses all undeniably stare us in the face, polarizations will occur and then we will move ourselves to Green Socialism or else be forcibly moved by the elites to Corporate Fascism (the latter to be followed by full collapse and barbarism). Let’s hope we make the right choices.

  3. John whilst I enjoy, respect and learn from your economics writings, your political commentary, and especially your tone, of late is simply a mirror of the conservative/neoliberal voices that you oppose for policy reasons. You seem to have decided to join the political shitfight and cultural wars that so sadly now characterizes the political landscape across the democratic world (or what is left of it). It is disappointing.

  4. Other than Sam Dastyari,, who has been forced out for being too close to foreign governments?

  5. ‘Class war? Which one does Bill Shorten belong to? And Pauline Hanson?’

    Well, right now, as members of Parliament, nominally they both belong to the employee class, although like all members of Parliament they are highly anomalous members of that class. Before they went into Parliament, Bill Shorten was a member of the employee class and Pauline Hanson a member of the employer/owner class. Does that answer your question?

  6. I would assume that Bill Shorten was an employer in his union days and as Opposition leader is still an employer.(The same position as the poor single mother in Lindsay with staff issues) Whose side are they all on?
    It reminds me of the line “What if they had a war and nobody turned up”

  7. It was amusing to see Lord and Lady Downer’s reaction to the emphatic rejection of their daughter by the peasants in the Mayo manor. They seemed to be genuinely surprised, and will no doubt be darkly muttering about how they knew the universal franchise was a bad idea, as they head home to Belgravia.

    Now that is a small win in the class war.

  8. Smith9 I was thinking of Daryl McGuire. Not paid directly by the Chinese government, but almost certainly indirectly (are property development companies apolitical anywhere in the world) and certainly an agent of foreign influence. Stuart Robert is another relevant case – he was only forced to the backbench.

  9. At the risk of being pedantic, McGuire was (actually is, he hasn’t resigned yet) a state politician, who doesn’t have to show any paperwork to the High Court relinquishing any other nationality (if he has any, which no one has suggested in any case).

  10. Were the 4 by-elections or were they re-elections?. After all the court of disputed Returns showed in their ludicrous literal decision they were no longer MPS indeed they were never MPs.!!!

  11. ‘I would assume that Bill Shorten was an employer in his union days …’

    It’s not clear to me why you would assume that. I suppose as a senior employee of the union he probably would have had supervisory responsibility for junior employees, but employees with supervisory responsibilities (even hiring and firing) are still employees and not employers. The reason I think he was a member of the employee class is because I assume the source of his livelihood was the salary paid to him by his employer (the Australian Workers Union); the reason I think Pauline Hanson was a member of the owner/employer class is because I assume the source of her livelihood was a business in which she had an ownership interest (and which probably employed some other people? but an owner-operator of a business with no other employees is still an owner and not an employee, drawing on an ownership interest, not a salary). If I’m wrong in those assumptions I would revise my views.

    ‘Whose side are they all on?’

    That’s a much broader and vaguer question than the one I was answering, about class membership. It’s possible that sometimes some employees are on the side of the owner/employer class and some employers/owners are on the side of the employee class, but all that shows is that ‘side’ and ‘class’ are two different concepts.

  12. More generally, “class” is a difficult concept and has become more so over time. I used the term “employer class” in a recent post about attacks on trade unions, since it’s obviously the employment relationship that counts. But in other contexts, the control over capital exercised by financial market professionals may be more important than its notional owners (eg super fund members) or the management of the firms in which it is invested.

    I had a go at this general topic a while back

    https://johnquiggin.com/2011/06/19/marxism-without-revolution-class/

  13. Further on ‘class war’, in terms of income and wealth distributions, I’d suggest the term refers to the top 1% or top 10% versus the bottom 20% or 40% or everybody below the ‘top’, depending on the degree of inequality.. The ‘top’ could consist of aristocrats, industrialists, politburo members, bankers and associated finance people, …, mafiosos, depending on time and location.

    Others try to generate a ‘class war’ between ‘the young’ (who are growing old) and ‘the old’ (who might remember their youth).

    It seems to me in the current context, the policy choice is clearly between tax cuts that benefit the ‘top’ and expenditure that benefits potentially everybody else.

  14. ‘More generally, “class” is a difficult concept and has become more so over time.’

    It can have its difficulties, although I’m less clear on whether they’ve actually increased over time or it’s just that people have become more aware of them. I certainly don’t think that the answer I gave to the question from Anonymous is the only correct or useful answer possible to that question, but it’s one possible correct and useful answer, if Anonymous is interested in discussing the subject.

    ‘Further on “class war”, in terms of income and wealth distributions, I’d suggest the term refers to the top 1% or top 10% versus the bottom 20% or 40% or everybody below the “top”, depending on the degree of inequality.’

    I agree that size of income (and of assets) makes a difference–obviously–but I think that there’s still a use for a concept of class like the one I was invoking, which depends on source of income rather than size.

  15. As Warren Buffet once said: “There is a class war in America and my class is winning!” Economists have always know that the rich class do not need any help from government handouts. The rich are perfectly able to look after themselves. They also do not work to a national agenda so tax cuts to the wealthy are ineffective as a macroeconomic stimulus.

  16. The idea that there is an employer and employee class these days is absurd. Unionism at 15% of the workforce is basically public servants and a few construction workers. Some construction unions develop their own major projects. Are the workers on these sites going to be at war with themselves.?
    More generally the nature of work has changed with a more cooperative approach. We have contractors,sub contractors,self employed,micro businesses and the real game changer,the gig economy(air tasker, Uber,deliveroo. Etc.)
    With the price of labour and on costs so high in Australia it virtually impossible to run a large organisation with directly employed workers,bearing in mind the many low cost/no regulations countries around us.
    Australia is certainly fragmenting but I don’t think employment is at the heart of any class war

  17. Reading JQ’s earlier post that he linked to, and the comments was worthwhile. The comment by Lora that included this paragraph provides an interesting analysis of how Marx can be understood now.

    ” there will be many other crisis until people realize what they should do and how to live in a more sustainable society. Wisdom always comes through pain. And just a note, from his historical time Marx couldn’t have seen how exactly the technologies would developed and how the working class professional structure would change. But his methodology tells us that the huge and deepening quantitative differences between the 1% at the top of the global society and the rest of the working world speaks and requires different economic and social qualification and categorization. Whether this quantitative accumulation of extreme differences is close or far from its critical mass and potential for fundamental change of underlying social dynamic, this is what makes the future so interesting and worthwhile to live in.”

    It is clear that the current descriptors for the term ‘class’ don’t work well but there certainly is a division of a society based on social and economic status.in which some groups through no demonstrated ability or justification are able to take advantage of other groups of people.

    Guy Standing’s ideas about the ‘precariat’ and his nomenclature for the other emerging groups or classes might be interesting to others.

    His compete article is here:
    http://www.guystanding.com/files/documents/Precariat_and_Class_Struggle_final_English.pdf

    and there is a short excerpt here that provides an overview of the groups/classes that he has categorised.
    https://snuproject.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/the-new-class-structure-of-neoliberal-capitalism-excerpted-from-guy-standings-book-on-the-precariat-by-michel-bauwens/

  18. There’s nothing co-operative about the gig economy. Airtasker is just an Internet version of the Hungry Mile of the 1930s, when waterfront workers queued outside the wharf looking for work each day.

  19. Anonymous, you probably have your reasons for not revealing your name in public. However, I am surprised about it because my background is neither in sociology, nor marxism, nor politics, but general equilibrium theory – the analytical variety as in math econ – with access to statistical information on economic variables. As such, the excerpt of Guy Standing’s work, which you have referenced, does not contain any great surprises for me in terms of the ‘class structure’ that emerged from what JQ and others call neoliberalism and globalisation. Of course the assigned labels to the new class structure is new to me.

    Surely, most if not all readers of JQ’s blogsite are aware of the evolution of international networks of locally based citizen groups, some of them being concerned with specific environmental or human rights issues, others with more general issues such as growing income and wealth inequality within nation states and across. Isn’t this no more than a logical response to globalisation via multinational firms in cooperation with IPA type naive market economics (other labels may be more suitable)?

    I am writing this because you are not spreading anything subversive as far as I am concerned.

  20. the second ‘anonymous’ comment with the link to the Guy Standing article was me not the earlier anonymous. I didn’t mean to be anonymous or subversive.

  21. Thanks John I didn’t notice that my name was not there when I posted the first ‘anonymous’ comment. Usually I see welcome back Julie Thomas above the comment box but it is not there now.

  22. I hadn’t paid much attention to the Downer kid so was surprised when I read this piece, that she wrote, on Trump and climate change.

    https://www.smh.com.au/opinion/donald-trump-will-lead-the-us-in-the-right-direction-we-should-take-note-20161110-gsmant.html

    It’s amazing that she passed preselection and was apparently the only candidate that the libs could find. This seems to be a trend, libs don’t have candidates in the pipeline and are not ready for the next election.

    Perhaps they should think about privatising their party (that was meant as a joke).

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