tip off

Boo hoo, the Greens have gotten the better of Labor

The Greens’ split with Labor will prompt the ALP — no doubt soon to be in opposition for a while — to do some serious soul-searching to decide what it stands for.

Maybe there’s a God above

But all I’ve ever learned from love

Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you”

 — Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah

Lord, if there’s one thing you can learn from the Greens’ departure from the Labor-Green alliance, it’s never, never be the dumpee — and if you are, yelling, “well I was over it ages ago!” isn’t going to cut it.

Listen to these caught-off-guard responses from the Labor bunker, translated by moi for your edification:

Gillard: ”This is a matter for Christine Milne and the Greens. We will always be the party that puts jobs and growth first” (translation: “your actions are irrelevant to my plan to continue crying to Wilco in a darkened room”). Swan: “Senator Milne’s decision will not have any practical impact on the operation of the Parliament, as the Greens would continue to support the government on supply and confidence motions” (translation: “if we can maintain civility, it will not be necessary to have the dog gassed”). And best of all, Paul Howes: “This is just a political ploy by Christine Milne because she’s upset that she lost the campaign in north-west Tasmania. Well, boo hoo. At the end of the day the federal Labor government has done the right thing for jobs. Frankly for Christine Milne to say that Julia Gillard hasn’t delivered for the environment after she introduced a carbon price demonstrates how out of touch with reality Christine Milne is (translation: “well, I split up with you three weeks ago and didn’t tell you. So you can’t break up with me”). Boo hoo? Great comeback, Paul.

The Greens got the better of Labor on this, as they have done since they rejected Rudd’s preferred climate change model in favour of their own, helped trigger the leadership changeover, gained a deal for the support they would have given the Gillard government anyway, and pushed a relentless series of policy proposals onto a quasi-paralysed Labor, the most important being a carbon tax that remains Labor’s centrepiece — and the likely cause of its destruction — but that will survive Labor’s downfall, if Senate control can be retained.

Labor has torn itself apart over six years of unstable leadership; the “faction-ridden” Greens had a smooth changeover, remained functional throughout, and released a modified policy agenda after the event. Contrary to media baiting about a collapse, their federal support has stayed within the 10-14% band occupied by the knowledge/culture/policy worker class that form their social base, while Labor’s collapse to a 30% primary vote represents a significant desertion of the suburban middle they need to maintain viability.

Finally, Gillard has unquestionably suffered by comparison to Christine Milne — the lifelong Labor activist/lawyer/insider up against the Tasmanian mum and teacher who got involved in politics to protect her community and  developed into a tenacious political leader. When the dust settles after the election and, barring a heroic Labor campaign, Tony Abbott is prime minister, the main game will shift to the Senate.

Should Labor have suffered the expected collapse in its fortunes, it will be faced with a Greens party that is of the same magnitude as Labor, rather than being a small two or three-senator contingent. Labor will then face the choice of either emphasising its common ground with the Greens over broad values while differing on shorter-term priorities, or continuing its fruitless culture war, driven by teen Trotskyists, manic Hayekians and Marn Fern, further depleting its energy. Whatever their many weaknesses in terms of internal organisation, money, media hatred, etc, the Greens have the strength that comes from knowing why they’re there, while too many of Labor’s core are there because they’ve been there since uni and they don’t know how to do anything else.

Labor will be floored by its loss, utterly, because it has been barely standing in the first place, due to its failure to find a new expression of its essential commitment to a society of greater equality, freedom from want and the universal opportunity for human flourishing and a meaningful life. In the Whitlam era that was constructed as coming from state processes, symbiotic with community activism. Under Hawke/Keating, it was hitching more expansive opportunity to the dynamism of the market (however contradictory).

Since that collapsed in 1993, there has been nothing from Labor, nothing at all — piecemeal proposals and the ultimate farce of the 2020 conference, where the party went to the people to find out what its identity should be in the space of a long afternoon.

Indeed, it’s only in response to the Greens’ rise that Labor has sharpened its image, to be the party of “jobs and growth”. That, together with a media blitzkrieg on the Greens, may have helped Labor, but it has also painted it into a corner. Labor has become a party that ramrods the engine of growth, cleaving to the US alliance and global order while addressing some inequality for special and marginal groups. About the core conditions of most people — work, time, child-raising, housing — it has had almost nothing to say, leaving them to the mercies of the market in most areas of their lives. The result? An overworked, time-poor, semi-precarious mass class in the middle of what we are continually told is the most prosperous country on earth.

Labor has lost the opportunity to outflank the Coalition because it has done much of conservatism’s job for it — reconciling people to the idea that the frameworks of life are relatively fixed, and that’s the way it is. Instead of making visible life-change, Labor has levied taxes for enormous projects — Building the Education Revolution, infrastructure, climate change — without connecting them to immediate improvement. It’s an error that could only be made by a party that has become a caste, joined at university (and if that sounds snobbish, check the frontbench for anyone without a degree, and ask where the snobbery lies), and increasingly oriented towards the management of behaviour and people — hence the signature move of “cigarette plain packaging”. It is going to spend a while in opposition working these things out — or not bother, and become an appendage to the Coalition for a decade, a loyal opposition to the other “growth” party.For the Greens this new era will also be a challenge. The end of this government will bring the departure of a number of key people whose political life began in the 1970s, when Labor was still a party oriented to concrete and immediate change. Together with the departure of Bob Brown, this marks a ruling off of a period dominated, however vestigially, by the hopes and assumptions held by the Left during that period. There will now have to be a process of categorical rethinking of what Greens politics is — one rather larger than the policy clean-out of late last year.

For the Greens are caught in a potential contradiction, too. They are a party founded — going back all the way to the proto-Green United Tasmania Group of 1972 — on the notion that the relationship between humanity and nature is in crisis, due to the subsumption of the latter to the former. That insight, confirmed by science with the imminent catastrophic effects of climate change, dictates a necessary transformation in the way humanity lives. Yet as the Greens have progressed, they have had to add a series of policies on everyday economic management to that core. Those policies largely remain those of a European social democratic party, relying on a high-growth economic base, coupled with tax, redistribution and social investment. The model assumes the very growth scenario that the old parties are based on and is in contradiction with the core idea of a planetary crisis that sparked the formation of the party in the first place. On top of that, a series of rights-based social policies — same-sex marriage, pro-euthanasia — have been added, with the strong implication that they are a “natural” or inevitable fit with the politics of planetary crisis. A fourth layer has been some of the dominant foreign policy causes of the big-L Left around the issue of anti-imperialism. As the Greens have morphed into the party of the knowledge/culture/policy worker class, those causes have assumed a rough equality: euthanasia, Israel-Palestine and the boiling of the oceans roughly equal in prominence. Since some of these policies — same-sex marriage, refugees, etc — attract quite passionate support from their class base, the Greens have been shifted by stages into being a sort of grab-bag New Left party.

From now on, the Greens will have no choice but to have a head-to-toe rethinking of how these policy layers relate to each other — and they must find a way to make the central notion of a planetary crisis the visible core and backbone of their worldview and program. That cannot be done without connecting such a macro-concern to the conditions of everyday life — not in the form of particular causes, but of the general conditions of everyday life. The working day, genuinely affordable housing, parental leave, the opportunity for a lower consumption, time-rich life, and so on — these are all changes that will be necessary to dealing with huge environmental changes in a way that is globally just, but would also appeal to many people within and without the Greens’ class base, as a visible and tangible improvement in their lives, something worth voting for right now.

Returning to that notion of crisis — and to the absolute moral responsibility that it demands of those who understands its seriousness — may cost the Greens some support in the short term. But it is only through such a process that they will successfully reground themselves in such a way that factional differences cannot sunder them. That is not a simple process of moving Right or moving Left — the new focus would essentially have a Left and Right faction based around it, offering differing diagnoses of how the crisis can be addressed, but not disagreeing on its importance. Labor’s troubles are that it has no big ideas; the Greens currently have rather too many. That is a more desirable problem in the short term; in the long term it may be a more disastrous one. One way or another they’re going to have to sort it out, most likely while Labor wanders the wilderness in search for yet more new leaders. Boo hoo, hallelujah, I am trying to break your heart.

50
  • 1
    Russell
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Unedifying triumphalism… Labor has been “destroyed” (Hallelujah!) and we are left with Tony Abbott for a decade. Crack open the champers Guy, and join the coalition in the celebration.

  • 2
    john willoughby
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Prepare for all out war if abbott advances to office under the present circumstances..

  • 3
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    …..its essential commitment to a society of greater equality, freedom from want and the universal opportunity for human flourishing and a meaningful life.” intentionally or not you put your finger on a problem there GR. Except for the “greater equality” (and that’s not as clear as many might think) the essential commitment could equally be that of your typical Coalition member, not least old Country Party types. And you would have noted that Tony Abbott, a Catholic from the Santamaria school, might be a lot closer to old-time ALP ideals than the present crew of university and union mates.

    There are of course the equivalent in the Coalition of “manic Hayekians” whom you see in the ALP but basically we are now looking at collections of university educated middle to upper middle class and professional people who all have much the same sort of secular feeling for what is the proper way of dealing with one’s fellow citizens. And partly that is because it is an expression of the place they share on Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. Being our rulers is nice for their egos, in a nice sort of way.

    But what of “greater equality”. That’s a red herring because no one now denies that there is a rough and ready Gaussian curve of the distribution of whatever smarts it ta

  • 4
    Wobbly
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

    If it’s going to be all out war, then you can already caste Paul Howes as Edward VIII / Duke of Windsor! And Marn Fern as Captain Mainwaring (Dad’s Army).

  • 5
    Wobbly
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

    Whilst I’m on fantasy WW2 comparisons, gee Tony’s latest declared intentions do sound akin to Blitzkrieg!

  • 6
    Microseris
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    The end of the growth economy is not going to be mandated by governments, but rather imposed by nature as we run up against the limits to growth (a finite planet). The only thing that keeps growing is a cancer and we know how that plays out.

    In these circumstances our votes and therefore the government elected is largely irrelevant. Some are just more frustrating than others and may get us there just a little quicker.

  • 7
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    …takes to get on in the academic world, public sector or competitive business and professional life. So perhaps 10 to 20 per cent are going to be obvious laggards despite our world-beating minimum wage and despite the fact that probably only 20 per cent of us will be net lifetime taxpayers (i.e. as individuals after netting various benefits such as OA pensions, health care rebates etc. Come to think of it, 20 per cent may be an exaggeration) thanks to our natural resources.

    We don’t need assertiveness training for what might once have been the “humble and meek” since they have been given votes and a sense of entitlement. But what possible claim does the secular ALP have to dealing better with those seriously unequal on the down side than the Coalition which is probably slightly more Christian? Actually its only distinguishing feature is that it represents more of those on the public teat, the social welfare, aboriginal and other equivalent “industries”. After all, has anyone done any serious calculation of the absurd cost in Australian salaries of our pathetic little refugee quota pretending to impinge on the sad lives of millions by taking 13750, or 20,000 to be fellow non-taxpayers (and occasional success stories, if not the great Jewish and Baltic states ones but perhaps footballers and Olympic athletes….).

  • 8
    Nudiefish
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant piece, Guy.

    It sums up everything I feel about a political party that was originally created with the intention of fighting for the little Bloke (non-gender specific, of course).

    The Labor Party is nothing less than “Liberal Lite” nowadays.

    They should nail this essay on the front door of ALP HQ. If Labor gets booted in September, what has Australia actually lost?

  • 9
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    You and I might come close to agreement Nudiefish. On my analysis there really aren’t nearly enough voters who are themselves seriously in need of a leg up from the hale and hearty employed taxpayers and it is the public employees’ interests that the ALP must therefore necessarily pander too, both in pious rhetoric and with taxpayers’ money, rather than the intrinsically disadvantaged. Public servants and teachers may do admirable jobs with a degree of selflessness but they hardly qualify as the 21st century “little Bloke”.

  • 10
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    @ Microseris

    I think you overlook the reality that growth is continuing and will continue in the sense that we will get more for less or better versions of what we have with no significant impact on resources - though a continuation of some 20th century population growth rates could spoil that scenario, but don’t look as though they are going to.

  • 11
    sottile6
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    If Labor and the Greens started talking about coalitions then that would have many consequences which the Greens could not stomach. They would have to direct their voters to preference a certain way and then they would lose their ‘liberal’ voters. They are never prepared to do this and that is the problem. If only the essential conflict between the two parties was really about ideology that would make things easier to resolve. It isn’t. It is all about electoral preferences. That has caused a lot of bitterness and strife and will continue to do so.

  • 12
    Wobbly
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    @sottile6: what tosh! Of course the Greens have almost always handed out ‘how to votes’ and election materials directing voters how to preference (usually to Labor). The Australian voting systems and historical context make it impractical to do otherwise. However there are relatively rare circumstances where the Greens and other parties present ‘split preferential’ information and there is a body of research out there that shows that this has proven somewhat more successful particularly with what GR describes as The Greens’ ‘knowledge/culture/policy worker class’.

    Electoral preferences are merely a back story, (unless you read tabloids one cue two weeks before any election) and only rarely a factor in voter decision making and even rarer in actually upsetting electoral outcomes.

    GR has again hit nail on head in analyzing and forecasting long term trends and is alone worth the price of Crikey subscription.

  • 13
    shepherdmarilyn
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

    Gillard clearly does not understand that the labour party was formed in protest against the big wigs and rich blokes who stifled the little blokes.

    Gillard has never stood for a single thing that I can see and she sure did not care too much about the jobs of the people she walked all over or Trish Crossin - the only person I have ever seen Gillard care about is Gillard.

  • 14
    michael r james
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    …a party that has become a caste, joined at university (and if that sounds snobbish, check the frontbench for anyone without a degree, and ask where the snobbery lies)…

    With the notable exception — and no accident — of Paul Howes who didn’t even finish high school. Living on the streets at 15, travelling to Cuba at 16 then achieving a series of “youngest ever” positions in unions and Labor, he is the only one of this Labor trifecta who can speak or communicate with conviction to the Labor heartlands. Because he is from the same blue-collar bogan background (Blue Mountains of Tennessee, err, Western Sydney).

    The trouble is that, while his future may be secure, he is not the future but merely an echo of an Australian past. We seem trapped in this groundhog day futile cycle in Australian politics.

    At least one can make a case for these ideological battles within Labor but the Liberals have jettisoned any pretense. That is not to say their public face of solidarity is any more of a thin facade (I mean apparently Malcolm Turnbull is in the same party as Tony Abbott …) but their crutch is a JudithSloanian Hayekian/Friedmanian cul de sac. (And one thing is for absolute certaint — any Abbott/Hockey government will not satisfy Sloan and her ilk. Abbott should shut her up by giving her an executive job and watch her flounder with her useless toxic academic theorizing.)

    As I have wearily pointed out in Crikey before, the two party system is a giant liability to Australia’s future. We need a system (funny enough, out of Tasmania, Hare-Clark) that allows the natural division and expression of genuine political philosophy — which would mean about 6 parties each of 10 to 20% of the electorate. Then let these groups fight it out to some kind of accommodation to form government — now that would be Hayekian!

  • 15
    Microseris
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Warren, I assume your referring to raw materials.

    All credible analysis concludes we are in currently in overshoot in terms of what the planet can sustain. As an example, large areas of the US, China and India are rapidly exhausting aquifers which sustain local agriculture. In India, aquifers have dropped in some location over 70 metres in the last 40 years. The Lower Dakota aquifer in the US has dropped 40 metres in the last 55 years. No prospect of a desal plant in Dakota.

    If you take into consideration population growth, rapidly industrialising third world, food production predicated on oil and aquifers/glaciers (which are melting), climate change, water availability, etc. then its not a question of if but when.

  • 16
    el tel
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    A version of this argument has been around since Vere Gordon Childs write “How Labor Governs” in 1921. For Childs, it was the Communist Party that would be the agent of salvation from a Labor Party that had sold its soul; for Rundle its the Greens.

    The problem for The Greens in the faux isolationism of their current stance, aside from the ammunition they will keep providing Tony Abbott with up to polling day about why the current government should be voted out, will be apparent in the election after this one, when most of their Senators are up for re-election.

    If Abbott wins in 2013, the case for a protest vote on the left largely evaporates, and those opposed to what that government is doing will feel the need to vote for the party that can form an alternative government. This has been the pattern in State politics since 2010, where The Greens are not benefiting at all from the backlash against conservative state governments. Even in NSW, where Labor is at its most decrepit, evidence of a movement towards the Greens is very slim, and the last local government elections showed a sharp decline in their vote in their inner-city strongholds.

    One thing about the middle classes is that they are ambitious. As the party with the most conspicuously middle class support base - even more so than the Libs - this is not a group who will forever embrace splendid isolationism and the political wilderness. If the cohort of Labor leaders after Gillard/Swan/Rudd are evenly moderately competent, they will win a lot of these people back once Tony Abbott is PM.

  • 17
    Michael Hilliard
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    Navel gazing Guy.

  • 18
    K.D. Afford
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

    That labor has a Carbon Tax, that the Liberals deny climate change en bloc, that the Tax was forced by The Greens, and the rich blokes joke about it must be taken into context that by as early as 2016, summer ice will have disappeared from The Arctic. Gillard, Howes and Abbott cannot see this, they are all pushing for growth, jobs, more people, cranes over cities, life ad infinitum, 40 million people in Australia.
    The Stable Population Party of Australia can see this so can Greg Combet, we do not want to wait until the next election to have global warming on the agenda.
    Labor would be smart to give him wind.

  • 19
    Paddy Forsayeth
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

    Microseris: too true! Your remarks have allowed me to feel less anguished at the prospect that the slime ball Abbot will win.

  • 20
    Guy Rundle
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

    Warren

    I don’t agree that the Coalition could subscribe to the notions of ‘freedom from want’ and ‘human flourishing’. They might have, when they were a party with a social liberal dimension but that has long gone. The neoliberal-social conservative mix would not see the removal of hunger, homelessness etc as a condition of freedom, and is comfortable and relaxed about people being in that state. For the left, freedom must have a material dimension, not merely an abstract liberal one. Secondly ‘human flourishing’ is something neoliberals dont spend much time thinking about (liberals do, but the coalition has become narrow); they see life through the terms of the cash nexus and people as objects not subjects. Flourishing then becomes reserved to the materially free, ie the rich.

    El Tel
    no im not proposing a simple ‘Labor lost its soul’ model. I think they’re sincere people who want to do their best by their constituents. But their idea of the ‘best’ has become so narrow and limited that they have lost the ability to think creatively about how life could be better. They need more head, not heart. Wonder if that will get past the moderatorbot?

  • 21
    michael r james
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 11:58 pm | Permalink

    The operations of the moderatorbot are obscure as the workings of the Labor party (and especially the Ruddites), but let me try one more time (after 7 hours in mod):

    michael r james
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 3:55 pm | PERMALINK
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    …a party that has become a caste, joined at university (and if that sounds snobbish, check the frontbench for anyone without a degree, and ask where the snobbery lies)…”

    With the notable exception — and no accident — of Paul Howes who didn’t even finish high school. Living on the streets at 15, travelling to Cuba at 16 then achieving a series of “youngest ever” positions in unions and Labor, he is the only one of this Labor trifecta who can speak or communicate with conviction to the Labor heartlands. Because he is from the same blue-collar bogan background (Blue Mountains of Tennessee, err, Western Sydney).

    The trouble is that, while his future may be secure, he is not the future but merely an echo of an Australian past. We seem trapped in this groundhog day futile cycle in Australian politics.

    At least one can make a case for these ideological battles within Labor but the Liberals have jettisoned any pretense. That is not to say their public face of solidarity is any more of a thin facade (I mean apparently Malcolm Turnbull is in the same party as Tony Abbott …) but their crutch is a JudithSloanian Hayekian/Friedmanian cul de sac. (And one thing is for absolute certaint — any Abbott/Hockey government will not satisfy Sloan and her ilk. Abbott should shut her up by giving her an executive job and watch her flounder with her useless toxic academic theorizing.)

    As I have wearily pointed out in Crikey before, the two party system is a giant liability to Australia’s future. We need a system (funny enough, out of Tasmania, Hare-Clark) that allows the natural division and expression of genuine political philosophy — which would mean about 6 parties each of 10 to 20% of the electorate. Then let these groups fight it out to some kind of accommodation to form government — now that would be Hayekian!

  • 22
    michael r james
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 11:59 pm | Permalink

    Nope, still failing:

    michael r james
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 11:58 pm | PERMALINK
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    The operations of the moderatorbot are obscure as the workings of the Labor party (and especially the Ruddites), but let me try one more time (after 7 hours in mod):

    michael r james
    Posted Thursday, 21 February 2013 at 3:55 pm | PERMALINK
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  • 23
    davoid
    Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 at 12:31 am | Permalink

    Subsumption!

  • 24
    CML
    Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 at 1:16 am | Permalink

    Guy - you have outdone yourself with this article. Never read such cr+p in my life (a pretty long one, at that)! I have been steeped in Labor politics since the age of 5 years, with state politicians in the family in the past. You know NOTHING about Labor politics.
    The Labor Party hasn’t changed, but the society in which it operates has. You think the Greens are going to save us? Dream on!! No one in this country of savage “I’m alright, Jack” individuals could give a stu+f about anything else but money, greed and stomping all over everyone else to get where they think they deserve to be.
    Everything the Greens stand for is anathema to the typical Aussie, who has much more pain to suffer before coming to their collective senses.
    When that happens, the Labor Party will again be able to do the things you talk about - a more equal society etc. But at this stage, there is a wildly conservative, individualistic society out there which has no empathy with anyone but themselves. Tony Abbott will go down a treat with this lot for a short phase - until inevitably, what he does affects the “aspirationals” cosy little life.
    Basically, the country has become ungovernable by any party of the Left. Just means we will become more revolting creeps than we are now, who couldn’t care less what happens to those less fortunate than ourselves.
    Cynical? Absolutely!

  • 25
    Patriot
    Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 at 1:56 am | Permalink

    The Greens on creating a gargantuan welfare state:

    A secure and expanded revenue base is required so that governments can fund a high standard of infrastructure and human services including education, health, transport, environmental protection and social security. Much of the additional revenue required should be raised by taxing polluting industries

    The Greens on climate change and energy:

    No new coal-fired power stations or coal mines, and no expansions to any existing power stations or mines…

    100% stationary electricity in Australia from renewable sources as soon as possible …

    Net zero or net negative Australian greenhouse gas emissions within a generation”

    I don’t think that’s going to work out.

  • 26
    Roni
    Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    Intrigued by the generalisation “Labor [aligned] with the Greens over broad values while differing on shorter-term priorities.” One could similarly consider Labor aligned with Liberals on shorter-term priorities while differing on broad values.
    And then it sounds like we’re describing The Democrats.
    So what?

    I disagree with your apparent yearning for ideological integrity in parliamentary politics.
    Ideology is for protesters - Labor for the labour, Liberals for a liberal market, Greens for the environment.
    Parliament is for pragmatism - healthy markets for jobs, worker rights for productivity, productivity for growth, growth for security, security for protection of the environment, protected environment for future security, markets and jobs, and around again.

    No single ideology can deliver everything our futures need.
    What we need in parliament are sensible negotiators, not stubborn ideologues.

  • 27
    el tel
    Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Milne’s poor judgement was exposed when she backed the guy who engaged in share market fraud at the start of the year. I don’t think there is a lot of support for a party that is essentially the SWP in The North Face jackets.

  • 28
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    @ Microseris

    I am not disposed to take the optimistic, and often right, view that human ingenuity, let loose in full flood by the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution, will solve all problems. But I can’t see why a considerably greater population won’t be able to live good,healthy, long lives, at least in Australia (and maybe in those exclusive enclaves opened up in warmed up Kamchatka or norther Finland…). I am reminded to worry about our own aquifers whenever I read such figures as you give but, at least within the almost controllable of Australian policy and development I would have thought our path was pretty clear and not something portending likely disaster (unless something disastrous like nuclear war in Asia has its inevitable impact on us). I even support a growing population through (selective) immigration and natural increase because that puts off so many of the problems which we can see already having an impact on other First World countries. We will have to learn from others which always takes a lot of time, especially the correct lessons!

    In the meantime we can go on enjoying - or many of us anyway - the benefits of living in a growing youngish economy rather than a fossilising one. Given that Keynes was far too optimistic about the way people much dimmer than he would learn to live and enjoy their lives we shouldn’t sneer at the average Howard battler’s way of living and enjoying his/her life, Sylvania Waters, “hunting” and all…..

  • 29
    el tel
    Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    The Greens can expect the full weight of trade union opposition if they knock over the industry policy announced on Sunday, in order to save R&D tax breaks for big companies (which, incidentally, include mining companies).

  • 30
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    @ CML

    Not being a lifelong devotee of the ALP I don’t have your problems with G R’s piece but pick up your point about the ALP not changing, only the society it operates in.

    Indeed. The ALP is still an organisation of the union oligarchs who created it. “The Necessity of Oligarchy” is a title or catchphrase that comes back to me and it dates to about 1910 from memory. Then, as mentioned by another poster, there is “How Labor Governs” dating to the early 20s.

    Such an organisation, which may have had a lot of people it could and did genuinely want to help and who would therefore vote for them, has clearly run out of a mission beyond keeping the oligarchs oligarchic and able to enjoy the fruits of capitalist prosperity, by whatever means works.

    Socialism was a distraction which the ALP has rightly put behind it as one would expect of pragmatic oligarchs and would be oligarchs and careerists. (It could even be said that all parties are now too willing to overlook market failure or at least to spend too little time on finding truly intelligent remedies for it).

    Australia still teeters on the brink of one particular abyss however. That is the “producer capture” by the public sector. Too many privileges and advantages built in to over secure public sector employment backed by strong unions is something we have, perhaps because of our fortunately prosperous capitalist economy, largely managed to counter and keep from dominance. (Kennett’s reforms in Victoria helped too). But look at how quickly the disease took over in the US over the last two or three decades. If you are not familiar with the public sector problems in California and Illinois just to name blatant cases which come to mind you might usefully acquaint yourself with them. And it is not as though California has been lacking in prosperous businesses. Much of the problem there is that the public sector unions dominate the Democratic Party, fund raising for elections is very important and, even more significant, they don’t have compulsory voting so the public sector unions are immensely important for getting out the vote.

    Happily for those of us who don’t like the ALP’s oligarchic model we have a prosperous economy, compulsory voting, and the public sector vote is well and truly split now that the Greens appeal to the bien pensants group thinkers.

  • 31
    sottile6
    Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Wobbly, Greens can continue to believe that electoral preferences are a back story and principles are everything but their electoral preference deals have electoral consequences. In Queensland they often refuse to do deals at all and don’t direct any preferences at all. This only helps conservatives and not the Greens or Labor. Do Greens party members discuss and analyse polling results in their branches? How do they think they influence the voting public? I know that their preferencing behaviour is remembered for a long time within Labor party branches and not too fondly. At the grass roots level relations between Greens and Labor is terrible in my experience. I believe there should be a lot more dialogue but not at the expense of the realities of politics.

  • 32
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Like Michael R. James I wonder which of my posts have got through moderation (including one which was just the tail end of one that I had sent prematurely by accident)

    As to his advocacy of a Hare-Clark system or some approximation facilitating a multi-party system!!!!

    It might once have been the case that PR was a nice idea that could work but now there is not excuse. We have some awful examples around the world. I think that includes Italy which certainly has many parties. But Israel is the prime example. Even Jewish intelligence can’t make sense of domestic politics there largely thanks to PR. As Henry Kissinger said “All Israeli politics is domestic” - which explains some of the outbreaks of idiocy or simple inadvertent error in defence and foreign affairs, and is largely a product of the electoral system.

  • 33
    Dogs breakfast
    Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    @ Michael James - “At least one can make a case for these ideological battles within Labor but the Liberals have jettisoned any pretense. That is not to say their public face of solidarity is any more of a thin facade (I mean apparently Malcolm Turnbull is in the same party as Tony Abbott …)”

    Took at least some words from my mouth Mr James. The Libs long since abandoned any ideology that wasn’t hard right economics, big business to the fore and stuff the rest. It’s dog eat dog, and I won’t give that the honour of calling it an ideology.

    But apart from that they have very little other than populism. TA claims that voters want ‘big ideas’. Apparently servicing Australia with a state of art broadband network is something worth destroying, while we build 100 new dams. That isn’t a big idea, it’s a thought bubble of yesterday’s ideas.

    There is space for a genuinely principled party to be created between the Greens and the Labor Party, especially if Labor are smashed in the next election. Hawke/Keating may well be the last of the real Labor parties, but also brought about their demise by their association with big business. The latest iteration has Labor afraid of big business rather than working with them (and unions)

    The comments about university educated pollies is not lost on me. After 32 years in the workforce, 15 of them at a university, there is a very strong case that universities long since stopped churning out ‘thinkers’ and now only produce education.

    If you can’t see the difference between education and thinking, then you are part of the problem.

  • 34
    michael r james
    Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

    @Warren Joffe Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 at 1:06 pm

    Comparisons to Italy are ridiculous, not least because of false perceptions of Italy’s system; like Japan (5 PMs since Obama’s election in 2008) they may change PMs with regularity but actually since the end of WWII both countries have had almost continuous conservative party control that only recently is declining. You are also cherry-picking. Why not compare to Germany or Netherlands? And of course though Italy may have huge public debt (but very low private debt, the mirror of Oz) it is still the 7th or 8th largest economy.

    Read my full argument in Crikey:
    The crisis in governance in two-party systems, Friday, 3 September 2010

    I suppose you will parrot News Ltd and all the conservative cheer squad and shriek that this minority government is the “most unstable and dysfunctional” we have ever had (probably add: since Whitlam). If you sincerely believe that then I am not going to try to dissuade you as you are obviously a lost cause.

    Finally I would say there is an overwhelming moral and ethical (not to say functional) reason that the system needs to change: when a party wins 1.26 million/11.4% of the national vote but only gets a single MP elected (0.67%) it is beyond argument that there is something seriously, fatally wrong. Now, if the country was generally well run and we were building the infrastructure and other things (education, health, defense) we need for the future, you could afford to shrug your complacent shoulders. (Anyone who actually believes that is also beyond argument.) But we are not.
    It is like Crikey’s moderation system: broken.

  • 35
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

    Michael R. James, I don’t know what experience you have of people’s political behaviour but I would be surprised if you didn’t find the bargains struck by minor parties very often damaging to good government. Obviously one can hypothesise circumstances where that might not be the case and point to some examples. But voting in a two party system at least offers the voters a choice which is going to be much closer to delivering the promised or hoped for outcomes than one where it will just be the start of manouevring.

    I don’t see Australia benefiting from the enabling of those who would form the Christian Democratic Part, the Urban and Regional Aboriginal Party, the Outback Aboriginal Party, the Arabic Muslim Party, the non-Arabic Muslim Party, the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish Party, the Party of Modern Judaism, the Shooters Party, etc.

    It is true that even the Coalition has been falling prey to the insitutional rot of careerism which has gone so far down the road in the ALP but the fact that a serious challenge to the perfectly acceptable insiders’ pick, Kelly O’Dwyer, by a successful self-made businesman who sought preselection for what had been Costello’s seat, shows that the main parties can still hope to find space for the kind of able people who want to turn their attention to doing something of public benefit and might well be good at it. I’m definitely of the word-from-inside school as you may surmise. Not that Ted Mack may not have done some good things, or Andrew Murray, but government shouldn’t be swayed too much by the single issue campaigners and minorities.

  • 36
    michael r james
    Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    Warren Joffe at 4.20 pm

    Groan, the conservatives (Luddites) deepest desire for “stability”. Guess what, if you hadn’t noticed, the world is changing at an incredible rate. Stability is simply a commitment to stay locked into the past — and into failure and mediocrity.

    Again, you are making dumb comparisons. In fact some of the worst examples come from exactly our system in which a single member (mostly in the Senate) can control outcomes. Like that toxic far-right Christian fundamentalist nutter Harradine from Tasmania; or imagine if it was Katter. Or look at the Hunters Party in NSW!

    The fact is that if there was a roughly PR system then the Greens would have 17 federal members and the system would be stable and not subject to the whims of madmen or tiny minority interests (which we can agree is bad and v. undemocratic). You can disagree with their politics but you cannot claim it is undemocratic when 1.4 million give them their primary vote. The claims (by the truly extremist IPA for example!) that the Greens are “extremist” “loony” blah, blah, simply does not stand up to rational scrutiny. And shrieking it (via News Ltd or every rightard ThinkTank or blowhards like Barnaby Joyce) does not make it so.

    Take the Tarkine. We all know, and even have a certain grudging sympathy with, the real politik as to why Labor supported the miners: an entirely short-termist survivalist tactic. And that’s the thing. Such short-term decisions dominate in every single sphere of political decision making in Australia. Yet, at the end of the day the miners will be lucky to create 200 permanent jobs (their figures, forget the thousands during development — even shorter term!); but actually it only takes a small change in the international commodity price and/or exchange rate for the whole thing to fall over. (Remember the thousands the Qld coal miners sacked in an instant after the GFC?)

    Either way, the mining is a short-term thing (no one is claiming otherwise) and at the end of the day they may well have destroyed the long-term thing worth preserving.

    But if one tries to think beyond mining and resource extraction, one is labelled a loony extremist.

  • 37
    michael r james
    Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    I have just read BK’s piece in today’s CDM about the (alleged) lack of narrative in all the ruling Anglosphere leaders/parties (Gillard, Cameron, Obama, and Canada too).

    His analysis and reasoning are ok up to a point. But I think he misses the main thing (though perhaps it is implied) and that is what I stressed in my 2010 articles on Hare-Clark: it is simply impossible for just two parties to provide a “narrative” that encompasses the whole or even a majority of the electorate. Our societies are too complex. Though we might (just) agree on certain basics and goals (motherhood ones like health & education) it is impossible to agree on the means to achieve them. A big fraction of the electorate is simply deluded about their own long term interests (West Australians, Queenslanders, Western Sydney bogans) to know what policies might work.

    Thus it is impossible for leaders in a two-party system to ever be upfront with a clear narrative because it would offend more than 50% of the electorate, maybe even >50% of their own voters. Each party needs to split into sub-groups that can agree internally on a coherent and honest “narrative”. Incidentally most, even the rabid Rightards, seem agreed that the Greens are the only party with such a coherent and honest narrative. And at least 1.4 million Australians agree with them in a way in which the millions more voters for the major parties do not about their “own” party.

  • 38
    michael r james
    Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    michael r james
    Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 at 5:14 pm | PERMALINK

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    .
    I have just read BK’s piece in today’s CDM about the (alleged) lack of narrative in all the ruling Anglosphere leaders/parties (Gillard, Cameron, Obama, and Canada too).

    …more (come back tomorrow, maybe, to read the rest?)…

  • 39
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

    @ Michael R. James
    Of course one can’t be certain of outcomes (not just “unintended” but “unimagined consequences” are as likely in politics as economics) and I would readily concede, if that was what you were arguing, that the Greens would be transformed by participating in government. As it is I regard them as self-indulgent loonies (that will have to do for whatever it is I think of them as. I suspect they are more malevolent than that from my point of view). Christine Milne give me the horrors. I would sign up for sharing a cell with Julia Gillard for 10 years before I had to spend a week with Milne.

    I am not arguing for stability by the way. And I am rather surprised that you cite the problems with Harradine et al. in the Senate given that it is PR which produces that result. Indeed they are part of my anti-PR case.

    One thing our system does allow, as does the inferior version in the UK, is radical change when needed. After 40 plus years of increasingly bad government in Victoria, Kennett and Stockdale had a majority to get things done and did. (To the point where Keating persuaded one of the architects of the transformation to go and work for Bob Carr on the undertaking that he would be able to pursue the Kennett-Stockdale policies in NSW. Of course Carr, the uber Green and, surprisingly, captive of the factions, let him down. I say this because I regard what Kennett and Stockdale achieved for Victoria, with all its imperfections,as a good advertisement for what democratic government can achieve.)

    Having used the word “democratic” I should say that I am not sure that I go along with your use of it. Democracy has come and could come in so many forms that it is hardly a useful word. If I were a young Chinese professional person I can easily see myself joining the Communist Party and quietly and prudently advocating more “democracy” within the party, leaving our western ideas for much later generations.

  • 40
    Christopher Nagle
    Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 at 11:31 pm | Permalink

    The bottom line is that the Labor government is going to be creamed at the next election because they were supine, but not supine enough for the people who now really run the country.

    In some ways, they haven’t done too badly for a government that was in a hopeless position as soon as it won government and started to behave as thought they thought they could do anything exept to respond appropriately to they that must be obeyed.

  • 41
    Christopher Nagle
    Posted Friday, 22 February 2013 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

    The bottom line is that the Labor government is going to be creamed at the next election because they were supine, but not supine enough for the people who now really run the country.

    In some ways, they haven’t done too badly for a government that was in a hopeless position as soon as it won government, and started to behave as if it could do anything exept respond appropriately to they that must be obeyed.

  • 42
    klewso
    Posted Saturday, 23 February 2013 at 8:12 am | Permalink

    I saw that show about Hayek the other night too.
    From my limited understanding of economics (I probably wouldn’t have seen the GFC coming with all that higher education either) I thought he’d considered just about everything before he drew up his theory - except “human nature” and the fact that we live in a society of which “economics” is a part, not vice versa?
    Look how Thatcher used his theory to justify what she did (“The Falklands War” aside of course)?

  • 43
    klewso
    Posted Saturday, 23 February 2013 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    Paul Howes - a manifestation of this phenomenon - on Lateline the other night?
    Interesting - the way Jones introduced his presence (floating between boredom and consciousness), I could be wrong but it seemed he was saying Howes was advocating for doing away with the Greens? As if Labor could represent their sort of thinking? Or maybe that sort of thinking “bears none” - so that “one in nine/ten” of us should not have our ideas articulated/represented in legislature/government? If that was the case wouldn’t that put him in the Murdoch camp/way of politicking? A two party system (while easier to manage than the present multifaceted, but more inclusive) is only one step removed from a one party state?
    The Liberals have a third tit in the Nats, what’s so wrong with a Green appendage for Labor?

    What has a virtual duopoly done to our grocer’s market - to customers and producers?

    Then there was that rigid interview style used? The veins opened by Howes but not explored by Jones?
    * The way Howes uses his “I am not part of the government/caucus Get Out of Gaol Free” card : the times he uses the “we” word as if he is?
    * The way the Greens have voted with “Abbott” - as if Labor has “never”?
    * The sort of qualifications he used to rate Burnie as a “good town” - as if towns that didn’t embrace those values of his were “not good”?

    Probably left unexplored because to have done so he might have been left without time to press the “Rudd leadership issue”, while absolving the media of being in control of that “popular topic”, controlling it’s “life” - the media with ability to edit and frame news, that the public ends up with as per their “revues of the gnus”? Compared to, say, what doesn’t make that “cut”?

  • 44
    AR
    Posted Saturday, 23 February 2013 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    I couldn’t find much to comment on in GR’s piece, being in furious agreement but some of the comments here show that rationality (not to mention decency)are in short supply.
    If the ALP can hold, or recover enough seats(thanks to Newtman & Ballyhoo, not to mention whatever happens in the Wild West) then I shall look forward to another minority Labor government supported & prodded by Greens.
    The usual suspects who rave about Italy when disparaging minority government ignore the fact that NO government in northern Europe has had majority government for any significant period since WWII. Bunga-Bunga has only been able to form government because they changed their electoral system from D’Ondt to something resembling the worst of FPtP & List in the 1990s.
    Poor bugger, my country.

  • 45
    Andrew Elder
    Posted Saturday, 23 February 2013 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Gillard has a narrative of addressing people’s work-life conditions. The NDIS, however indirectly, is one example, and I think Rundle underestimates the impact of the BER. Yes, this is undercut by half-arsed efforts such as cuts to single-parent welfare spending, but there is still a narrative there.

    Rundle says that all the Greens have to do is develop a better, and far more comprehensive, set of policies. Good luck with that. Look how difficult that process is for the conservatives, and they have been in government before.

    The fact that the Coalition can push the rhetorical buttons, but have no underlying policy narrative, undermines Rundle’s assumption (widely shared, but still unsustainable) about “When … Tony Abbott is prime minister”. Nobody who has spent as long on the Left as Rundle has any excuse for failing to pick a towering political behemoth that is on the verge of collapse rather than victory.

    Milne’s insistence that she can work with an Abbott government because she worked with the much more moderate Rundle government in Tasmania is stupid. It was Milne, a heterosexual woman, who grafted on the rights-based issue of decriminalising homosexuality rather than Brown, who would have advanced his own rights and interests through such an agenda. If you’re going to move away from a rights-based approach them Milne is not the person to do it, and neither is Hanson-Young.

    Milne’s first big idea as leader was to strike out into regional anfd rural communities to position the Greens as the champions of anti-CSG and other mining activities, to take on the conservatives rather than fight Labor vote for vote in the well-worn streets of the inner cities. It hasn’t worked. Windsor-Oakeshott-style independents are leading those battles. The Greens are either not involved, or where they are the impression has been created that they are carpetbaggers and interlopers, i.e. their campaigns have worked against them rather than for them.

    A century ago, socialists refused to help ameliorate the condition of the poor under capitalism in order to let things get worse and create the conditions for socialist revolution. Today, Milne is hoping an Abbott government will make things worse before she and the Greens can swoop in and make things better. Rundle might complain about the abuse of Marx’s aphorism about history, tragedy and farce, but it’s undeniably applicable here.

    Gillard will win in 2013, not by much and without any outpouring of goodwill, because she has the least unconvincing set of policies that address the work-life issues to which Rundle refers. It’s indirect and the longterm structural issues to which he refers may catch up with Labor at some point, but even so Gillard is the only one attempting, however imperfectly, to engage in the conversation. Milne has disgraced herself by attempting to ape Abbott, and Abbott is disgracing himself by refusing any conversation that he doesn’t initiate.

    The Greens have gotten (as it were) nothing that they didn’t have already, and by divorcing themselves from tangible achievements such as marine parks and carbon abatement they have become less than they were. They will still increase their Senate team by two to four, but will remain as Democrats in polar fleece rather than the replacements for Labor.

  • 46
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Saturday, 23 February 2013 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    @AR I suppose you are right to treat the questions of PR and minority government as largely the same. Whether that is so or not I draw attention to the contrast between a system which gives people a choice of major change after a long period of consensus and/or everyone being able to get a bit of what they are after because the country can afford it. European prosperity for 25 years after WW2 didn’t require governments to make hard decisions that would require some big groups of voters to suffer losses or at least fear the changes.

    But the particulars are probably more interesting.

    The Tory wets, like a lot of decent prosperous people who had lived through the Depression, were part of the social democrat consensus in the UK after WW2. It is worth noting that single member electorates can give rise to the corruption of excessive sectional interests too. After all it is not just the Obeid ascendancy which showed what an ethnic/religious group could do but I am reliably informed about a decision made by a Coalition minister to deny or delay a visa because of the Muslim/Middle Eastern element in his electorate. And I once heard a senior Coalition figure refuse to touch public sector superannuation costs because of the public service vote in critical electorates.

    So the natural tendency of human beings collectively to continue down damaging paths for a very long time before disaster produces the leadership to change course is a pretty reliable generalisation and template to impose on one’s analysis. Kennett got his majorities in both houses and was able to do what Thatcher did for Britain (BTW read Claire Berlinski’s brillian little book “Why Margaret Thatcher Matters - There Is No Alternative” if you can’t stand most long political memoirs including, not least, Maggie’s own). Curiously NZ, before it played silly b***ers, with its franchilse, put a strong majority Labor government in to do the same, much earlier too, because NZ proved the point about the importance of disaster in halting a long period of bad habits. The Muldoon (and previous governments) were appalling, unrecognisable as “conservative” or “liberal”.

    I might have been inclined to think that “producer capture” of the kind we are now seeing in the US public sector (all those outrageous pensions in California being the prime exhibit) was almost impossible to reverse but Sweden did a remarkable job of cutting back its public sector proportion of GDP from about 60 per cent to about 45 per cent. I don’t know what the electoral system was that allowed that. A small ethnically cohesive country would have prima facie advantages, not least if prompted to react to free loading by immigrants that they don’t feel comfortable with (cp. Holland and its Moroccans) but still would be an exhibit worth considering for the present discussion of electoral systems.

    Germany has been faced with such big problems that solidarity over some issues might help in a critical degree - not least because of the memories still invoked of the great 1920s inflation and because it was obvious that sacrifice was needed to reintegrate East Germany. According to what I remember of Mancur Olson’s observations, Germany benefited too from a fresh start without the historically backward looking UK style unions (and old-fashioned and perhaps class ridden management) after WW2.

    As for Australia, we are surely too prosperous, for most of us by the sheer luck of being Australian, to be likely to behave well if given the chance to elect minorities. And, depending on one’s personal preferences, it wouldn’t matter much, would be an unacceptable drag on our future growth, or would be ideal for allowing one to “save the Tarkine” if one were truly focused Green or prevent taxpayer funds being used for abortion or IVF etc.

  • 47
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Saturday, 23 February 2013 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    @ Klewso

    Indeed, if the Libs and Nats can do it why not a regular ALP - Greens Coalition? What fun to see the ALP coping with yet another faction and one that actually believed in ideology. And what fun to see the battles over preferences and/or which seats belonged to whom (actually that rather than preferences: but there would be principled party stalwarts and the merely self-interested who would be putting motions in favour of standing candidates in every seat) without a PR of list system.

  • 48
    Kiron sada
    Posted Sunday, 24 February 2013 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

    As the profit motive driven system that is capitalism drives the world closer to ecological destruction, more and more people are becoming aware of the approaching threat. Even those who previously denied the this threat are beginning to understand the seriousness of the situation. The propaganda pumped out by the ruling class and capitalist class is not working anymore. Only those who still hold tightly the 50′s “God and country as infallible” mentality are still clinging to this lie against global warming.

    Despite the obviousness of the profit-motive’s desire to suppress the reality of global warming, many people still refuse to acknowledge its “hidden hand” in it. Despite he very serious threat to all of humanity, many of capitalism’s supporters refuse to acknowledge that the profit motive (as well as capitalism) is the very source of this threat. So it should not be seen as unusual that a kind of “third way” has appeared. There has always been a “third way” going as far back as Marx’s time. Social-Democrats are the usual form it takes. However in this century it has taken the form of “Eco” capitalism.

    This Eco-capitalism is a retro idea given a new paint job, a healthy shade of green. As in the past, the apologists for capitalism (commonly liberals) have been “embarrassed” by its effects on the world. This time it goes beyond simply being “embarrassed” by its effects to being terrified by them. It is in these moments of “fear” that individuals often grasp more strongly to their beliefs. We’ve seen this with the 2008 global economic collapse. many have refused to accept that capitalism caused the event. And instead of criticizing their belief, they have become market fundamentalists. In times of crisis they have only gripped more firmly to their faith. Like a Christian who has lost their way only to become “born again”.

    This new “Third Way” is still just an apology for capitalism. Like previous “Third Ways” it has found its political leaders and political parties. What was once the social-democrats is now the various Green Parties that can be found around the world. Where the social-democrats have promised a reigning in and greater control of capitalism, the Greens have promised a reorientation of capitalism towards Eco-friendly ideas and beliefs.

    The Greens have given us this version of a capitalism where the productive forces can be used in a socially responsible manner. They claim they can effect a capitalist mobilization with the goal of sustaining human life on Earth ecologically. Along with this as an aside, they’ll tackle homelessness and global poverty , maybe even economic inequality. This message speaks to a post-materialist crowd, better known as hippies. It gives a very holistic spiritual flavour to what is in reality an exploitative repressive ideology. In truth, the whole “Green mentality” is just another “spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down”.

    An amusing aspect to this whole green-capitalism is its claim that it can attract capitalists with an altruistic incentive. This aspect was best put by Slavoj Zizek:

    “Capitalists should not just be machines for generating profits, since their lives can have a deeper meaning. Their preferred mottos have become social responsibility and gratitude: they are the first to admit that society has been incredibly good to them to deploy their talents and amass great wealth, so it is their duty to give something back to society and to help ordinary people. Only this kind of caring approach makes business success worthwhile.”

    - Slavoj Zizek, First as Tragedy, then as Farce

    I’m sure there is no need for me to explain why reaching out to capitalists with altruism is absolutely hilarious.

    Regardless of however the Greens think they will entice or even coerce the capitalists, they will achieve nothing. They will achieve nothing for one simple reason: Eco-capitalism is capitalism. Despite its well-meaning altruism the profit motive doesn’t change. The mistake here by the Greens is that they separate the ideological basis of capitalism (individualist greed) from the economic relations (the capitalist mode of production). What they then try to do is graft an altruistic, even spiritual ideology on those same economic relations.

    Such a surgical transplanting of ideologies as failure is not recognized by the Greens because they have not done a materialist analysis of capitalism. Marx clearly pointed out that social-relations spring from economic-relations. A greedy, exploitative people are a product of a greedy and exploitative system. (Its also a self-perpetuating mechanism, it creates greedy people while turning around to say “see people are naturally greedy”.) To put it another way, the “greedy individualist” body will inevitably reject the “altruistic” organ.

    If you want to change the social-relations of the system, you have to change the economic-relations. Refusing to do so is an ideological position as opposed to a materialist analysis. Attempting to change things without a materialist analysis in a material way will lead only to disaster.

    In the material conditions we face, the capitalist class controls the means of production. Meaning they hold all power in society, financial (in the form of money), physically (in the form of police/military/judicial system) and ideologically, (propaganda through ownership of media). This power will keep them from achieving anything. It is also why reform does not work, and why only revolution brings victory.

    Suppose the Green Party won a majority. There are only 2 ways the scenario would play out.

    1. The party actually comes into power and genuinely tries to put through the reforms to capitalism they intend. The capitalist class fights back using the media to give the impression that everyone hates them and go the other parties to force them out. They would create all kinds of scandals and lies to basically bash them out of office and call new elections.

    2. The party actually comes into power and genuinely tries to put through the reforms to capitalism they intend. The capitalist class fights back and the party leadership gives up because they can’t win. Immediately they sell out the voters and become just another group of tools.

    The Greens can never fight back because they do not control the means of production and the power that flows from them. Nor do they have the intention of ever doing so.

    In the concrete material reality the ecological crisis is caused by capitalism. No amount of reform can possibly effect this bringing it to an end, because it remains capitalism. Ecological destruction is a part of economic relations. The only solution is to change the economic relations in a way where the goal is not profit at all cost, but to the sustainment of human life. We achieve that by abolishing capitalism. This is not possible under Eco-capitalism because it is capitalism.

    Eco-capitalism in concrete material reality, is another “Third Way” trap that offers no viable solutions to the problems and dangers we face. No amount of spiritual or ideological re-flavouring can change the fallacy of the “Third Way” position. Revolution is the only solution.

  • 49
    Warren Joffe
    Posted Monday, 25 February 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    Kiron soda - is there a clue in the name? If so, I’m too dim or ignorant to get it. But I can pick a good spoof anyway. Almost Swiftian satire though that is perhaps too much praise….

  • 50
    AR
    Posted Tuesday, 26 February 2013 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Not an anagram of Dave Spart.

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