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Democracy in Chains

By Max Ogden

Book Review: Democracy in Chains (by Nancy MacLean)

I have rarely accepted conspiracies, which are often embraced too readily. What often appears as a conspiracy is usually a stuff up, or a group or a class, acting in the way one would expect.

I have changed somewhat after reading “Democracy in Chains” – “The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America”, by Nancy MacLean. She lays out the history of the US Right from the 1830s, and it is not a pretty picture.

She begins in the eighteen thirties, with John C Calhoun, a former Vice President, and South Carolina Senator, when he began his crusade to preserve and extend the power of wealth, and railed against the Madison constitution as being too democratic. He cleverly, and with some success, sets out to convince slave owners, and the wider community in the South, that as the creators of wealth, they are the group who are downtrodden, while those calling for the abolition of slavery are the elites, and the wasteful class living off the taxes of slave owners.

As we know, the civil war, at enormous cost, put an end to slavery, at least in the form it existed then. That was a major setback for the ideas of Calhoun and his supporters, but those who have followed him, have often suffered setbacks, some very serious, but to this day, they go back, examine the lessons, and continue their strategies, and are prepared to work and plan for decades ahead.

Possibly the most influential anti-hero is Nobel Prize winning economist, James Buchanan, who like several of the people who stroll this history, is described as driven, mean, rude, arrogant with an enormous ego, but never sought the limelight as he liked to work in the shadows. These were not very nice people. First from Virginia Tech., the west coast, and finally George Mason University he proselytised his ideology for strengthening the ruling class hold on power and wealth.

Buchanan, although he was not at their first meeting, became an important member of the Mount Pelerin Society, which emanated from a group of Americans – mainly from Chicago University, UK, Germany, Austrians, who met in nineteen forty seven in Switzerland, under the leadership of Frederik A Hayek, who’s book “Road to Serfdom” had created excitement among right wing economists. They laid out a strategy to prevent the spread of socialist and collectivist ideas. This group has proved to be incredibly influential ever since. An object lesson in understanding how ideas are central to strategy.

By the seventies the likes of Buchanan, and several of his ilk, were picked up by the billionaire Koch brothers, as purveyors of exactly what they had been looking for regarding ideas and strategies for protecting their wealth and power. Since then,they and other wealthy colleagues have provided hundreds of millions of dollars funding their think tanks.

Their major objectives are: Breakdown democracy and where possible eradicate it; have government stripped of every service except that of defence; have education privatised, which is a high priority; smash any form of collectivism, especially unions; minimise tax so it only funds defence.

They then lay out strategies for achieving their objectives. For example, deprive government of services, first have the services sub-contracted out, and then use that experience to have it fully privatised, by making it extremely difficult for the government to take it back.

With public education, introduce various forms of testing, e.g. NAPLAN, manipulate the statistics regardless of the results to embarrass the public system, as a prelude to private takeover, e.g. Charter schools in the US, or individual vouchers so students can shop around private schools. All sounds familiar.

Tie up democratic rights within very difficult to change constitutions. Buchanan and his team were invited by Pinochet soon after he took power in nineteen seventy three, to write a new constitution. They spent quite some time on it, and it was eventually voted on by an electorate, severely curtailed by rules which meant only a small percentage of Chileans could vote. However that constitution is so tight that even to this day under more progressive governments it is almost impossible to change. Requiring at least two thirds of a majority for change, whenever a Chilean government tries to tackle the wealthy, because of the constitution they can mobilise the required one third to protect themselves.

The US constitution, which they regard as too democratic, is very difficult to change, so their strategy is to concentrate on appointments of judges at all levels of the judiciary, blocking, and active measures before the Supreme Court. By the mid-nineties forty per cent of all Federal judges had been through training at the various think tanks the Right and Koch Brothers fund.

Learning from Calhoun, they have proved very adept at posing as part of the ordinary people, suggesting that they are outsiders, and that everyone else is part of the elites. They have set out, with some success, to convince the wider public that like slave owners, it is the wealthy who create wealth, taxes, jobs, so they are the underdogs in US society, who should be supported, not workers, unemployed, the poor, those on welfare, as they are living off the wealthy. Even the titles of their many think tanks are benign, giving the impression of being neutral. By the way Rubio was their preferred Presidential candidate, but when he dropped out, their man is Pence who has been intimately involved with the Koch brothers for decades. Perhaps even more dangerous than Trump.

They have had severe setbacks. However they go back and carefully examine where they went wrong, how they may have overreached, etc. They then return with a new strategy and are happy to think decades down the track, and spend many millions to achieve their objectives.

They are ruthless. In one case while their think tank was stationed in Virginia Tech, Buchanan demanded that one of his team, who had never completed his economics degree, and was in fact their major political lobbyist, be made professor. The Administration rejected the request four times, so Buchanan upped stakes and shifted to George Mason University. Another reason for the move was that GM University is in the suburbs of Washington DC, so they had a more intimate relationship with Congress, and the members whom they never hesitate to threaten, cajole, and stand-over to follow their policies. Buchanan died in two thousand and thirteen.

This brings me to an important article by Peter Harcher in The Age, 14/10/17, which demonstrates the success of the Buchanan/Koch strategies. Quoting from recent research by the well regarded PEW Research Centre, he shows how ideological and psychological changes wrought by constant campaigning, headlines, fake news etc., convinces an ever growing number of people to vote precisely the opposite of what is in their own best interests.

In a couple of case studies they show how a woman was pleased that her young son was saved by Affordable Health Care (Obamacare), which she said, she could not have otherwise afforded, and yet when asked, she said she would still be voting for Trump despite his intention to close it down. In another case, a woman whose life was saved from a blood clotting disorder, because of Affordable Health, when she tried to convince her family to oppose Trump, she was ostracised and a brother refused to allow his daughters to talk to her.

There are several other studies which indicate how these voters remain loyal to their party, especially the Republicans, regardless of the positive impact that the other party’s policies may have for them personally. Among registered Republicans, this type of response has increased from 50% to 80%. These studies raise huge issues for progressives concerned to build a more equal, democratic, and better society. Harcher’s article is a good follow up by seeing the lasting impact of the Right’s strategies, Nancy MacLean so well describes.

This book should be read right across the broad Left. It demonstrates the extremely powerful, and wealthy enemy we are up against, and raises serious questions as to whether we can ever be defeated, and leads to some despair. A US professor colleague told me recently that he just cannot get the book out of his head, it has made such an impact.

Above all, the book demonstrates how ideas are the engine of change, and the urgent need for practical, but long term objectives, strategies and tactics. Our progressive think tanks are severely limited in funds and personnel, and should seriously consider meeting regularly to try and rationalise their work so that they can go beyond just contracted short term research, to more blue sky, long term strategic ideas. Without doubt the success of the Koch and other think tanks is that they have such huge funding backup, which progressive think tanks will never be able to match, and that they can spend time on the big picture, and look how it is paying off.

For myself the book reinforces the urgency of responding with a pro-active, not simply an oppositionist agenda. Serious consideration must be given to a coming together of all progressives from every field of campaigning, sometime within the next eighteen months. Especially given the possibility of a longer term ALP government, something like the Canadian experience which drew up a plan for an alternative better society titled The Leap, to arrive at a united position around many issues, and a rationalisation of effort so we can begin to get ideas out there which start to set the agenda, and not be only oppositionist.

Nancy MacLean’s excellent history, as well as creating some despair, it is also a great starting point to inspire action.


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  1. Robert REYNOLDS

    Max, thank you for this interesting and timely review of Nancy MacLean’s book. If nothing else, it serves as a reminder of the major struggles that lie ahead for working people, pensioners and the middle class in general.

    I feel that it is only a matter of time before the world experiences another major economic calamity and that this will finally cause the population at large to start taking a serious look at the future of capitalism and its inherent contradictions.

  2. Freethinker

    Thank you for the article, another example of the work by the establishment, giving Nobel Prize James Buchanang.
    Economists like E. F. Schumacher will never get exposure or recognition by them.

  3. Keith

    For the last few years I have been reading articles from a number of US outlets such as Washington Post, New York Times, Alternet, ThinkPogress and others, it is no surprise about the conclusions being made about the amount of political pressure is being put on communities and their Republican representatives. US political representatives need to gain political donations for their own campaigns, Republicans particularly are supported by donations from fossil fuel interests. If Republican politicians go against fossil fuel interests it is often the kiss of political death.

  4. Keith

    It is not only in the US where politics has been corrupted; experts are not taken notice of in the interests of ideology, greed, and patronage.

    Free speech is incredibly important in a democracy; politicians are doing their best to protect their fossil fuel mining mates. Deforestation is also a matter where great conflict emerges. Use of fossil fuels and forestry are intertwined in providing a less safe world.

    Dr Peter Carter, a retired climate scientist, suggests that we have done so much damage to the Earth that we are awaiting our death caused through disruption of climate. Trillions of dollars have been spent on subsidising fossil fuels worldwide according to the IMF. Carter states we are investing in our own deaths.

    Those statements by Dr Carter may seem hyperbolic, but there are other scientists who certainly believe that it is not possible to maintain the goal of holding greenhouse emissions at an aspirational goal of 1.5C above pre-Industrial temperature. When the Paris deliberations were in progress some scientists were already stating that it will be difficult to hold to a 2C goal. Carter states that 2C is not a safe temperature to reach.

    In research conducted by Anton Vaks, in relation to permafrost, it was found that an increase of global temperature of 1.5C over pre-Industrial levels will see permafrost thaw. To attain such a conclusion, areas of permanent frost, intermittent areas of permafrost, and areas of no permafrost within cave structures were researched.

    Prior to reaching 1.5C, there is already a trend towards permafrost thawing, for example islands off Siberia held together by permafrost are eroding, “drunken trees”, greening of tundra areas, buildings breaking down, and melt ponds forming. Once Arctic ice is lost, we can expect major tipping points.

    Dr James Hansen has written a paper about the melting of snow and ice from Greenland with a resulting increase in sea level rise. Dr Michael Mann states that Dr Hansen has been ominously accurate in his predictions in the past, though a number of scientists are arguing about Dr Hansen’s speed of the melting. Dr Mann states categorically that climate scientists agree the melting will take place.

    Alan Finkel is frustrated with Australian politicians:

    Finkel’s frustration: Everyone else has a strategy, but not Australia

    Meanwhile, politicians are fiddling while the Earth’s ability to provide a safe environment is diminishing fast.

  5. Robert REYNOLDS

    Quite clearly Keith, the prospect of destroying the Earth as we know it in the medium to long term is of no consequence to the capitalist class as long as they can make a profit from that destruction in the short term.

  6. Matters Not


    progressive think tanks … should seriously consider meeting regularly to try and rationalise their work so that they can go beyond just contracted short term research

    Well – yes. But have you noticed that so called progressives in Australia (and elsewhere) devote most of their time denigrating each other. As evidence, I give you the ALP and The Greens who spend enormous political capital attacking each other. While they are obvious examples the problem goes much deeper than that. Within those Parties and groupings there are the factional alliances whose motivationa are characterised by hate and distrust which serve to reduce their overall potency.

    Nevertheless Australia is somewhat different to the US where the universal enemy is the government. That government (in a democracy) is the only institution that has the power to seriously address crucial issues is forgotten and the very people who might be helped join the chorus of critics. But it should be stressed that we are going down that same US path and every time government stuffs up (any government will do) those who fear a powerful government in search of justice cheer silently – and from the shadows.

    We would do well if we: Recognise the real enemy – because it’s us.

  7. Robert REYNOLDS

    I would dearly love to disagree with you Matters Not, but sadly, I cannot. In fact I have to acknowledge that what you say is quite true. The only way to try to get around the problem that you describe is by having very strong, authentic, honest and persuasive leadership. I do not see anything that fits that description on the horizon at all.

  8. Matters Not

    Keith re Finkel. While I applaud that he has (finally) seen the light as it were, I believe he should not have weakened the role of the Chief Scientist by becoming initially involved in what was clearly a grubby political shit fight. He should have stayed above and beyond that and became the non-partisan arbitor. Now the public record shows he’s one of them. A great pity. The resurrection of his role is still some way off.

  9. Freethinker

    Robert, when you see the opposite views about macroeconomics between Shorten/Bowen and Wayne Swan and flowers there is no much chances of a strong leadership without making a hell of divisions within the party.
    Something similar happens within the Greens and I hope that in that party the left bite the bullet and look for socialist micro parties to for a political front.
    Politicians in general want to first, keep their seat safe, second look after the party and third our interests

  10. Robert REYNOLDS

    Freethinker I do not take issue with anything you say at all.

    I was a card-carrying member of the (then) Australian Labor Party (now Alternative Liberal Party) (ALP) for 16 years or so. I resigned in about 1983 when the two treacherous turncoats, Hawke and Keating hijacked the party and took it on a road toward neo-liberalism that even the Libs seemed too frighten to travel at the time under Malcolm Fraser.

    I nearly joined the Communist Party of Australia in my youth in the 1960’s. The CPA comrades always maintained that the ALP was only interested in managing capitalism better than the Libs; it was put to me that the ALP were not genuinely interested in making any real changes. When Hawke and Keating took control of the party and the country, the words of the old CPA members rang in my ears more loudly than ever.

    Anyway Freethinker, what I am getting around to saying in my roundabout way, is that I pay very little attention to what the likes of Shorten or Bowen or Swan say. I am not really interested in their mealy-mouthed platitudes. However, I do listen to the views expressed by people like the self-styled heterodox economist Steve Keen, and others like Yanis Varoufakis, Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz.

    I do not see much hope in the Greens either. They are more concerned with issues like same-sex marriage and euthanasia, which, while important issues, are not fundamental to how we run the economy. i am also very concerned with how many on the left seem to be in thrall to the existential threat posed by Islam too, but that is very much another story.

    With regard to your last sentence,

    “Politicians in general want to first, keep their seat safe, second look after the party and third our interests”

    that is an undeniable truism.

    I tend to think that the country will be run pretty much in a ‘business-as-usual’ manner until/unless a major problem erupts in the world economy. When you look at the debt levels around the world it appears to me to a case of ‘when’ not ‘if’ another major crisis arises. For example, in The Washington Post only a day or so ago, there was an article detailing the similarity of Trumps current tax policy to what the Republicans were doing before the Great Depression.

  11. Freethinker

    Robert, the last time that I voted for the ALP was to remove Fraser.
    Coming for South America and a socialist family I was unable to comprehend and tolerate what was done to Gough and cannot believe how the electorate voted for Fraser.
    After that it is history, what Gough try to construct was destroyed by neoliberalism from both parties.
    I am waiting for the formation of Australian wide socialist party but I ma running out of hope and time.

  12. jim

    Me thinks their greed knows no bounds,

    Meanwhile over there Afghanistan 100s tones of opium/heroin

    Record Production in 2016. Fake Eradication Program
    According to the YNODC:

    “Opium production in Afghanistan rose by 43 per cent to 4,800 metric tons in 2016 compared with 2015 levels, according to the latest Afghanistan Opium Survey figures released today by the Afghan Ministry of Counter Narcotics and the UNODC. The area under opium poppy cultivation also increased to 201,000 hectares (ha) in 2016, a rise of 10 per cent compared with 183,000 ha in 2015.

    This represents a twenty fold increase in the areas under opium cultivation since the US invasion in October 2001. In 2016, opium production had increased by approximately 25 times in relation to its 2001 levels, from 185 tons in 2001 to 4800 tons in 2016.
    <<<<<<<<<<< Just who are the bad guy’s ?.

  13. Robert REYNOLDS

    Hi Freethinker, your latest comments are quite interesting (as they all have been).

    Coming from South America I am sure that you would be more aware than any of us Australians, just how savage the capitalist backlash against moves toward socialism can be. The way that socialist President Salvador Allende of Chile was removed from office in September, 1973, and brutally murdered, makes Gough’s removal seem very tame by comparison. I would rather have to live under Malcolm Fraser than Augusto Pinochet.

    Like you, I am also waiting for the formation of a genuine Australia wide socialist party and like you I am running out of hope and time. But then again Freethinker, I am starting to think that neo-liberalism is running out of those two latter mentioned commodities too. But if/when there is an economic collapse there will be all sorts of groups coming out of the woodwork hoping to ‘fill the gap’ and many of them will not be very nice.

    I have looked at the Socialist Equality Party and several other groups but none really inspire me.

    Thankfully, (for my sanity) I only take a passing interest in politics. I think that I would be totally depressed if I had chosen politics as my made interest. I thought about it in my mid-twenties but decided to go for my other passion which was the physical sciences. I am thankful that I made that decision.

  14. diannaart

    George Monbiot:

    In one respect, Buchanan was right: there is an inherent conflict between what he called “economic freedom” and political liberty. Complete freedom for billionaires means poverty, insecurity, pollution and collapsing public services for everyone else. Because we will not vote for this, it can be delivered only through deception and authoritarian control. The choice we face is between unfettered capitalism and democracy. You cannot have both.

    Buchanan’s programme amounts to a prescription for totalitarian capitalism. And his disciples have only begun to implement it. But at least, thanks to Maclean’s discoveries, we can now apprehend the agenda. One of the first rules of politics is know your enemy. We’re getting there.

    Mont Pelerin Society Membership List

    Some scholars have described it as the “neoliberal thought collective” with its ideas heavily influencing the political administrations of Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the US, and many world leaders since.

    DeSmog has obtained a 2013 Mont Pelerin Society membership list, showing the group continues to boast influential members including former judges, former country leaders, wealthy industrialists, academics and think tank operatives in 62 countries from Argentina to Zimbabwe.

    According to the Mont Pelerin Society, its members “see danger in the expansion of government, not least in state welfare, in the power of trade unions and business monopoly, and in the continuing threat and reality of inflation.”

    Members continue to meet at annual conferences and regional meetings, often held in appealing locations. The next meeting will be held in Sweden’s capital, Stockholm.

    High profile members include former Australian Prime Minister John Howard, petrochemical billionaire Charles Koch and former Czech Republic president Vaclav Klaus.

    What may have started out as a collection of common interests, is most certainly behaving like a conspiracy… a very effing big one.

  15. Keith

    Matters Not

    I think Alan Finkel held back, waiting for the rabble LNP to process his Report. I was somewhat disappointed in his Report on the basis of what is needed climate wise; but, as a means to open up the political standoff it was a brilliant document. He did discuss the cost of renewables against fossil fuels in a rather muted manner.

    But, we have some barking mad extreme politicians in the neo con LNP.

  16. Robert REYNOLDS

    diannaart, George Monbiot is one of the world’s truly great assets. He is always worth a read.

    In fact, his latest essay arrived in my inbox only a few minutes ago. Reading his account of the way parents behave when dropping their children off at school, reminds me of what Margaret Thatcher seemed to be advocating with her remarks along the lines that there is no such thing as society, just individuals looking after their own interests. When this is the ‘philosophy’ that underpins your society, then is it any wonder that you have people behaving in the way George describes in his piece. It is available at,

  17. Freethinker

    Roberts, yes the removal of Gough was without violence but the similarities were there, a government voted by the people and removed by the extreme right with the helping intervention of USA and perhaps Kissinger.
    For people that have to run away to save their own skin for being active in the union movement it was not a good experience when history was repeating in the new land.

    I also slowly retreat form my interest in politics, before use to make me rebel and now start depressing me.
    Be in nature it is more attractive activity now.
    I just wonder how many “old fellows” are like us………….

  18. Robert REYNOLDS

    Hi Freethinker, I am in no doubt that the war criminals Nixon and Kissinger were in that Chilean coup ‘up to their necks’. They were a despicable duo.

    I am glad that you made it here to Australia safely, though Freethinker. Many did not.

    I think that the trick Freethinker, is to not let the politics get to you too much. As indicated above by Matters Not, we humans are a pretty fickle and capricious lot.

    Like you, I also wonder how many ‘old fellows’ like us there are ‘out there’. Obviously not enough! But what is probably much more disturbing is the dearth of ‘young people’ out there who think like us. Although perhaps that too, seems to be slowly changing in some places like America and England. Perhaps we should not be too pessimistic.

  19. Joseph Carli

    The greatest error that the so-called “intellectual Left” make is that having studied politics for so long under the tutelage of those who themselves had been coached by others for so long who had..etc , etc..they have come to a point where they understand everything there is to know about how politics operates, yet have not the faintest idea how to make it work for themselves…so that in the end, it becomes merely a point of endless discussion while the reality slips silently past them and conquers the field without them even being aware until it is too late…and then comes the wailing and remorse……….and the regret.

    Politics is apiece of equipment no different than a hammer or crowbar that can be used to apply force to or leverage of…The political Left needs to take heed of people like John Setka and the methodology of radical unionism and go straight to the base of power in any nation…the working people..

  20. Robert REYNOLDS

    I think there is a real danger that if we go down the road that you suggest Joseph, we could once again end up with a Stalinist kind of regime. That is the last thing that I want. One reason for feeling like that is that I know that I would be one of the first casualties of such a terror regime.

  21. Freethinker

    Robert, the radical unionism is well alive in Uruguay and we did not finished with a Stalinist regime by the left.
    The only problem with that,based on how reacted the extreme right and fascism is that we are going to go trough a possible dictatorship because the right minority does not give their position very easy
    So be it, something have to be done.

  22. Joseph Carli

    The left suffers from the illusion that if one has “justice, right and a damn good argument” on one’s side , one will win the political day…The Right , on the other hand knows through refined application that all you need is a brown-paper bag full of donor money and a compliant press on your side…In Australia, with so much surplus natural commodities yet to be exploited over such a wide land, there is no shortage of donor capital to persuade and only one main stream of media to contest the corruption.

    Joyce won New England with a record swing to him…yet just over the border, there was a swing away from conservative politics…Joyce, it could be argued (but it wasn’t even mentioned in the MSM) was both morally and ethically unsuitable to sit as representative of a people…yet we only heard such murmurings and outrage in social media…I even read on twitter a protest from a supposed “leftie” that Barn’s private life was his business and we ought not discuss such and concentrate on policy…and THAT I believe tells us all we need to know about why the “intellectual left” remains in a political feotal position rocking back and forth in disbelieving anguish.

    I would recommend everyone to watch at least the first half of Insiders this morning, if only to witness the finesse at which those representatives of the Aust’ MSM perform their variation of “The Australian Crawl” and if we are lucky, we will see Bazz Cazz or one of the other lizards on the lounge demonstrate, when discussing the attraction of Barnaby to the voters of New England, the exact equivalence of how much robust energy is exerted by the MSM in performing a suck-start on a Harley-Davidson!

  23. diannaart

    Joe, I do not share your opinion of the left, just sayin’ not having a go at you, just expressing my POV. OK?

    Does the left require a big rethink? Indeed it does. That OECD nations still have a form of democracy means the left is not entirely ineffectual. Also there are wealthy people among the left, not all of the 1% are arseholes.

    Regarding the New England election, what credible alternatives to Joyce were offered? I accept that he was likely always going to win, but strange things happen in elections, we see it all the time…

    And, always, remember who the real enemy is, not just puppet governments, but a well cashed up web of corporates. We can still make choices in the market place – requires thought and diligence but not impossible.

  24. diannaart

    Glenn Barry

    Thank you for the feedback, I do not always agree with George Monbiot – but thought his article very enlightening, studded with equally informative links.

  25. Robert REYNOLDS

    Freethinker, I do not claim to have any knowledge of how ‘radical unionism’ works in Uruguay, but I find Joseph Carli’s comments (December 2, 10.49 pm) rather alarming. He comes dangerously close to endorsing union thuggery and violence as way of furthering the aims of the left. I find this approach to be reprehensible and against what I stand for. It also seems that Joseph is unperturbed by the fact that some union leaders have associations with known underworld figures.

    I reject totally behavior such as the unprovoked physical assault of right-wing political commentator Andrew Bolt in the streets of Melbourne and the thuggish behavior of the so-called anti-fascist group Antifa. Antifa behaves in exactly the same way that those it professes to oppose, behave. If the left are subjected to violence and physical attacks from those on the right, then I feel that in the first instance it should be left to the police to deal with the matter. If that proves to be ineffectual then the time comes when the left needs to look after itself. I am not convinced that that time has come.

  26. Joseph Carli

    Robert Reynolds..: ” Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance, that you o’erstep not the modesty of nature.” (Hamlet; act 3 scene 2)

  27. Robert REYNOLDS

    Joseph Cari:

    “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”

    Isaac Asimov

  28. Joseph Carli

    ” Absolute security is the first wish of the indolent”

    Joseph Carli

  29. Robert REYNOLDS

    As Bern Williams says,

    “I like the word ‘indolence’. I makes my laziness seem classy”.

    And if it is true that,

    ” Absolute security is the first wish of the indolent”

    then I must be exceedingly lazy.

  30. Joseph Carli

    ” then I must be exceedingly lazy.”….rejoice in such luxury and praise the powers that be who in yours and my name such horrors are committed..yet we suffer no guilt because we ourselves strike no blow…nor any distaste of sight save perhaps a turned cream on our raspberries…

    Ah!..sweet is for the living…But here..a pithy throwaway line…

    Beautiful Dreamer.

  31. Freethinker

    Robert REYNOLDS December 3, 2017 at 1:20 pm
    Freethinker, I do not claim to have any knowledge of how ‘radical unionism’ works in Uruguay,

    It is working like this (and not only in Uruguay) People after years of extreme tolerance in losing their working conditions (and work as well) and after trying to negotiate with the governments without any sensible outcome, they go in strike rt marching in the streets.
    The government declared strikes unlawful and send the special police to stop the marches and violence started.
    There is no way out, the elite does not like to lose ground and the people dignity which is the beginning of a revolt.
    Your solution when any political party is not, what it is?
    Just to give you an idea, in Uruguay took more than 30 years for the people say it is enough.

  32. diannaart

    Robert Reynolds

    Thank you for the link – I missed seeing your post earlier.

    I have a reading list longer than time and health permits – I do know Monbiot is always worth checking out if his name turns up when researching a topic.


  33. Robert REYNOLDS

    Hi diannaart,

    Thanks for your message. I can relate totally with your comment that,

    “I have a reading list longer than time and health permits”. It is simply not possible to keep up with everything. We all try to the best of our ability.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts.

  34. Robert REYNOLDS

    Hi Freethinker,

    I guess what I am trying to say is that sure, there are occasions when things will become unpleasant. Perhaps that is how it is in Uruguay. Armed resistance would certainly have been justified in Chile prior to the 1973 coup.

    However, what Joseph Carli seems to be saying is that it is O.K. for the left here in Australia to now get into bed with thugs and gangsters in order to further its aims. If you are seeking to carry a good percentage of the population with you, then I would contend that this is not the way to go about it. Not only is such an approach morally indefensible it gives the conservative media more ammunition to use against you. The left here has enough ‘baggage’ already. It does not need any more.

  35. Joseph Carli

    R.R…: ” it is O.K. for the left here in Australia to now get into bed with thugs and gangsters “….So who are these “thugs and gangsters?”

  36. Robert REYNOLDS

    I know where you are headed with your line of questioning, J. C. I do not propose to be drawn further on that one. And please spare me the arguments about the banks and other corporate gangsters. Engaging one set of crooks to fight another set is a dangerous game J. C.

  37. Joseph Carli

    Well, Robert..I’ll name a person who I think was one of the most astute players in corporate politics…: Norm Gallagher.

  38. Michael Taylor

    I will repeat Joe’s question … who are these thugs and gangsters?

  39. Robert REYNOLDS

    Joseph, I am not sure that one of the most decent and ethical players in the union movement, Jack Mundey, would agree with you. I certainly wouldn’t.

  40. Joseph Carli

    I am always amazed by this certainty of opinion that some folk have on radical working-class people. Like there is some vague set of socially acceptable “Queensberry Rules” that we have to operate under..We get a cabal of rapacious, oppressive bastards from the upper middle-class who seriously do not stop short of torture and killing anyone who stands in their way…and this goes on over hundreds of years and then when one or the other young person from the lower classes takes it upon themselves to kick-back a tad and give the bastards a bit of a “black eye”…we get this out-pouring of grief from the powers that be that they are “not playing fair”…..”FAIR!”…be jiggered!…

    I’d wager that you’d have the same opinion about Ned Kelly.

    Norm Gallagher – A Tribute

  41. Robert REYNOLDS

    Mike, I am not going to invite the libel laws of this country to be used against me. Furthermore there are people in this society who I would not wish to have take any sort of interest in me. I am sure that you could name such people just as I could.

    While I am here Mike, let me say that I am sure that you are just as aware as I am that the convictions former HSU employees Craig Thomson and Michael Williamson did nothing to enhance the profile of the union movement in Australia. There have also been very credible reports that the Catholic Controlled SDA has sold out its members by making cosy agreements with employers.

    But these are not the thugs and gangsters to whom I am referring, as I am in no doubt you are aware Mike. You know full well who I am referring to. The trade union movement has an image problem in this country and it is compounded by the behavior of the people I have referred to here.

  42. Freethinker

    Robert, “the trade union has an image problem” because the ignorance of the people that judge them ignoring with what have to deal in the work force.
    If there are thugs, gangsters they are the people that force workers to work in unsafe environment, the ones that exploit the workers
    ( farmers to back packers are an example now) they are on the other side together with the lawyers and politicians that support them.
    I do not give #$@^ about the opinion of those that criticize the union movement but are the first ones to rip the benefits and working condition gained by the union during decades of struggle.
    Yes, I was a radical activist who took no #$%^and I am proud of it.

  43. Robert REYNOLDS

    Joe, I have just read the short item on Norm Gallagher from the link which you posted. Joe I think that the writer is playing some sort of practical joke when they wrote this piece. The transcript of this would get many laughs on an ABC satire program.

    I hold the view that there are very, very few people in this world who are either totally evil or totally good. I am sure that Norm had his good points.

    I would invite you to read this short extract from an interview with Jack Mundey,

    (Jack is talking about the Green Bans that the NSW BLF had implemented in Sydney.)

    “And because of that and because we refused all attempts to bribe us, and they couldn’t bribe or coerce us, they then used divisions within the union to destroy the New South Wales leadership, and even though in the early period, Gallagher, the national secretary, the federal secretary and myself, we were both members of the Communist Party, but Gallagher had increasingly followed the line of the Communist Party of China, whereas I was on a line that we were completely … should be independent of China and Soviet Union and any other country. And so there was this political differences but it was used by the developers to try and drive a wedge between Gallagher and myself, and of course history now shows that Gallagher took secret commissions and … and was … unlike us, was bribed and finally succumbed to the employer’s wish that they move in and destroy the New South Wales leadership.”

    the full interview is available at

    Now, Jack Mundey was no stooge of the capitalist employers. Norm Gallagher is a totally discredited individual.

  44. Joseph Carli

    Robert ..I would hold both Mundey and Gallagher in equal I would many Union Martin Ferguson.. They both operated within their spheres of influence and power and influence is the burden of the leader of any organisation.
    But I was working in the industry as a carpenter on the multi-storey constructions in the BLF days..though I was with the carpenters union (a right-wing union of bastards..the ASC&JoA..or “The Jockey Club”) and I saw the BLF grow froma small radical union on the job to the most powerful and radical union on the job who took care of their workers..and this in the day when death or serious injury on construction sites was rife…and all under the leadership of Norm Gallagher..and it was the radical action by the BLF that set the standards of workplace health and safety…
    No…it is rubbish to pick this or that union leader and try to divide the class by such…

  45. Robert REYNOLDS

    Thanks for your reply Joe.

    As I said previously, there are very few people who are totally good or totally bad. I fully acknowledge that Norm did some good things. You refer to a number of them in your post. I am not seeking to divide ‘the class’ with my comments, rest assured.

    I think Joe, that while we may see some things through different eyes, at the end of the day, we are ‘on the same side’.

  46. Joseph Carli

    ” we are ‘on the same side’.”…so tell me..What DO you think of Ned Kelly?

  47. Harquebus

    “The state calls its own violence ‘law’ but that of the individual ‘crime’.” — Max Stirner.

    “When confrontation shifts to the arena of violence, it’s the toughest and most brutal who win – and we know who that is.” — Noam Chomsky

    “When it gets down to having to use violence, then you are playing the system’s game. The establishment will irritate you – pull your beard, flick your face – to make you fight. Because once they’ve got you violent, then they know how to handle you. The only thing they don’t know how to handle is non-violence and humor.” -– John Lennon

    I agree that Monbiot is always worth reading. I have saved lots of links to his articles including his review of “Democracy in Chains” which, I have posted here a couple of times at least.

  48. Joseph Carli

    Harquebus..meaning (seriously) no disrespect, but do you sincerely have an opinion that you can elaborate / extrapolate upon WITHOUT back-up links and quotes from other people?

  49. Robert REYNOLDS

    You are asking a serious question Joe. In order for me to give you a serious answer I would need to know much more about Ned Kelly than I do. With what little I do know about Ned, I have mixed feelings.

  50. Harquebus

    Joseph Carli
    Very few listen to me let alone take me seriously so, consequently, I will often provide quotes and articles from other respected persons.

  51. Joseph Carli

    Robert..your very cautious reply on such an emotive subject betrays your personality… 🙂

    Harquebus…”You might as well fall flat on your face as to lean over too far backwards”.

  52. Robert REYNOLDS

    You are certainly in good form today Joe. You appear to criticize me because I choose not to make some reckless and ill-informed comment about a former convicted criminal; and you choose to take Harquebus to task because he/she evidently likes to support his/her comments with some evidence. Yet, as I indicated before, I think that when ‘push comes to shove’, we are all pretty similar in our outlook. Did you have a bad weekend?

  53. Joseph Carli

    ” … ill-informed comment about a former convicted criminal.” I’m a “challenging” person, Robert ..especially to those who, while expressing definite certainty on some subjects, appear to slip and slide around commitment toward even their statements..but I will let that slide…you have given this inquisitive person enough casual evidence to create a characterisation…as for ol’ Harqui’…I was just offering a tad of advice..I see myself as an “educator”.. 🙂

  54. Freethinker

    The comments this Monday morning must be follow up with a bag of popcorns.
    Then again,I am going to have my short coffee just in case that I get involved.

  55. Robert REYNOLDS

    I will not argue with your claim that you are a “challenging” person, Joe. Thank god I do not have to live with you. The challenge of that would be far too great for even me to bear.

    Now, Joe, for your comment,

    “…., Robert ..especially to those who, while expressing definite certainty on some subjects, appear to slip and slide around commitment toward even their statements..but I will let that slide…”

    well, I do not think that I will let that slide. Personally Joe, I would never be naive enough to think that because everyone who may express a definite opinion on some subject areas should automatically be an worldly expert on everything else. You may be blessed with omniscience Joe, but most of us mere mortals are not. Clearly though, you are bereft of the intellectual capacity to distinguish between ‘slipping and sliding’ and being cautious and responsible when framing a reply.

    I am sure that ‘Harqui’ will not only be thrilled, but also greatly humbled to be the recipient of your ‘educational’ advice, too Joe.

    Now Joe, being the consummate ‘educator’ that you so obviously are, please tell me something about this characterization’ that you have created of me. I am always ready to learn at the feet of someone who is so obviously infinitely more wise and knowledgeable than a lowly intellectual struggler like myself.

    You can barely image the anticipation that I am filled with while awaiting your sagacious reply.

  56. Robert REYNOLDS

    Great Freethinker, I look forward to reading to some more of your interesting posts!

  57. Joseph Carli

    ” I am always ready to learn at the feet of someone who is so obviously infinitely more wise and knowledgeable than a lowly intellectual struggler like myself.

    You can barely image the anticipation that I am filled with while awaiting your sagacious reply.”

    Surely you can see that such hyperbolic exaggeration of a sardonic nature give not only myself, but all others who read it a clear picture of the type of personality who would write such..It doesn’t take much intuition when one reads such self-deprecating humbleness to reflect back on one’s experience and draw forth another such-like person that one has met in a long and observant life…

    I, could not of course, “draw” a linguistic picture of you that would be an exact replica..but I do have a “picture” of your self as you check and double check your comment for grammatical errors and syntax…..and ..erroneously…strive to not give too much of yourself away…bad news, Robert..

  58. Robert REYNOLDS

    Joe, the ‘even worse’ news is that your high-brow comments are a bit too highfalutin, grandiloquent and percipient for a dull-witted individual like myself to even begin to be able to comprehend. What a disappointment your reply was!

  59. Joseph Carli

    Well..Bob..I must confess that I do like to …”bung on side” ..a tad sometimes..upon the belief that surely it is better for both the soul AND the intellect to strive toward a greater height of achievement, rather than seek to wallow in those tidal shallows of what The Bard once so efficaciously advised against….doncha think?

  60. Freethinker

    Robert, my mastering of the English grammar is not as rich as the ones in these posts, so I know went to refrain to participate and enjoy the debate as an observer.
    Thank you for your compliments.

  61. Robert REYNOLDS

    Joe, I cannot disagree with you on that one. I guess that we both like to “bung on side” a bit. I am not sure who is the better at it but I hold no grudges. Like you, I also want to avoid those ‘tidal shallows’.

  62. Robert REYNOLDS

    Freethinker, I really did enjoy your posts. Your comments are great. I sincerely mean that. I learn from many people who write posts here. Please keep making your valuable contributions.

  63. Joseph Carli

    Robert…Let us leave serenity and tranquility to enter both our souls and this commentary can almost..if one allows, feel the presence of angels amongst us and we must treat them gently…let us go in peace, my brother…God bless you..

  64. Freethinker

    Thank you Roberts, I appreciate your comment, I am one of those that like to learn from each other, the school of life IMHO,in many cases is much better that the high education.
    Going back to unions, the need for them and the scum bags in both sides, an interesting article in on the Independent Australia about the tragic death of Josh Park-Fing. (,10993)
    Thinks like this makes my blood boil Roberts and reassure me that I was in the side when I was an active union member with in many cases radical measures.
    We know what happens when there is not an organization to protect the right of the people,

  65. Joseph Carli

    And here, show there are no hard feelings..a little cameo..a little window on life for your amusement..

    Proverb: It costs a lot of money to die comfortably.

    Parable: Nickolai Petrov was moderately wealthy. He was also so cautious with his money, that many times his friends would chastise him with the old adage; “You can’t take it with you, you know!”..Now he was old and was dying of cancer. The surgeon told him this at his bedside in the hospital.

    Nockolai’s wife sat at his bedside consoling him, holding and stroking his hand. A tear fell from her eye on to the bed cover.

    “Ah Nicky…my dear Nicky…what can I do for you?” She sang in sympathy.

    Nickolai thought about this for a while…then said

    “Trishka, my dear…one thing you can do…”

    “Yes, my dearest…just say it.”

    “A…a cushion…an embroided, red velvet they have in the old country…to lay my head on when I…pass on…to put in the coffin for me to rest my head on…” He turned his eyes to her.

    She wept a little at his request “So like the man” she thought,

    “Yes, Yes my sweet…I’d love to.”

    And she made him a soft velvet cushion, embroided with also a tasselled edging. She brought it to him in the hospital the day he was to be sent home.

    The doctor had given him a couple of months to live and he spent these finalizing his accounts and business and even arranging the funeral services. He insisted on doing this work himself and said:

    “While I have the strength, let me have the dignity.”

    And so he died and was buried with the red velvet embroided cushion under his head. His wife mourned for weeks in sadness, but, life goes on and the bills keep coming in.

    One day she went to the bank to take some money out, there was none there! – the account had been closed. She went to the building society…that too, closed!…No money? Where had it gone? She asked all the relatives if Nickolai had given them proxy after death to handle the money? No, no one knew…Had he hidden it in the house? She turned it upside down in the search…No…gone… lost!

    At last she went to the grave of her husband.

    “Nickolai, I know you’ve hidden it…but where?” She glared at the tombstone through slit eyes. “You old devil.” She hissed “Where did you hide it?”

    Then she looked to the photograph of Nickolai Petrov fixed in the left side of the tombstone. He had a certain “Mona-Lisa” smile fixed on his face. “Damn it Nicky, I need ” She stopped short as a niggling, nasty realization crept over her mind. She flung her hand-bag to the ground. “You swine!…0h you, you bastard!…the cushion, the cushion… you did take it with you after all! You little pig!” She shook her fist at the grave.

    It cost Trishka five thousand dollars and a lot of affidavits to exhume the coffin and redeem the money from the cushion. She replaced the cushion under his head when they reburied him… but this time she filled it with rocks!

  66. Freethinker

    There are few like Nicky, in real life.

  67. Joseph Carli

    That was from a true story told to me by a Slav’ friend who knew the yes..there are some..

  68. Robert REYNOLDS

    Joe, comrade, Shalom Chaverim.

  69. Robert REYNOLDS

    Freethinker, thank you for posting this link.

    This sort of tragic story also makes my blood boil. It also depressed me to think that humans can treat each other with such indifference. I would like to see 4-Corners take up this ‘Work for the Dole’ scheme in the same way that they took up Kevin Rudd’s Home Insulation Program.

    I was particularly appalled to read in this article from the Independent Australia, the following paragraph,

    “Josh’s family resorted to setting up an online fundraising page to pay for his funeral. If there is a payout from the defendants in the case of Josh’s death, it will not go to his family, but to the Government. The injustice of this is that the organisation which is most responsible for Josh’s death will receive the payout from the case, while it appears on the surface as though his family has received a fair outcome. ”

    To call this an ‘injustice’ is a gross understatement.

    We should be able to rely on our democratically elected representatives to protect the rights of the people; instead they look after the ‘rights’ of those who seek to exploit the people.

  70. Robert REYNOLDS

    Thanks Joe, it is always good to have a bit of light humor in the midst of all this serious stuff. I always appreciate that. Your little cameo has given me the best laugh that I have had yet today. Whatever happens, we must retain our sense of humor.

  71. Robert REYNOLDS

    God! Life imitates art, yet again!

  72. Freethinker

    Robert, we will never going to be able to rely on our representatives until those who represent us went to the same struggle that those that are part of our disadvantaged social groups.
    The countries, that are few, which have those governments or representatives are those that when for being a “Lucky Country” to poverty, then rebellion and then a change to equality an justice
    Until the Australian people not go trough that there is no hope, it is human nature.

  73. Robert REYNOLDS

    I totally agree with you Freethinker, there will be no serious changes here until there is a major economic downturn. Then god knows what will happen. In America, when things deteriorated they turned to people such as Reagan, George W. Bush and now the ultimate dimwit, Donald Trump. I just hope that we can do better than that but I am not convinced that we will.

  74. Freethinker

    What happens in USA, and other countries where people still voting for parties are are rotating from government to opposition does not work, the members of that parties that call themselves progressive ones are the minority and they will keep going along with the majority because they have the hope that by be inside they will be able to make changes.
    They will not or if there are changes are slow to come and not enough.
    Until we do not have politicians that put their progressive ideology above their loyalty to the party we will be witnesses a political revolving door.
    In USA Republicans and Democrats are the same, one just a little bit better that the other but when come to moral values and human rights both are equal.
    Sorry if my realistic views backup by facts it is depressing but soon or later people have to stop dreaming.


    ‘I have rarely accepted conspiracies, which are often embraced too readily’I have rarely accepted conspiracies, which are often embraced too readily. The TPP has all the indicia common to conspiracies. What makes you think they do not or have not existed?

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