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What could ‘Revolution’ mean to Social Democrats and Democratic Socialists Today?

‘It’s Time’ to rethink’ what we mean by ‘social revolution’ on the modern Left.

What if any meaning does ‘revolution’ have for today?

A comrade in the Australian Labor Party (ALP) Socialist Left recently rebuked me for discussing “revolutionary” politics; and said that “thankfully” the vast majority in the ALP SL are NOT revolutionaries and that that’s “the beginning and the end of the discussion thankfully”.

Another comrade responded to my arguments in favour of ‘slow revolution’ that I was an “idealist”. That is: specifically in response to my use of that word (ie: revolution).

So apparently some people are arguing my positions are ‘idealist’ and ‘extreme’.

This is my response:

When we speak of ‘revolutionary’ aims not everyone is talking about the same thing. Personally, I’m NOT talking about an insurrection; armed or otherwise.

I’m NOT talking about ‘the masses storming parliament’ in some deluded attempt to replicate the ‘storming of the Winter Palace’ in Russia 1917!

What I am talking about is qualitative change; preferably through democratic channels; though being prepared for whatever resistance may arise against said qualitative change through democratic channels when push comes to shove.

So I’m talking about what various Leftists have described historically as ‘slow revolution’ or ‘revolutionary reforms’.

But what does that mean? What would be a ‘revolutionary reform’?

Well, the Meidner Plan held that promise for a start (ie: an economic plan which would have rewarded Swedish workers with collective capital share in return for wage restraint; with the consequence workers collectively would over time become the dominant force in the Swedish economy).

Going back further: free, universal and equal suffrage itself comprised a kind of ‘democratic and political revolution’. A change that in much of the world only became possible following the end of World War I – and the fear of Bolshevism.

Non-Marxist socialists like Ferdinand Lassalle and Orthodox Marxists like Karl Kautsky were clear that universal suffrage was a kind of political revolution. Were we around in the 19th Century – or in the 1917-19 period, would we have fought for the suffrage; or would we have rejected ‘revolutionary’ changes of all sorts as a matter of policy so as not to rock the boat?

And further: what are the big ‘revolutionary reforms’ we ought to pursue today? (Something of the significance of universal suffrage, but for today.)

When I talk about a democratic economic revolution I’m talking about democratic collective capital formation; restoring a robust mixed economy; supporting producers’ and consumers’ co-operatives with state aid.

I’m also talking about decisive state support for the voluntary and domestic sectors. I mean to suggest, also, extending and improving the social wage and welfare state.

I’m talking about going down that road – probably over several decades – to the point where ‘the democratic sector’ becomes dominant, and hence a pivotal shift in the balance of class forces.

A ‘transitional demand’ could be improving the tax to GDP ratio to the OECD average. That is, raising tax by $80 billion/year in today’s terms – maybe over three terms of Labor government. (to get that in perspective an increase in tax by well over $300 billion would be necessary to meet Swedish levels)

That could pay for reforms like a National Aged Care Insurance Scheme ; programs to reduce mortality rates for the mentally ill ; a big expansion in public and social housing ; implement active labour market and industry policies along Danish lines ; implement a guaranteed minimum income and or radically improve welfare provisions ; implement a co-operative incentive scheme ; and strategically re-socialise areas of the economy. (eg: re-establish a bank along the lines of the former Commonwealth Bank; Finish the NBN and the Snowy River extension; as well as East Coast rail – and keep all of these public) Media diversification policies, and policies to ensure ‘public space for public use’ could also be crucial.

I’m also talking about a ‘democratic cultural and political revolution’: driven by an exponential increase in political participation and consciousness. Where there is a qualitative change (a revolution) in our democracy which takes the form of said improvements in consciousness and participation.

For Marxists the final aim is to replace wage labour with economic democracy; and then to transition to stateless communism. I’m not a full-blown communist. To begin, this is because I tend to believe human nature is not perfectible; and therefore I think some kind of state power (albeit democratised) will be necessary for a long time to come.

Further; I think the suppression of wage labour (ie: typified by the exploitation of labour by capital) can be taken so far. But at a point, you run into very serious resistance from the transnational corporations; and often by their state-facilitators. Look what happened to Gough; and look what happened under Rudd re the Mining Tax. And preferably we want to take the reform process significantly further over the long-run.

Also, there’s the problem of ‘workers exploiting themselves’. (where workers hold shares in capitalist enterprises; so in a way, they are ‘exploiting one another’) But collective capital formation (workers – and hopefully citizens – holding what collectively is a significant share in capital) is a potentially democratising force. I specify ‘citizens’ as well so as not to exclude non-capitalist citizens who for whatever reason are outside of the workforce; eg: pensioners.

Again, hence my support for democratic collective capital formation as policy. At this point, it’s a good outcome. But as suggested: it also creates complexities (re ‘technical’ exploitation’) which would be hard to resolve. So importantly I’m talking about a process – in this country and globally – which spans decades. The transition from feudalism to capitalism was a kind of revolution – which took maybe a couple of centuries. So why not be a ‘revolutionary’ over the long run?

Indeed the Guaranteed Minimum Income that some of my critics support (and I support as well) itself has revolutionary potential – by getting rid of workers’ dependence on selling their labour power to capital in order to survive. Perhaps critics are just worried some Conservative will take the word “revolutionary” out of context; and depict us as if we are ‘terrorists’, ‘extremists’ or the like? But where do you draw the line then? Do we stop talking about socialism as well? Do we stop talking about ‘capitalism’ as anything less than ‘an eternal absolute’? A truly ‘closed system’; which cannot be relativised or criticised; and with no way out?

There has to be a space in ‘mainstream’ Left politics (including the ALP Socialist Left and in the Greens) for such criticism and relativisation of capitalism. The rapid rise of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) – inspired by Bernie Sanders – shows the situation can change rapidly. Do we dismiss Sanders, also, as ‘extreme’ or ‘idealistic’? Or on the broad Left do we strive to retrieve our political identity; and the radical concepts that have guided the modern Left since the French Revolution; and the rise of socialism? (including but definitely not limited to the Marxist tradition)

I’m a ‘revolutionary’ in the sense I support not only political citizenship; but also social citizenship and economic citizenship. That’s how some Swedish radicals viewed the question interestingly enough.

Here, ‘Economic citizenship’ would be a revolution to democratise the economy: including extension of the public sector; but also of the co-operative and mutualist sectors; and other democratic reforms like democratic collective capital formation and co-determination.

Social Citizenship’ involves the extension of social rights; including those delivered via the welfare state, regulated labour market and social wage.

‘Political citizenship’ WAS the political and liberal revolution. (including universal suffrage) But it’s not necessarily finished yet either. (ie: we need to radically improve political consciousness, participatory and pluralistic media, and active citizenship)

So what’s really so objectionable about all this at the end of the day?”

Interestingly: the ‘Austro-Marxists’ (arguably one of the theoretically and practically-most-significant tendencies in 20th Century European Marxism) talked about “slow revolution” ; especially during the interwar period. They meant this in a very similar way to the way in which I use the word. They were also amongst the first to theorise ‘multi-culturalism’ – in the context of the pre-WWI Austro-Hungarian Empire. (ie: ‘what would replace the Empire?’) They occupied a ‘middle position’ in between Right-Wing Social Democracy and Bolshevism. The following sums their achievements up well; and is reproduced from my PhD thesis:

“The Austro-Marxist strategy included the development of social and cultural societies, associations and institutions, including extensive public-housing projects. Steeply progressive taxes within Vienna specifically provided for education services, childcare, libraries, health care, playgrounds, gymnasia, swimming and wading pools, meeting halls, youth facilities, carpentry shops, post offices, cafes, lectures, music programmes, symphony orchestras, choral societies and more. Furthermore, this institutional strategy facilitated “an atmosphere of co-operation and solidarity” among the Viennese working class (Ewins, p 183)”

Keep in mind this was during the 1918 to 1934 period; and the extent of the reforms and counterculture was pretty-well unprecedented for its time. With today’s technology – including information technology – what could we achieve now if we really tried?

The idea of ‘revolution via democracy’ is not new or unprecedented. And Yes – if Bill Shorten started talking about ‘revolution’ at this point then it could confuse some people. I doubt it reflects his world-view in any case. But here on the relative margins – and on the ‘Left-proper’ we can discuss it.

Speaking from my own position: maybe we should discuss it within the ALP Socialist Left (internally) as well; as part of a process of working out what the ALP Socialist Left really stands for these days.

Actually discussing these matters could also be central to revivifying the Australian Labor Party’s ‘Socialist Objective’. That has long been a ‘bone of contention’ along ‘factional/tribal’ lines. But the CONTENT of the debate has been emptied out to the point of becoming almost meaningless. If the ALP Socialist Left will not have that debate internally for itself then the broader internal Party debate is rendered utterly moot. Indeed, the ALP Socialist Left is arguably struggling to maintain its own (internal) socialist identity, perspective and culture before we even begin to consider the ALP Platform.

But in addition to the response of the ALP Socialist Left, perhaps organisations like the Australian Fabians could also play a role in popularising a broad understanding of democratic socialism across factional lines? There is a long history, here: including in Australian Labor and British Labour.

It’s a long struggle to rehabilitate the language and substance of democratic revolution from shallow understandings. (ie: that ‘revolution’ means ‘violence’.) But I think it’s worth it in the long run. And it is crucial that people see we’re NOT suggesting a ‘revolution against democracy’; but rather “a gradual, democratic (and hopefully peaceful) revolution FROM WITHIN democracy – to EXTEND democracy.

As opposed to ‘hopeless idealism’ or ‘extremism’ – that’s something for the modern Left to believe in; and something worth fighting for – for today.

Dr Tristan Ewins is a freelance writer, PhD graduate, qualified teacher, blogger, social commentator and ALP Socialist Left activist of over 20 years. He has written for The Canberra Times and several online publications – most prolifically at ON LINE Opinion. He blogs at Left Focus, ALP Socialist Left Forum and the Movement for a Democratic Mixed Economy.



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  1. townsvilleblog

    The modern Left, isn’t worth a drop of cocky’s pee. It used to be the socialist Left and stood for working people, and raising the standards of the workforce, now it has morphed into some academic-soft belly that stands for very little. The ALP has been dominated by the right wing anti-worker unions like the AWU and the SDA for so long now that the general public are asking themselves what is the difference between the Liberal Party of Australia and Another Liberal Party (ALP). If the Left were still prominent as they were in times gone by the ALP would rarely be out of office, and The Greens would have no reason to exist.

  2. Nero Dog

    Better to imitate a system that already works – the Napoleonic system. It’s being eroded by the EU but it provides an excellent code of rights for citizens – work, shelter – and no child disinherited. It’s based on the Emperor Justinian’s legal code. England is the only country in Europe that did not finish up adopting it. And, of course, Australia and most of the rest of the Anglosphere did not get it. Our rights were for a while sort of embedded in publicly owned resources, like water and power and communications – but those have been sold off and we have no more influence there. So, we need a code of civil rights and I suggest to change to the French system.

  3. zoltan balint

    Housing and affordability for the poor can be fixed very quickly. At the moment there is a requirement on developers to build a certain proportion for the poor in big developments. How about if the government (state or federal) invests one billion to build houses and when built instead of renting them out sells them to the poor people for cost plus say 5% and then uses the money to build more. This would not be social housing and the houses don’t need to be in blocks but can be free standing on government land which they sell to private developers anyway.

  4. Tristan Ewins

    Zoltan ; I suspect the poor could not afford to buy such developments even ‘at cost’ ; I would prefer a $10 billion public housing program from the Federal Government ; To seriously address both housing stress and homelessness for the vulnerable AND for working class families. So this would involve high density housing provided equally for the vulnerable and the broad working class. But I’m talking spacious two or three bedroom apartments for families (smaller apartments for individuals) ; and social amenities like gardens, sporting grounds, swimming pools, cafes, laundry, common rooms, gyms. And oversee very closely to ensure these amenities are treated with respect. The apartments reserved for the vulnerable could be provided for at an extra discount. I’m thinking of a modernised version of what the Austro-Marxists achieved in Vienna in the 1918-1934 period.

  5. zoltan balint

    Nero Dog publicly owned resources employed public servents that the government had to pay wages. Selling off publicly owned assets also got the pubic service pay off the governments books.

  6. Andreas

    With the result that currently the debt mountain is the highest ever, by a mile. Thanks to the wisdom of Hockey and Morrison.

  7. zoltan balint

    Tristan what the poor can not afford is the deposit. The rent they pay now would cover any bank loan over the usual 30 or 40 years. You can build a decent house for less than 150k plus cost of land. Plus getting material to build in bulk would be cheaper than any developer would charge with profit added.

  8. Dr Tristan Ewins

    Zoltan ; but where would you build? What amenities and services (and jobs) would be nearby? How much would the land cost? Including land how could a pensioner or member of the working poor afford it – even with the efficiencies of centralised government planning, construction etc?

    Interested in peoples’ opinions re: the rest of the article too.

  9. Jack Russell

    Reading and nodding … I’ve nothing different to add to the proposal, and discussion, except let’s not wait much longer to get started or there’ll be nothing left to salvage if the disconnection currently being imposed on us continues at its current pace.

    Good article and food for thought. Thanks for putting it together and presenting it.

  10. David Stakes

    Singapore model on social housing seems to be working quite well. As well as employment. Government provides and keeps people happy.While they get on with business. I know Singapore politics can be questionable. But it all seems to work.

  11. Freethinker

    Very nice and sensible ideas Tristan, but before anything of that happens the people of Australia who have food at the table, money for a one or two cars and even for some “toys” have to lose the lot, have to come down from their class to nearly the bottom, in another words have nothing to lose.
    I lived in a country like that and now they have a socialist government (re-elected 3 times) so I have some experience in human behavior in that case.
    Regarding housing for the poor, for the under-employed, well you know very well what it is the attitude of the “other” people, ” good idea but not in my suburb”
    Do not expect much for the left in the ALP, the ones that have to make the first step are not prepared to risk their seat and others stay there dreaming or under the excuse that by be there they can make a difference.
    Regarding the government in competition with the big companies and financial institutions again the people wrong or not, will protest because their shares and super will be at risk.
    Tristan, greed rules in human nature and only where there is nothing to lose and a possibility to gain is there, then will be a kind of revolution, peaceful or the plain revolt.

  12. Zoltan Balint

    Tristan where do private developers build now when they purchase land from the government. There is a lot of not used government land even single blocks all over inner city areas – and all over the state in country towns. Housing problem is not only in the city it has to be solved in county areas as well. It would stabilize country towns as well and with a stable population in country / regional areas industry might have the incentive to build a business knowing the workers will be there for years. Also developers are sitting back with land they own not building anything until they see a bigger profit margin when government provides the roads, schools and the rest since they do not want to pay for it. I think there is a rule that requires land to have a structure on it for developers within a certain time or pay a fee to the government so they put a shed up to get around it.

  13. Dr Tristan Ewins

    Freethinker ; to avoid stigma re: public housing ; that’s why you have a mix of working class and disadvantaged residents. To avoid ‘ghettos of poverty’ ; On Doncaster hill near where I live they have built a public housing complex (about 12-15 stories) amidst private developments ; and as far as I can see they haven’t had any problems. So don’t rule public housing out. Especially where people can feel proud of where they live ; not just the location and the apartments themselves ; but the various amenities I mentioned as well.

    Also I don’t think that people ‘had nothing to lose’ when they elected Whitlam ; and NDIS was passed under Gillard. I’m not suggesting ‘Swedish model overnight’ ; but I do think matching the OECD on tax to GDP ratio is doable over the medium term. And some crucial reforms : like Aged Care Insurance ; a big public housing investment ; resources to deal with mental-health related premature mortality. Look how things are turning around in the UK and with Sanders in the US? Why hold out no hope of that happening here?

    Zoltan ; Tax on undeveloped property makes sense and I think I’d heard of that earlier also ; public housing in regional centres may be good – but might have to be combined with active labour market and targeted industry policy. Some of those regional centres aren’t exactly booming.

  14. Freethinker

    Tristan, regarding Sanders it reinforce what I have said about the politicians in the ALP left faction, he should have stay as the 3rd president candidate and do not leave Clinton and Turnbull as the only option.
    Regarding public housing in one complex or suburb the world wide results are there to be seeing. Human behavior has not frontiers
    The best way, IMO is a state owned bank providing loans to individuals to purchase land or housing or loans for a cooperative own builders projects where the people can put work on them towards credits to the loan like x amount of hours will reduce the loan.
    Many people voted for Gough because the terrible performance by the Liberals and as soon as they realised that progressive policies from Gough can cost them a bit they took the first opportunity to remove him from office.
    They also were not happy in losing one or two cups of coffee a week because the CT and elected Abbott.
    Tristan, the truth it is painful even embarrassing but it is there to see and we will not turn around the situation by ignoring it.
    Education is a big part in the revolution that you are proposing and so far I have not seeing massive students demonstrations because the cost of studying in Australia.

  15. Dr Tristan Ewins

    Freethinker ; Then how did the Nordics do it? (re: mixed economy and welfare state) re: Gough don’t you think the scandal re: the Khemlani loans scheme had some influence? ; People were deceived into believing CT would wreck the economy ; What has to be done is to communicate the fact that what people gain in tax cuts they lose in user pays. And most people lose more. Student culture has changed over the past 30 years – student radicalism weakened substantially. VSU didn’t help. Raising the threshold for loans repayment could be popular. Your model re: housing seems original ; will need to think about that. Could your scheme really solve housing stress and homelessness? (which are at their worst, I think, in many decades)

  16. Freethinker

    Tristan here is some reading about housing cooperativeness in Uruguay that can be of your interest. It is not bulletproof or perfect but is one step in housing solution: http://unossc1.undp.org/GSSDAcademy/SIE/Docs/Vol6/Housing.pdf
    Here is another good article : https://www.omicsonline.org/open-access/selfmanaged-cooperative-housing-by-mutualassistance-as-introducedin-central-america-between-2004-and-2016-the-attractiveness-of-th-2168-9717-1000188.php?aid=89605
    I have friends that their children manged to have a roof on their heads thanks to this policies.
    Having say that, in Uruguay is a public owned bank that specialize on home loans.http://www.housingfinance.org/uploads/Publicationsmanager/9909_Uru.pdf
    Now, remember that the growth USD 58.1 billion (2017, estimate) and the total reserves are USD 13.4 billion (2016) so there are limited resources for a country with about 3.5 million people but IMHO it can be an example to take on board the positive policies from there.

  17. John O'Callaghan

    Congratulations on a great article,and i was thinking during and after i read it what our right wing Australian medias reaction would be if any Labor member mentioned ”Revolution or heaven forbid ”Marxist….. in their conversation in any form or harmless non toxic context.
    Bloody Sky News and the whole Murdoch muck raking dirt units and every shock jock and now ” Their ABC as well and Fairfax too, they would join forces and go hammer and tong right up to the next election,and dont forget the commercial TV stations as well would join in.
    I would be interested to know Tristan what your take is on how to handle the negative scorn poured over Shorten and Labor from our God awful media?

  18. dicehex

    The bollocks’d up thing, is that if you take away democracy from the piece, the piece is nothing.

    We don’t have a democracy in any practical sense. Without that, the article is useless fiction.

    Democracy has been firewalled away from economics and capitalism in general. Democracy is now a vestigial theatre which will never be allowed to take power and wealth away from the powerful and wealthy.

    “We don’t have a society” …we have an economy… and you just ain’t really in it. You’re just still buying the line, the hope, the narrative, that you have some sort of say in the matter. That position is a mechanism of control, forged by those who will never let you have any particular power over anything, especially their wealth and associated political power.

    You are herding others towards that popular falsehood, that if only we vote differently, everything will work out fine.

    Get real. That time is over.

    The necessary thing, is structural change, which inevitably means addressing the concentration of wealth and power, and that would mean taking away the power of the powerful. They will not allow such action peacefully. Popular or not.
    THe oligarchy destroy whole nations which stand up to them, and you think they will let you vote away their power?

    The sociopaths in charge, have all the power, start wars, and are killing the earth itself, and you think voting will change things? Still? Grow TF up, “doctor”.

  19. PK1765

    I suggest strongly you read the book by Professor Bill Mitchell called “Reclaiming the State”… a some of your ideas are not very revolutionary and are just more of the same ole same ole neo-liberalism.


    dicehex. can’t say i disagree with you. violent revolution comes about because the powerful refuse to relinquish power. They are organised thru their think tanks, lobby groups, donor organisations and media affiliations to extend their power – by increments if necessary. That is their objective. To achieve that they must appropriate the labour of workers and the common assets of the public and deny economic sovereignty to the people. They won’t give up their privilege and objective willingly. How much did u pay for ur Phd proff?

  21. Dr Tristan Ewins

    PK1765 Just because a perspective doesn’t follow MMT straight down the line doesn’t mean it’s ‘neoliberalism’. There are Keynesian and Marxist elements in what I’ve written here.

  22. Freethinker

    dicehex, I agree with you, the ones at the top that in unmoral way are exploiting the others will not surrender their position without struggle.
    Unfortunately revolt by the masses following a strong leadership is the common outcome, human nature, I guess
    Having said that I do not agree with your comments about the author, a respectful exchange of opinions is constructive other ways comments cannot be taken serious.

  23. Dr Tristan Ewins

    John , well there are Marxist elements in the British Labour Left and Corbyn is doing pretty well. Even in the US ‘DSA’ is ‘taking off’. The Nordics have done pretty well too. As in Greece (SYRIZA) and Spain (Podemos).

    That said I get your point. The Australian media tends to be Conservative. Especially the traditional media. Maybe we the turn to online media things will change. But if we cannot talk openly about socialism we WILL lose our identity and perspective.

    I think the following are crucial in response:

    We are committed to peaceful change ;
    we are committed to gradual and democratic change, taking people with us ;
    we are committed to preserving peoples’ liberties ;
    our short to medium term objective is ‘to save capitalism from itself’ – because socialisation of particular areas actually improves cost structures ; and capitalism is otherwise lurching towards one crisis after another.
    universal suffrage was a ‘revolution’ ; we are seeking comparable (democratic) revolutions today through peaceful and democratic means (though the broader labour movement must stand ready to defend its rights industrially if pressed to the point where it really become necessary – eg: the 1990s MUA dispute)

    Further: we’re not about what some people call ‘state socialism’ or a ‘command economy’. We’re about a mix of co-operatives, democratic collective capital formation, co-determination, and a strategically extended public sector. Over the long term we’re committed to a ‘revolution’ in the sense of increasing consciousness and participation in our democracy.

    But finally also by “making the democratic sector dominant”. That’s over many decades.

    Meanwhile a short to medium term aim is to increase the tax to GDP ratio to the OECD average. (ie: increase tax and spending by $80 billion/year in today’s terms ; achieved maybe over 3 terms of government.”)

    The question is ‘how to accommodate such a debate’? I believe the Fabians could do something here. I also believe an annual policy and ideas Conference could help. As could journals, policy committees and conferences hosted by the SL. That would be in the context of a kind of ‘internal socialist pluralism’. ie: It would include but not be limited to Marxism ; it could also include examinations of the Nordics ; and of non-Marxist socialist traditions. But ‘the Socialist objective’ itself should be about extending the democratic sector to the point of achieving a decisive shift in the balance of class forces. Where ‘real democracy’ becomes possible.

    That said: the Right has tended to have the numbers at National Conference for decades. Probably as always the Platform will be a negotiated document. It doesn’t have to specify “Marxist revolution”. The language can be crafted strategically so long as the substance remains underneath. What counts in that context is to have the internal debate on an ongoing basis – and to factor the ideas and perspectives in the consciousness and identity of our activists. What’s crucial is to maintain radical socialist ideas in our consciousness ; in our language ; influencing our policies and strategies. What’s important is to do something about our declining consciousness before it’s too late.

  24. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    I agree with zoltan balint on December 29, 2017 at 5:09 pm.

  25. Jennifer Meyer-Smith


    Left Labor should also be in open discussion with the Greens, so that platforms reflecting Australia’s best interests on socio-economic, environmental, employment, social services, infrastructure, nation-building grounds are complimentary and seen by left-leaning and centrist Aussies to be working together to bring about progressive change for the benefit of the 99%.

    Go The ALLiance!

  26. zoltan balint

    Jennifer I agree 110 %. The only problem I see is De Natale’s decision to work very had to distance the Greens from the ALP where at every oportunity he attacks the ALP just as much as he attacks LNP. I see his logic since to win seats LNP keep saying that a vote for the Greens is a vote for ALP and he is trying to nullify this. But this is exacty what the LNP wants the Greens to do, in effect get the Greens to fight Labor for and on behalf the LNP. De Natale does not realise he is working for the LNP as instructed.

  27. Freethinker

    IMO the Greens are very close in ideology to the right faction of the ALP and what they have done to Lee Rhiannon proves it.
    The only solution is a broad front of progressive politicians to move out of the parties where they are and come together to form it.

  28. Harry

    A very good article but also a very ambitious program.

    Neoliberalism ideology has marginalised many of us for so long and disadvantaged so many. It has rolled back welfare and health programs, privatised many public utilities using the excuse of “inefficiency”, off-shored our manufacturing capacity and created an economy weighted excessively in financial services, massively enriched the already very well off, tilted the balance of industrial power heavily towards employers so that wages as a share of national income is the lowest for years, encouraged private housing “investment” so that our property prices and rents are unaffordable for many, pretends we are close to “full employment” when over 5% are still unemployed and another 8% are involuntarily underemployed and so on.

    The Neoliberals would prefer to roll back the role of government even further if they think they can get away with it. Though the “debt and deficit disaster” rhetoric has been dialled down under Turnbull, returning the budget to surplus is still an aspirational target. I do not think they will ever get there and if they did it would result in a recession. Since Federation there have been budget deficits some 75% of the time. Deficits are almost always necessary to prevent high unemployment.

    Even the notion of “federal government “debt” and that it is unsustainable and damaging should be challenged. I will not attempt to explain but link below to a very good article that should be read widely:

    Note the role of taxes: not to finance spending but to avoid inflation.


  29. Dr Tristan Ewins

    Harry ; what about those parties working in a similar way to DSA? (Democratic Socialists of America) ie: They could campaign openly for socialism ; including within the ALP ; but not being a formal party or faction they could appeal across party and factional lines? That said I know AWP is advanced in its development and what I suggest isn’t likely. I still think its a good idea.

  30. Harry

    Yes I would like to see co-operation along the lines of DSA. However newdemocracyparty’s strategy is to stand Senate candidates at upcoming federal polls. They are very small though.

  31. Harquebus

    Jennifer Meyer-Smith
    I have to disagree with you and ZB. New housing is not what we should be producing. It consumes resources, is destructive to the environment and produces more pollution which, we are drowning in already.
    It’s not that we don’t have enough housing, we have too much. It is that there are too many people and not enough to support us all.

    Please do not accuse me of hijacking. It is my genuine opinion that we should not be building new structures and for the same old reason; the destructive consequences growing populations.

  32. Freethinker

    Back to the caves age or living in tents?
    Back to the topic ……….

  33. Harry

    From the article I previously linked to:

    “As a society, we cannot run out of dollars, but we can run out of people, skills, technology, infrastructure, natural and ecological resources. There are limits – but the limits are ‘real’ and not financial. When planning for the future, governments should use their freedom from financial constraints to plan wisely to manage the real and ecological constraints which will always be with us”.

    Managing those resources so that all of us can have a decent life without running down the resources of the planet and the ecological services it provides is a serious problem. Clearly we should strongly discourage and even ban activities which lead to further deterioration of the planet or which waste finite resources. This requires serious and concerted action to stabilise the global population, a measures that will be fiendishly difficult to achieve humanely, given the capitalist imperative for endless growth to fuel more and disproportionate access to resources by owners of capital.

    But in the meantime we need a fairer distribution of resources among the world’s population. Harquebus, I have not seen you tackle that; you refer to the problem but I see no suggested solutions.

  34. Zoltan Balint

    Harquebus what do you suggest individual without a home do. Live on the street forever or would you be willing and are you going to invite them to live in your house. Very kind of you, how many should turn up on your door step tonight. Do you also suggest that the ones who have to rent so they have a place to sleep need to be trapped in the rental market for the rest of their life (including their children) and any money they earn will go into the pockets of those who own the place they rent. This does not even cover any increase in population and what you suggest not building any new houses is this just by the government or are you saying by the private sector as well. So if we have more than enough houses (I assume these are now empty), even too many for the population, should the too many be stripped by the state from the owners and given to the poor to live in.

  35. Phil

    A very interesting read and so much to think about. I am not in the least bit experienced in nor educated in the minutiae of politics, but I know for sure that I am repulsed by contemporary conservatism, and I am mindful of the human and planetary dead end that beckons from unfettered capitalism as delivered by right wing and centre right politics selling the poison of neoliberalism.

    Australia has been awash with American soft propaganda for long enough now to have convinced the majority that the American way ought to be the Aussie way – and it increasingly is with all its ugly white bigoted paranoia, cultural insensitivity, arrogance and belief in entitlement.

    Nordic and Scandinavian cultural and economic exemplars simply don’t register in the average Aussie mind – nor in our culture, our TV, Internet and film – these are are all saturated by America, and so we mindlessly follow America, including to it’s wars.

  36. totaram

    Harquebus is waiting for an alien spaceship to arrive and cull or sterilise those of us who do not “believe” in the Harquebus solution of going back into the caves. The rest of “them” (the true believers found living in caves) can then inherit what is left. Simples!

  37. SurReal

    Ha! Totaram, your observations are keen. Similar suggestions, although not alien in origin, have previously been offered by extreme RW commentators. This makes me suspect that Harquebus [especially with that handle], is actually a RW agitator – a Darth, trying to lure progressives to the Dark Side.

    That being said: Harquebus, regarding your comments about not building any more dwellings to house people, to conserve resources*; surely there is an alternative, some middle ground? Currently there are an excess of dwellings constructed and left empty, purely for profit. These investors see this as a good use of their financial resources; http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/thousands-of-empty-homes-adding-to-sydneys-housing-crisis-experts-say-20160323-gnpc52.html

    This is a matter of policy, and the thrust of Dr Tristan’s argument. Perhaps this could form part of a solution; http://business.financialpost.com/real-estate/property-post/vancouver-slaps-10000-a-day-fine-on-empty-homes-to-fix-rental-housing-crisis

    If we could reduce the exploitation of capitalism, and increase the influence of democratic power of the general citizenry, it is highly likely that our valuable resources will be better managed by a communal long-term vision – win/win.

    [*] People are resources too. Inflexible binary thinking such as yours, does not provide fertile ground for ingenious solutions.


    Freethinker: “The only solution is a broad front of progressive politicians to move out of the parties where they are and come together to form it”. i guess u mean they should oppose the major parties.

  39. Jennifer Meyer-Smith


    for the here and now ALL progressive forces must work cooperatively to remove the LNP out of power sooner rather than later and to systematically work to mend every bit of destruction caused by the neoliberalism-cum-fascism of all LNP political poison.

    This will have the positive extra advantage of setting on course a cultural expectation of all things seen through democratic socialist eyes that work for the inclusive improvements in the lives of the people, the planet and all sentient beings.

  40. Dr Tristan Ewins

    Jennifer ; I’m a Labor Party member myself ; and I want to get LNP out of power. But we need more than this, also. We need a Labor Party with the right kind of ideology and policies to turn things around from neo-liberalism, small government, austerity – and actually take us in the other direction. (eg: increase social wage and welfare, reform progressive tax , regulate the lower end of the labour market etc) This means progressives need to be active and organised within Labor to fight for this. So is anyone interested in joining up?

  41. Jennifer Meyer-Smith


    I agree 99% except with the last bit that progressives must be within Labor.

    I fully support a progressive frontline made up of progressives from across the alternative, left leaning and established Left.

    That is the best we can expect in the very short term before the imminent 2018 Federal election.

    However, in the medium and medium-long terms, we need to be developing a multi-partied governing parliament along the lines of Denmark where parties share power in proportion to the votes they get from the people they represent. This will re-establish a better form of governance and give democratic socialism a better chance of survival in a post-neoliberal environment.

  42. Dr Tristan Ewins

    I agree re: broadly left parties co-operating with ‘give and take’ according to the size of their vote and the validity of their policies. But Labor is still the main policy battleground. National Conference is around mid this year I think. That will determine a lot.

  43. townsvilleblog

    The ALP isn’t a Left party, it is controlled in the back rooms by two extremely conservative unions. When the ALP had a “Socialist” Left, instead of a “modern” Left, our first priority was raising the standard of living for working families. We were Democratic Socialists then, they are Social Democrats these days, and sadly don’t know what they stand for. It is a great shame that the so called Left of the ALP have deserted their working class base, who have in turn deserted them. The party is lead by a bloke who sold workers in his union out, which the current PM reminds him constantly in the parliament. The working people of Australia deserve something better than the ALP is prepared to give, it’s time for a New Democracy.

  44. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Hear, hear Townsvilleblog

  45. Freethinker

    I agree with 90% of your points townsvilleblog but not about what the working people of Australia deserve.
    They got what they want, no be part of the union movement, changing the great majority of working conditions gained by the struggle of the union movement of the past for few dollars or “job security”
    I was active on the union movement during the 70’s to the mid 1980’s and lost many hours of work to gain better working conditions including the short working week (one day of every two weeks).
    During that struggle the majority of the workers were against it and we got that at the end thanks to the storeman and packers and the tradesman members in the metal working union.
    Those opposed were the first to take advantage to the day off and later the ones that give it away.
    The majority of the people got what they deserve, and are prepared even to work for less to satisfying their materialistic greed.
    The real left people cannot do much now, they lost the support of the masses that sold their freedom and power to struggle for their working conditions in exchange by mortgaging their salary and material possessions.
    That it is the reality and until those who believe in a kind of “revolution” do not accepting it we do not have a hope to reverse the situation.
    Even intelligent people that should know better refuse to get out of the ALP and opening a socialist front because they believe that they have to be inside to make changes.
    Well they are failing in the same way that are those socialists that are members of the Australian Greens.
    The removal of Lee in the Greens is a good example as it is the nomination of Bill Shorten in the ALP instead of Albanese.

  46. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    I hear you Freethinker. What do you think would be a good way to go for socialists and reformists?

  47. Alpo

    Hi Tristan,
    A Revolutionary process tends to contain two fundamental aspects.
    The first aspect of a Revolution is, of course, a very significant, even qualitative change from a previous state of affairs (in the economy, society, scientific knowledge, etc.). This can be seen in many ways. For instance, changing from the current Neoliberal paradigm to a post-Marxist one could be seen as Revolutionary. Some may even perceive a change from Neoliberalism to a Mixed-economy, Triple Bottomline Social Democracy, as Revolutionary. In my view, given that the latter shift is from a form (a degenerated form) of Capitalism (= Neoliberalism) to a more constructive and inclusive (cooperative) form of Capitalism, I would regard it as an Evolutionary change, not a Revolutionary one.

    Another aspect of the term Revolution is the speed of change. Usually we tend to associate a Revolution with a quick process of change, whereas an Evolution tends to take relatively more time. Again, I prefer an Evolutionary-style of change, provided that the process of change is continuous and there is no turning back. A more moderate speed of change allows Governments leading the Evolution to quickly correct any mistake without making a mess. It also has a lower “shock effect” on voters, affording better chances to get used to the change and embrace it.

    Change is possible and we do need to change the current disastrous Neoliberal state of affairs…. but we are far more likely to succeed if we Evolve into a Mixed Economy, Triple Bottomline Social Democracy…. Trying to rush into some Revolutionary utopia is likely to lead to a total disaster and it will finally achieve the return of the Neoliberals, this time perhaps protected by a Neofascist authoritarian political regime.

  48. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    I can’t wait forever. I’ll be dead before the Evolutionary-style change happens! 🙂

  49. Freethinker

    Jennifer, IMO, all the small socialist parties and movements plus the progressive members in the Greens and the ALP should form a broad front joining forces to make one party.
    At the beginning if resources are not there to have representatives in both chambers just aim to the senate to have the numbers to negotiate policies that are progressive and to remove the damage done by the neoliberal policies implemented by both big parties.
    A national conference should be called and a committee formed by one representative of each group that should start working as soon as possible to construct the political platform and policies.
    There is no need for any group or party within the broad front to lose their identity and aims if greed or ego is left out.
    This formula works OS, this formula gained government in 3 consecutive elections OS and made the two big traditional parties a minority.
    It can be done.

  50. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Freethinker, you are person and a political thinker after my own heart!

  51. Freethinker

    Jennifer Meyer-Smith January 4, 2018 at 6:13 pm
    I can’t wait forever. I’ll be dead before the Evolutionary-style change happens! 🙂

    Jennifer, it will take one leader who has the charisma to move the masses and things can change very fast.
    Obviously a bit of financial pain by the electorate will help encourage them to look for an alternative.
    Sadly people like Sally McManus is in the ALP and I do not think that she would be interested in form part of a political rebellion and form a broad front.
    Time will tell, and I also running out of time and my only consolation is that I witness that political revolution in my mother country.

  52. Freethinker

    Thank you Jennifer for your kind word, you also are part of the generation that think outside the square.
    Sad that we are few……….

  53. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    When I visited Lee Rhiannon in Canberra, I told her that she and Sally McManus should join forces and start a new socialist party.

    I invite others to tell both great women that they have our support to do just that.

  54. Freethinker

    Jennifer, in your opinion, which is the best small progressive socialist party or group Australia wide?
    There are so many small parties there and it is confusing and hard to know the reputation of the leaders behind them.

  55. Dr Tristan Ewins

    Alpo ; I get what you’re saying ; and on your terms I’d be ‘evolutionary’ as well ; Eduard Bernstein argued the case for ‘evolutionary’ socialism ; in many respects there he remained true to the original Marxism ; in other ways he backed away – I think – from the radical extension of the public and producer’s co-operative sectors. (though co-ops were more Lassalle and Proudhon’s thing) I will have to refresh my Bernstein by reading my thesis again, though, because memory is failing me… I agree with what you’ve implied: ‘one step forward two steps back’ is never good enough. We have to have an idea what we’re actually PROGRESSING TOWARDS. That said ; those goals are always provisional – even over the long term – because arguably there is no ‘end of history’ ; and in 200 years time there will be things even the most imaginative of us could not have conceived…. That’s somewhere Bernstein was also right. ie: ‘not final goal’ ; because ‘no end of history’ ; Although Marx referred to ‘an end of pre-history’….

    What’s crucial with my idea of ‘revolutionary’ is that its the QUALITY of the change that counts ; not the method or the pace. But some will call it evolutionary socialism ; or socialist reformism. That’s fair enough. It’s the CONTENT of the change that counts. Some consider a ‘revolution’ also to mean ‘a forced and qualitative change in the political constitution’. That serves for some people ; but my heart is still with the Austro-Marxist and Euro-communist ‘slow revolution’. But I’m fine with different people using different language ; so long as we communicate, co-operate and understand each other ; so long as we co-operating towards a shared vision of qualitative change.

    Over decades I envisage what I have personally called a ‘democratic mixed economy’ ; as explain in the article. Extended public sector ; co-ops and mutuals ; democratic collective capital formation ; combined with co-determination and so on. And a welfare state and social wage of Nordic proportions. With Nordic style labour market policies and industry policy. Over the longer term I’d like to think that what I refer to there as ‘the democratic sector’ will become dominant. And then we might be able to be taken seriously when we talk of ‘a future beyond capitalism’.

    Networking and co-ordinating internationally will also be crucial in achieving this and overcoming what Marx called ‘the co-ercive laws of competition’ ; what in one form we refer to as ‘the race to the bottom’.

  56. Dr Tristan Ewins

    Freethinker ; perhaps better that all the radical and progressive forces begin by forming a NETWORK rather than a party ; along the lines of the DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) who have had enormous growth because of Bernie Sanders. That enables us all to work together and co-operate in our own ways without having to abandon our current strategies re: working in the Greens, in the ALP SL etc. But we could have the cultural benefits – ie: of ‘leading culture’ – which the CPA used to engage in in its ‘heyday’. We could have the publications, conferences, campaigns and so on. Maybe the question of a new party would arise. But currently both ALP and Greens are strategic ground. Leaving en masse may leave us weaker and not stronger. What do other people think?

  57. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Tristan, we had socialism before neoliberalism planted its grotesque seed in the 70s.

    Instead of philosophising about the long game because it is the less in your face game, we need to be bold and plan a return to democratic socialism for the short term now, so that we can be energised to see the process achieving results sooner not later.

    However, I accept there needs to be long game plans established to achieve the more complex societal changes.


    Re your response to Freethinker, yes I can see the strengths in that approach. So let’s get onto it now despite what neoliberalist Shortarse has to say. (Di Natale will also be forced to commit to this allegiance ofcourse.)

  58. Dr Tristan Ewins

    Jennifer over the ‘medium term’ ; let’s say over three terms of Labor Government ; I’d like to improve the tax to GDP ratio to the OECD average. I think that would be approximately a $80 billion/year increase ; enough to fund a very significant extension of the social wage and welfare ; public sector, and public infrastructure. To get in perspective we’d have to increase spending by well over $300 billion to match the Swedes. But remember it took them maybe 30 years to ‘peak’ as well. If we managed $80 billion over three terms (9 to 12 years) that would be a remarkable success. It’s realistic enough to aim for in the ‘here and now’. And maybe aim for a $40 billion/year increase (or 2.5% of GDP) in the first term.

    In a way SEARCH Foundation already plays a ‘network’ role ; but it would be good to see it radically expand ; though there are lots of old tensions on the Left as well.

  59. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Where does MMT fit into your equation?

  60. Dr Tristan Ewins

    not 100% sure about MMT. I was working on something in response but never finished it… The academics who developed MMT have massively complex econometrics I cannot get my mind around. (lol) And the Keyensians, Post-Keynesians etc disagree very strongly… I don’t like MMT theorists putting all the competitor theoretical frameworks in the same basket as neo-liberalism. (eg: people like Robert Reich and Stiglitz) But I do see a public bank along the lines of the original Commonwealth playing a role ; ie: the government can create money (to an extent) to pay for its commitments ; and is not only dependent on bonds sold to the private sector… (which in turn can make it vulnerable) But I think just ‘creating [too much] money’ could be inflationary and lead to a devaluation of the currency. I’m old school socialist in that I see tax as a lever for socialisation. And I still think extending the public sector is crucial to socialism. That’s what Marxists were arguing for back in the ‘heyday’. But I’m open minded about learning more. I’m not an expert on MMT.

  61. Dr Tristan Ewins

    I do agree with a full employment guarantee

  62. Stephegb

    Well what an exchange of words ,words, words.

    So here is my sixty pennies worth.

    At the end of the 1914 18 war, the war to end all wars, the troops returned to what the elites expected, a life of poverty with the mecantile elites and or a life service to the elites of society. Oh what a shock, the 1917 revelution gave to those “born to rule”! The soldiers returned with a bitter taste of the officer class elites standing behind them pistol drawn to kill those that would not go over the top to be slaughtered.

    The peasants started the revolution that continued untill the start of the second war of carnage, and once again of to slaughter they marched.

    But – big but, the world had changed the Great Depression created so much abject poverty there had to be economic change, the horse and sparrow supply side economics of the 1860s, championed by the students of Adam Smith 1776, was clearly not working.

    1945 Enter John Maynard Keynes, an economist who understood demand side economics and to cut a long story short “The Golden Age” was born.

    Roosevelt had started the New Deal” before the end of the war and Britain under the Labour government took on Keynesian economic policies and started to build housing to replace the 4 million houses destroyed in the war.

    So to cut to the chase, it need not take decades, to reassert Demand side economics nor public housing, or a True National Health service, or Publ8c transport for all, and public owned utilities etc.

    It just takes a Corbyn.

  63. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    What you say makes perfect sense, Stephengb

    What also do you say about MMT?

  64. Stephengb

    Well Jennifer

    I have been reading and reading and reading on MMT since I first heard about the debt and deficit disaster, so ably stated by oir wonderfull mr abbott (lower case intentional).

    So I went looking to try and understand what the hell is a debt and deficit disaster when its at home.

    First I found a video of a lecture by Dr Steven Hail. WHAT! Ses I, to myself.
    Is he completely mad of course it doesnt work like that, how could anyone think that the government actually created the money from nothing.

    And then it started, I became a reading of economics tragic.
    I read about;
    Adam Smith
    John Maynard Keynes
    Friedrich Hayek
    Milton Friedman
    Arthur Laffer
    Bill Mitchell
    Stephanie Kelton
    Steve Keen
    And a hand ful more than I can list.

    Suffice to say – bugga me that chap Steven Hail is bloody correct.

    Now that revelation has changed my view about so much.

  65. Terry Beahan

    The changes to our society which are required to halt and reverse the adverse effects of our “growth economy” on human well-being, could well be described as “revolutionary.” Many of these points are covered in the comprehensive IPCC Report.

    Continued human existence absolutely depends on our abandoning thoughtless exploitation.. Capitalism itself, will soon offer us confirmation of this simple fact by abandoning much future investment. Insurance will cease to be affordable.

    A future world society will depend on close cooperation of its political elements. Competition and exploitative mismanagement of our resources are no longer affordable on this threatened planet.

  66. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Hear, hear Terry

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