Image for A hopeful beginning of an essential process

The ABC special broadcasts of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the follow up comments on Sunday July 10 2010 were the beginning of what will hopefully be a new and much more realistic approach. It promises to do something about Climate Change and is taking some small but important steps to combat the inequity that permeates our system.

In terms of a breakthrough in the struggle to have Australia begin to recognise the need for action to combat the consequences of climate change the Sunday July 10 government announcement is a real achievement.  But it is only the hopeful beginnings of the political cultural shift that must take place if we are to survive. Already the unregulated market lobby is hard at work trying to give support to the Tony Abbott opposition to any real action to protect our future.  The fact that some small steps are now potentially in process to resolve the ecological crises and at the same time make a contribution to combating the inequity that is so rampant in our current system is a major affront to their ‘greed is good’ and ‘devil take the hindmost’ ideological fix.

Christine Milne and the Greens did make a substantial input to this step forward, but we should not forget that the independents played a vital role, as did activists on climate change outside of parliament. The compromise was one that has potential to shift the political debate away from the unreality championed by Abbott and his colleagues and can become a real step in the right direction. However, in welcoming the turn in events we should not forget that it is only a beginning based on a compromise and that much more has to be done.  In the medium to longer run it is the extent to which people begin to think and act, rather than become paralysed victims of the fear campaign Tony Abbott and the mining and other polluting corporations are waging, that will be important.

The negotiating skills of the Independents and Greens involved in the negotiations to shift the Labor Party from the suicidal path, it was on, to some real action against the main polluters was obviously a major contribution to increasing the possibility for young and future Australians to have a livable future.  However if real change is to actually happen public opinion has to be shifted to a recognition of the dangerous situation that climate change and growing social and economic inequity represents.  Aware parliamentarians will be necessary and very important in bringing that change about.  Important gains have been achieved but the movement for action against pollution and the economic policies and social policies that allow effective control of our economy by the big polluters needs to be stepped up and involve a lot more people and a lot more creative thinking and extra parliamentary people action.  The job is still very much a job in front of and not behind us.

The references to some exposures of what has actually happened in the real world in recent decades as result of globalisation that follow;—- when compared to what gets published to days mass media reveal the extent to which the mas media barons have succeeded in increasingly censoring out the reality of what is actually happening in, and to our world.

Markets need to be regulated and subject to the ethical and ecological criteria they cannot generate

Markets, although useful, are blind to ethical and ecological issues and require government intervention if they are to benefit the human condition.

The economic theories of Hayek and Milton Friedman, in ideological terms,  have driven and still drive the push for Globalisation of economies around the world.  As a Canadian economist thinker and writer with a world-wide reputation has long argued - globalization contains new and very negative elements.  I refer to John Ralston Saul who was reported as follows in the “Sydney Morning Herald “(SMH) 9/1/99: “The common thread is his contention that democracy has been high-jacked by a corporatist elite….” (1)

Economic fundamentalism or neo-liberalism, underpins the drive to Globalisation, and has led us into a serious situation. A past Canadian Deputy Prime Minister, Paul Hellyer described this situation in the following words:  “And you’re seeing the big transnational corporations attempting and succeeding , and turning the social clock back 100years to Dickensian times. In other words, 100 years of social progress by legislation and unionization down the sink by going around this globalization route,”. (2) 

A decade earlier H. E. Daly addressing a Hoover Institution Conference on “Sustainable Development from Concept and Theory to Operational Principles, Population and Development Review in 1989 stated “… the market cannot find an optimal scale any more than it can find an optimal distribution.  The latter requires the addition of ethical criteria: the former requires the further addition of ecological criteria.” 

In 1994 J. K. Galbraith commented   “. It must be noted again that there is no substantive measure to relieve poverty or improve the lives and ensure the calming upward mobility of the underclass that does not require action by the state, although there is both oratory and seemingly sophisticated argument to the contrary. The purpose of the latter is not to produce results but to relieve those who are more privileged of adverse conscience and cost.” (Galbraith “The world Economy since the Wars” Sinclair -Stevenson 1994 page265 )

These and similar criticisms of free market capitalism and Globalisation in particular are today substantially censored from the Mass media. For example the truth about what pesticides and other chemical companies are doing to us as revealed by recent Australian of the year is an example of what is being censored by the mass media.  I refer here to the following from Tim Flannery discussing the dangers represented by chemical sprays and particularly pesticides and aspects of the longer term in-effectiveness of chemical sprays wrote in his recent book “Here on Earth, “With the illusion of a quick and permanent fix, the pesticide companies had set us on a cataclysmic course.”  Flannery had preceded this quoted statement with the comment that before “the war on nature” other approaches to pest control had worked effectively. He then commented that,  “The trouble was that the corporations couldn’t make money from these approaches”( Flannery Tim 2010”pub. by Text –particularly Pages 161- 168).

A further but quite different example of misrepresentation of reality is the essays published in the October and November 2006 issues of “The Monthly” that Kevin Rudd used to propel himself into the leadership of the Labor Party. On page 50 0f the November edition of this magazine the following sentence is published: “Social democrats take part of their philosophical inheritance from Adam Smith, as interpreted by Keynes,Samuelson, Galbraith and, in Australia’s case, Nuggett Coombs.”  Rudd’s essay then goes on to argue a position for some intervention by the state and that “… These state functions do not interfere with the market, they support the market.”

Readers who are familiar with the writings of the people mentioned in Rudd’s essay will be aware that Coombs was critical of leaving it to the market when he advocated restrictions on some developments in his 1970 Boyer Lectures.  Coombs also wrote in his “The Return of Scarcity”  “…we are not inescapably dependent on this flood of commodities which our economic system is designed to produce” (Coombs H.C. pub Cambridge University Press 1990 P165). Galbraith as indicated in the above quote was quite clear and firm on the need for state including government intervention in economic matters.

Other vital points that are being ignored, by the advocates of unregulated markets,include that unregulated markets require constant growth. To quote“ Latouche on the consequences of this:  “The growth doctrine is like a disease and a drug… Growth Economics, like HIV destroys societies’ immune systems against social ills. And Growth needs a a constant supply of new markets to survive so, like a drug dealer, it deliberately creates needs and dependencies that did not exist before. ... Ever increasing consumption is not sustainable ...”- (Serge Latouche, Le Monde diplomatique, Nov. 2004).

Then there are the activities revealed by John Perkins in his Confessions of an Economic Hit Man” (Pub Edbury Press 2006)  “Perkins was an economic hit man for an international consulting firm that worked to convince poorer countries to accept enormous development loans - and to make sure that such projects were contracted to US companies.  Once these countries were saddled with huge debts , the American government would request their” pound of flesh” in favours ,including access to natural resources, military cooperation and political support.”

The future needs to be decided in open debate and open minded approaches to resolving problems. The behind closed doors processes now in vogue are creating real problems and deny the majority of people access to information that should be publically available.

A big and difficult issue we need to examine and debate in depth, openly and publically is that of the return on property. My own view is that the small accumulations of property that have been honestly earned by people who do productive work whether physical or mental should be recognized as being entitled to some reasonable return to its owners.  This includes the property of small producers, artisans and service providers.  But the property of speculators and market manipulators is an entirely different kettle of fish. The massive accumulations of capital in goods, various forms of property and money by large corporations including those in Agribusiness are essentially the result of the appropriation of wealth created by the labour of others: namely the employees of these large enterprises. As past ABC programs have revealed in the USA privatization of prisons has enabled prisoners to be used as slave labour particularly by Agribusiness. In Australia we all know about convict and other slave labour including the super exploitation of aborigines in the cattle industry in particular.

If we are to seriously consider the issues involved when discussing property what Karl Marx wrote on page 10 of the Dona Torr edition of Volume 1 of Capital needs to be taken to account. Marx’s interpretation remains true despite all the technological and other changes from when it was first published well over 100 years ago. To quote Marx: “…therefore as labour is a creator of use-value, is useful labour, it is a necessary condition, independent of all forms of society, for the existence of the human race; it is an eternal nature - imposed necessity, without which there can be no material exchanges between man and Nature, and therefore no life”. Labour is not the only source of material wealth, of use-values produced by labour.  As William Petty puts it, labour is its father and the earth its mother.” ( As published by George Allen & Unwin LTD in 1949)

If we are serious we cannot ignore this explanation of Marx’s of the interaction of working people with nature that actually makes our world tick. My own estimation is that the truth and importance of this evaluation will be difficult indeed for the possessors of capital to accept. While they are in effective control of the mass media they will continue to push their view of the world. 

However what is currently happening in Great Britain to the Murdoch Media Empire is an encouraging example of possibilities for at least some change and challenge to the power of the over-wealthy. The people petitions and campaigns that drove the change in the position of leading parliamentary figures in their attitude to Murdock should not be overlooked.  The democratic rights that have been won in past struggles and modern communication technologies allowed ordinary people to have a voice that was heard.  Public affairs need to be open to public scrutiny but private affairs should be respected as what they are private matters.  Let us be clear though that——deals between public officials or politicians and privately owned and controlled corporations that involve public resources and public money are not a private affair but an important public matter. The struggle for openness in public affairs is and will continue to be difficult but it is essential to a human future.

Notes

(1)  John Ralston   Saul was brought to Australia by the Institute for Environmental Education. His speech to a Sydney meeting, co-sponsored by the Evatt Foundation,  was telecast to the nation by the ABC on Saturday 16/1/ 99.  Sauls books “ The Unconscious Civilization “(pub. Penguin 1997 ) which is a printed version of his 1995 Massey lectures and “The Collapse of Globalism and the reinvention of the World”  (pubViking Penguin Books 2005) are powerful exposures of the stupidity of current economic practices.    In the Jan. 9th 1999, edition of the Sydney Morning Herald the conservative SMH   journalist Paul Sheehan, obviously referring to Ralston’ revelations, wrote——“Armies do not need war to conquer. Right now, the most powerful army ever assembled is marching across the globe expanding an empire of greater scope and wealth than any army ever achieved by conquest. We live in an era now dominated by international corporatism, a disciplined, organised, motivated, messianic and single minded culture which is assembling enormous amounts of capital. It is largely an American phenomenon, “backed, at the end of the day, by American Military power.”——Despite the possible contradiction of Sheehan’s first phrase by the last quoted words “backed at the end of the day by American Military Power” this is an unusually frank admission from a supporter of the status quo.

(2)  Paul Hellyer on the ABC Program “ Background Briefing” 30th May 1999.