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Greedy, gormless politicians: What is to be done?


ADELAIDE - I strongly agreed with the sentiments expressed by Phil Fitzpatrick in his recent article, ‘Forget the Puppets; Go After the Puppet Masters’.

It is astounding to me that the so called progressive forces in politics are so obsessed with identity politics, asylum seekers, special interest groups and what I regard as the ephemera of politics.

They are indeed so obsessed that they seem unable or unwilling to tackle the huge problems of hunger, poverty, discrimination, inequality and racism to which Phil referred.

Where is the Left's alternative economic vision, whereby the huge corporates, and the mega-rich financial manipulators who control them, are brought to heel?

The neo-liberal consensus, despite the growing evidence of its many flaws and failings, seems impervious to any coherent leftist critique.

Papua New Guinea is special only in the sense that the self-serving behaviour of foreign powers, large corporations and the political elite is clearly visible.

It does not have to be covert or subtle because PNG politicians are easy to control and manipulate. Their collective love of money makes them an easy target.

Meanwhile, in the USA, the most egomaniacal, morally bankrupt, dishonest and manifestly unfit person to ever hold the office of President continues to govern by tweet, all the time striving to remake America in the image preferred by the rich and powerful.

Democracy is truly in crisis yet few seem to understand this, much less have any capacity to do anything about it.

Even in Australia, the reach and power of foreign powers and corporations wielding money as a weapon, has been unexpectedly revealed through the egregious behaviour of Senator Sam Dastyari.

While he has been forced to resign, there is no reason to believe that this is more than a mere hiccup for the corporate power players who increasingly dominate our political as well as economic systems.

One player leaves the field in disgrace but the game goes on.

Meanwhile, the current Liberal-National government in Australia, like the O'Neill government in PNG, endlessly reassures us that either a Federal Independent Commission against Corruption is unnecessary or that it will establish one in due course.

In short, it resists a necessary change that might reveal the full extent of how corporate power and money have corrupted our democracy.

No wonder people are turning away from the major parties in Australia and, in PNG, continue to out their faith in the proverbial "local heroes" rather than support parties that habitually over promise and under deliver.

I have resolved that, as a mostly powerless single voter, my best strategy is to refuse to vote for any established political party again. Instead, I prefer to put my faith in a PNG style "local hero" whose integrity seems sound and who has a commitment to assessing issues based upon facts and merit, not ideology.

Happily, many other Australians have apparently reached the same conclusion, hence the relentless growth in the number of minor party and independent members being elected to Parliament.

To me, this phenomenon is clear evidence that the proverbial canary is shrieking in the coal mine, yet our tone deaf politicians fail to hear it.

As Vladimir Ilyich Lenin famously said, 'What is to be done?".


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Ross Howard

Chris asks “where is the Left’s alternative economic vision”, and he laments how the progressive forces in politics are “so obsessed with identity politics, asylum seekers, special interest groups and what I regard as the ephemera of politics.”

He’s correct. Unlike the Old Left, today’s Left don’t seem to have a vision beyond things that are destructive, like identity politics.

In 1978, Deng Xiaoping rejected the communist economic system and embraced a market economy, and Vietnam did likewise with its Doi Moi reforms in 1986. Thereafter they both flourished economically. As Paul Oates writes, you look to see what has worked.

However the European Left appears to have learnt nothing. Britain’s distinguished Marxist historian, Eric Hobsbawm, wrote:

“If the Left have to think more seriously about the new society, that does not make it any less desirable or necessary, or the case against the present one any less compelling.”

So after a century of bloody failures, Hobsbawm doesn’t know what his future will bring, but he knows it’s both desirable and necessary. And he knows that there is a “compelling” case to destroy the present system, even if he can’t say what will replace it.

In other words, “Trust Me”. In essence, Hobsbawm is appealing to tribalism. And you can see that on university campuses today. You are either with the feminists, radicals, activists and so forth or you’re on the other side.

Philosopher Roger Scruton put it like this:

“The inescapable conclusion is that subjectivity, relativity and irrationalism are advanced not in order to let in all opinions, but precisely so as to exclude the opinions of people who believe in old authorities and objective truths.

"This is the short cut to Gramsci’s new cultural hegemony: not to vindicate the new culture against the old, but to show that there are no grounds for either, so that nothing remains save political commitment.”

Bernard Corden

Dear Paul,

This is worth a read:

Paul Oates

The first issue to get one's head around is that this situation is nothing new. It's been around since recorded human history. It's called human nature.

As a species, we haven't evolved past a certain point given that most evolution takes millions of years to achieve any real change in the DNA.

Therefore, the answer to the question raised by Chris' article is simple: Look at what worked in history and what didn't.

Unfortunately, that's too easy to say and obviously too hard to do on a grand scale. Remember the quote: 'The poor will be with you always.'

The essence of the problem is one of responsibility. No one wants to take any and that includes ordinary voters who simply think someone else will do something and why should they bother. That is until it's too late.

Good luck with trying to change that aspect unless one declares martial law.

Peter Sandery

Whilst I would agree with much of what you say, Chris, surely you sell Trump short when he is actually cleaning out the swamp and appears to have done more for the US economy in one year than the insipid Obama did in eight.

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