What is the progressive alternative to neo-liberalism?

A talk at a conference of Australian progressive think-tanks.

http://www.crunchtime.org.au/

If we look back in a year's time to our meeting today, I suspect we will say that we were (or are) living in a kind of phoney war period, a lull before a storm. We are on the brink of a profound economic crisis which will be historic in its implications. A large degree of unemployment at best, or at worst, global tensions leading to local wars. But even more profound than this crisis is the growing climate emergency, with events moving far faster than expected while the leadership of advanced industrial countries continues to avoid decisive action.

The crisis of neo-liberalism and the renewal of progressive ideas

[This article appeared in Arena,a magazine of left political, social and cultural commentary, published in Melbourne, Dec-January 2008-09]

There are have been many delicious moments in the last few months as the banks on Wall Street tumbled like an unstoppable sequence of falling dominos. Having the former chair of the US Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan admit that he had misplaced his faith in deregulated free markets was one. Another was the sight of the British and American governments nationalizing banks as their losses forced them to the wall.

Rupert Murdoch - man of ideas

Rupert Murdoch's critics often make the mistake of caricaturing him as just another businessman, interested more in money than ideology. His support for Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair, it is argued, secured him a lucrative TV network and protected him from regulatory measures. These claims underestimate Murdoch's powerful contribution to the shaping of political ideas in Britain, the US and Australia in the past 25 years.

Kevin Rudd, free markets and the greed culture

The Labor Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd is often accused of being similar to Tony Blair and his mealy-mouthed 'Third Way'. But the economic crisis is revealing that Rudd is quite different from Blair. Rudd's recent attack on 'free market ideologues' was a speech that neither Tony Blair nor Gordon Brown - or certainly not Paul Keating -- would have made.

His unashamed attack on free market ideology came in a remarkable speech to the Federal Labor Business Forum in Sydney in October. After explaining Labor's response to the crisis, he then went on to discuss 'the fundamental failure of values' revealed by the crisis.

The climate change smoke screen

Published in the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, 2 August

When the tobacco industry was feeling the heat from scientists who showed that smoking caused cancer, it took decisive action.

It engaged in a decades-long public relations campaign to undermine the medical research and discredit the scientists. The aim was not to prove tobacco harmless but to cast doubt on the science. In the space provided by doubt, billions of dollars in sales could continue. Delay and doubt were crucial products of its PR campaign.

'I pry with my little spy'

This article was published in the Sydney Morning Herald, May 31 2008

May 1970 was the high point in protests against conscription and the Vietnam war. That month the Vietnam Moratorium drew 100,000 people onto the streets in Melbourne and 30,000 in Sydney. The Liberal-Country Party government, which had denounced the protests as communist-inspired, was alarmed at the strength of the demonstrations.

A month after the protests, the NSW secretary of the Liberal Party, John Carrick, approached the federal Attorney General Tom Hughes for help. He asked for ASIO briefing papers on the student protest movement which had done so much to turn the tide against the government.

Libertarian capitalism and the post-socialist age

One of the key problems of progressives and the Left is that unlike the past, today we don't have a broadly agreed set of ideas. The most obvious result of this is the Left is weaker today than it has been in 50 years. Indeed to talk about the Left is to talk about many disparate groups, each with a separate and sometimes conflicting vision. The old post-1970 Communist Party of Australia once had a unifying vision and a social analysis in the form of a particularly creative Marxism. But those days are effectively over and trying to 'put Humpty Dumpty back together again' on the basis of Marxism (or any there totalizing 'theory-of-everthing) will fail. There is no ready-made 'package' of ideas we can pick off the shelf. While cherishing the values of the old socialist left, we have to rethink the bases of our politics.

Climate change at the helm of Labor's next big idea

Published in the Sydney Morning Herald, 23 April 2008

Whatever else it does, the 2020 summit may be remembered as sounding the death knell for the Australian Labor Party. Events around the NSW Labor's conference next weekend may bury the corpse.

There was a time once, not so long ago, that when a Labor government took office, its ideas and policies would come from the Labor Party. Based on its local branches and membership, the party would hold conferences and convened policy committees to prepare for office. Left and Right would fight to ensure that their preferred policy was adopted. The stakes in the party were high.

Confronting the New Conservatism

Book Review of Michael J. Thompson (Ed), Confronting the New Conservatism: The Rise of the Right in America, New York University Press, 2007.

This review first published in 'Democratiya' (London)

(www.democratiya.com)

In the final contribution in 'Confronting the New Conservatism', Stephen Bronner sets out how progressive and liberals (in the American sense) can challenge the Right. The Left, he argues, underestimated neo-conservative ideology and can learn from the success of the Right. The conservative message has been primarily aimed at everyday people rather than other intellectuals.

The Emerging Politics of Climate Change

Published in Arena magazine (Melbourne) No.92, Dec-Jan 2007-08

One of the enduring puzzles about the political response to climate change is the polite behaviour of those who are most aware of the impending problems. For many years activists have undertaken well behaved demonstrations, eloquent public statements and respectable lobbying but little beyond this range of polite political action.

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