Category Archives: political economy

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Sale of Queensland Rail finished Labor in Queensland

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There is a prevailing belief in the ALP that they can spin their way out of any situation. This sometimes works with people without ideology or class consciousness. The economic crisis has shaken people’s faith in capitalism mainly because poverty … Continue reading

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Reigniting the Struggle- For a Brisbane Workers Assembly(Draft)

a meeting has been organised to discuss this proposal on 15th March at 5.30pm at Freedom House 69 Thomas St West End 4101 The accumulation of capital is Australia remains much stronger than that in much of the world – … Continue reading

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Lock the Gate

Hi to all who may be about to come to Drew’s talk to the 17 Group on the 1st of February. Here is a text by Drew that might spark some thoughts with which to prepare for the discussion that … Continue reading

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‘The Golden Age wound down during 1854…’

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[Editor’s Note: Here is another excellent story of how the workers of Kyneton, a central Victorian town, fought back against economic depression in the middle of the 19th century. Why do I feel that Humphrey McQueen’s words could easily describe … Continue reading

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Capital against Capitalism: a conference of new Marxist research

Fire Brigade Employees Union, Sydney, 25 June 2011 as reported by Humphrey McQueen In memory of a life-long sparring partner – Bob Gould [This report does not summarise all the twenty-one papers. Instead, I reflect on three themes from the … Continue reading

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BOOK LAUNCH: Solar Electricity Consumer Guide by Trevor Berrill

INVITATION to BOOK LAUNCH SOLAR ELECTRICITY CONSUMER GUIDE by TREVOR BERRILL Book launch speaker: John Grimes the CEO for Australia Solar Energy Society. Date & Time: 30th June 2pm Location: Osprey House, Brisbane Attendance: RSVP Marcus Cundy-Cooper on mailto:mscc%40whichenergy.com.au Advanced … Continue reading

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Vale Bob Gould

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Version in the Marxist Archive (Andy Blunden) In 1991 Bob Gould sold me his last copy of Ernie Lane’s Dawn to Dusk – Reminiscences of a Rebel. This was the one published by Clarrie Beckingham in 1939. Bob recommended that … Continue reading

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Questionnaire on political issues in Australia

Multi-guess questions on political issues. The main issues covered in this questionnaire are the Environment, the Economy, and Social Justice. This is aboriginal land — True/False? The Australian newspaper has been waging a campaign to stop the re-election of the … Continue reading

Child Labour

by Humphrey McQueen
(originally published in The Australian, 18-19 July 1992, p. 22.)

John Hewson’s* plan for a $3-an-hour minimum wage for teenagers is yet another of his betrayals of economic rationalism. Unless market forces are allowed to determined wage levels, unemployment will never again decline to its desired level of 5 percent.

Only a totally deregulated labour market will allow wages to find that natural level. Legal minimums, no matter how low, have no place in the program of a ‘free-market’ party. Continue reading

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Railways and Capitalism

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PREFACE This pamphlet appeared in 1973 in Victoria, under the guidance of E F Hill, Chairman of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist). Some of its authors are preparing a contemporary version. Their efforts should encourage activists in every sector … Continue reading

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Oil and the double dip

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Reports on ‘Bakken Oil’ discovery in North Dakota, USA 151 million barrels — United States Geological Survey (USGS) assessment 1995 2 Trillion barrels — Stansberry Report Online – 4/20/2006 3.65 billion barrels — United States Geological Survey (USGS) April 10, … Continue reading

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Prosperity without Growth

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Prof. Tim Jackson’s Report “Prosperity without Growth” – a review and critique By Trevor Berrill Sustainable Energy Systems Consultant and Environmental Educator Editor’s note: Just in case, this slide is a cartoon by Leunig,

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Qaddafi in Defeat

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The reality is we are all one humanity.  Barbarity or military society is not confined to low society or to tribal life. People of modern states may like to view indigenous peoples as backward. This is not true. No matter what society, whether it be economically developed or undeveloped, all are capable of repression, but only the most highly developed are capable of imperial blunders. The Romans did so when they laid waste to Carthage. The US likewise when they destroyed Iraq. Continue reading

The Arab Revolution: uprisings in Iraq, Yemen and now Oman

By Ray Bergmann

A lot of information to get out about the revolutions in Iraq and Yemen that started three weeks ago.

The best supportive videos and photos from Iraq are at http://iraqirabita.org/index.php?do=article&id=27597 (underneath and to the right of the article), http://www.iraq-amsi.com/Portal/ (click on the red words within square brackets to go to the photo in better size with the article),
http://www.albadeeliraq.com/, http://iraqirabita.org/index.php?do=article&id=27602 , Continue reading

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The Bligh Era: new cabinet, same policies

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February 2011 brings a new lease of life for the Bligh government due a mix of floods, cyclones and more than a little jingoism  by Bligh herself — “I know in my bones that Queenslanders are up to this, and … Continue reading

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“Chinese Crackers”

[Editor’s Note: this article by Humphrey McQueen exposes the failure of market economists to reveal how fragile the Chinese economy is. The same could be said of the Australian economy and others (no doubt). When ordinary people cannot pay their … Continue reading

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Edge of darkness: will flooding in Qld cause load shedding at power stations?

Floods and Coal Supply to Queensland Power Stations Yes – coal supply is being affected by the floods at least to Stanwell and Gladstone Power Stations, and Stanwell has decreased its output to extend the life of its coal stockpile. But … Continue reading

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I am a middle-aged rail fan – ‘the trains that were murdered’

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“This train don’t carry no con men, this train; This train don’t carry no con men, this train; This train don’t carry no con men, No wheeler dealers, here and gone men, This train don’t carry no con men, this … Continue reading

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QR National – where science meets spin

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Queensland produces the largest amount of metallurgical or coking coal in the world. Queensland Rail (QR) is the last publicly owned commercially viable freight rail system in Australian. Coal is transported to port by QR National which the Qld labor … Continue reading

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Queensland Rail — in the Public Debt

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Even England, the home of the 1980s Thatcherite ideas on public policy has come to realise the folly of many of those policies. There is of course a fundamental inconsistency in the financial arguments for the sale of these assets. … Continue reading

China cascade: a review by Humphrey McQueen

This is a review by Humphrey McQueen of the follwing article published in the New Left Review

Peter Nolan and Jin Zhang ‘Global Competition after the Financial Crisis’, New Left Review, 64, July-August 2010, pp. 97-108.

This recent article merits study and discussion. It is a corrective to the chorus about an unstoppable Chinese national-market-state displacing the US or European one to become the next global imperium. The authors distinguish between size and flows. While the Chinese capitalists are doing well on size they are locked out of the flows.

The article begins by noting that China’s exports did indeed overtake Germany’s in 2009 to become the world leader. The authors then explain why ‘Chinese companies face enormous competitive challenges in operating on the international stage’. The crucial problem is that China’s manufacturing and banking are not integrated into the global networks. Instead, ‘They have to compete with the powerful firms that now dominate almost every segment of global supply chains’. China’s prospects are constrained because its businesses are not at the controls of this ‘cascade’ of flows.

Freed from the ideological blinkers of neo-Classical economic correctness, it is easy to see why ‘free trade’ opened doors to further monopolising.

Large companies from the advanced economies vastly expanded their international investment, building production networks across the globe.

Although Chinese capitals have advanced during the current crisis as their rivals slid down the ranking of global giants, US and EU firms also strengthened their position through further concentration, (oligopolising). China still has no place in nine of the ten key sectors.

China got onto the finance list in part because of the loss in the market capitalisation of financial houses, but mostly because the Chinese banks dominate their own turf. They are huge but not networked. As Nolan and Zhang put it:

It requires a huge leap to progress from being a powerful domestic bank, operating in a heavily protected home market, to one that is globally competitive and able to finalise large-scale international mergers and acquisitions.

Without the links to carry through take-overs, can Chinese capitals buy their way into the other nine sectors? Only construction equipment has a level of concentration below 50% – at 44%. The next lowest is for PCs at 55% and third is mobile handsets at 65%.

Inevitably, these oligopolies dominate R&D, and thus have their hands on the future drivers. They also dominate foreign direct investment (FDI). The combined FDI by the big four newcomers – Brazil, Russia, India and China – is less than that of the Netherlands. Two-thirds of China’s FDI goes to Hong Kong and Macao; its next biggest destinations are the Cayman and Virgin Islands, with 17% of the PRC’s total FDI.

The much vaunted $2.3 trillion of foreign-exchange reserves that China held in 2009 needs to be contrasted with the $63.7 trillion available to the top 500 asset managers in the West. Moreover, Chinese reserves amounted to only $1800 for each Chinese but $5,600 for a South Korean and $8,400 for each Japanese.

Hence, by every measure, Chinese firms are in the infancy of global corporate behaviour. The challenges are qualitative more than quantitative.

Since 1980, ‘The age of globalisation witnessed the rapid consolidation of systems-integrator firms and their supply chains’. China’s competitors retain advantages from nearly 150 years of installing management systems, domestically and around the planet. Since 1980, the non-Chinese corporations have increased and upgraded those barriers and links. Those developments were not initiated against China, but can now channel its growth away from over-taking the oligopolies based in the West.

Catching up is not just a matter of Chinese workers pushing out more and cheaper cars or tie-pins. It also involves the ‘visible hand’ of management beyond the factories, the integration of finance with supply, production and distribution. Chinese workers and executives are more than capable of performing those soft power functions. At issue is whether will they be able to buy their way through the gate of earthly profit. Or will they be checked by a new great wall – one that keeps the Chinese in, not the barbarians out?

In addition to acknowledging this obstacle, any prognosis for China needs to consider six more issues:

  • > distortions from the undervalued Yuan;
  • > a banking system carrying undisclosed loads of doubtful debt;
  • > a stock market corrupted by state policy (see ‘Shanghai Express’ item);
  • > real estate bubbles;
  • > massaged statistics (see ‘Chinese Crackers’ item);
  • > turbulent workers and unemployed.

On top of these domestic matters, Chinese growth remains vulnerable to contractions of demand for its products in the rest of the world, whether from budget cuts in the EU or recession in the US.

In pondering China’s future, we need to think beyond its 1.5bn people and the enormity of their output to recognise that Chinese capitals have to meet the same needs as capital anywhere. Its expansion requires more than the exploiting of labour – at which the Chinese firms have been successful. The surplus value that results has to become the profit for the next round of investment. In Volume II of Capital, Marx traces the cycle of Money, Production Commodities, through Production, to Commodities for expanded Money to invest. (M-C-P-C-M+) (See items in Capital Refined) Without mentioning Marx, Nolan and Zhang provide evidence for how the global concentration of capital stands in the way of Chinese firms being able to flow through these circuits.

Will Marx help to understand the economic and social crisis?

Will Marx help to understand the economic and social crisis?

This will be discussed at the next meeting of the 17 Group.

When?

Wednesday the 6th of October at 7pm,
in unit 6 at 20 Drury St.

The speaker will be left scholar and university lecturer on political theory, David Eden.

Brief summary:

‘Marxs Capital and the politics of crisis’

Crisis plays a special and often unexamined role in Left thought.

Here I want to look at how Marx theorised crisis in Capital and then three contemporary applications of this thought (that of David Harvey, the post-operaismo and the Midnight Notes Collective).

From here I wish to discuss what role thinking about crisis might play in the regeneration of emancipatory anti-capitalist politics.

Usual contretemps with Leon. Thought the first line of notice should have begun: Will Trotsky helpetc.

May still front through force of ideological habit.

But come anyway and bring the family copy of Capital to check the references.

Dan O’Neill

In whose hands – public or private?

No politician in Queensland today would advocate the selling of our railways to a syndicate. If it is right and beneficial for the State to build a line and run an engine on it, why should it be wrong and injurious for the State to build that engine or to mine for the coal it consumes? Harry Turley  1896, later a  Labour Senator for Queensland.

There are various forms of coal.

The highest grade, metallurgical (or coking) coal, is used in steel production.

There is no substitute for coking coal in steel production – the demand for coking coal is determined by the demand for steel.

BHP Billiton is the world’s biggest producer and exporter of coking coal.

Two thirds of coking coal transported by sea comes from Queensland.

The Qld Labor Government wishes to privatise the means of transporting Queensland coal to port Queensland Rail (QR National).

If the sell off proceeds, QR National will be bought by institutional investors like super funds and large companies. Some shares may also be bought by small investors. The Queensland government intends to retain about 25% of QR national and use the $5Bn it gains to win the next election by offering people more roads, hospitals and schools.

The Liberal National party in Queensland are split on whether to oppose the sale of QR national.

Two independents recently formed the Queensland Party (Rod Messenger and Aidan McLindon) both question selling off QR.

“Mr McLindon said the government should call an ideas summit including trade unions and business leaders such as Richard Branson in a genuine attempt to rethink privatisation.” MPs to walk a mile in your shoes by Daniel Hurst August 31, 2010 Brisbane Times

Big questions are being asked about what resources and enterprises should be in public hands and what should be at the mercy of the market.

This is a political question where all mainstream parties in Australia have not adjusted to the Global Financial Crisis. Federal Governments (Labor and Liberal) sold Telstra for $30Bn. They now need Telstra to help build a national broadband network. Still, Telstra shares have plummeted in recent times.

There is no organised political voice to analyse and challenge assumptions made by government. There is little analysis in the media.

During the past decade, BHP has become the world’s most profitable and most powerful miner because it has seen the future and executed a strong but simple strategy. It has a diverse portfolio of world-class mines. It is not reliant on any single commodity. It controls its destiny, rather than being a captive to it. Once again, it is taking the lead. And Kloppers (BHP) has found a friend in Bob Brown. Kloppers plays strategic card by backing a carbon tax IAN VERRENDER, SMH September 18, 2010

If a change is gonna come, how?

There is a challenge to private ownership of enterprises involving essential services since the GFC.

This argument is occurring in mainstream economic and political discourse.

Questions like ‘Which is more efficient – public or private sector?’ are resurfacing.

The corollary ‘What enterprises should government own and what should be in private hands’.

The role of the firm is in question again since the giant investment banker Lehman Bros collapsed.

There has been no push for worker control but there has been questions about whether the public sector should enter into Public Private Partnerships (PPPs), whehter it is better to contract out or to keep ‘in-house’.

Bob Walker and Betty Con Walker

As long as ten years ago PROF.BOB WALKER with his wife Betty Con Walker wrote a book called ‘Privatisation – sell off or sell out?’ He told Kerry O’Brien on the ABC’s 7:30 report:

We’ve got to the point where government’s sold off so many things that there are still people around looking at what they can sell next.

We’re really saying, “Hang on, enough’s enough.”

I guess we’re just very concerned about the intellectual poverty of some of the arguments being advanced and some of the rather tired rhetoric, such as we need to sell assets to reduce debt, and so forth.

(to be continued)

Ian Curr
September 2010

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The town that was murdered

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Introduction The capitalists are murdering towns, suburbs, farms, rivers and seas. They are killing people in wars and through environmental destruction. Against all criteria governments’ state of the environment reports declare that the natural world is losing in the war … Continue reading

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From where the nearest suburb and the city proper meet My window sill is level with the faces in the street Drifting past To the beat of weary feet while I sorrow for the owners of those faces in the … Continue reading

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But Minjerriba’s back is now broken; Men came and tore out his guts; Stole his rich grains of sand, Stripped his cloak of cyprus and gum, Drained water from his ageless eyes And weakened this giant in the sun. — … Continue reading

Democracy — who writes the script?

“It is not enough that some succeed, others must fail” — Gore Vidal

While hunting down the facts behind loss of lives of refugees near the Cocos (Keeling) islands I was confronted by the question “Who is writing the script in the lead up to the 2010 federal election.

I had found that the Home Affairs Minister’s media spokesperson told The AUSTRALIAN more than she told me. This is what she told The AUSTRALIAN on 10 May:

“Australian authorities became aware of the vessel after a caller, claiming to be in London, rang the Customs and Border Protection Command hotline on April 30. A customs officer spoke to the boat’s passengers via a satellite phone and was told the vessel had run out of fuel”.

What Home Affairs Minister’s media spokesperson told me was that she had been talking with AMSA [Australian Maritime Safety Authority] and that I would have to ring them.

I asked her if she had any source documents. She was silent to that question.

I asked if she had a name on source documents. She said “no, I don’t have an officer’s name”. She said “I wouldn’t be able to provide you with the name of a person in AMSA who provided that information, anyway”. I aksed “Why not?”. She said: “We’re getting the information from AMSA and they have a system for co-ordinating search and rescue and they have done that”.

AMSA’s ‘system’ is silence.
I rang AMSA first and then wrote to them but received no answer to my questions.

The Home Affairs spokesperson also stated that she had been speaking to Customs and Border Protection and gave me a Sydney number.

The same spokesperson made no mention of having spoken to Defence. It was the Australian journo, Paul Maley, that was given the ‘exclusive’ as claimed by the Australian on 11 May. Maley got onto Defence. The Home Affairs spokesperson did not tell me that it was a Defence plane had spotted the body of ‘a motionless person’ on a ‘tyre tube’ more than a week ago.

Instead Belinda Cole told me that the ‘spotting’ of objects (lifejackets and tyres) was ‘not a confirmed report’.

She told me the reason she associated 5 missing passengers with the ‘lifejackets’ and ‘tyre tubes’ was ‘the information that we had was that the ‘life jackets were associated with the people who went missing’. She had simply restated my original question in a different form. So much for transparency in government.

She also told me the Home Affairs Minister was trying to give as much information as possible.

A Home Affairs spokesperson gave more to Paul Maley of ‘The Australian’ than me — this despite my putting my questions in writing. But then Paul Maley has been writing these stories on Tamil refugees for a long time and he has News corp behind him. His paper claims the exclusive on this story. Maley’s article states:

The ship’s third officer, Smarven Demegillo, said the five men had fashioned a life raft from tyre inner tubes and taken to the water to try to find a passing ship to rescue their fellow passengers.

If you believe the precise information given by the Australian —

‘On Wednesday, Customs and Border Protection Command alerted the Australian Maritime Safety Authority that the boat, which Customs had been tracking, was missing’

— the five men have already seen Australian Defence force planes fly over. They had already been visited ‘by a Panamanian-flagged vessel’ which ‘provided food, fuel and water’.

So why would the five then leave a seaworthy vessel?

What was said to them over the satellite phone with the Australian authorities and why?

Has this story been written to a script? If so, Whose? What has been edited out?

Or does the Government budget matter more than five desperate lives lost at sea?

I have read the sixteen comments on ‘Perth Now’ that published the Australian article by Paul Maley— these commentators have no sympathy for the refugees, one, if believed, actually hoped they had been taken by sharks. The storm has been whipped up. Opponents of refugees have been let loose in cyberspace.

These people need to be challenged.

Rudd should open Australia to refugees as our international convenants say we will.

Sure the Labor government would take a lot of flack from racists.

But the alternative is worse — to live in a land with a system that rejects those whose lives have become so intolerable that they risk death at sea rather than stay in Sri Lanka.

But in a democracy who writes the script and for whom is it written? For refugees? For battlers who have just coped another interest rate hike on their mortgage?

As governments bail out big banks in another crisis;  refugees, be they fleeing for economic reasons or seeking escape from civil strife, drown at sea.

Ian Curr

May 2010

‘Radical Legend: Humphrey McQueen in Conversation’

Humphrey McQueen on this Sunday:   Writers’ Hub – UQ Centenary Celebration Day – The University of Queensland, Australia]

Sunday 18th April
UQ Fryer Library,
Level Four, Duhig Building (Building 2)
Sunday 12:00

12.00 – 12.30 Radical Legend
Humphrey McQueen In Conversation

http://www.uq.edu.au/centenary/celebration/writers-hub

Aside

Every year my friends gather on New Years eve and try to predict what will happen in the coming year. We place these predictions in a book and then in the following new year’s eve we read them to compare … Continue reading

Communique from an Absent Future

Pamphlet associated with the occupation movement at universities in the state of California.

An introduction was included in some versions of the pamphlet, and not in others.

The Red Thread Study Circle
Date: Saturday, December 19, 2009
Time: 12:00pm – 3:00pm
Location: Lebanese Kebab Shop, West End

Readings for this week:

Communique from an Absent Future

7 AGAINST POMPEII

WE LIVE AS A DEAD CIVILIZATION. We can no longer imagine the good life except as a series of spectacles preselected for our bemusement: a shimmering menu of illusions. Both the full-filled life and our own imaginations have been systematically replaced by a set of images more lavish and inhumane than anything we ourselves would conceive, and equally beyond reach. No one believes in such outcomes anymore. Continue reading