2017: A year of Turnbull, Trump and rampant neoliberalism

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John Passant looks back at the neoliberal year of 2017 and finds a steady, global undercurrent of resistance for trickle-down campaigns of the kind favoured by the Coalition Government.

WHAT A YEAR! Internationally, we had Mister Tangerine Man ruining everything he touched — or should that be, grabbed? 

From North Korea to Mexico, from China to Europe, President Trump is a threat to world peace. He makes Kim Jong-un look rational.

As Stephen King said:

“That this guy [Trump] has his finger on the nuclear trigger is worse than any horror story I ever wrote.”

Trump’s ideology is also destroying global attempts – possibly too late anyway – to address climate change. Trump’s action in withdrawing the U.S. from the inadequate Paris Climate Change Accord puts humanity’s survival at even greater risk.

The man is a dangerous imbecile, as this tweet shows:

Trump’s ideology is also destroying the U.S. working class and poor, making them poorer and poorer while the rich get richer, thanks to his tax cuts and to low or falling wages.

The situation in Australia is similar.

The Turnbull Government is, perhaps, a more "sensible" version of Trumpism. However, the Australian Government is in lockstep with the U.S. on war, climate change denialism, and attacking the poor and working class.

The Australian Government’s actions – including the U.S. spy base at Pine Gap and our troops, planes and ships in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen and elsewhere – are part of the U.S. alliance that threatens world peace. The Government’s inaction on climate change and its addiction to coal are Trumpism writ small.

Turnbull’s domestic policies can best be summed up as Trump-like — making the rich richer and the poor and working class, poorer. His tax cuts and proposed tax cuts – like Trump’s – are a massive handout to the rich, many of whom pay little or no tax anyway.

The fact that Turnbull is not a complete fool, like Trump is, does not mean much. He has the same pro-ruling class approach in his policies and politics. He, like Trump, rules for the 1%. He, like Trump, is about shifting even more wealth from workers to capital.

However, as a consequence of its big business agenda, the Turnbull Government lost further support in 2017 and now looks set to be smashed at the next election — either in 2018 or 2019. We can but hope.

As for the leadership of the Government, 30 unfavourable Newspolls in a row comes to mind. But who is there, in all seriousness, to replace Turnbull? Abbott, again? Dutton, before he loses his seat? Bishop? The lack of a quality salesperson of Coalition Government policies is systemic. Even if they had one, selling a shit sandwich doesn’t remove the taste from the buyer’s mouth.

Neoliberalism currently dominates world politics. This wealth shifting from labour to capital is based on trickle-down theories. By giving more money to the 1% – the so-called wealth creators – there will eventually be more money and jobs for the 99%. The only problem is that the 1% do not create wealth. Their profit, interest, dividends and rent, come from workers.  

Pope Francis explains this trickle-down nonsense:

“The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefitting the poor. But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger — nothing ever comes out for the poor.”

Part of that "glass getting bigger" problem is that capital invests in machines at the expense of humans. This undermines profit rates, long-term, in the global economy.

And the Catholic Church has had its own annus horribilis in Australia. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse discovered a mountain of sexual predation on young boys and girls in Catholic orders, and the cover-up of such abuse both by the Church hierarchy and the state.   

While the passage of the same-sex marriage laws may have upset the Church, it was – despite the tortuous and hate-filled route to get there – a victory for decency and love, no thanks to Malcolm Turnbull and the conservatives pulling his strings.

The basic decency of the majority of working Australians is the real problem for Turnbull and his coterie of conservatives. We want decent wages. We want decent public education, health and transport. We want decent jobs and decent hours to work. We want a decent place to live.

These are the things that that capital systemically opposes. Capital and its parliamentary acolytes want to cut the wages bill and use the unemployed as a reserve army to help achieve that. And they continue to privatise, to cut public services — all so they can deliver a $65 billion tax cut to big business and other profiteers, many of whom pay low tax or no tax, anyway.

From asylum seekers to Muslim "terrorists", Turnbull et al throw distractions at us to divert our attention away from the reality of their pro-business and anti-worker agenda. Let 2018 be the year we see through their tricks.

The systemic pressure to cut wages, to cut services, to attack the poor, pensioners and workers, all in the name of profit for the capitalist class, will continue — and at our expense. Because he is managing capitalism, Turnbull tries to deliver his pro-business agenda and we will passively resist by telling Newspoll that we will vote the Government out. 

To see what 2018 portends, let’s see what 2017 delivered:

With 48 women murdered last year by someone close to them, domestic violence continues unabated.

In a nutshell, poverty and inequality grew. This is the outcome of deliberate government policies and an economic system that feeds the Mr Creosotes of capital more and more.

This year will deliver more of the same — if we let it. 

In 2017, there was resistance, globally, to the status quo. From the fall of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, to the arrest of activist Ahed Tamimi in Palestine, to the street protests in Iran, and on to the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and the democratic socialist project of Bernie Sanders – to mention but a few – ordinary people have expressed their desire for a better world in positive and active ways.

In Australia, there is a standoff. There have been no mass protests or strikes to shake the Coalition Government. The resistance to date has been, more or less, passive.

Opinion polls show the Turnbull Government headed for defeat but without much enthusiasm for the alternative, Labor. The first preference vote for both major parties is at a level well below long-term historical trends. Because the major parties in government manage capitalism, it is likely that decline will continue over time.

The main beneficiaries of this have been populist racists like Pauline Hanson, while on the extremes, the neo-Nazis have won a toehold of sorts. The respectable established Left have been quiet, other than urging us to vote Labor or the Greens.

However, there have been small shoots of a left-wing spring. The rise of Left Renewal in the NSW Greens suggests there are some rank and file members of mainstream parties keen to start a left-wing fightback. In this, they express organically the desire of millions of ordinary working Australians for a decent society.

Just as importantly, Sally McManus became ACTU secretary and gave hope to many workers that there would be a fight back against the one-sided class war of the last few decades.

Unionists won some important, but still relatively small, specific battles. But we lost penalty rates and real wages continued to fall while the gender pay gap continued to grow.

As 2017 shows, if we don’t fight, we lose. Let 2018 be the year we go beyond fighting words to mass action to win a better society.

Read more by John Passant on his website En Passant or follow him on Twitter @JohnPassantSigned copies of John's first book of poetry, Songs for the Band Unformed (Ginninderra Press 2016), are available for purchase from the IA store HERE.

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