Neoliberalism, Weinstein, Trump, Turnbull and old white men that rule

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Old white men dominate our news, our economy, our politics and our lives. Harvey Weinstein is but the latest example of rich white male ruling-class overlordship.

Weinstein exercised his power in society to prey on women. He could only do so – and go unchallenged for decades – because of his position as the boss.  

Weinstein, of course, is not alone in this. Powerful male bosses exercise their economic power over women, sexually, every day. It is a Harvey Weinstein world.

This dominance finds expression among the economically powerless too. In Australia, according to the latest 'Counting Dead Women Australia' report from Destroy The Joint, violence against women has seen 39 women killed this year alone.

And yet Malcolm Turnbull, the rich white man who is prime minister, refuses to adequately fund domestic violence and homelessness services. His acolytes in New South Wales are destroying the rape crisis service.

However, Turnbull can find $50 billion to spend on submarines and $24 billion on fighter jets. Oh and let’s not forget his plans for a $65 billion tax cut for business.

By comparison, $4 billion to adequately fund crisis services for women is small beer. And yet it doesn’t happen. There is a reason why.

Women are oppressed in capitalist society. Under the capitalist system, it is overwhelmingly women who raise the next generation of workers cost-free for the bosses. As to their "rewards" under the system, there is a gender pay gap of over 15% (or $251 a week) and it is women who are disproportionately in low paid casual or part-time work.

There have been a couple of other rich white male zombies crawling out of their political graves in the last weeks. Former Prime Minister John Howard kicked off with full-page paid advertisements arguing for a "No" vote on marriage equality.  Then failed former Prime Minister Tony Abbott trumped him with his "London speech" claiming that global warming was good for the planet. He may like to ask the citizens of California if they agree.

Abbott then said:

"Primitive people once killed goats to appease the volcano gods. We’re more sophisticated now but are still sacrificing our industries and our living standards to the climate gods to little more effect."

Tony Abbott's "London speech" (Source: @Riley7News).

I know one goat we could sacrifice. Well, thinking about it, I know quite a few.

The goat that frightens me even more than Abbott or Howard or Turnbull is President Donald Trump. This super-rich white man rules the most powerful country in the world. As its economy declines relative to China’s, its military forces increase and so, too, does the possibility of war.

Trump is a Harvey Weinstein too. He was a rich white businessman — a boss.

As he once said:

"You know I'm automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you're a star, they let you do it. You can do anything. Grab 'em by the pussy. You can do anything."

It is all about power, power and power. And now that he is the most powerful man in the world ... actually, I don’t expect him to do a "Bill Clinton" because he is under so much scrutiny, but imagine what he might do after he loses the 2020 presidential election?

Of course, Trump's anti-women policies and anti-worker policies are wreaking havoc on working-class women as women and workers. 

That, I think, is the key. Yesterday’s men are trying to turn back the clock economically, politically and socially to a bygone, and largely mythical, era of social cohesion and prosperity when women, gay and black people knew their place. In Australia, as in many other Western countries, that period was the 1950s and '60s before women’s liberation, gay liberation and black power movements challenged the status quo. It was also before the tendency of the rate of profit to fall reasserted itself in the late '60s and early '70s.

The very success of capitalism produces this profit rate decline and presents an economic and political challenge for the bosses and their politicians — how to restore profit rates? Their answer was neoliberalism, introduced in Chile in 1973 by gun, and then democratically in the UK in 1979, the U.S. in 1980 and Australia in 1983.

Neoliberalism attempts to shift wealth from labour to capital and does this by front-on assaults on labour and unions, or by subterfuge and class collaboration, like the Labor Government’s Accord in Australia.

Almost 40 years of neoliberalism in the West is at the moment producing two main political responses — what I call the Trump and Corbyn outsider dichotomy. The rise of both reflects a rejection by significant sections of society of the dominant economic ideology of trickledown economics, but does so in very different ways.

Trumpism appeals to the devastated while letting the market rip apart their lives with his spurious promises about improving the lot of workers. But as his 20% company tax cut proposal for business shows, his real agenda is wealth shifting to capital. He is a trickledowner with populist rhetoric. 

Trump's destruction of Obamacare will condemn millions to no or inadequate health care and some to early death. Many will have voted for him. Trump disguises his wealth-shifting agenda by othering oppressed groups along the lines of race, gender, sexuality, immigrant status, religion and/or disability.

Corbynism, on the other hand, has a working-class base to it and words to match. British Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn's program is a mild Keynesianism with its nationalisations and other pro-worker and pro-poor policies, redolent of the 1960s.  

Corbyn wants to challenge the redistribution from labour to capital that has been the hallmark of the almost the last 40 years of neoliberalism. Given the powerful capitalist forces Britain’s next prime minister will have to confront, whether Corbyn can mobilise a big enough and enthusiastic enough base to reverse the wealth redistribution to the rich is another question altogether.

In Australia, we have old white men, or white men growing old, vying for power. Little distinguishes them as political alternatives. On the other side, there is no Australian Jeremy Corbyn. Of course a Labor government might make some difference but in the end, it will rule for the rich white men and women who make up the powerful 1%. It won’t challenge systemic sexism or racism and the othering that is inherent to capitalism.

We also have the little Trumps growing in One Nation.

The distinguishing feature of Australian politics has been the systemic and sometimes overt othering by both major parties of Aboriginal peoples, women, refugees, the unemployed, single mums, Asians, Africans, Muslims ….

The only beneficiaries of such divisiveness are the 1%. Rich old white men rule. It is time to challenge them.

John Passant is an old white man. Read more by him 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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