Living The Dream during Trump’s Trade War

In this episode of Living The Dream Dave (@withsobersenses) tries to start an analysis of the Trump administration’s trade and tariff policy. Why has the Australian Left been so paralysed over this question? What sense can we make of it? How do we understand the policies of the state in the broader dynamics of world capitalism?

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 Stuff mentioned includes:

U.S. Admits That Politics Was Behind Steel Tariffs(not a Brazilian paper but a US paper reporting on US representatives talking to Brazilian business leaders)

Marx and Engles on Free Trade

Midnight Notes Collective – Introduction to The New Enclosures

II Rubin – A History of Economic Thought

Music by the Levon Helm Band

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Living The Dream with the National Disability Insurance Scheme

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In this episode Dave (@withsobersenses) chats with Vanamali Hermans (@VChristabel) about the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). Whilst billed as ‘the most significant economic and social reform since the introduction of Medicare in the 1970s’ Vanamali shows how the NDIS often means the reduction in services for those with disabilities and bureaucratic hellishness. We discuss why this is so, the compounding issue of inequality in regional health delivery and the struggles and strategies both developing and possible. This is the first of possibly a few episodes on the NDIS.

Due to incurable idiocy Dave’s levels are still too low. (Sorry)

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Articles mentioned incomed:

Vanamali Hermans

Tim Lyons:

 

Precarias a la Deriva

Living The Dream in the feminist moment

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In this episode of Living the Dream Jon (@jonpiccini) and Dave (@withsobersenses) chat with Eleanor Robertson (@marrowing) about if we are living in a feminist moment and what that means. We focus our conversation on two of her articles from Meanjin. We discuss why it is that so much of contemporary feminism focuses on representations in popular culture – what does that tell us about both feminism and popular culture? From here we talk about the complex history of 2nd Wave feminism, the limitations of the intersectionality/class debate and then move into broader discussion about the possibilities of radical politics. Is there any value in radical reformist projects? When capital so dominates our lives what’s the possibility for radical collective self-activity? We return to the common questions we dwell on at Living the Dream: is there any role for agency and if so what kind? What can and is to be done?

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Articles, people and things we talk about include:

Eleanor Robertson Get mad and get even

Eleanor Robertson Intersectional Identity and the Path to Progress

Amber A’lee Frost All Worked Up and Nowhere to Go

Moishe Postone

Maria Mies

Paolo Virno Virtuosity and Revolution: The Political Theory of Exodus

Monsieur Dupont Nihilist Communism

E.P Thompson The making of the English Working Class

The Combahee River Collective Statement

Endnotes

Wildcat Migration and national social democracy in Britain

Nothing is Ever Lost

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Anti-Shorten: The ALP is still selling bullshit

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Bill Shorten, the leader of the ALP opposition, strode the stages of the National Press Club and delivered  a speech that The Australian described as ‘Corybn-like’ and a ‘populist pitch to low-income earners, unionists and left-wing voters’ (Brown, Chambers, and Additional reporting: Sarah Jane-Tasker 2018). But before we break out the red flags and rally around Comrade Bill we should pause and stop: for the content of Shorten’s speech was actually terrible, a continuation of the ALP tradition of class appeasement and compromise and wrapped in mystifications about the nature of capitalism, wages and class. It was the exact opposite of the approach that we need.

Those of us who want to overcome capitalism aren’t in competition with the ALP. The ALP is just another faction for capital in the political apparatus: it is one of our enemies. Our project and theirs are radically different. However, the ALP has a long history of sowing mystifications – that is reinforcing the ideology that strengthens capitalism. This is part of its historic role of acting to integrate the working class within capitalism.[i] These mystifications have two key claims:

  • That the ALP and elections can address the major sources of misery for the majority of people
  • That the causes of our misery are from errors or problems that can be solved within the boundaries of the capitalist mode of production.

Rather than being swept up in the appearance of some kind of radicalism or broadly pro-worker rhetoric it is necessary to be razor-sharp and expose all that is wrong with the approach of the ALP. As Humphrey McQueen has written the ALP is ‘fog-bound within capitalism’ (1977, 345). The point of critiquing the ideas of the ALP is not to change their minds but rather to help dispel the fog of illusions that threaten to cloud ours.

Continue reading “Anti-Shorten: The ALP is still selling bullshit”

On the Plebiscite: Beyond Defeatism, Moralism and the Politics of Scarcity

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Photo: Curve Mag

Australia recently joined the international push to remove discrimination of same-sex relationships in its marriage law. A 13-year campaign for marriage equality culminated in the current Coalition government (an alliance between The Nationals, a right-wing conservative agricultural/regional party, and the neoliberal Liberal Party) backing a voluntary, non-binding postal plebiscite. Plebiscites are used to gauge public opinion on issues that do not affect the constitution. To a frustrated population, this looked like a stalling tactic to halt momentum in the campaign, driven by the conservatives in government. Less confidently identified, was that the plebiscite emerged from a destabilising and ongoing tension within the Liberal Party’s ranks, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘moderates’ desperate for a win to sure up his unstable leadership.

The opposition Australian Labor Party (ALP), a traditional social democratic party with a decades-long embrace of economic rationalism, focused on exposing the Coalition’s divisions, opposing the plebiscite from the outset as expensive and divisive. Unfortunately, this defensive position was largely adopted by the Yes campaign and as such, it failed to place any pressure on the ALP’s short-term opportunism. After a slow start out of the gates, the Yes campaign was successful with 7.8 million votes (61.6% of all responses) over the No’s 4.9 million (38.4%)— a result that reflected approximately the same support demonstrated in years of polling on the issue.

To build a strong and independent movement for political, economic and social change, progressives must become serious about organisational strategies and the outcomes reached of organising efforts. Australia’s marriage equality campaign is a good start as the first long-term campaign to break our people-moving malaise, reaching the national agenda. While we need to celebrate wins, in the spirit of owning our strategies we must recognise organisational efforts also fell short.

This piece considers what happened when Australia’s marriage equality campaign breached mainstream political debate and how it emerged out of the national plebiscite. It considers what the plebiscite revealed about the state of independent organisation and its ideas base in Australia. It considers (1) how an anti-plebiscite position was a compromised one, and reflected a lack of confidence in mobilising people, particularly youth who were transformed from protagonists to victims throughout the campaign; (2) the dominant role played by a politics of scarcity (i.e. in a time with finite resources, the plebiscite should be opposed because it is expensive); and (3) how the campaign sparked some positive developments in union organisation.

Continue reading “On the Plebiscite: Beyond Defeatism, Moralism and the Politics of Scarcity”

Living The Dream antipolitically

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In this episode of Living the Dream Jon (@jonpiccini) and Dave (@withsobersenses) talk with Tad Tietze (@Dr_Tad) about the idea of antipolitics he developed with Elizabeth Humphrys(@liz_beths). We talk about what politics is and how it relates to capitalism and the state. Tad argues that politics is increasingly detached from society and what this means and how communism as ‘the real movement’ can and should related to politics. Tad argues that this analysis has serious and devastating implications for what we call The Left and Activism. We debate if there is any role, before the emergence of social movements, for the agency of anticapitalists.

 

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Tad provided the following reading list

On anti-politics in general (with Liz Humphrys): https://left-flank.org/2013/10/31/anti-politics-elephant-room/

On anti-politics and neoliberalism (with Liz Humphrys): https://oxfordleftreview.com/olr-issue-14/tad-tietze-and-elizabeth-hymphreys-anti-politics-and-the-illusions-of-neoliberalism/

On Greece: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/08/syriza-referendum-podemos-austerity/

On Australia: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/09/labor-tony-abbott-rudd-gillard-shorten/

On Trump: https://left-flank.org/2016/01/25/the-trump-paradox-a-rough-guide-for-the-left/

On recuperating politics: https://left-flank.org/2017/02/03/why-better-politics-cant-make-anti-politics-go-away/

The Piping Shrike on Corbyn: http://www.pipingshrike.com/2017/06/the-confusions-of-anti-politics-uk-edition-an-update.html

 

We also mention a debate between Plan C and Angry Workers of the World over Directional Demands

Living The Dream in 2018

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Welcome to 2018! In this episode Jon (@JonPiccini) and Dave (@withsobersenses) look into the swirling mists of the crystal ball of class struggle and try to work out what’s going on in 2018 and what happened in 2017. It’s a wide ranging chat about race, class, Invasion Day, strikes that didn’t happen and plebiscites. Will the experiments in radical social democracy continue to gain traction? What’s #changetherules all about? What plans do thinkers for capital have if any at all? Is capital accumulation chugging along nicely or is a debt fuelled financial crisis about to explode? What about bananacoin? All this and more!

Stuff we talk about includes:

Novara Media – Faultlines: Liz Fekete on Racism, Europe and the New Right

Ben Pennings – Buying Time To Beat Adani

Tony Birch – On Sovereignty

Endnotes – The Holding Pattern

IMF – World Economic Outlook Update, January 2018

IMF – Credit Booms – Is China Different

Humphrey McQueen – 150 years young Marx’s Capital

Uluru Statement from the heart

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