Australia is currently in the midst of a non-binding postal survey on same-sex marriage and it seems likely that the ‘Yes’ vote will win by a massive majority. Yet the ‘Left’ and supporters of same-sex marriage seem miserable and downcast about this. In this episode Simon Copland (@SimonCopland) helps Jon (@jonpiccini) and Dave (@withsobersenses) make sense of it all. We talk about the role that homophobia and sexuality plays in capitalism, the histories of Queer struggles within neoliberalism, and how certain sections of the Yes campaign have internalised a pessimistic perspective about people and democracy. We finish on a high-note about what the expected resounding Yes vote will mean for Australian society and the possibility of further struggles. This episode starts with Dave mispronouncing Simon’s name.
Open letters are funny things. Who are they really addressed to? Do they solicit an answer and if so from whom? And if an answer was sent who would it be addressed to and would it arrive in time? An open letter to UQ Philosophy by Taylor Redwood compels serious engagement. For the most part the open letter is both a stinging critique of the contemporary university and of the functional cynicism of the contemporary student. Now this is reason enough to be read but it doesn’t really necessitate a response. But the open letter is more than this. It is the first statement that has emerged in the context of the current cycle of struggles in Brisbane that explicitly places the relationship between theory and action on the table. And for this reason, it is worth noting and taking seriously. This open letter is much like Machiavelli’s cannon – it ‘marches in the opposite direction to that in which it fires’ (Althusser 2000, 5). Whilst the open letter is aimed at the UQ Philosophy Department it really is a line of flight away from the university proper into a new intellectual and theoretical space.
In this episode of Living the Dream Jon (@JonPiccini) and Dave (@withsobersenses) talk with all-round good egg Troy Henderson (@TroyCHenderson) about the idea of a Universal Basic Income. Troy provides us with an intellectual history and we discuss if it is a techbro attempt to sure up capitalism, a radical social democratic attempt to fix capitalism or if it contains radical elements that point in an anti-capitalist direction? We also talk about why a Jobs Guarantee is horrid and shit.
Everyone is very excited about Jeremy Corbyn losing the election (except perhaps Van Badham). Since it was expected by the great and good that he would be crushed by the Tories the momentum of the campaign and the impressive increase in Labour’s vote share and seats won have thrown more disorder into a world political situation already rich with it. Like many I have been enjoying the schadenfreude of it all as all the morons who would pretend to rule us are shown to be the morons they are.
But more than this there is a real excitement about the result. I saw on Facebook that Craig posted a particularly apt quote from the end Mark Fisher’s Capitalist Realism:
The very oppressive pervasiveness of capitalist realism means that even glimmers of alternative political and economic possibilities can have a disproportionately great effect. The tiniest event can tear a hole in the grey curtain of reaction which has marked the horizons of possibility under capitalist realism. From a situation in which nothing can happen, suddenly anything is possible again. (Fisher 2009, 80-81)
Not losing as badly as we were told Labour would lose seems almost like a victory. Certainly, it has thrown the May government into crisis. When you have been down this long…
But what does it all mean? I’ve got no special insight into Corbyn or his campaign. Rather I want to take the opportunity to place in one spot my thoughts on the febrile debate that is going on amongst friends and comrades in Australia: does Corybn’s ‘success’ mean that a similar electoral strategy based around a revived social democratic program is a promising path for anticapitalists? I want to respond in a way to that doesn’t see us all collapsing into either some opportunistic and doomed electoral project nor some ‘sub-Debordian’ (to quote James Butler) rigid denunciation that forecloses the possibility of something novel happening. This has been promoted by a number of discussions with comrades such as with Karen (who is in Socialist Alliance) and with Tadeusz Tietze (whose work on anti-politics with Liz Humphrys(2013, 2015) has been influential on me). (Note: I do not engage with their arguments directly nor obliquely here and what I have written should not be seen as a specific critique of their positions – it is a clarification of my own thinking). I also want to take account of how developments in Brisbane have shifted my view.
In this episode of Living the Dream Jon (@JonPiccini) and Dave (@withsobersenses) are joined by Liz Humphrys (@liz_beths) who torpedos the hagiography of the ALP Hawke-Keating government. Whilst the talking heads of the ALP like Van Badham and Wayne Swan argue over if the Hawke-Keating government was mainly excellent with a few flaws or really excellent with none, Liz’s ground breaking work on the Accord shows how the latter was the central plank of the implementation of neo-liberalism in Australia and the method of delivering an epoch defining defeat to the working class and the decomposition of our power. Not one for pointless pessimism Liz also gives us some key insights from this history that can help us recompose a viable anticapitalist project today.
In this episode of Living the Dream Dave (@withsobersenses) chats with Godfrey Moase (@gemoase) the General Branch Assistant Secretary of the National Union of Workers. Godfrey had a number of criticisms of our last show . We talk about these and Godfrey also addresses the broader strategic and tactical possibilities for anticapitalist struggle and how they relate to trade unions.
Anni and I were walking down Albert St after having lunch and talking shit and we ran straight into a foyer occupation by the Maritime Union of Australia. There were about 50 members there, and some others from the CFMEU and the ASU – I don’t know if the latter were officials or not but the bulk of the MUA were members. The occupation was a protest against Rio Tinto (whose office is in the building) crewing ships in Australian waters with non-Australian crews paid with lower wages than they would have to pay locals.[i] As we got there the cops were assembling and were threatening to arrest people if they didn’t leave. The threat was that they would be locked in, arrested and charged with trespass. The crowd were standing tall and answering back to the cops – who were obviously flustered and made a few not so vailed threats ( ‘you will be arrested and I hope we can keep it all non-violent’.)