The Half Worth Telling

By the 1840s, the United States had grown into both an empire and a world economic power- the second greatest industrial economy, in fact, in the world-all built on the back of cotton.

- Edward E Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (582)

In the present-day American self-image, slavery was one of those anachronisms inherited from the Old World, a backward evil that had to be excised, at great cost in lives, from a modernising, rapidly industrialising young democracy. Those living outside the slave states of the South were excused as Northern agrarians, merchants, or frontiersmen - men who made their living as free labour, and in doing so, the modern capitalist market-state. It is a complex though largely noble tale of the United States' difficult birth. Edward Baptist has reminded us of the half of the tale left untold - a half of the story that contains bitter truths about the origin of U.S. wealth, and with it, the American Dream.

Six Easy Pieces on Australian Politics from Malcolm Fraser

Last year I had the pleasure and the privilege to talk with former Prime Minster, Malcolm Fraser for a couple of hours thanks to taking a subject coordinated by former federal MP and Fraser's former chief of staff, Petro Georgio. Fraser severed as the Member for Wannon for 28 years and was prime minister of Australia between 1975 and 1983. He sadly passed away earlier this year, and when discussing this day recently, my friend Tom urged me to publish my account of Fraser's views and experience so others could, perhaps, benefit in some small way from the wisdom he imparted. How he has seen parliamentary and prime ministerial power and behaviour shifting in the decades since he left parliament in 1983 may be of interest to some. What follows is from my notes (cleaned up and systematised with the occasional flourish), and while some of this might seem fairly obvious, the degraded state of contemporary Australian politics attests to the fact that such fundamentals are no longer being adhered to.

The Left Politics of Jews

Left-wing activists hold placards and flags as they protest against the "Jewish state" bill near the Prime Minister residence in Jerusalem on November 29, 2014. Some of the placards call Benjamin Netanyahu a racist, and assert that he seeks democracy for Jews only. (Photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A Review of Philip Mendes (2014), Jews and the Left. The Rise and Fall of a Political Alliance. Houndmills, England, Palgrave Macmillan, $134.95.

Associate Professor Philip Mendes is Director of the Social Inclusion and Social Policy Research Unit in the Department of Social Work at Melbourne's Monash University. He is well known and widely published as an author of several books on the politics of Jews, which include New Left, the Jews and the Vietnam War (1993), as well as joint editor, with Geoffrey Brahm Levey, of the book Jews and Australian Politics (2004). This book is probably intended as the writer's magnum opus, an elaborate treatment of Jewish politics on a world scale from the immediate post-revolutionary France to the present. The book refers to Left/Jewish involvement in 37 individual countries, including Australia, plus a small treatment of Asia, including individual Jews supporting Mao in China and the brief rule of David Marshall as the first Chief Minister of Singapore.

Whatever Happened to Henry George?

I very recently finished a pretty darned good book, Henry George's Progress and Poverty from 1879. In it, he asks some serious questions of the class of scholars then known as "political economists," specifically why more people starve where civilization is most developed, and not less.

This association of poverty with progress is the great enigma of our times. It is the central fact from which spring industrial, social, and political difficulties that perplex the world, and with which statesmanship and philanthropy and education grapple in vain. . . . So long as all the increased wealth which modern progress brings goes to build up great fortunes, to increase luxury and make sharper the contrast between the House of Have and the House of Want, progress is not real and cannot be permanent. The reaction must come. The tower leans from its foundations, and every new story but hastens the final catastrophe. To educate men who must be condemned to poverty, is but to make them restive; to base on a state of most glaring social inequality political institutions under which men are theoretically equal, is to stand a pyramid on its apex.

(Henry George, Progress and Poverty, 1879, Book I, Chapter I, Paragraph 5.)

The Transformer: Sabotage for Peace

Peace Cover
A former student of mine works as a janitor. After graduating from college he worked as a market researcher and an advertising salesperson, but both jobs soured him on the corporate world. He hated being a junior suit, and the thought of becoming a senior suit was even worse.

He finds being a janitor a much better job. He's left alone, it's low pressure, and what he does improves the world rather than worsens it. The pay's lousy but that's standard these days. He loves music, so he loads up his MP3 and grooves to the sounds. Although the work is routine, it's brightened by occasional bits of human interest: used condoms in executive wastebaskets, marijuana butts in the emergency stairwell, a twenty-dollar bill under a desk. His shift is from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m., and afterwards he hits the late-night clubs, where he can enjoy the scene with the advantage of being sober. He works for a janitorial service company, and one of their clients is a defense contractor -- not secret weapons, just ordinary supplies.

Nations, Self-Determination, and The Future Political Landscape

Separatism in 2014

There were five major attempts at national self-determination that caught the attention of the world last year. The first, most well recognised in the Anglophone world, was the Scottish independence referendum. The second, more well known among the continental Europeans, was the Catalan Self-Determination Referendum. The third, as an long on-going concern, was an attempt by Palestine to have the UN Security Council resolve to end the occupation of the West Bank by 2017 and establish Palestine as a state. The fourth is the pro-Russian secessionist groups in eastern and southern Ukriane, already subject to it's own review on this site. The fifth, perhaps more commonly overlooked of because the process of it's establishment, is the Syrian Kurdistan.

The Power and the Passion : The Whitlam Government in Retrospective

WhitlamWith his passing on 21st of October, 2014 and the memorial service on November 21, the story of Gough Whitlam's Labor government of 1972-75 has once again been brought into the public eye, not the least from Noel Pearson's eulogy speech. After 23 years of conservative rule, Whitlam and the Labor Party achieved power in late 1972 and then engaged in a modern reform program, and following Whitlam's broadening (some would sake 'breaking') the ALP from a union-based working-class party to participation from the rank-and-file membership and appeal the new suburban middle-classes.

Labor-Green Alliance and the Victorian State Election

The worst result could happen; Napthine re-elected. Grazing in alpine parks. Renewable energies and wind farms closed down. Ambulance drivers receiving the lowest pay in Australia. More manufacturing centres closed, thousands more unemployed. East-West link installed, and contracts held in secrecy in perpetuity. The righ to be referred to a doctor who will perform necessary reproductive procedures is removed. Compulsory religious instruction, but not by teachers and not as part of the curriculum.

Worse still, it happens as Labor and the Greens go to loggerheads in inner-city seats. Religious organisation retain the "right" to discriminate in public employment. This is a fundamental issue of resource allocation that all members of Labor and the Greens must be completely cognisant of; when Labor and the Greens compete, regardless of which of the two is victorious, it is actually the Tories who win.

The possibility of a Napthine-led victory on November 29 is a lot more real than most people realise. The opinion polls may point to a victory to the Labor Party under Daniel Andrews; Newspoll had Labor leading 55-45% on TPP in its August 2014 poll. But a revision of how the Labor Party was faring in the opinions polls in August 2010 is also necessary; Labor leading then 55-45% [1] too. Over the course of the campaign there will be an expected narrowing of the polls, and the LNP will continue its misuse of the public advertising to promote its promises as planned future activities of the government. Do not be surprised if, on November 30, Victorians wake up to the headache of another four years of Tory rule.

Peace with Justice in Israel and Palestine

Presentation to the Isocracy Network Annual General Meeting, 13 August 2014

The subject of this forum is peace with justice in Israel and Palestine. It's a subject over which many people who understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict far better than myself have written a great deal.

I'm not even going to try to come up with my own plan to come up with a prediction or a plan of how to achieve peace and justice in Palestine because I do not consider myself qualified to do so. What I intend to do this evening is outline what I see as the main obstacles to peace with justice.

Democracy As The Rule of All

Indstrial Democracy IWW graphic
This keeps coming up. So a quick word about democracy.

"Democracy" does not mean elections. It does not mean "two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner" or Warren Ellis' funny, unforgettable vulgar equivalent. It does not mean the tyranny of the majority.

The word "democracy" comes from the ancient Greek δῆμος κράτος — dêmos kratos — literally "people power". It means not monarchy with a king who is in charge because he owns the place. Not aristocracy with a special leader-class of people who are born to it. Not theocracy by priests who derive their power from the favor of the gods. Not any special governing class, but rather a government reflecting all of the people.

Democracy means that government derives its legitimacy from the people it governs, has no separation from that populace, and acts in their service: Lincoln's "of the people, by the people, for the people".


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