Bandicoot has just read Canadian activist and writer Naomi Klein’s wise-after-the-event article in The Guardian* about how Donald Trump “stole” (Bandicoot’s word) the US Presidency from Hillary Clinton.
Klein begins her analysis: “They will blame … the FBI. They will blame voter suppression and racism. They will blame [Clinton Democrat rival Bernie Sanders] and misogyny. They will blame third parties and independent candidates. They will blame the corporate media for giving him the platform, social media for being a bullhorn, and Wikileaks for airing the laundry.”
But, Klein continues, “this leaves out the force most responsible for creating the nightmare in which we now find ourselves wide awake: neoliberalism. That worldview – fully embodied by Clinton and her machine – is no match for Trump-style extremism.”
“Extremism” is Klein’s word for the loud, rude, vain, rat-cunning businessman who lives by the code of neoliberalism. She is dead wrong in labelling him an extremist. He is a mainstream neoliberal.
And she is dead wrong in saying that this is “the nightmare in which we now find ourselves”.
We have been in this nightmare for more than a quarter of a century. Unknowingly? Hardly. Ignorantly, through passivity, certainly. As Adolf Hitler once remarked, “How fortunate for leaders that men do not think”. Or women, for that matter.
Australians are perhaps unaware – we still live in Lotus Land, lazily complaining that we are forced to vote – that neoliberalism is the long-established dominant politico-economic force directing our lives through ruthless amoral capitalists such as Trump, who has his peers in Australia. Remember Gina Rinehart, yearning for people to accept the African daily wage of $2?
It is the force that has given us tragic bushfires (corporate cost-cutting leading to inadequate poles and wires maintenance), the endless irritation of electricity blackouts (ditto), rocketing prices for various sold-off government services (medibank, electricity and gas among them), and, of course the unregulated and unpunished rapacity of banks and other monopolies that used to be restrained by a government-run competitor and strict government controls.
Australia’s mainstream political parties endorse such sell-offs. More, the current federal government provides incentives for states to sell their ports, their grids. The Nationals have their own variation of privatisation: their sturdy yeoman voters like to capitalise their gains and socialise their losses.
Neoliberalism is “a policy model of social studies and economics that transfers control of economic factors to the private sector from the public sector”, according to the Investopedia website.
The Free Dictionary defines is as “a modern politico-economic theory favouring free trade, privatisation, minimal government intervention in business, reduced public expenditure on social services, etc”.
It is, in short, the sale – by politicians who profess to love us dearly and strive to do their best for us – of assets that we own to their private sector associates. It is reverse socialism. In its most noxious form it encourages the privatisation of what used to be state responsibilities such as utilities, hospitals, schools, universities and roads. Nothing is sacred now, except private sector profit.
Former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher spelt it out in an interview published on 23 September 1987. Politicians here and elsewhere folded her words to their political bosoms with joyous whoops and acclamations.
“And, you know, there is no such thing as society,” Mrs Thatcher (in black) declared in Woman’s Own magazine. “There are individual men and women, and there are families.
“And no government can do anything except through people, and people must look to themselves first. It’s our duty to look after ourselves and then, also to look after our neighbour.”
Read the entire chilling interview at www.margaretthatcher.org/document/106689
She elaborated: “…[T]oo many children and people have been given to understand ‘I have a problem, it is the government’s job to cope with it!’ or ‘I have a problem, I will go and get a grant to cope with it!’ ‘I am homeless, the government must house me!’ and so they are casting their problems on society; and who is society? There is no such thing!
“All too often the ills of this country are passed off as those of society. Similarly, when action is required, society is called upon to act. But society as such does not exist except as a concept. Society is made up of people. It is people who have duties and beliefs and resolve.”
Tell that to those born with a disability, tell it to the mentally ill, the workplace injured, the redundant, the limbless military veterans, young couples needing IVF to start a family, the legions for whom cures and remedies are beyond individual financial resources. It is barely believable that a sentient, intelligent human being could be as callous as Baroness Thatcher.
Thus were Western politicians liberated from their responsibilities to their communities, having been given their epiphany by this appalling political philosophy.
A rabid convert was Jeff Kennett, who in the 1990s sold Victoria the neoliberal concept in two forms. First, he argued that local government units should be merged into more viable large units then their functions should be contracted out to private enterprise.
Second, he persuaded us that government utilities like gas, power and water should be split up for sell-off, to be more efficiently run by private enterprise. They were fattened up by increasing their standing charges, to render them more attractively profitable.
What mugs the electorate were, he must have thought, to swallow the contradictory “merge for efficiency” and “split up for efficiency” arguments. How shocked he was when the voters slung him out after a few years. (Above: Gina Rinehart … yearned for $2 a day workers.)
Well done, Jeff! Town clerks became CEOs on massive salaries – Bandicoot knows of one who is paid nearly $400,000 a year, about $7690 a week, compared with state premier Daniel Andrews’ annual $290,000. The CEO appears to have had a recent 50% pay rise – according to the Herald Sun in March this year he was then earning a paltry $325,000 or so.
And our utility monopolies are nearly all now owned overseas, with decisions on what we pay for power and so on made in Hong Kong, Paris, Singapore, New York, to where our payments flow.
Donald Trump, US president-in-waiting, has a long record of dudding workers, not paying tax, reneging on deals, going broke… He has been voted into office by desperate victims of neoliberalism, who will expect him to honour his promises, including restoring their dignity by creating jobs, expelling feared foreigners, “bombing the shit out of ISIS”, building his great wall of Mexico.
All pipe dreams, non-core promises. All snake oil, soothing verbal vapour from a loud, vulgar slick spiv who, in one sense, no one should take terribly seriously, but who in another way should be taken very seriously indeed. We must pray that Washington can tame him, keep his finger off the button.
The world was going to get a neoliberal whichever candidate won last Tuesday. Clinton would have been equally bad, if not worse. She is a neoconservative as well as a neoliberal, and a clapped-out, reckless, warmongering neocon at that. She is also an inveterate liar who as president could have – still could be – called to face the US courts.
Sorry, Hillary supporters, who were blinded by the vision of America’s first woman president and prepared to forgive her virtually everything. She is undeserving of the high honour of being the first female president, not a “first” along the lines of Afro-American Barack Obama, first black president. It will be better by far for a less blemished woman to break through that barrier.
At the end of her article, Klein takes us back to the fascist 1930s, predicting neo-fascist responses to the “rampant insecurity and inequality” that Trump played like a Stradivarius in his campaign.
“What we know from the 1930s is that what it takes to do battle with fascism is a real Left,” she writes, with accuracy but exceeding optimism in today’s world. “A good chunk of Trump’s support could be peeled away if there were a genuine redistributive agenda on the table. An agenda to take on the billionaire class with more than rhetoric, and use the money for a green new deal.”
That is an agenda for the US, not Australia. And it might occur, hopefully with minimal community upheaval. Socialist Sanders (right) had many supporters. Australian politics is the two Tweedles, Dum and Dee, Abbott (sic) and Shorten, with a buffoonish National Party opportunistically picking taxpayers’ pockets. Any significant political revival will take decades here, if it can occur at all. (Turnbull is a talented barrister in a new advocating role; Abbott is a politician.)
Bandicoot regrets that some might have read this far and decided never to visit him again. He does not, however, regret what he has written. It has all been written more eloquently and expertly elsewhere.
But he hopes one or two, especially among the young, might decide to shed their ennui, their apathy, their self-indulgent complacency, and challenge the neoliberal ascendancy with a bit of hard thinking and difficult action. It will be worthwhile.