Saturday, September 23, 2006


Yesterday the left indulged one of it's most cherished and useless rituals: the rally and march. The subject is the war on terror, war in Iraq, anti-terrorism legislation and the plight of "Jihad Jack" Thomas the Australian muslim who was prosecuted under said legislation and locked up for a good long while. According to Jack and his advocates it was a wrong place, wrong time scenario. He was in Afghanistan on September 11, 2001. I don't know what Jack Thomas is into. He might be the nicest guy in the world, hell bent on blowing up the building I'm writing in or both! For all I know in these bullshit for news days he doesn't exist. But that's another story. What's really up my nose this afternoon is how the left insists on outmoded and predictable tactics to "take a stand" accomplishing absolutely nothing.

It was a small crowd with enourmous flags. Amplified catalogues of injustice echoed off disinterested buildings; the left are addicted to loudspeakers. Within seconds the area was covered in Socialist Alliance posters - what would they do without photcopiers? . For such an innocuous event the police presence was substantial: six mounted cops, two paddy wagons and a bicycle squad. They almost outnumbered the crowd. Still I never saw a truncheon or a gun so it's still democracy. I wondered if the cops came in with gas and truncheons swinging; how many of these people would've turned up?

Then the inevitable march to somewhere. The megaphone'd ringleader geared up the crowd with the usual cliches: the people united we'll never be defeated; and that old classic: one two three four we don't want no [insert appropriate adjective here] war. An hour or two of speeches and slogans outside some hapless building then to the pub to do the People's Front of Judea routine.

Surely there's something better.

At university I was involved in the 'campaign' against the reintroduction of tertiary fees. A meeting planning the usual protest-rally-march scenario with the usual list of factional egos giving the usual boring speeches. A few of us suggested that something else might be more effective. Most students had conflicting schedules and little time. A paltry rally would make the government's case for them. And listening to speeches and shouting slogans is not most people's idea of fun.

The point was to get on TV; create a media event. We suggested traffic disrupting street theatre to make a deft humourous point re. fees. Instead of the stereotypical screaming horde, there'd be a succinct, well-crafted statement put across as a joke. A joke makes a political point more effectively than a slogan. The viewers would be more likely to understand our case and more receptive to it. Traffic would be disrupted intentionally, yes. To get on the tube you need drama. But it would be less disrupting than a march. And there would be fewer arrests. It was blown down without consideration. Many of the organisers were the aforementioned factional egos and loathe to miss out on their pathetic fifteen minutes of 'fame'. And the suggestion required lateral thinking to understand and boldness to attempt. There was very little of either in the room.

The whole student 'movement' re. opposition to the reintroduction of fees was a farce. Many of the 'movement's' leaders were in the ALP and didn't want to rock their future careers by sabotaging government policy. They in fact supported the policy but refused to say so openly. Other parts of the leadership (myself included) were more interested in romantic leftist posturing than in dull political nitty-gritty. But it was the complete absence of any will to win that really made it a non-starter. The ingrained, unspoken conviction that we would not and could not prevail.

Of course others thought that we would win simply by simply turning up and starting a riot. We just needed, citing Hunter S. Thompson, more of the speed that fuelled the sixties. Relying on some organic mass-movement pulsation to effect meaningful change is like relying on the Sunday horoscope to plot a course to Mars. It's sloppy, wishful thinking and it won't work.

Sloppy thinking is also one of the left's cherished rituals. Consider the phrase: anti-globalisation movement. This commonly refers to a disparate set of groups and individuals who organise protests outside various economic/trade conferences. They think that globalisation and multi-national corporations are a modern evil and they fly all over the world and use the internet to say so.


Granted the portrayal of the anti-globalistaion movement's activities is a mainstream media caricature but I've yet to see a more sophisticated self-portrayal by the 'movement'. They can't even create a more accurate collective noun for themselves. Even its more articulate advocates like Naomi Klein fail to provide constructive alternatives. No Logo is a well written, relevant description of global capitalism. Linking the logotypes of contemporary textiles back through the corporate matrix to virtually enslaved factory workers is a good start; demonstrating things are fucked up. But so what? The feel-good ideas of Ms. Klein and the rest of the left re. the way the world should work are great as long as they don't have to be tested in the real world. Progressive writers are abundant. What's really needed are progressive industrialists.

The Brazilian firm SEMCO: is a functioning industrial democracy. The normal management heirarchy has been replaced by a decentralised structure underwritten by profit-sharing, universal accountability and open finances. No matter what job you have at SEMCO you're entitled to know the finances of the company and trained to understand them if you can't. The process is open and free. Marks of privilege and status are banned. No plush chairs or big offices. The CEO does his own photocopying. The result is a firm that has persisted and grown through highly volatile times with little bloodshed. It works because it's better. And it's not just easier on the factory floor but on executives as well.

The life of modern corporate executives although rich in privilege, status and power is stressful and tends to exclude other aspects of life. Much of the energy expended by those at the 'top' goes toward keeping their subordinates in line. Monitoring their work, auditing their time, kicking their butts etc. If you remove status privileges and link the prosperity of the company directly to the prosperity of every employee you remove the labour-management conflict saving a massive amount of energy. Energy that can be spent making the enterprise more competitive.

Semlar didn't intend to make SEMCO a democracy when he inherited the business. He simply wanted to modernise it. The resulting stress made him think he had cancer. He began to delegate the burden and ended up creating a democratic company. By the time he finished he was able to take two months off each year.

But Semlar is not fashionable among the activist set. At a party I got into a pointless argument with a member of one of the fringe left groups. I forget which. It had to do with 'revolution'. The dolt naturally thought 'revolution' was the next step up from the rally-protest-riot. So many people get on to the streets that parliament, the army, the banks and the cops crumble to dust and divine light breaks through the clouds announcing the dawn of Utopia.

I tried to explain to him that this is not what Marx meant by revolution. Strangely the fellow, a self-proclaimed marxist, hadn't read a word. Don't blame him it's dull. But Marx meant a shift from one economic model to another i.e. from a feudal-agricultural economy to a capitalist-industrial one. Each shift is an improvement. And in fact according to the mature Marx, this kind of shift is the only one that matters. Political activity is sort of a skin on the top of the economic soup. Marches, rallies and riots are part of the system not a force for changing it.

I tried to explain SEMCO as a functional form of 'socialism': economic democracy. He wasn't interested. No reason. He simply refused to believe that a private enterprise could be a catylyst for social progress. Like Ned Flander's TV set; most of his channels were blocked. At the end he just looked at me (with pity!) and said: all you've got are ideas, I've got an ideology.


Anonymous said...

The left is not useless. At we're doing something unlike you you revisionist backsliding slime.

How else are we supposed to create awareness of the massive injustices in this world? What would you have us do leave to a fucking Brazillian capitalist.

Sarah Pell said...

You say the left are useless but you are obviously left wing, student politics and all that shit. You're also a fucking traitor. Jack Thomas might be a nice guy and want to blow up your building?? What kind of sick fuck are you?

I hope Jihad Jack does blow up your building.

Andrew said...

Sarah Pell

You're onbiously a hateful Nazi.

Sarah Pell said...


Learn to spell hippie. Or maybe you still need to learn how to take a bath. Smelly fuck.

Anonymous said...

I hope that you have comment notification Adrian :o)
As you said at Troll-boys blog I'm a conservative type of guy and that has come about to a large degree because of experiences similar to the ones you discuss in this post. And it is stuff like this (and the post I plugged at my blog) that makes me thing that your blog is a cut above the usual leftist rantorama's. I may be conservative, I maybe ruthless when personally attacked but I can recognize thoughtful writing when I see it and I am more than happy to give its author due credit no matter what side of the political spectrum they call home.