Why are tradespeople (relatively) left-wing?

In the outpouring of commentary about the NSW election the old stereotype of conservative tradesman reappeared. I looked at the 2010 Australian Election Survey. Unfortunately it asked few questions with a direct relevance to class politics. Past scholarship did address this question Class Analysis and Contemporary Australia sought to test Marxist and Weberian models of class.  But one question that does touch on this (and which is relevant to the suggestion that self-employed workers have repudiated trade unionism) is that of whether trade unions have too much power. Continue reading

Further NSW thoughts

In the end the NSW election went as the polls predicted. Any very large swing tends to be somewhat irregular perhaps because traditional patterns of voting are disrupted. Labor sympathisers made much of the Greens disappointing performance. There would have been a time when for a political force to the left of the ALP to poll over 10% of the vote in election after election would have been considered remarkable but expectations have raised and the press gallery is unsympathetic to the Greens. The Greens might however ask whether they contribute to this hostility struck by Latima Bourke’s comment that the federal Greens don’t brief reporters after party meetings. As one Green supporter has noted Greens are stuck in a frustrating political limbo where they come close but never close enough. However a party can survive despite failing to win lower house seats, the DLP’s vote held in the Senate right to its final collapse and its final demise was due to its voters shifting towards the Coalition but Labor has little to offer Green voters. The rise of the Greens has long term significance for the ALP because it reduces the talent pool for potential Labor MPs. Across much of the north shore of Sydney Labor is the third party it may be Liberal heartland but many Labor politicians have been recruited from this milieu. Continue reading

Julia Gillard and the 1960s

Julia Gillard’s recent declarations of cultural conservatism are curious and hardly worth taking seriously, apparently gay marriage is an enemy of ‘thrift’. It is part of a pattern of some on the centre-left imagining a mythic socially conservative past for the left before the 1960s appeared. It is quite fictitious if we consider the Curtin-Chifley governments in Australia and the American New Deal as highpoints of the old democratic left they were deeply influenced by cultural radicalism (I ow this insight to David Plotke’s comment on the New Deal). What was ‘culturally conservative’ for the New Deal and Curtin-Chifley was racism; the accommodation with Jim Crow and the defense of White Australia. Those who wax lyrical about cultural conservatism never want to bring this back. Continue reading

Christianity and politics

The role of Christianity in politics is debated. Max Weber offers guidance when he declares that:

the dominance of magic outside of the sphere in which Christianity has prevailed is one of the most serious obstructions to the rationalization of economic life…capitalism could not develop in an economic group…bound hand and foot by magical fetters…there has been but one means of breaking down the power of magic and establishing a rational conduct of life; this means is great rational prophecy. Continue reading

Libya, the Greens and the fate of Bela Kun

Green enthusiasm for cause of a no-fly zone over Libya attracts much angst is it inconsistent with their pacifist traditions? Perhaps we retread the steps of the 1930s. From the mid 1930s Communists under the banner of the Popular Front backed the cause of collective security against the fascist powers and shifted their position on support for the military budgets of the capitalist democracies. The leadership of the Greens revives this tradition. This shift however attracted substantial opposition on the left: Trotskyists and independent revolutionary socialists (such as sections of the British Independent Labour Party) opposed this new Communist position. Continue reading

Labor’s problem is not the Greens

With British Labour performing better than most would have expected this early into the term of the Conservative government partisans of Tony Blair’s legacy, excluded from the current leadership group, resemble voices in the wilderness calling Labour’s long-term prospects into question. Still some of their arguments have relevance for Australian Labor.  Continue reading

Class and region in the 2010 election

On one level the 2010 Australian election was a remarkable one. But on another level it was an election in which very little changed: the patterns of 2007 persisted with a regional overlay. In 2007 class alignments shifted as Labor won back the support of many working-class voters who had supported the Coalition in 2004 (as they had done in 1996). Continue reading

Geoffrey Blainey, immigration and conservatism then and now

Scott Morrison’s comments on Muslims recall the glory days of 1980s conservatism when many conservatives (and some nervous lefties) believed that they had found a xenophobic master key to public opinion. John Howard’s musing on ‘Asian’ immigration were the high or low point. Labor government and Bob Hawke in particular wrapped themselves in the banner of multiculturalism and now this seems to be repeating (maybe Labor did learn something from 2010 election in NSW after all). Morrison’s intervention also displays a potential flashpoint on the right between establishment conservatives and populists (think Sean Hannity v Glenn Beck), from the the view of the left they may both seem equally objectionable but there is an important difference, the former want conservative electoral victories the later wants more. In government John Howard could appeal to both but it is more difficult in opposition, if a proposal for a constitutional acknowledgment of the indigenous population wins the support of the Coalition leadership it is likely to be opposed by the populist right. Conservative intellectuals dreamed of Pauline Hanson and Sarah Palin but eventually found them to a political nightmare. Continue reading

Egyptian democracy and public opinion

Much commentary on Egypt unbelievably bad in its preoccupation with the alleged Islamic threat to democracy as an excuse for maintaining a dictatorship and offensive to those dying for freedom right now. No reference to any empirical research. Last year the Pew Research Center surveyed Muslim public opinion and found that 59% of Egyptian Muslims considered democracy preferable to any other form of government only 22% considered that in some circumstances a non-democratic government could be preferable. Support for democracy was lower than in most other Islamic countries. Still very clear that at free elections Egyptians will vote for democracy. A strong democracy has formed in Indonesia despite doubts about some Muslims. Continue reading