Thursday 30 November 2017

How Turnbull Proved Marx and Engels Right.

Malcolm Turnbull isn't a lucky man. In a country where banking scandals are commonplace (a list up to April 2016), the current Australian Prime Minister has witnessed a succession of high-profile banking scandals since he assumed office in 2015, including what is perhaps one of the most damaging in Australian history (last August):


From the start, Turnbull, whom former PM Kevin Rudd nicknamed (affectionately, I suppose) "the Member of Parliament for Goldman Sachs", has stubbornly resisted calls for a royal commission on banking, calls, incidentally, coming from the most varied sectors of the Australian community (even from quarters of the Coalition, believe it or not). One year and a half answering "no" to those calls.

And then, "Do-Nothing Malcolm", via federal Treasurer, got "his orders", to paraphrase David Llewellyn-Smith (I really love Llewellyn-Smith's expression: he ain't a commie, not even a lefty, but, boy, did he nail it). Turnbull's bosses delivered this letter, which has to be one of the most telling documents in the history of Australian capitalism.

What did the letter say? This is the short version: we changed our minds, so shut up and set the bloody enquiry. Of read it in its entirety.

Turnbull's evident unhappiness with the letter is understandable: times were already difficult for him and he didn't need another embarrassment. Why did Do-Nothing Malcolm's bosses throw him under the bus? To snatch the control over the scope and terms of reference of the enquiry, from the jaws of "Labor, some rebel Nationals MPs and the Greens". Or, in Turnbull's words: "This will not be an open-ended commission, it will not put capitalism on trial, as some people in the parliament prefer, and we'll give it a reporting date of 12 months".

I hate to play the killjoy (not really!), but until I see the results,  I'll remain skeptical.


Llewellyn-Smith: "What a disastrous look for Do-Nothing Malcolm". I think it's a little more than that, David.


"Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie was accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class. An oppressed class under the sway of the feudal nobility, it became an armed and self-governing association in the medieval commune; here independent urban republic (as in Italy and Germany), there taxable ‘third estate' of the monarchy (as in France); afterwards, in the period of manufacture proper, serving either the semi-feudal or the absolute monarchy as a counterpoise against the nobility, and, in fact, cornerstone of the great monarchies in general--the bourgeoisie has at last, since the establishment of modern industry and of the world market conquered for itself, in the modern representative state, exclusive political sway. The executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie." (1848)

That passage is 169 years old. I think it aged rather well, specially that last sentence. But that's me.

By contrast arrogant apologists for capitalism writing only a few years back seem hopelessly clueless, don't they?

(Can you hear that spectral, ghostly laughter? Me, I myself can almost hear it)


  1. Is there a general sentiment among Australians that capitalism should be put on trial?

    I thought the Greens etc. were status quo supporters.

    1. They, in general, are supporters of capitalism. The same holds true for Labor and the rebel Nationals. For that matter, the same holds true for David Llewellyn-Smith.

      None of them wants a royal commission on financial services to make a broad criticism of capitalism. What they want is (1) to cast doubt on Turnbull and his leadership (which Turnbull and his bosses already did very effectively by themselves), (2) maybe (maybe!) reign in the banks' behaviour.

      But an effective royal commission, with real teeth, could easily reveal too much rottenness even if that were not the aim of its promoters.

      His bosses and Turnbull know that.

      Think of it in terms of Llewellyn-Smith's comment: "What a disastrous look for Do-Nothing Malcolm".

      For him this is all about Do-Nothing Malcolm. The events could show him to be disastrously wrong -- from his own point of view -- about that.