He’s an octogenarian, occasionally quite unwell ... but absolutely indefatigable. Max Bound is a legend. A regular contributor to TT, he’s just published Greed or Survival ... his cry from the heart of immense experience for a fairer society. Pete Hay launched Greed or Survival on April 12 (5.30 pm) at The Hobart Bookshop. This is an extract.
In Lieu of a Conclusion
Our planet is on the brink of possibly becoming, over a period of decades, even perhaps just years, an increasingly less pleasant place for humans. And it is clearly human activities and current economic and social policies and approaches that are causing this great tragedy. The big question is what are the main characteristics of the sort of society that can give us ecological sustainability plus a world in which there is social harmony and equal opportunity for all and in which peace and cooperation are paramount issues?
A society that is built on an economic foundation that requires growth and the destruction of our planet’s natural resources clearly fails the ecological test. When a society has a central focus on short term profit and capital accumulation by a small minority of the population hope of equity and equal opportunity for all is obliterated. And when a society is built on an economy that relies on production for war as part of the consumerism necessary to its economic function the peace and universal cooperation desired by the overwhelming majority of mentally balanced people become continually thwarted hopes.
Place is an underrated issue. Such important matters to human existence and happiness as places to live in and relate to are given little consideration in the current wanton destruction of natural and previously built spaces executed in the name of ‘progress’ and providing short term profits to developers and real estate dealers among others. The jobs that result are used to cover these real reasons for the activities of speculators in this aspect of human life.
In his 2002 book Main Currents in Western Environmental Thought Dr Peter Hay discusses these matters in detail:
…whilst I consider the contribution of phenomenologists of place to environmental thought to be immensely valuable, it is a pity that environmentalism has not, to date, seen fit to explore the relevance of Marxist explanations for the commodification of space, and thus the alienation and obliteration of place.(1)
Despite that Capitalism fails all of the above mentioned measures of what is required for a sustainable and equitable society there are very influential people with much money and political/cultural clout who in defending their own privileges argue that there is no alternative.
This writer’s whole adult life has been influenced by the analyses in which Marx so clearly proves the reality of the conclusions I suggest in paragraph two above. Consequently it is a matter of concern to me that the deeply faulted practices in the now defunct Soviet Union and today’s, so clearly on the capitalist road, China provide a form of support for the ‘there is no alternative’ theory.
Over the last forty and more years I have become increasingly conscious that the heart of the problem in the now defunct Soviet Union was the practice of copying capitalist, rather than socialist methods of organising production. True the pressure to build a modern industrial base in the Soviet Union in order to develop the capacity to defend its borders was real. The 17 armies of intervention organised by Winston Churchill in 1917 to the early 1920s first made this need clear. That a couple of decades later the Soviet Union had developed the capacity to enable the successes of the Soviet Red Army that in the same Winston Churchill’s words, “tore the guts out of Hitler’s War machine” are part of history.
Nonetheless as my quoting from the American Marxist Braverman in Chapter 1 above makes clear there was obsession with so called scientific methodologies developed by capitalism and failure to pursue the Marxist concept of ‘emancipation of working people’. “Soviet economists and social scientists insisted that job satisfaction studies are irrelevant.” and that “ … a growing body of Westernised sociological and management literature in the Soviet Union seeks to make explicit the debt of Soviet society to capitalist industrial practice.”(2)
That said, a legitimate question from potential critics of what I have written is, ‘If you are so convinced that Marx’s analyses are basically correct then why do you advocate as you do particularly in your Chapter 4 suggestions for immediate action policies developed by people like Galbraith and Coombs?’
The answer to that question goes back to the question of bottom up rather than top down approaches to implementing the radical shifts required. The main source of our current set of crises is that about one per cent of the population have un-warranted influence over what happens in the lives of the rest of us. We are not discussing some minor changes to our corrupt and crises ridden capitalist system. And the radical shifts required cannot happen overnight. We need to develop immediate steps to start the process of disempowering the greedy, corrupt, short sighted and highly dangerous to the human future corporation chiefs.
That means we need to unite a very wide section of society in a social political movement that more than equals the power of the greedy and corrupt few who currently wield political social and economic power. The military and social, cultural, political influence of the USA, in particular, is the fall back strength of the coercive power that hovers over us. This coercive power in turn rests largely on the mind control machine that prevents so many from recognising the potential that thinking people, united and active, can by their collective efforts and action effect real and radical change in the way our world, national and local systems function.
The false idea that free market capitalism is the only way to organise society has to be replaced with the understanding that cooperation and not resource destroying, blood and guts spilling competition is the way to a sustainable equitable and peaceful world. The task is immense; in recent decades society has been hijacked by greedy capitalists aided by corrupt politicians. Recovering and building on the democratic rights people movements have wrung from the powerful and greedy minority 0ver time now in control is a way to a better world.
Much of the mainstream environmental movement, despite useful if limited achievements, continues to fail to come to grips with the reality that it is the need of growth and resource destruction that drives capitalist society and, in consequence brings into question the future of our human species. The newly developing occupy movement stated reason for existence on the other hand directly confronts the currently most powerful expression of all that is wrong with capitalism namely the logical development of free market capitalism namely to monopoly and corporation control.
What then of the Trade Union movement? Sections of the union movement have in recent years been directed by union officials who accept and are in some cases quite comfortably, if unconventionally, close to corporation representatives. This is after all not exactly a previously unheard of role played by right wing union leaders. In Tasmania, at least, we have the spectacle of union leaders who claim to be part of the political left actually out doing their rightwing colleagues in representing the interests of the corporations on forestry in particular.
This was not the entire picture. In the 1980s an organisation, the Trade Union Community Research Centre (TUCRC), jointly founded by Dain Bolwell, then secretary of the union covering Commonwealth public servants, John Devereux, then secretary of the Electrical Trades Union and myself was the centre of Union discussion and action for sustainable forestry practices. This organisation, of which I was the Senior Research Officer and Coordinator, had the support of several of the left and centre unions. The influence we had enabled many interchanges with a variety of organisations and prominent people on several important issues. Forestry was one of the most important of these issues.
At that time we had, for example, the active support of a then supporter of sustainable forest practices the now rather differently orientated MHR and career politician Dick Adams. The union Adams then belonged to was one of the several whose officers and offices we had ready access to. On some occasions we were able to enlist the support on a particular issue of the leader of the State labor Party Neil Batt. And during the period that the late Ken Wriedt, a previous Labor leader in the Senate, was leader of the Tasmanian Labor opposition we had his support.
The Bob Hawke and Paul Keating led efforts to shift the Labor Party to becoming a party of business with openly good relations with Australia’s richest few had serious negative consequences throughout Australia.
One of many lessons nigh on 70 years of political social activity has taught me is that words without action often mean little. However, action without serious thought based on seriously researched evidence—spectacular it might sometimes appear—can be just as ineffective as thought without action.
What then of the potential forms of organisation of people movements for change? Despite the negative aspects of some union positions on some quite important matters I still believe, along with the late J.K Galbraith(3) that Trade Unions can be and in most respects are a necessary and important civilising force in society. Then there is the question of whether political parties a force for good or evil.
The latter question clearly depends on the purpose that drives the party concerned, how the party is organised, and its capacity to attract people. The top-down model followed by the major political parties is part of our current problems and it is a problem that the Green Party, in Tasmania at least, has yet to effectively resolve. It is one thing to have all manner of discussions about how a campaign is to be conducted and quite another to have openness in deciding what political positions are to be forwarded in the campaign concerned. Appearance that democracy is in practice by allowing discussion on minor matters and actual democratic practice in the major policy and practice of a political party can be two very different things. It is on this score that some people from very different backgrounds have left the Tasmanian Greens.
My personal view of as to whether there is room for a party to the left of the Greens is that at this point there is no realistic base for such a party. Where the Greens go in political policy and internal democracy terms in the relatively near future will affect my thinking on this aspect of political activity.
What then of Independents? Independents can be good people, political opportunists concerned only with their own career prospects, or somewhere in between. The electorate I live in is currently represented in the Federal Parliament by an Independent whom I voted for and support despite the vast gap between our personal backgrounds, and life experiences.
At a more general level it seems to me that in the immediate and medium term that there is room for Independents as part of a mix of parliamentary representatives. However, my main interest and concern is to make what contribution I can to a people movement that is about changing the social/cultural economic thinking and policy preference of enough people to enable a serious challenge to current orthodoxy and open the way to a more peaceful, equitable and genuinely participative democratic society.
My belief is that the parliamentary system is a step in the correct direction but that it needs to be made much more open and freed from the tight grip that money bags currently exercise over most parliamentary representatives. I am also firm in my belief that change can be driven from a people’s movement for openness in public affairs. Such a movement would aim to remove the control by mass media and other mind control mechanisms directed by a few intellectually limited and for the most part mean spirited, if wealthy and influential, people. An informed and participating public is the key to genuine, as distinct from pretend democracy.
An excerpt taken from Max Bound´s new book Greed or Survival? available at Fullers and Hobart Bookshop and probably other places too…
What others say about Max and his new book HERE:
(1) Hay, Peter, Main Currents in Western Environmental Thought (UNSW Press, 2002) p156
(2) (Braverman Harry, Labor and Monopoly Capital: The degradation of work in the Twentieth Century (Monthly Review Press, 1974) p15
(3) Galbraith, JK, The Good Society: The Human Agenda (Houghton Mifflin, 1996) p66
An excerpt taken from Max Bound´s new book Greed or Survival? available at Hobart and Fullers Bookshops and and other places too…