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Feb 27, 2012

Where government's reign but don't govern - the demise of zombie politics.

The ensuing crisis will ensure ... a form of politics in which the government might reign but it no longer governs. For a new world we need a new politics. For bringing this to the attention of many we should be grateful to former PM Rudd.

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Image by Alex Johnson

This is a guest post by my legal, cycling and sea-kayaking mate Martin Hardie from the School of Law at Deakin University.

You can see more of his scratchings and thoughts at his New Pathways for Pro Cycling and his Auskadi sites.

The Demise Of Zombie Politics

A number of academic critics of the global neoliberal system have observed in recent times that in fact the neoliberal is a zombie system, and that in this respect we are governed by a model which embodies the dead walking. Similarly, the focus on the ‘personality’ clash within the Labor Party has starkly revealed the party itself as a zombie party.

In the end the crisis of the Labor Party is not a personality crisis but a crisis of relevance for the way politics is done by the major parties. In the case of Labor, no matter how many times Gillard repeats her mantras, such as the latest, Albanese inspired ‘Great Labor Values’, she will never be able to transform the party into a progressive force that it may once have been.

Doing the hard work on delivering neoliberal reforms or coded dog whistling to the more racist elements of the country do not reflect progressive values, whether ‘Great Labor Values’ or not.

The Malaysia Solution and her inaugural ‘Australia is a sanctuary’ for ‘hard working families’ speech has set the tone of her reign.

Whatever the individual faults of former Prime Minister Rudd may be, they are overshadowed by the collective faults of the Labor Party and its continued masquerade as having any relevance as a progressive force in Australian politics. They are overshadowed by the irrelevance of Canberra, its politicians and media to real politics.

It may be true that the party rooms elect the leaders of the respective ‘political’ parties (‘political’ because really they are no more than managerial elites).  But no matter how many times Crean lectures us on the reality of the system he will never convince people on the street that the Labor Party is doing a good job. Whether they are or not is irrelevant.

Crean, Gillard and others seem to believe that if they continue to appeal to our rational side and understand that they really do have our best interests at heart we will all come to our senses and see their particular light on the hummock.

Their particular appeals to the reality of the political process are smothered with the rhetoric of democratic centralism and of being good neoliberal managers. But what they seem incapable of understanding is that the rest of world is no longer the same as the small one which they inhabit. In the world of the global society of the spectacle what passes for politics is exactly celebrity Big Brother. In this world it is events that shape the future and not the rolling out of good policy.

Like it or not this is the world we live in.

The appeal of former Prime Minister Rudd may simply be that it consists in the fact that he seems to speak directly to people, that he seems to want to engage them in the process of governance. His appeal may quite simply consist in the fact that he seems to have not been beholden to the elites of the Labor Party and the bureaucracy. Some people seem to actually like the fact that he kept bureaucrats waiting for three hours, that he behaves badly, that he is an ideas man, that he speaks to the people and not the centralism of the Labor caucus.

In the end former Prime Minister Rudd may not be the answer to a new progressive politics, but he may well still continue to serve as a catalyst that will more than likely see the continued transformation of the political system in Australia. In the face of a wave of new progressive democratic movements across the globe, such as the Occupy movements and Real Democracy Now in Spain what we will probably see is the demise of Labor as the pretender of progressive politics in Australia.

The next election could well see more informal voting, the election of more independents and more Greens along with an Abbot PM. The ensuing crisis will ensure the slow demise of democratic centralism of the collective party rooms as we continue to see people walk away from a form of politics in which the government might reign but it no longer governs.

For a new world we need a new politics.

For bringing this to the attention of many we should be grateful to former PM Rudd.

 Martin Hardie. School of Law, Deakin University.

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