Bob Brown’s speech at the National Press Club caught my attention the other day, all that talk about where the dollars go and how they start out Australian dollars but end up going offshore. For what it is worth, I think it’s transparently clear that some form of national dividend from the exploitation of national resources is a proper and sensible policy development: the funds that the state requires have to be sourced somewhere and if not the corporate sector then it will have to come from the citizenry. No prizes for guessing my preference.
But all that nationalist piffle about all the Aussie (oi! oi! oi!) dollars going into the coffers of multinational corporations is really, really old hat. It’s a conversation that really came to an end with the deregulation of the financial sector and the decline of manufacturing protections, very Hawke-Keating era economics. As such it sounded very like a very dry and antiquated bit of policy development, as if Bob Brown was wearing Bob Hawke’s America’s Cup jacket.
By means of this retro-economic nostalgia I was reminded of Slavoj Zizek’s eight options for the left (that’s the radical left, not the electoral, laborish, left). These are, roughly:
- Accept the state of things and fight hegemony within the boundaries of that hegemony;
- Accept the state of things but fight from the gaps and forgotten spaces of hegemony;
- Accept the state of things and wait for capitalism to hit the wall and everything to fall over;
- Accept the state of things and the futility of struggle but keep on white-anting the system;
- Ignore the state of things and figure that we’re missing the point and follow some other road that might lead to salvation;
- Refuse to accept the state of things and maintain the struggle on ground of our choosing, everyday life etc.
- Refuse to accept the state of things and maintain the struggle in the language of resistance;
- Refuse to accept the state of things and work toward a determinate negation of capitalism, merging the oppositionality.
The Greens, from my anarcho-apathetic position never seem to quite know which of these they are pursuing. Sometimes I think Bob Brown is a genius and he might just pull of a determinate negation of all the Labor-Liberal politics that we endure. Sometimes I think they are small and petty, endlessly white anting those very politics. Sometimes I feel a good deal of solidarity with the Greens and stand shoulder to shoulder with them in resisting all the awfulness that abounds. And sometimes I think they are choosing good ground on which to fight, the future, and the ordinary everydayness of that future.
These are all good choices, pretty much. I’d prefer it if they stuck to one and saw it through but politics and political parties aren’t like that, they’re functions of people and therefore much less consistent. But the eighties era nationalist and protectionist waffle reeks of Zizek’s first option: staying cleanly within the bounds of the conversation, of discursive power.
The Greens great value is that they don’t have to; they are out there (but not way out there) and have no need to find the third way. They can choose to fight on good ground, on ground that matters and ground that is left unoccupied by both Labor and Liberal.
Worrying about the Foreign Investment Review Board is conceding the battle. Worrying about who owns what and where the money goes? Shit, that sounds like a dream of civilising global capital.
That is not a green dream.