The Guardian June 20, 2001


The NCC's "Call to Arms".
From "economic rationalism" to "economic nationalism":
the fascist agenda.

by Vera Butler

This is not just a slick headline, but an actual appeal by the National 
Civic Council President Peter Westmore against "economic rationalism", the 
"basically nationalistic Hanson phenomenon" and  yes  "the power of 
corporate capitalism". Imagine the left printing a pamphlet calling to 
arms? ASIO would get into action ASAP!

But the NCC is another matter. They are deemed trustworthy, and if they 
call to arms, it must be against those coms and socis.

A closer look at the "Manifesto for Australia", published by the NCC in 
January 2001, suggests that the successors of Bob Santamaria were so 
impressed by One Nation's electoral appeal that they decided it's time to 
jump on the bandwagon of "economic nationalism", its fascist undertones 
notwithstanding.

The NCC proposes no less than a new social contract, to oppose what they 
describe as unregulated and directionless capitalism and globalism  a 
system which "cannot guarantee as strong economic foundation for all 
families or create healthy thriving communities or ensure a stable 
democracy".

The idea is not exactly new, and on the face of it, few would disagree  
but the devil is in the detail, as the saying goes.

The fascist agenda

We learn that the NCC is not against capitalism as such. In fact, here is 
an attempt to revive the moribund system with missionary zeal.

The rhetoric is familiar from the years when the Democratic Labor Party  
the DLP  sided with the Menzies cabal and supported its military 
adventurism in Vietnam.

Like Italy's "Democracia Christiana", the DLP thrived on the disunity of 
the Left. In the end, however, the forces of the right have proved 
powerless to stop global capitalism from skidding into global crisis. To 
stave off systemic collapse, recourse is now taken to fascist methods of 
social control  the exploitation of fears, ethno-chauvinism and racism, 
and the promise of easy solutions.

"Economic nationalism" on the rise

One Nation has offered simple solutions to unemployment, debt, and 
bankruptcies: zero immigration  Australia for Australians  and 
protectionism, the old war cry dating back to pre-Federation days.

A confused and angry electorate feels that Pauline Hanson has the right 
ideas for the right time".

The electoral successes of One Nation have made the ideological right take 
notice of a nationalistic ground-swell. The aim is to deviate this force 
into channels controlled by the NCC and its taskmasters.

The "moral imperative"

The hidden agenda behind the "call to arms" is the assertion that "an 
economic system needs a value system to regulate it and guide it".

The question is:  whose values, whose guidance? According to the 
"Manifesto", the "philosophical" (read ideological) underpin of the 
proposed new economic system is Judeo-Christian values".

Capitalism and globalism are said to be "the product of the secular 
humanist philosophy of the 1960s and 1970s' cultural revolution"  a 
curious claim, which ignores some 200 years of colonial expansion and 
imperialist wars around the globe. More about this later.

"Democratic capitalism?"

The economic credo calls for "a return to a property-owning democracy", 
including family home, small business, and farm ownership.

Remember the slogan "small is beautiful"? It soon disappeared, once it 
became evident that under capitalism big fish eat the minnows. Think of the 
plight of the 20 subcontractors in Sydney, who are owed $500,000 by 
developer Thakral Holdings. What recourse do they have?

As CFMEU state secretary Andrew Ferguson said, "this downturn is not just 
about job losses for workers, it's about family-owned small businesses 
collapsing too!" ("The Australian", March 9, 2001).

Will government save small entrepreneurs from going bankrupt?

The "Manifesto" presents a wish-list for government subsidies to families, 
business, and farmers, but rejects "the welfare state", the backbone of 
civil society, presumably because of its socialist origins.

All this sounds somewhat like Mark Latham's Third Way platform about a 
"stakeholder welfare state", where first-time share buyers should receive a 
tax rebate  in other words, government subsidising the stock exchange. 
("Time", March 12, 2001).  The morale? At a time when share prices 
tumble, this could come in handy.

Defence

Then there is an appeal to patriotism. Patriotism is defined not only a 
defence against military aggression, but also against "rogue international 
financial markets".

One wonders how Westmore's patriots plan to go into action against fund 
managers a la Soros, or the whiz-kids of Wall Street  after all, 
boomerangs might backfire!

But, seriously:  the "Manifesto" pleads for a "substantial increase" in 
our defence force, but keeps mum about the costs in terms of taxpayers' 
monies.

A look at the Defence White Paper of December 6, 2000, shows that military 
expenditure is to rise by three per cent per annum in real terms (that 
is, not allowing for inflation or dollar depreciation) over the next ten 
years  a total of $23.5 billion.

Kevan Wolfe, editor-in-chief of the "Australia-Pacific Defence Reporter" 
(Dec/Jan 2001) states that there is going to be an immediate spending 
increase of $500 million in 2001-2002, and $1,000 million in 2003.

Was that the reason we had to have the GST? Will Australian consumers 
finance new equipment purchases "made in USA", to support our great and 
powerful ally's military-industrial complex?

The Three Musketeers running our ship of state  Howard, Costello and 
Downer  did not foresee that only three months later the economy would 
stumble into recession.

However, Peter Reith, the new Defence Minister is likely to get his 
promised defence dollars, regardless of costs to the community, and the NCC 
would be supportive. After all, we couldn't default on our alliance 
commitments, could we? Besides, things are hotting up in Asia, where there 
are still some nasty coms to combat...

Agriculture

The NCC styles itself as the voice of the "rural battler", by raising the 
subsidy stakes at taxpayers' expense. After all, it's here that One Nation 
draws much of its support.

Without any attempt at costing, the "Manifesto's" policy agenda for 
agriculture envisages a continuation of the decades-long subsidisation of 
the farming sector.

Government contributions to infrastructure, salinity control, irrigation, 
pest and disease control, research, marketing and promotion, are only some 
of the costs to taxpayers of our rural and pastoral industries, not to 
mention the plethora of tax concessions enjoyed by the farming community.

To top it all, the Manifesto advocates government support for farm incomes, 
and crop insurance schemes. In other words  security from the cradle to 
the grave!

Considering the well-nigh irreparable soil damage through irrigation in 
areas subject to salinity, and the continued destruction of the Murray-
Darling river system through irrigation and the effluents of fertilisers, 
it is unavoidable in the long run that agricultural and pastoral industries 
will have to be curtailed. However, forget the environment when it is a 
matter of buying votes!

Manufacturing

The sorely neglected manufacturing sector's contribution to GDP has fallen 
back drastically, from some 25 per cent 30 years ago, to 13.2 per cent for 
1997/98, or well below the OECD average of 19.3 per cent.

The decimation of our manufacturing potential has raised imports and 
perpetuates a chronic current deficit. Cleverly, the "Manifesto" doesn't 
tell us how to reverse this decline, other than calling for government to 
play a "significant role" in boosting domestic manufacturing.

Author Westmore seems to forget the "small government" mantra of economic 
rationalists  such as the notorious Professor Michael Porter (whom he 
quotes at length) who accused governments of "crowding out" private 
enterprise. One cannot have it both ways, Mr Westmore!

With a rapid increase in automation, and a corresponding growth in 
productive capacity, companies move off-shore in search of bigger markets. 
Capitalists will go where profits are highest. Should governments bribe 
them with ever-more concessions, to stay here?

In the mid-'70s the metal workers' union published a pamphlet Australia 
Uprooted, warning of impending mass unemployment should our 
manufacturing industries go under without tariff protection.

There was no echo from either the DLP or the NCC, one suspects for 
ideological reasons. In retrospect it seems worth while recalling the 
warning by Professor Ted Wheelright, back in the 1980s:

"If the deindustrialisation of Australia is allowed to proceed much 
further, the trade unions and the very basis of the labour movement itself 
could well be destroyed, sacrificed on the altar of international 
capitalism, as its high priests  the economists  chant their liturgies 
on "restructuring", "sound economic management", and "free trade." (Labour 
Essays 1980, G Evans & J Reeves Eds)

But today the NCC has a ready remedy for "rebuilding manufacturing". We 
ought to establish arms manufacturing industries, says the "Manifesto", to 
get a slice of the coveted arms bazaar, which will create jobs.

After all, Australia is the regional watchdog by Washington's grace, and 
our forces are responsible for the security and stability of East Timor, 
New Guinea, Solomons and Fiji, says the "Manifesto".

In the light of past experience one cannot avoid an uneasy feeling at such 
enthusiasm. Isn't fascism notorious for launching wars, when in economic 
crisis?

The failed crusade

The "Manifesto" takes up the cudgel against globalisation and "economic 
rationalism". They are not depicted as tools of boundless capitalist greed, 
but as the outcrop of something described as a "secular humanist agenda" 
which stands for "population control, homosexuality, radical feminism, 
abortion, secularism, liberalising drug laws, easy divorce etc".

It now becomes clearer against whom and what the "call to arms" is 
directed, and its reactionary interpretation of an evolutionary process of 
societal maturation. But then, ecclesiastic guardians of morality have, 
historically, sought to repress new ideas and reforms with fire and sword.

Nowadays the methods may have become more civilised, but the mission is the 
same.

The linkage of capitalism with the "moral imperative" does not only twist 
history, but is a particularly obnoxious piece of propaganda, because it 
misguides a trusting readership in search of answers to current problems.

The NCC's "Manifesto for Australia" tries to make people believe that 
capitalism would be OK, of only "Judeo-Christian values" were to rule the 
globe. One wonders why they have failed until now. Who would seriously 
believe that capitalism will voluntarily cede its positions of power?

In conclusion it is evident that the NCC has no solutions to economic 
downturn, because it is not about putting an end to capitalist 
exploitation. The "Manifesto" is another exercise in demagoguery, whose 
"call to arms" turns out to be no more than a cosmetic correction to hide 
the ravages of a decaying system.

Back to index page