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Issue #1431      14 October 2009

Report on the Draft Political Resolution

The following is an abridged version of the report given by Bob Briton to the Congress moving adoption of the Political Resolution. The full text will be available on the CPA website.

International context

The first thing we had to consider is the overall context, the global backdrop to current developments. In our last Political Resolution we emphasised the trend away from a unipolar world – the break-up of the economic and military dominance of the US. We noted the coming together of economic and even military formations determined to steer a course independent of US imperialism.

This trend was correctly identified and we now recognise that the process has been consolidated and deepened. For example, Brazil, Russia, India and China are emerging as a mighty economic counterweight to the established global economic powers. Other developing countries are joining trade organisations to fend off attacks on their sovereignty and sustainability. The most notable of these is ALBA – the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America. Nine Latin American and Caribbean nations have now joined Cuba and Venezuela in the trade organisation based on principles of mutual benefit and solidarity.

These developments are not without their contradictions. There was considerable debate about the nature of the various groupings brought together outside US control. Russia and India are capitalist countries pursuing a neo-liberal domestic agenda and a foreign policy that does not always favour progressive forces. Can a grouping that includes these countries be considered to be playing a progressive role internationally?

Can their consolidation provide an opening for workers and other exploited people to further their aspirations? These aren’t simple questions but ultimately, objectively we concluded that yes, these developments are blows to the global plans of US imperialism. They will assist the millions of people being brought into struggle against neo-liberalism, capitalist globalisation and capitalism; people struggling for socialism.

Global economic crisis

The preparation of the Draft Political Resolution was a chance to clarify the questions surrounding the economic crisis and to emphasise that, while its onset at this time was triggered and accelerated by a crisis in the financial sector, its underlying causes are to be found in the class exploitative nature of capitalist society, the contradiction between the social nature of production and the private expropriation of the products; in the creation of surplus from the labour power of workers. It is another of the inevitable cyclical crises of overproduction that beset capitalism.

We have identified two approaches to the crisis – a destructive one and a constructive one. The destructive one is applied in such a way so as not to disrupt the neo-liberal economic agenda. That is the one being applied in Australia. Despite the rhetoric from leaders like Kevin Rudd and some overdue infrastructure spending, the underlying policies of privatisation, trade liberalisation and deregulation are still in place. The ideological challenge of neo-liberalism is still with us as well as the practical task of uniting more people in opposition to it. A constructive approach to the crisis would put people’s wellbeing and job security at its centre.

Climate change and the environment

The Draft Political Resolution strongly rejects the government’s proposed emissions trading scheme that subsidises the major polluters to continue their current practices. It is for this reason that we oppose the ETS and support other more targeted government regulation to curb emissions and boost alternative energy sources, reduce resource usage and re-employ workers currently involved in highly polluting industries. We paid particular attention to the question of protecting livelihoods for workers employed in industries that need to be reined in. We understand there will be an ongoing need for coal in industry but also that its use must be reduced significantly and quickly.

We recognise that only a thorough reorganisation of the global economy can have any chance of removing the climate threat. Measures are possible and necessary within the framework of capitalism but more than ever before humanity is faced with a clear alternative – a socialist future or no future.

Internationally the uranium industry is seeking to use concern over climate change to revitalise the nuclear power industry. Australian governments are falling into line by agreeing to grant more mining licences and massively expand uranium exports.

We do not accept that safe means of storage of nuclear waste have been devised and we remain concerned about the linkage between nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Uranium is a finite resource usually extracted from lands sacred to the original inhabitants of the country.

Foreign policy and the region

There is a longer than usual treatment in the Draft Political Resolution of Australia’s foreign policy and our role in the region. This is understandable given the further development of Australia’s role beyond that of a humble “deputy sheriff” in the Asia-Pacific. Australia had a major troop commitment in Iraq and has an expanding one in Afghanistan. We host US bases and joint military exercises with the US and its allies on our territory and the Rudd government is committed to a huge increase in military spending. The spending is directed to projects designed to enhance “interoperability” with US forces. We are taking up a more prominent role in the aggressive US objective of encircling China with hostile forces.

The Party needs to stress this anti-imperialist analysis within the peace movement and renew the call for an independent foreign policy.

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples

We faced a contradiction that while the Rudd government finally apologised on behalf of the Commonwealth for past outrages against the Aboriginal people including the Stolen Generations, the original inhabitants still suffer massive inequality, discrimination and dispossession.

The Howard government’s Northern Territory Intervention is still in place and its principles have now been expanded beyond the original remote communities that were targeted. Uranium and other mining are its main interest in the land now inhabited by Aboriginal communities. Deaths in custody still occur. We have witnessed the jailing of Lex Wotton from Palm Island and the excusing of those responsible for the death of Mulrunji Doomagee.

There is still no replacement for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission [ATSIC] as a national elected representative body for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The huge task facing their communities will require support from a powerful movement uniting them with the non-Aboriginal working class, the trade unions and the broader community.

Democratic rights

Australians have grown complacent about the erosion of their hard-won democratic rights. The “war on terror” has been used to convert ASIO into a fully-fledged secret police and rob people of basic rights such as the right to remain silent, the presumption of innocence, the right of an accused person and their legal representative to see the evidence being used against them, and so on.

Recently, the criminal activities of bikie gangs have been used by state governments to introduce anti-democratic legislation with potential to be used against political opposition. The Party has joined others in calling for the repeal of this body of repressive legislation and for the introduction of a bill or charter enshrining the basic rights of the Australian people. The resolution sets out what we believe to be the key demands for basic human rights.

Trade unions

There was agreement that the Rudd/Gillard Fair Work Act carries forward the bulk of the anti-union measures of its Howard era predecessor. And, of course, there was anger that the Australian Building and Construction Commission [ABCC] with its police state powers, is being preserved, albeit with a new name and within a new structure.

The Party welcomes the growth of an independent attitude towards the ALP in some sectors of the trade union movement. It criticises the tendency among some sectarians to label all trade union leaderships as “bureaucrats” and “careerists”.

The Draft Political Resolution contains a list of principles and demands that must be taken up by the trade union movement.

Health

The long process of privatisation of health has been pursued step by step with major tipping points like the introduction of the Private Health Insurance Rebate being achieved along the way. Medicare Select with its individual “health and hospital plans” is the next major step. We are confronted with the concept of “e-health” and a smart card containing not only medical information about the holder but also linked to tax and other government records on the individual. This is an ID card, an Australia Card by stealth.

Education

A similar process of privatisation by stealth is being carried out in the field of education. Public education has been starved of funds by state and federal governments – funds that have been diverted to private schools. The ultimate objective of the changes we have witnessed and warned about is privatisation through a “voucher” system in which parents are granted an amount to spend on their children’s education that they can take wherever they “choose” and pay a gap to the provider for the remainder of the fees. It would be the final blow to the concept of the provision of free, universal, secular education and usher in unprecedented inequality in education. TAFE and universities have been subjected to a similar process aimed at converting them into businesses in a marketplace for education and training to meet the needs of the bosses.

The Party

The Draft Political Resolution deals with questions facing our Party in more depth than usual. Throughout the Party including the CC there has been an awareness of a growing interest in Marxism in general and our Party in particular in the media and in the community. This would appear to have been sparked by the economic crisis and the glaring failures of capitalism. There is a mood for renewal, for greater discipline and professionalism in the Party.

The document re-emphasised the need to build branches in the workplace – a very difficult task in the current climate but one which must be put on a project basis. It also emphasises the need to plan Branch involvement in Party campaigns, to involve others in the community so that we can enhance our effectiveness.

Next articleDelegates Speak: workers’ rights

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