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Issue #1541      28 March 2012

Culture & Life

Capitalism in a hole

I must confess that, watching Anna Bligh’s sterling performance as Queensland Premier during last year’s flood crisis in that state, I thought for a while that she (and the Labor Party) might have pulled off a miracle and turned looming electoral defeat into a surprise victory. And if the state election had been held at that time or shortly afterwards, I think that’s exactly what she would have done.

Anna Bligh’s hands-on leadership during the floods passed out of the public consciousness and into history.

But of course the election was not held then. It was not held until last weekend, and in the meantime Anna Bligh’s hands-on leadership during the floods passed out of the public consciousness and into history. In the minds of Queenslanders it was subsumed by much more urgent bread-and-butter issues, like jobs, food prices, fares, health care, child care, aged care.

Like all Australians, Queenslanders were looking for reassurance about the future. Did they in fact have a future? Would their kids have a future? Anna Bligh and the Labor Party could give them no assurances in this regard.

Neither could the other side, of course, but then no one expected the LNP to do so. The party of big business (which in Queensland means mainly mining companies) and the rural bourgeoisie, the LNP’s contending parts make for an uneasy alliance. Their only common link is the quest for profit, but when mining and agriculture conflict sparks can – and do – fly.

But without a flood to give her campaign a boost, Anna Bligh and Labor were left to campaign on their record – and the promise of more of the same. In essence, they presented themselves as a pale copy of the LNP: similar policies, similar aims, similar goals.

Ever since the overthrow of the Whitlam government, the ALP has pursued a course of eschewing any semblance of working class policies or postures, of removing all class-based differences between the Libs and Labor.

But the more the Labor Party emulates the Libs, the more it eliminates any reason for voting for it. After all, why vote for a copy of the Libs when you can just as easily vote for the real thing?

Labor still pursues the fallacy that was at the heart of the infamous “Accord”, namely that there is only one pie and the boss class and the workers have to share it amongst themselves. But the boss class and the workers do not have a commonality of interests: one side produces the wealth, the other side appropriates it for its own use. Bosses can – and do – lay off workers at the drop of a hat, and blame it on “the economy”. Workers just have to do without employment until bosses feel like hiring again.

However, should workers withhold their labour, say in response to unsafe work practices instituted by the boss to cut costs, the boss will use the instruments of the state (police and courts) which his class controls to crush the workers’ opposition. Bosses and workers are two sides in a war, the class war, and no matter how benign or cooperative bosses might appear to be at any given time, they are unceasingly on the offensive. Only their tactics vary, not their aims or their targets.

The ALP’s opportunistic policy of abandoning even the pretence of caring for the battlers in our society in favour of caring for corporate interests, on the pretext that in some indeterminate way if corporate interests are taken care of, then economic benefits will “trickle” down to the rest of society, is a recipe for electoral eclipse. Look at Queeensland.

This curious “trickledown” concept actually epitomises the idea that the mass of the people can (and should) be satisfied with the scraps from the corporate table, with the left-overs (assuming there are any) after business has had its fill.

That such a view is propagated at all merely demonstrates the arrogance of the boss class. And what have they got to be arrogant about anyway? The mines and factories, mills and corporate HQs that they “own”, were all built with the labour, sweat and talent of workers, workers who today are lucky if they are allowed past the gate.

The boss class can make nothing without workers, and yet bosses are forever trying to find ways to get rid of their workforce. Blinded by the glow of the dollar signs they think they will save by eliminating jobs and workers, they merrily cut their own potential sales base. Unemployed people buy as little as possible, because they simply do not have the money to do otherwise.

The anarchists in the 19th century had a slogan: “the boss needs workers, workers do not need the boss”.

Today, after the Labor Party’s debacle in Queensland, the new LNP government there can join its counterparts in NSW and WA in holding fire-sales of what little is left of the public sector, and giving their blessings to the mining companies that are already engaged in digging up each of their respective states and shipping it overseas.

The economic destruction that will ensue is nothing to what would follow if the Queensland results were replicated at the national level. Tony Abbott is an ignorant, uncultured man who might nevertheless become the next PM. If you thought Johnny Howard was bad!

The ruling class has been gearing up for several decades now for a major assault on the working people, on their rights and conditions, as well as on their wages. Julia Gillard and the right-wing of the Labor Party have been doing their best to convince those same corporate interests that Labor can deliver what they want without the turmoil that would result from the sort of frontal assault that Abbott would pursue.

However, I fear the ruling class has become convinced that social democracy, in the form of the Labor Party, can no longer deliver the type of class collaboration or preferably subservience that the corporate bigwigs want. Faced with a declining rate of profit and fewer sources of profit, capitalism is in a hole, and as in the past, will try to dig itself out of the hole by way of a war – or two.  


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