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Issue #1595      May 29, 2013

Editorial

What happened to that ring of confidence?

For some time, official spokespersons tasked with making pronouncements on the Australian economy have been pretty up-beat. “We” escaped the worst of the global economic crisis – that was the dominant line. It is less common now. Commodity prices are off, the dollar value is down and the chat from the corporate media has turned negative. It should be noted that come rain or come shine, whether it be for a rapidly cooling or a super-heating economy, the “solution” offered by those scribes and mouths for hire is always the same. Reduce the “burden” on corporations, slash wages and public services and further marginalise the trade unions.

You would think workers would get sick of this never-ending prattle and choose other sources of news and views. But there are no major ones out there. Such is the concentration of ownership in the media that there is essentially no choice. Even the ABC has been white-anted by conservative appointees and may even be short-listed for privatisation along with the SBS.

The development that threatens to break the thrall of the neo-liberals, however, is unemployment. Officially floating somewhere above five percent in Australia, the actual number of jobless and a looming surge threatens to disturb the smug government/corporate media consensus.

Mining and the resource boom used to be cited as evidence of Australia’s “lucky” status. Australian workers were chastised for not being willing to travel to remote mining sites in search of employment. Penalties for such reluctance were discussed in the business pages. Workers keen to follow up these mythical, fantastically remunerated jobs were soon brought down to earth when they actually enquired. The jobs didn’t exist. Every now and then fully imported, super-exploited workforces from repositories of workers even more desperate than our own were flown in. Don’t blame them! We are all being played for mugs by the same transnationals.

Australia governments are finally being called to account for their compliance with the demands of capitalist globalisation. To nobody’s surprise, various industry “plans” did not answer the challenge of such open, monopoly-dominated markets for local employment. The haemorrhaging of jobs in the car industry shouldn’t come as a shock. Ford’s decision to go was not unexpected. Don’t think Holden or Toyota will linger for very long, either.

The number of apprenticeships has withered. The attack on TAFE continues. Privatisation has aggravated the downturn in the number of jobs available to young people. Incoming governments are slashing services and jobs. It is a long time since state and Commonwealth public services were considered “employers of last resort” that could provide jobs where the private sector couldn’t. Workers have strenuously resisted all of these developments but they have been put on the back foot for the time being. Against all odds, they continue to resist.

The Gillard government and its likely Abbott-led alternative have no more bullets to fire. There used to be a body of public assets for sale. While that option is not completely exhausted the cupboard is pretty bare. European-style “austerity” is looking increasingly likely. Centrelink is well and truly prepared. The unemployed and other welfare recipients have been prepared for increasingly harsh measures in the months and years to come through trials of Compulsory Income Management and other harassment. A “perfect storm” is brewing.

If workers continue to accept the “logic” of capitalism, their short-to-mid-term fate is sealed. If “market forces” and “international competitiveness” continue to dominate the debate about Australia’s economic future, we will eventually arrive at the place Greek, Cypriot, Italian, Spanish and other workers find themselves. If we can’t popularise ideas like nationalisation and investment to meet social need we will be at a serious disadvantage as the crisis bites.

For some time to come, it will continue to be difficult to argue socialist solutions to the problems brought down on us by capitalism. That shouldn’t deter us. The old certainties and “common sense” regarding the greater efficiency of capitalism will soon come under enormous pressure from the facts of daily life in Australia. “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims,” as a great German philosopher, economist and activist once said. Now, more than ever, it is time for us to be clear about our alternative – socialism.

Next article – Locking the Gate on mining

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