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Issue #1600      July 3, 2013

Editorial

The powers behind the throne

“The politics of division has to stop. The community is tired of divisive politics and policies which are aimed at shoring up political survival rather than the future prosperity of the nation.” This was one of a number of demands made by the Business Council of Australia (BCA) in the lead-up to Kevin Rudd’s re-installation as Prime Minister. It has been a recurring refrain in recent months, not just from business representatives but from within Labor Party ranks.

Labor MP and former ACTU president Simon Crean, when supporting Kevin Rudd last March, said, “The Labor Party has always operated most effectively when it has been inclusive, when it’s sought consensus, not when it has sought division, not when it has gone after class warfare.” (theconversation.com 26-03-2013)

John Kunkel from the Minerals Council of Australia which represents mining companies, praised outgoing Resources Minister Martin Ferguson: “He grasped that effective government is primarily about providing a framework for long-term growth and prosperity, not about fomenting conflict and class war.” (22-03-2013 www.minerals.org.au)

The then Prime Minister Julia Gillard was under attack for “class warfare”. They were not just referring to the economic form of the class struggle around wages and working conditions in the workplace. By “class warfare”, they meant measures that cost money or inhibited their expansion or profit-making plans. They called them anti-business and accused the government of being pro-union. These measures included stronger 457 visa requirements, the mineral resources rental tax, increase in superannuation payments from 9.0 to 9.25 percent and the 2.6 percent minimum wage rise. These measures amounted to additional costs for employers.

Eighteen months ago, The Guardian warned, “Employer groups are on the offensive – in the workplace, in the political arena and on the ideological front. Citing pressure from international competition and ‘declining productivity’, the big end of town is out to slash wages and working conditions and wind back gains made by trade unions over more than 100 years of struggle. The Business Council of Australia (BCA) – or the Big Capitalists Association – is one of those leading the charge.” (“A capitalist’s fable about the magic pudding”, Guardian # 1531, 14-12-2011) At the time, BCA president Tony Shepherd told the Financial Review, “Australia is not divided into a political class, a business class, and a working class.”

Shepherd’s denial of the existence of classes and the BCA’s more recent call for an end to “divisive politics”, are part of the ideological offensive to convince workers and their trade unions to abandon the class struggle, to stop fighting for their rights and better wages and working conditions. The political form of the class struggle could not be more evident than in the role they and their agents in the media have played in unseating political leaders. It is also seen in the large donations they make to the Labor and Coalition parties.

Employers never let up in their economic struggle to maximise profits. Over the past 25-30 years they have successfully lobbied for the taxation of company profits to be slashed from 46 cents to 30 cents in the dollar. This has added more than $30 billion a year to profits. The other side of the coin are the massive cuts and loss of income for social security, health, public schools, universities, public housing and other services which benefit working people and their families – what is referred to as the “social wage”. It amounts to a massive transfer of wealth from the working class, who created the wealth in the first place through their labour, to the coffers of the private sector.

The economic interests of workers and private companies remain diametrically opposed as long as private ownership of the means of production and the provision of services remains. Statements calling for class peace are a call to workers and trade unions to abandon their class interests, to surrender to the dictate of their bosses and be grateful for the crumbs that fall to them.

There is only one response for trade unions if workers’ interests are to be protected: that is to take up the class struggle.

Next article – Forum on West Papua human rights

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