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Issue #1634      April 9, 2014

Editorial

Abbott’s “open for business” in context

The announced closure next year of BP’s Brisbane refinery marks another stage of the rapidly disappearing manufacturing sector in Australia. PM Tony Abbott used the terrible news for the refinery workers to hammer home his “cut the red tape” line, saying that the closure was a result of regulation holding back competitiveness. His proposed solution on top of the need to “cut red tape” so as to increase competitiveness is the striking of new trade deals.

Abbott’s economic mantra, of course, is the problem, not the solution. Manufacturing in Australia is all but set to disappear altogether, a process begun in earnest just over three decades ago with the election of the Hawke Labor government in 1983. Deregulation, the cutting of protections for manufacturing such as the abolition of many tariffs and the floating of the Australian dollar and privatisation of crucial assets belonging to the people – the Commonwealth Bank, Qantas and the national telecommunications network Telecom (later Telstra) marked the beginning of what came to be called neoliberalism.

This act of thievery and vandalism left the economy open to the whims and rapacious workings of the transnational corporations which took full advantage of the opportunity offered up to them.

Skilled labour, apprenticeships, job creation – all took a back seat in the drive for ever greater profits.

The process more or less mirrored what was taking place in Reagan’s America and Thatcher’s Britain: it was the beginning of the time of the corporate long knives, the beginning of the strategy by big capital for unprecedented domination of the world’s economy. This has included attacking and trying to disarm organised labour, which has now escalated in Australia to reactionary extremes.

Foreign investment, the export of capital, is increasing exponentially. During the 1990s this spread of transnational control and domination was given the name globalisation, a term used by big business and capitalist governments to convey the idea of a neutral, necessary and inevitable economic and political process.

Increasingly this is being exposed as its opposite; that it is the major capitalist powers setting up the means to entrench the unbridled power of the transnational corporations.

Globalisation means all countries are to be forced into the global market on conditions determined by the transnationals; the privatisation of all publicly owned enterprises and institutions; deregulation and the rolling back of the state’s economic control mechanisms; opening up of world markets with all restrictions by governments being swept away; less direct investment in specific productive industries and more highly speculative trading in currencies, shares and derivatives.

This is being accompanied by further monopolisation as take-overs and mergers of existing transnationals form even bigger corporations.

Nonetheless, there are sharp contradictions and antagonisms between the major capitalist groupings. Each wants to be dominant and strives to protect its interests while trying to expand and take more of the world market.

As the advanced stage of capitalism, imperialism has developed a number of main features: the growing monopolisation of the economy by a handful of major corporations; the increasing export of productive capital to underdeveloped parts of the world; the growing integration of finance capital with productive capital, and the dominance of finance capital.

In Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin described these main features in 1917: capitalist over-accumulation in the developed capitalist countries leading to an increase in export of productive capital; this required the creation of larger companies which resulted in growing monopolisation; there followed a scramble and bitter struggle between the imperialist powers to control the world’s resources.

Australia today is being changed from an advanced, industrialised nation to a dig-it-up-and-ship-it-out minerals free-for-all and open slather for the big corporations. Along with the preparations for a jackboot attack on the trade unions already underway, this is Abbott’s “Australia is open for business” in context.

Next article – Community walk-in defies Pilliga exclusion

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