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Issue #1666      November 26, 2014

Culture & Life

Chickens come home to roost

Prior to the last State election in NSW, the local community newsletter that circulates in the Wyong shire where I live was very hostile on the then-Labor government and very supportive of the Liberal Party opposition.

Liberal Member for Terrigal Chris Hartcher (L), Opposition leader Barry O’Farrell (C) and Australian Coal Alliance campaign director Alan Hayes (R) join angry residents in their opposition to the Kores coal mine proposal – once elected, the Libs’ position did a predictable about-face.

At the time, Korean power generating company Kores was negotiating with the state government to open a long-wall coal mine under the main water-catchment valleys on the Central Coast with potentially disastrous effects on the region’s water supply, air quality and health.

The local newsletter, a glossy magazine called The Grapevine, was unremitting in its attacks upon the Labor government for its support of mining in a water catchment area, and trumpeted every statement by Opposition leader Barry O’Farrell who, in his quest for electoral support, eagerly donned an anti-coalmining T-shirt and even gave an “iron clad guarantee” to a public meeting that a Liberal government would not allow any mining under the water-catchment valleys near Wyong: “No ifs, no buts, a guarantee!”

Once elected, the Libs’ position did a predictable about-face and Kores’ long-wall mine, with its accompanying threat to the water table and its inevitable subsidence and other calamitous side-effects was firmly back on the table. Barry, of course, has gone now (for lying to ICAC) but the Libs are still pushing the new coal-mine. And The Grapevine has dumped them with a vengeance.

Under the headline “Plethora of broken promises”, the November issue of The Grapevine ran the following short article: “Last month the Abbott government put on the Notice Paper its intention to guillotine debate and rush through the House of Representatives its remaining social security cuts.

“There is no doubt many Central Coast citizens feel the Abbott government’s ‘budget of broken promises’ will cost Australians more, at a time when many people are already struggling to make ends meet. Tony Abbott is trying to hide from the Australian people, and keep his cruel cuts from getting proper debate and scrutiny in the Parliament.

“The Abbott government is rushing through $9.8 billion worth of cuts to pensions, cuts to the seniors supplement, cuts to veterans’ pensions and family payments, and increasing the pension age. They have forgotten that every Budget is about choices, but instead of tackling the real issues, Tony Abbott has taken the wrong path, the unfair path to a more unequal Australia.

“Instead of hurting pensioners, Tony should scrap his unfair and unaffordable paid parental leave scheme.

“Instead of a GP tax on the sick, Tony should scrap the tax break on super accounts over $2 million.

“Instead of $5.8 billion cut to universities, Tony should crack down on multinational tax avoidance.

“The Abbott government needs to come clean with the Australian people and reveal what else they’ve got planned.”

Opposition to Abbott’s government “by the wealthy for the wealthy” is undoubtedly growing. How could it be otherwise, given the savage, brutal way he and his ministers are shamelessly bashing the poor, the sick, the disabled, the helpless – in fact anyone and everyone they think they can gouge cash from to tip into the bottomless pockets of the wealthy and the corporations that keep them that way.

Whether that will translate into defeat for Abbott at the next election remains to be seen. “Pig-iron Bob” Menzies and little Johnny Howard were equally hated but both remained in office for years on end. Some pro-people policies from Labor would certainly go a long way towards helping to rid us of the Abbott blight, but Labor leader Bill Shorten is severely handicapped by the fact that he basically agrees with Abbott’s policies. His only hope is to convince the powerbrokers of Australian capitalism that Labor could run the country on their behalf better than the Libs. Considering the mess the country’s getting into, that should not be too difficult.

However, a pro-business Labor government is not going to be of significant help to ordinary Australians: workers, farmers, small business people, students, professionals – they are all going to continue being screwed unless there is a significant, fundamental shift in the policy aims of government in this country.

Only pressure from the organised working class and its allies can bring that about. Which is one reason the Libs are so intent on muzzling the trade unions and making action by workers illegal, going so far as to equate it with “terrorism”.

Disenchantment with so-called Labor parties is spreading, not just in Australia but abroad too. In Britain, where 100,000 people marched last month in a joint trade union protest over low wages, many are questioning whether simply electing the Labour Party to government is any kind of solution. In Scotland, where a large number of people – a minority to be sure, but a large minority – were so pissed off they voted to secede from the UK altogether, Labour MP Margaret Curran has called for her party to dump the opportunism that is the hallmark of social democrat parties everywhere today.

“Being timid won’t win us any supporters,” she says. “We need a response from the left that responds to the conditions of people’s lives. The socialist principles of equality, redistribution and social justice need to shape our politics as much today as they did when I joined the party.”

Social democracy began as the political arm of the trade union movement. Capitalism however assigned it a different role, that of alternative caretaker when capitalism was on the nose. Ever since 1914, when most social democratic parties voted to support the imperialist war, the history of social democracy has been a slow decline into subservience to the rule of capital.

Margaret Curran’s plea for Labour to “return to its socialist principles” can only fall on deaf ears today, but she is right in one sense: for the answer undoubtedly is socialism, but to achieve that requires the building of a strong Marxist-Leninist party dedicated not to patching up the present system to make it better, but to changing the system altogether, changing it to the proven superiority of socialism.

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