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Issue #1737      June 29, 2016

Culture & Life

The Election and after

Whether he wins the 2016 federal election or not, Malcolm Turnbull and his LNP colleagues have a program of undisguised hostility towards the working class and its organisations. For Turnbull, a rich merchant banker, the working class are not just scum beneath his expensive shoes; they are the enemy – his class enemy.

All the Libs – and their chums the Nats – Turnbull, Tony Abbott, Barnaby Joyce and the rest of them (and let’s not forget Premier Baird in NSW), are openly engaged in class warfare. They have put in place fascist-style legislation in preparation for crushing any resistance displayed by working people, farmers, students – any of the potentially “troublesome” elements in society.

Key to their plans is their determination to smash the unions and to return workers to the situation that prevailed 200 years ago, the time of master and servant, of saying “yes sir” and doffing your cap to your “betters”. The employers regard every concession and benefit bosses have given to workers in all that time as having been stolen from them by ungrateful employees who wouldn’t have a job at all if it wasn’t for their generous boss.

In fact, every one of those concessions and benefits was only won through determined struggle. None of them was the consequence of employer generosity!

Nevertheless, the boss class defends the fiction that organised labour is “union thuggery” and that working people safely depend on the boss to give them their appropriate share of the economic cake (after all, doesn’t he pay them a fair – even generous – wage without demur? Sure he does!)

When Bob Hawke was manoeuvred into the leadership of the ACTU, he promised employers to deliver a docile, co-operative workforce and to achieve this he persuaded the unions to accept the notorious prices and incomes “Accord”. Workers were fed the usual malarkey that we all shared a single cake, so no one could be greedy and want too big a slice!

What he deliberately ignored was that the workers actually made the whole cake, so they were in fact entitled to take all of it. Leaving a share – the lion’s share, in fact – for a parasitic boss class was what was patently unfair.

Despite the best efforts of Hawke and the rest of the right-wing of the ALP, the workers learnt by their own experiences to see through the lies that underpinned the Accord, but not before several manifestations of the Howard Liberal government had inflicted yet more indignities and constraints upon the labour movement.

Eventually the “Your Rights at Work” campaign dislodged Howard but the Labor leadership still courted the Big End of Town and made numerous concessions to the bosses. This was hardly surprising, when you considered the origins of the ALP.

It had begun as a party formed by the union movement to represent workers’ interests in parliament. The employers, however, soon realised how useful such a party could be to them if it were brought under their influence and control. Thanks to the opportunism too frequently seen in Australian politics, the employers’ goal was achieved relatively quickly, as ALP leaders were seduced by the prospect of political power if they just accommodated their principles to the needs of the business world. The ALP became a party for the workers provided by the ruling class, an on-hand “alternative” ready for whenever it was needed.

When, in subsequent years, occasional Labor governments sought to actually implement pro-worker policies – the Lang government in NSW, the Whitlam federal government – the ruling class took appropriate steps to restore the status quo, actually removing the “troublesome” government when other less obvious methods failed.

While the discernible differences between the promises of the ALP and the LNP might not be great, it would be a mistake to assume there is no difference between them.

The ALP is more susceptible to pressure from its electoral base than are the Libs and the belief that it is the “workers’ party” still resonates with many working class people.

The move by the CPA to secure registration with the Electoral Commission for participation in federal elections was unfortunately thwarted when the election was called early (the registration process ceases from the calling of the election until after it is over, leaving our application in limbo). Unregistered, if we stood candidates their names only would appear and not the name of their Party. This would be essentially an exercise in futility.

As I write this, the 2016 federal election is a few day away, and the most pressing task for the working class is to get rid of Turnbull and the rest of his LNP crew, even if that means nothing more radical than replacing the Turnbull LNP government with a Labor government led by Bill Shorten.

Shorten is from the right-wing of the ALP and he makes no secret of his willingness to do the bidding of big business. Nevertheless, the ousting of Turnbull and Co would be a serious defeat for reaction in this country.

With no CPA candidates, however, the choice before left and progressive voters has been limited to candidates generally lacking in working class ideology. The prime issue for Communists in Australia continues to be the breaking of the oh-so cosy “two-party system”. As long as the ALP and the LNP play “I’m in, you’re out” with one another in elections, a genuinely democratic expression of the will of the people is out of the question.

We need the opportunity to elect candidates genuinely committed to progressive positions on industrial relations, on public enterprises vs private profit, on protecting the environment, on preserving and extending Medicare, on reducing the obscene amounts spent on the military (and redirecting it to meet public needs) etc.

Most importantly for CPA members and supporters, the struggle to defeat the anti-worker, anti-union campaign being waged by the corporate sector does not end with the election. It continues afterwards, and indeed we can expect it to intensify, especially if Turnbull (and the resurrected Tony Abbott) actually win! Defending trade union rights then will be more important than ever!

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