[Marxism] 100, 000 progressive Australians provide the push to sink the Howard government

Nick Fredman srcsra at scu.edu.au
Thu Nov 29 17:50:08 MST 2007

Steve Palmer:

> Oh dear ...
> We had this sort of stuff from the Social Workers Party in Britain back in
> 1997
> who expected sharp clashes between the Blair government and a stronger, more
> confident working class. Some "strategic perspective"! Ten years and
> counting...

Good points. If I remember right the prediction was called the "crisis of
expectations" and the Militant organisation was quite keen on it and turned
themselves into the "Socialist Party" as a preparation for big things. Our
lot were quite friendly with them at the time and arned that the experience
of the 1983-96 Labor governments in Australia, from which Blair had learned
a lot, was a significant *downturn* in the class struggle. There were
however after the betrayals came think and fast from 1984 a series of
political breaks from Labor (including a mass exodus of members) which, to
cut a long story short, more or less led to the Greens.

It's a bit different now. Hawke was elected in 1983 partly on the back of
industrial struggles of the early 80s, but on the basis of a "consensus"
that would replace the strikes which were quite unpopular outside of the
militant sections of the working class. By contrast Rudd comes to power on
the backs of a political union campaign against the former conservative
government, from a union movement that is smaller and less militant than the
in the early 80s, but also more popular and which has recently mobilised a
million odd people over several rounds of rallies, and involved something
like 10-20 000 in local campaigning groups (a time series of social attitude
surveys which I've recently collated shows there was a lot more hostility to
unions in the early 80s than recent years, also a fair bit more distrust of
big business and discontent about inequality now than then, which
contradicts a few myths).

The union and Labor tops have played a tricky balancing act in terms of
controlling the campaign and systematically moderating plans to "tear up"
the new laws, many militants have been grinning or grimacing and bearing it,
while a couple of prominent ones have been expelled from the ALP and others
have spoken out. It's very welcome the Greens identified with the union
campaign and put forward a clear rejection of the recent laws, and that and
other leftist positions have led to their somewhat (but not hugely)
increased vote. But they're still far from a site for regroupment of
militant unionists, or for coordinating or even much discussing and building
struggles in general as far as I can see. A significant number of militant
union leaders wanted to show support for the Socialist Alliance campaign,
through donations and invitations to speak at meetings and workplaces etc,
even though no one had expectations of much of a vote. No one pretends SA is
a new party in itself, rather than a useful vehicle for an important section
of the radical left to coordinate some work, popularise the idea of a new
party, and run some socialist election campaigns.

Interesting times for us - yes people have significant expectations of the
new government, and plenty of people including the Labor right NSW union
peak council leader John Robertson are talking about mobilising to press the
government further than its promises, but we shouldn't get carried away by
expectations of a huge crisis. I'm pretty sure the way forward at some point
will be a further realignment of the Greens, the militant union left and the
far left. 

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