Update on the class struggle in Australia

g.maclennan at qut.edu.au g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Sat Nov 18 23:31:46 MST 1995

The union movement here appears to be moving towards something of a
vicitory in its battle with the mining giant CRA.  The struggle is over
the ability of CRA to totally deunionise its workfrorce by offereing
individual contracts.  This has been made possible under the current
Keating led Labor government.  Recent reforms have led to a disastrous
loss of support for Labor among what are termed "blue-collar workers"
i.e. the working class.

The workers hate enterprise bargaining where the employer has them in a
difficult position.  They prefer the old state sponsored centralised
wage fixing system.  However Capital appears to want more of the cake
and they forced (?) the Labor Governement to legislate to allow them to
do it.

The Labor Party ever willing to lick the bourgeoise did as they were told
and expected to be rewarded.  However it now looks as if they will lose
government precisley because they have betrayed the Labor movement.

Meanwhile the industrial wing of the movement the Australian Council of
Trade unions (ACTU) is also experiencing decline.

Apparently the ACTU has some private research which shows that "blue
collar workeres" actually favour the extreme right wing State Premier in
Victoria, Jeff Kennett.  I don't know much about the details of this
research but it does refect decades of anti-political leadership by the

Currently the ACTU has a membership drive going on.  Recently at a
seminar a member of the Federal executive Greg Sword gave advice on the
need for moderen language in recrutiing to the union movement.  According
to the good Greg one needs above all to avoid old fashuioned workds like
"comrade" and "scab".

During the present situation the ACTU has turned to Bob Hawke, a former
Minister and Leader of the ACTU, to head their delegation in the coming
court case against CRA.  At one level this is a snub to Hawkee's
successor and bitter rival Paul ketating.  However it also represents
something of a feeling that Labor has moved too far away from the trade
uniuon movement and too much in the direction of the politics of
collaboration offset with the flourishes from the politics of recognition
in the case of minority groups etc.

However to turn to Hawke is really a bankrupt move.  He is mister fixit,
the original betrayer of strikes but sad to say still a hero to many workers.
The ACTU like the working class seems to long for the old days when the
union movement was stronger.  It wants to recruit but simply has no idea
how to.  It seems to have believed every right wing ass hole who told them
they must cooperate and that the days of class confict were over.

So when the ruling class attacks these class collaborationists are
inevitably caught by surprise.  In this case they almost came up with
something approaching a general strike but they appear to have reverted
to type by calling off the waterfront action and resorting to a stunt like
bringing back Hawke- one of the most profoundly shallow men produced by the
Australian Labor movement.

The new leader of the ACTU, Jenny George, has publicly proclaimed her
connexion through her husband with the Communist Party of australia. Her
election seems designed both to halt the decline of blue collar support
and also to appeal to women.  It was almost certainly her idea to bring
back the former Prime Minister.

In a recent post Marcus asked me what should be done.  He wants to
reconstruct the Communist Party.  I have nothing to say against that.
Perhaps we could engage in some discussion on this list about directions
for the Left here in Australia.  David? Mark? and others might be

Politically and tempermentally I am for broad alliances and broad
parties.  I have been
through the Trotskyist mill and it is just wrong.  However others may
have different opinions. We should at least air these issues.



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