more on australia

Ken Howard kenhow at werple.mira.net.au
Wed Apr 17 06:13:44 MDT 1996


As Gary has alluded to Australia is becoming a new testing ground for neo
liberalism, following on from Thatchers Britian and New Zealand.
With a federal government and six of the seven state governments in the
hands of the "conservative" parties, i.e. liberal, the left faces an
extremelly difficult period.

There are some valuable lessons to be learnt from the period of labour,
particularly as Blair who is a frequent visitor to Australia is planning a
similar sort of Accord in Britian as was practised by the labour government
between 1983 and 1986.This Accord was between the government and the ACTU.

During the period of accord, unemployment in real terms rose to just on 20%
with youth unemployment at over 40% in many areas.Real wages declined by
something of the order of $180 per week, a massive transfer from wages to
profits and a substantial cut in labour costs,unionism declined from near
on 48% to now just over 30%, ( about 18% in the private sector)and there
was substantial attacks upon working conditions by the ACTU taking up
enterprise bargaining and abandoning centralised wage fixing. Health,
education, social and community services, housing, i.e all social programs
were dramatically slashed as was the tax paid by the rich, and
privatisation of public assets got into full swing.

In Victoria under a conservative government for the last three years all of
the above and more have been savergly ravaged. But in each area that
Kennett the Victorian premier has stepped the bloody grimy hand of the
labour government was already there.

The lessons, over the last thirteen years have been the extent to which the
left has had a false reliance on so called social democracy and a false
analysis that somehow paints it as having some connection to the working
class.i.e. that it either has some different class interest,program or
class composition to capital or that "workers have illusions in it ".The
reality is that workers may vote for labour but this does not mean that
they have illussions in it. I think Robert Malecki's contribution on social
democracy is quite right. It of course then leads to what do the left
advocate in elections ?

Now that the pretense is gone the left have no other alternative other then
to confront head on the need for a revolutionary alternative.But what sort
of alternative? The organised revolutionary left in Australia is probably
no more then about 300-400 people, (i.e. in organisations,) and probably
like elsewhere spread all over the place in small
organisations.Secterianism remains rife, and no organisation can make any
claim to having any real hold within the working class. Militant sections
of the working class are demoralised and disorganised having been
fragmented by enterprise bargaining, union amalgamations and being sold the
line by labour and the union bureacracy that THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE TO THE
RULE OF THE FREE MARKET.

But all is not so hopeless. At present a most important struggle is going
on in Melbourne. A group of workers from The Shearers and Rural Workers
Union a union that was formed two years ago by shearers breaking away from
the right wing Australian workers union, have been on strike for six weeks.
The SRWU is not registered nor is it a part of the ACTU nor supported by
them.The reason for the strike is the refusal by the management to
recognise the union, and following some major health and safety issues that
arose, to negotiate with the union. The workers have maintained a 24 picket
line despite cop intimidation and the threat of $500 a day fines being
imposed upon each of them.

This is an important dispute because it takes on both bosses and the sell
out union bureacrats and is a model of militant action. Please contact if
anyone wants any more information.

Another process is also taking place on the left and that is moves towards
regroupment of Militant,Solidarity (USFI) and Communist Intervention
(LIT).This is occuring by common action in workers and community campaigns,
discussion of political questions and histories, joint education etc, and a
common analysis of the nature of the period we are in and tasks facing
revolutionaries.Such regroupment is perhaps important in both overcoming
the secterianism of the past and presenting a pole of attraction to
militants that the left is not split all over the place but can have a
pluralist and multi tendency revolutionary organisation.
Adelante. Ken Howard.






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