Oz Unis to Strike

Gary MacLennan g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Thu May 23 20:22:59 MDT 1996

At 11:29 AM 5/23/96 +0000, Adam wrote:
>Interesting article.

>Also, when the trade union movement sneezes, the student movement gets
>pneumonia. This is partly because students are more sensitive to purely
>ideological trends, and partly because the every day grind of exploitation
>doesn't serve as a ballast weighing down the rightward drift of student
>leaders in the way that it does for trade union leaders. Eg on the
>minimum wage, TU leaders are still pushing for a decent figure from Blair,
>and even if he doesn't deliver legislation, they'll still campaign for it
>from employers anyway. In contrast, the NUS was ahead of Blair in ditching
>the grant system.
I agree Adam, it was an extremely valuable article.  I will of course be
going on strike, but at this stage I cannot form  an accurate picture of how
much fight is in the tertiary sector.  I myself am inclined to  the
pessimistic side in any evaluation of this. (Surpri---ise!).  Basically,
though,   I think we are poised at a very interesting stage in the class
struggle here in Australia.,  The new conservative govt has just published
its Industrial Relations proposals and they are designed to cripple the
unions and the central wage fixing system. There is a lot of lies flying
around but we seem to have the first clear bid by the new government to
accelerate in a qualitive manner the push for a low wage economy.

I use "qualititive" here to attempt to make a distinction between the
quantitive steps taken by the Labor Party. This is of course a controversial
matter, but generally I think it is courrect to see the Labor Party as
softening up the working class for the more radical offensive of the

How will the workers respond?  Again I  am not sure there will be a fight.
The problem remains the Union Leadership. They have demoralised and
demobilised the rank n file for so long. And  if there is active resistance
the union bureaucrats will betray and sell out the movement.  There is
absulutely no doubt about that. The question is at what stage in the
struggle will they initiate the sell out.  When the govt makes minor
concessions or major concessions?  Again the answer lies with the rank n
file.  If we see genuine militancy then we will have the bureaucracy
attempting the sell out at the major concessions stage.   But they are just
as likely to make a mess of any fight and leave the militants exposed.  That
is the brutal truth as I see it.

In political terms the new govt has had a stunning success with its action
to ban guns.  Only the loony rooters and shooters have come out against
this.  It has been a massively popular action because I feel that people see
it as preserving the traditional peaceful OZ life  style against the time of
modernising Americanisation.  The traditional life style is of course
largely a myth.  This, as a white colonial settler nation, has always  been
a violent country.  But the myth is real in terms of its political impact.

So  while the govt has courted and won popularity by banning guns they have
moved in to impose draconian cuts  on the Public Sector, attack tertiary
education and smash the unions.  The whole question of whether they will
succeed or fail turns on the working class.  If they fight then  all
sections of society will become more courageous and vocal and rush out to
lead the workers.

For what it's worth I think that Comrades Zeynip and Hugh are wrong and that
we have not  seen the end of the long retreat of the working class.  But we
shall see.  In the  meantime we will stick to two parts of the Gramscian
formulation.  Pessmism of the intellect and optimism of the will" - yes!,
but to hell with sobriety!



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