How empty/full is the glass?
g.maclennan at qut.edu.au
Wed Oct 9 00:11:46 MDT 1996
Adam in a reply to a recent post of mine on the situation here in Oz mused
aloud about whether the glass was half full or empty. The context was the
retreat of the Labor Party and the Labor Bureaucracy following the workers'
attack on Parliament.
He is correct to insist that the news is not all bad. Here in Qld there was
quite an important dispute which I believe though small in scale has a lot
to tell us about conflict in this period.
The Conservative state govt announced that it was privatizing the State
School cleaning service. No surprise there you might think. Except they had
not mentioned this at the election. Also Qld is the most regionalised of
all the states on Qld and in the countryside the Govt is often the employer
of first as well as last resort.
There has also been a pattern of steady po-pulation shift from the regions
into the capital city Brisbane. Economic Rationalism would accentuate that
shift to a stage where it would in all probability be irreversible. As far
as I can understands such things the multiplier effect would come into play.
Well the interesting thing about the Govt's privatization bid was that it
was resisted by the union leadership and membership. There were protest
marches throughout the state. MP's were lobbied and some of them weakened.
the right wing independent, Liz Cunningham who holds the balance of power
threatened to support a Labor Party move to outlaw privatization of school
services. There was a significant march in a country town called Gympie.
there 40 cleaners marched through the streets to widespread applause. Those
marching and those clapping would in all probability be conservative voters
but consciousness is a fluid matter and there is a tendency for workers to
come into conflict with Capital. That tendency is in Bhaskarian terms trans
factual. At times in the down turn we may even think the class stuggle
tendency does not exist but suddenly as in this issue it can assert itself
and move from reality to actuality.
So the Unions looked like they had a first class victory on their hands.
The govt was desperate and then the Union Leadership (ex-communist) threw
them a life line. The unionists agreed to a "productivity trial" in turn for
a withdrawal of government intent to privatize for the time being.
The govt could say that both sides compromised and that they had not been
defeated. The union leadership got what they wanted.
At times like this I am inclined to believe that the Union leadership and
the Govt exist in what Bhaskar terms a duplicitous pairing. Seemingly they
oppose each other but in reality they exist in a relationship of mutual
dependency. But of course the government will go for the jugular whereas the
union bureaucracy will not.
Still the workers protested and had a victory. Many conservative workers
saw the value of united action. The old mole did indeed grub well. I am
inclined to say after this that the glass is half full.
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