the same shit sandwich ....
With the election just under 3 weeks away, recent polls show Labor losing support.
While still well above the levels of Gillard’s day, if the vote turns out to be say 52 to 48 in favour of the Liberals as the polls suggest at the moment then they will form government with a comfortable majority. [In fact the latest Newspoll this morning shows it 54 to 46, a Labor massacre.]
Putting Rudd back in might have saved a few seats but it hasn’t produced the sustained swing back to Labor that his supporters hoped.
On one recent poll Tony Abbott is now preferred Prime Minister. Such is Labor’s degeneration that a severe conservative and warrior of the right like Abbott can win the support of workers. How so?
Labor for 3 decades has been at the forefront of implementing neo-liberalism, the idea that the market rules, backed by a strong state to enforce the orthodoxy. Labor’s collapse in the polls to less than 30% under Gillard wasn’t mainly because of Gillard; it was her neo-liberal policies people were rejecting.
And while Rudd made up some lost ground for a while, and still has Labor about 6 percentage points higher than under Gillard, they can’t win it from here unless the Liberals completely stuff it up.
A shit sandwich is still a shit sandwich no matter whether it is Gillard or Rudd trying to sell it to us.
Of course Abbott is not pointing out the obvious – that he too is offering us a shit sandwich. It is just that his shit sandwich is horse shit, not cow poo. Because most workers are disengaged from the political process and aren’t taking industrial action to defend wages, jobs and conditions, it can appear whoever is waiting in the wings is an angel compared to the current devil.
With Abbott and Hockey in power struggling to spark a lacklustre if not retreating economy with a round of austerity measures that will make the situation worse, it is possible in a year’s time, with official unemployment above 6.5% and real unemployment more than ten, and real wages falling, that workers will look back on the Rudd and Gillard governments with fondness and yearn for the gold old days.
Reformism, the idea that a capitalist government can improve the lives of millions of working class people, is dependent first of all on a supply of social surplus value that no longer exist globally and probably not in Australia either. Given the re-emergence in the last 3 decades of the long term tendency of the rate of profit to fall, reformism no longer has extra surplus value to spend on free education, free health, mass public transport, adequate Newstart and pensions and to create more jobs and better pay.
However that doesn’t stop workers from wanting improved public health, education and public transport, real jobs and better pay. It is this hope for a better world that in the past saw many of them vote Labor. But Labor in office exposes itself daily as just another party of the bosses and their neo-liberalism.
Without a revolutionary socialist or even radical reformist alternative some workers will swing behind the open party of the bosses, the Liberals.
Without class struggle in society workers’ interests are hidden from view, not discussed and so not in workers minds as being part of the political debate at election time, other than with Labor and Liberal platitudes about jobs or a strong economy. So some workers, without any alternative and in a climate of passivity and conservatism, will vote Liberal.
In 3 years time they will have experienced first hand the inability of the Liberals to manage an ailing capitalism, other than by attacking jobs and wages to restore profit rates. Thus for example the already longer hours – Australian workers work on average 44 hours per week, with $72 billion in unpaid overtime – will become longer.
The anger with Labor will transfer to the Liberals. So Labor may again, despite a long history of sell-outs, become a focus for the hopes of millions of workers.
This cycle of hope turning to despair can be broken. First a serious campaign by workers or a section of workers against the Abbott government might highlight the real strength workers in society have. Second, building up the forces of the revolutionary left, building a socialist alternative, offers something outside the neoliberal flip flop of Labor/Greens/Liberals and various odd beat parties and others in between.
For the revolutionary left this means trying to relate to that minority who do actually want to fight back industrially and socially. It means being involved in the struggles around the environment, against education cuts, for refugees, for equal love, reclaim the night and the others going on around Australia and mobilising thousands against some rotten aspect of capitalism.
As the ship that is Labor sinks, we need to build a seaworthy craft for that small group who want to defend themselves against the volleys of today and ultimately take on the navy that is capitalism. This latter can only occur out of the day to day political and economic struggles. That can happen, not now, but in the future when our armada is so strong it will overwhelm the big guns of capitalism.
Join us in building the flotilla to destroy the power of the bosses’ fleet.