It’s a rich man’s country still
Malcolm Turnbull is the leader of the Opposition in Australia. According to the Business Review Weekly’s rich list, his net worth is about $178 million.
The prime minister, Kevin Rudd, doesn’t appear on the rich list. His wife runs a job placement agency. Her net worth (and that includes her family) is about $50 million.
These people got rich on the back of the labour of their employees. There is some skill in organising and exploiting people, but is that really the type of person we want to run the country? The best overseer in the wage slavery business?
Turnbull’s wealth came from OZemail, which he sold in 1999. He then became a merchant banker, the sort of person who in the US gave us the sub-prime loan crisis.
Turnbull’s wealth actually increased in the last year. That, says Joe Hockey, his shadow treasurer, is the sort of person we want running the country.
Really? Turnbull put his wealth into conservative holdings like cash, interest bearing deposits and property.
Taking Hockey’s comments to their logical conclusion, Turnbull could liquidate the economy and put the cash into Government bonds. Hmmm….
Rudd’s wealth shows the degeneration of the ALP from Labor Party to something more akin to the left wing of the Liberals.
Parliament has been the plaything of the rich. But more than that it is their institution.
Voting every three eyars for the best prison guard does not a democracy make.
As Marx said the ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class. So the debates in capitalist parliaments are essentially between various groups within capitalist society over the best way to ensure the exploitation of workers continues.
For reformists this used to mean ameliorating exploitation (but not abolishing it.)
But the history of the last 40 years has not been the rise and fall of neoliberalism but the death of reformism, or more accurately its incorporation into the grand neo-liberal experiment.
It is no accident that this rethinking of reformism began at about the same time that the long post war boom began to falter. The economic base for reform was collapsing along with the general profit rate.
This coalescing of reformism and neoliberalism reflected itself not only in the policies of the ALP and the bourgeoisification of its membership, but more immediately in the grand coalition of labour and capital that the Hawke Government and unions forged through the Accord.
This coalition saw the dealers in labour power (the trade union functionaries) replace any concept of struggle against the bosses with struggle for the bosses. Workers got crumbs from the table while union bosses got a seat, for a while, at the table.
The end result of this cringing master and servant relationship between capital and labour has been a union membership at levels not seen in a century and the labour share at GDP at its lowest since figures have been kept.
The Great Recession has seen a resurgence in neo-liberal keynesianism as an economic creed.
This version is a substitute for reformism.
It substitutes the state for capital. It imagines a solution to low profitability through the agency of concentrated capital, the capitalist state.
Reformism may have in the past campaigned for real wage increases for workers to increase aggregate demand. Now the state does this through increased borrowings and stimulus packages. But the state’s ability to do so is not indefinite, and we have perhaps reached the limits in Australia of that expansion.
If the Great Recession continues – the green shoots are dead straw dyed – then the neo-liberal Keynesian experiment will have failed too.
In the past reformism may have fought the consequences of the cleaning out of the Aegean stables that arises from the collapse of value across the world.
Now the reformists cheer that process on, as long as they, through the state, control it.
It appears now that the ALP is irredeemable. Its policies won’t save capitalism since the problem is profit rates, not aggregate demand.
The task for the Left is to build an organisation in the here and now that can become the mass workers’ party of the future to overthrow wage slavery and to begin democratically to organise production to satisfy human need.
In the process of revolution, we can begin the process of reaching true democracy in which people participate as human beings, not big wallets or their well paid agents.