My local supermarket had them in stereotypical glory – tattooed, thonged, wrapped in the flag and holding a slab of beer. The men were the same.
Australia Day is ostensibly about the foundation of the first colony yet ignores the genocide of the aboriginal people that flowed from that. For many aborigines and leftists like me, this is a day to remember the fallen and mourn.
Yet even for the nationalists who do celebrate, Australia Day has changed. It is now even more a celebration of white supremacy and intolerance.
The flags, the swagger, the tattoos (of the Southern Cross of all things, a disputed symbol of resistance), the incessant boozing, the air of superiority - all point to a degeneration in the way ‘we’ celebrate the national day.
The holiday is an attempt to unite workers and bosses in a shared history, a shared vision, a shared goal – the continued exploitation of the working class for the benefit of the bosses.
The system of exploitation and extraction of surplus from workers has seen major changes in my lifetime. Taking a lead from Hawke and Keating, continued by Howard and Rudd, the Australian economy has become integrated into the world economy.
The trade union leadership has capitulated to capital so that labour’s share of the national product is at its lowest since records were kept.
Australians have the longest working week in the developed world.
Unions, the defensive organs of the working class, are in serious decline, with only one in seven workers in the private sector being members.
The lack of industrial struggle – strikes and other industrial action are at one of the lowest levels ever in Australia - has seen a corresponding decline in social movements and the political left.
This means the left as an idea, let alone an actuality, has no appeal to millions of Australian workers. To them it is invisible.
Hand in hand with this de-unionisation and de-politicisation of Australia has been a massive shift to individualism in the workplace and its acceptance as the dominant ideology.
There is no alternative pervades the whole political discourse. Change can only be minor and incremental. The market and pre-ordained low pay rule. What’s good for the boss is good for you. You are the author of your own success or failure.
We have lost our history, our sense of the past.
The genocide that Australia Day celebrates is airbrushed out of our collective memory along with the valiant and courageous working class and other struggles against the ruling class.
The move to the right of the reformist left has seen a forgotten voice arise, the voice of the unheard especially in places where union organisation is weak, like the regions and some outer metropolitan suburbs.
Without a left-wing political or industrial focus some of the exploited, the forgotten and the marginalised have turned to nationalism and its twin, racism, as crutches for the loss of working class community and working class strength in action.
Australia Day is an outlet for and expression of that powerlessness.
Australia Day is above all else a day of bourgeois celebration, of glorification of its own success.
The working class celebrates the day with them but in ways that might suggest a yearning for a different road, a new society.
Half a million workers took a ‘sickie’ on Monday to join with the holiday on Tuesday and make this a four day long weekend.
Bugger the bosses – we have worked our arses off for you for the last year and now it is our turn to kick back and relax and ignore the dictatorship of capital for a few days.
And some of the ways of celebrating - the booze especially – are inchoate attempts at escaping the cruel realities of capitalist exploitation.
In this they recall 6 February 1788 when the women landed in the fledgling colony and the rum ration was doubled. Bacchanalia followed as the convicts escaped their miserable existence for a day.
None of this is to endorse the day; it is to try to understand it and through that the mood of the working class.
We have a long way to go.
Readers might also like to look at my article from last year – Australia Day: a celebration of genocide.
Reddit Australia has banned me from submitting my own articles. In the interests of free speech and to challenge the circlejerk mentality that pervades Reddit Australia perhaps a reader would like to submit this article to them. I’ll be interested to see how long it lasts there.