Two Labor Party hacks defend a reactionary party
Nick Dyrenfurth is a leftist caricature. In an article in the Weekend Australian called ‘Still meaning left in old idea of the political spectrum’, Dyrenfurth and tag team mate Tim Soutphommasane conclude that the labels Left and Right (read Labor and Liberal) still have meaning.
‘There is a difference’ they doth protest.
Well yes and no. The Labor Party has a particular social base – through the trade union bureaucracy it has tenuous links to the working class. The Liberals are the conduit for capital.
The good times of social democracy have been built on responses to struggle from below and the capacity to extract a little from the capitalist class.
Apart from a few isolated instances, overt class struggle in Australia today is non-existent.
The bedrock of past reforms – the social surplus – has now almost evaporated and is used mainly to prop up declining profit rates. Further, Labor has become the agent of neoliberalism, the ideology and practice of making workers pay for stagnant or declining profit rates.
Given its links to the working class the ALP can at times be more successful in attacking living standards than the Liberals.
For example Labor can implement about 80 percent of WorkChoices while giving the impression it is repealing it entirely. It can engineer a historic shift in the share of national product going to capital at the expense of labour. It can oversee a major increase in unpaid working hours.
And then on top of this fundamental neoliberalism, no matter how it is dressed up, Labor has adopted social policies which make it indistinguishable from the Liberals.
And yet what does the Nick and Tim show offer us? Gratuitous attacks on Guy Rundle, one of the truly engaging writers of the left in Australia (even if he is a bit short on theory). And to call Rundle a plodding satirist and unreconstructed Trotskyite – a term of Stalinist abuse, I might add – shows how out of touch these two parasites on the working class are.
But it is when the tag team of reactionary Labor comes to describe the modern ALP that they descend into farce. ‘By contrast, the social democratic left is proudly mainstream yet radical, motivated by social justice.’ WTF does that mean? Is this the famed unity of opposites?
No doubt locking up refugee children is an example of the new social justice. No doubt invading Iraq and Afghanistan and being part of the slaughter of millions is another. No doubt the increase in the gender pay gap is a victory for social justice too.
Evidently ‘social democratic governments engage in “market design” ‘. I am not making this up. These are the words of the two wizards of wisdom.
Well I suppose in practice Labor style Governments do worship at the altar of the market – that’s what wrong with them. That’s why there are no solutions to climate change on the table right now. It’s why the GFC threatened and continues to threaten the world economy. It’s why social democratic Governments like PASOK in Greece have attacked workers’ wages and conditions savagely.
The two Australian newspaper hacks argue that Labor should become the party of ideas. Suggestion boys – maybe it is the party of ideas, just the wrong ones that always favour capital.
Former New South Wales left wing Minister Rodney Cavalier has just published a book which shows that the ALP in NSW has only 15000 members. 100 branches have closed in the last decade because they can’t muster seven city or five rural members.
Let me hazard a guess as to why. Ordinary members join the Labor Party to make the world a better place for ordinary people. Labor in power rules for the rich and powerful. Labor Party members leave in droves.
Nothing is going to change that decline. It is the logic of reformist parliamentary politics combined with little social surplus to pay for meaningful pro-worker reforms like massive real wage increases, a 30 hour week, free education and health care.
Social democrats can, in the two jokers’ words, build a better society. Actually they can and do do that now – for capital.
The alternative is to build a party of the working class that fights for its own interests. We are a long long way from that. But at least we exist and have a clear vision and purpose, unlike Labor.
Labor’s neoliberalism means it has little chance of, or capacity to, appeal to workers during the next round of mass industrial action when it comes. We will remember their betrayals.
Labor doesn’t have the personnel, the links to the mass of workers nor the intellectual capacity to adjust to such a swing to the Left other than by digging deeper into the shit of neoliberalism.