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John Passant

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Labor in New South Wales – terminal or just resting?

The swing against the New South Wales Labor Government was 17 percent. Its primary vote of around 26 percent was the lowest ever recorded. It has lost so-called heartland seats in Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong.

Bathurst, the home town of Labor saint Ben Chifley, fell to the Nationals with a swing against the ALP of almost 36 percent.

Labor may win just 20 seats in a Parliament of 93.

The Greens had high hopes. The stampede to throw Labor out destroyed those hopes.Their vote went up a little over 1 percent. The swing went not to the Greens (viewed by many as on the Left) but further to the Right.

The issues that saw people desert Labor – schools, hospitals and transport for example – are the very issues the Liberals won’t be able to address.

The task is Herculean and the outcome under capitalist democracy Sisyphean. Overcoming the problems requires systemic solutions, such as overthrowing the system to put people before profit.

The Conservative coalition won’t be able to deliver.

Indeed the history of neoliberalism in Australia since 1983 has shown that both sides of the same coin of politics have the same solutions – less and less spending on public services and more and more moves to the all conquering market.

On top of that the policies of both Labor and the Liberals have been to shift the wealth of society more and more to those who own the means of production. Thus the share of national product going to capital is almost at an all-time high and that to labour an all-time low.

Similarly the tax burden has shifted from the rich and business either through policy changes or avoidance onto labour. Cutting taxes on capital is paid for by cutting spending on schools and universities, health, roads and public transport but without any corresponding drop in prices. The tax cuts on business go to profit.

These seismic shifts in the distribution of the social surplus are in part a response to declining profit rates over the last 4 decades, ever since the post war boom ended in the late 60s and early 70s.

Labor has been an enthusiastic hit-man for neoliberalism, the ideology of wealth transfer from workers to the ruling class.  In doing this it has laid the intellectual and political groundwork for the accession of the Tories, people like Howard federally from 1996 to 2007 and O’Farrell on the weekend in New South Wales.

But Labor’s neoliberal nuking also requires a compliant workforce.

The Accord for example from 1983 onwards destroyed rank and file organisation in trade unions, concentrated power in the hands of the pro-Labor officials and saw the number of industrial disputes collapse. The Union movement tied itself up and the bosses rode over their ideologically and industrially weakened workforce.

The failure of Labor politically and industrially to fight capital rather than capitulate to it means that the Party cannot meet the expectations of its members, supporters and those who vote or voted for it for a better society economically and socially.

Without a strong left wing outside the ALP built on and out of economic and political struggles the alternative for most workers to a defenestrated ALP is a neoliberal Liberal Party.

The Greens might appeal to some leftward moving workers and petit bourgeois elements hankering for the good old days of Gough or Bob (good old days that weren’t that great) but for most workers the Greens remain a hostile force, lacking any appeal for them on a clear class basis.

Indeed many of the Greens policies, like a carbon tax, are specifically aimed at cutting workers’ living standards to force behavioural change on them and the polluters. Anti-working class policies won’t attract workers.

There are no short cuts for the left. Certainly there may be opportunities to argue for action against the Coalition in New South Wales when it tries to privatise electricity generation on a more thoroughgoing basis than Labor.

However, it is unlikely the trade union bureaucrats will lead any fightback. They have grown fat and lazy from 16 years of eating ALP tidbits. Only a rank and file movement of unionists can challenge the anti-working class agenda of O’Farrell.

That requires too a working class party to argue the issues and make the arguments for the defence of jobs, wages and conditions an industrial focus to stop the attacks.

Neither a strong rank and file union movement nor a strong party of socialists exists at the moment in Australia. Without them the yo-yo of Liberal and Labor is likely to play out for decades, with the Greens perhaps growing slightly over time.

The way to beat the Liberals is not to wait 4 years for an unlikely Labor Party election win. It is to organise in the workplaces and to build a party of socialists with clear ideas to help the working class defeat the conservatives of either the Labor or Liberal variety.

That is what we in Socialist Alternative are trying to do. Join us.



Comment from Shane H
Time March 27, 2011 at 9:16 pm

So in an atmosphere where working class people have just shifted right – rejecting even the moderate leftism of the Greens whihc like the mainstream press you describe anti-working class – and voted for neoliberalism with a socially conservative bias to the right of the ALPs version – and you suggest we need a new Left Wing party with an explicitly revolutionary program (a platform which garnered less than 1%).

While it maybe necessary in the abstract you can see why the far-left have not been that successful in biulding a real challenge to the status quo.

Comment from Dave Bath
Time March 27, 2011 at 9:18 pm

It’s terminal for the principles of the ALP, even if the brand name continues, unless the right-wing factional hacks are ejected. Even mere progressive politics may not be terminal – but is in a coma, on life support.

Unfortunately, the Sussex St types will spin 21 seats as a good result considering.

The real question is why the electorate was so dumb as not to realize their complaints about public services will only get worse under the more fundie of the two right-wing parties that have held power across Oz for a long time.

Comment from Catching up
Time March 27, 2011 at 9:31 pm

Did many of you hear what the loser raid last night. She said that they respect the voters decision. I think that all on this site also do the same, as this is democracy.
You make your run and accept the decision until you get another chance after this government has run it course in four years time.
It is not democracy to push a government to the polls because you do not agree with the decisions made. That does not mean we do not have the right to give opinions on the new government or that we have to agree with what it stands for.
It does not mean what they are doing is for the benefit of us all. It also does not give us the right to hate. In a democracy you are required to respect the government’s right to exist.
This is my concept of democracy and I believe it is time that many on the Oppositions side took a page out of the losing side last night and follow her example.
Most Labor voters would acknowledge that it is not good for any government to be in power as long as sixteen years.

Comment from Tony
Time March 27, 2011 at 9:59 pm

Catching up: The voters decision is respected. It must be said, that if democracy has atrophied to the point of being a single ballot every few years, then no wonder the situation appears so dire and is in the ICU.

I see democracy as a process, and a vote is one factor in that process. Organisation and mobilisation are others, although there are more. Corporate interests relentlessly exert those forces every day of those few years and they’re not entitled to vote. Why should everyone else sit back and roll with the punches? Your view of democracy is not mine, convince me with bullet point reasons why I should take your perspective and be a passive mushroom in the dark.

Who is the “Opposition” to you?

Comment from Ross
Time March 28, 2011 at 7:07 am

We do not live is a true democracy.Both the major parties now get all their money for growth from a private banking system.30% of our mortgage money comes from overseas.We are borrowing from OS banks who just create this money in their computers via the fractional reserve system of banking.We are borrowing to buy our own land.this means we do not own that land.Overseas interests do.This is modern day serfdom.

I see no plans on your site John for the instigation of new Govts Banks to create new money debt free.Iceland was broke and told the Central Banks of Europe to suck eggs.They refused the bail out money.Iceland is creating its own credit and now is making a recovery.

Do you believe in the Marxist policy of the State owning all property and all production being centrally planned?

We currently have a Oligarchy in which Corporate powers are stealing all our wealth via the banking system,control of energy,water etc.

Centrally planned economies do not work whether they be Corporate Oligarchs or Socialist. The world must move away from Globalisation and have national sovereignty with National Govt owned banks.

Comment from John
Time March 28, 2011 at 7:11 am

“Do you believe in the Marxist policy of the State owning all property and all production being centrally planned?” Actually I believe in a democratic workers state organising production to satisfy human need. The Stalinist monstrosities and their central planning had nothing in common with that vision of Marxism. I workers want to nationalise industries under workers’ control then I will support them.

Comment from Dr_Tad
Time March 28, 2011 at 8:01 am

John, are you arguing this election result represents a significant and widespread shift to the Right inside the working class? It’s not clear to me.

Comment from Tony
Time March 28, 2011 at 9:33 am

Ross, good summary.

Comment from Magpie
Time March 28, 2011 at 9:53 am

Apologies to bring an off topic comment:

That’s Free Trade, for You.

WARNING: contains extremely disturbing images.

Comment from John
Time March 28, 2011 at 11:42 am

Dr_Tad, I was arguing that the desire for better health, education and transport for example saw voters turf Labor out. I paint it as a yo-yo effect and one I argue we need to break out of. The question as you will no doubt point out is how.

Comment from Ross
Time March 29, 2011 at 6:52 am

Thanks Magpie for your link.This is Bush’s “New World Order” in operation.If we don’t stand up to them,it will only get worse.

Carbon Tax protest Sat 2nd April Hyde Park Sydney 10:30 am.

Comment from Camkwaut
Time March 29, 2011 at 11:24 am

“It is to organise in the workplaces and to build a party of socialists with clear ideas to help the working class defeat the conservatives of either the Labor or Liberal variety.”

If that is your master plan, are you really surprised that you have no members let alone any credibility? Socialists cant even agree between themselves, hence the big split with ISO years ago – clear vision indeed! S.Alt’s blinkered my-way-or-the-highway devotion to a one-size-fits-all revolution to cure all of societies ills would be funny if it werent so utterly tragically naive. There will be no revolution that you advocate for, not in our lifetime. Meanwhile the reformists and those with an understanding of the issues at hand (that runs deeper than a mere capitalist vs worker ‘struggle’) get on with getting the job done.

Comment from Cal
Time March 29, 2011 at 7:17 pm

It would be intersting to compare membership and then votes of all the political parties – although this does not indicate support or what people think, but Camkwat says a fact about support, borne out by the obvious number of workers who voted Liberal in NSW.

Australians are conservative people. We are not progressive or militant and I doubt we’ll ever be socialist either. Just a big middle class payin’ off our mortgages to the greedy banks, buying shit from Harvey Norman that isn’t needed and driving cars that are way too big. You might hate the Greens, but there about as politically and viably left as we’re ever going to have.

Comment from Tony
Time March 29, 2011 at 7:37 pm

Camkwaut: Yes, those supporters of neoliberalism (based on the internally inconsistent neoclassic economics) are “get on with getting the job done” handing over the financial and economic systems to rentiers and upward siphoning of wealth. There is little doubt about that.

Approximately how many years does “our lifetime” represent? If it is 10-15 maybe no, but 30-50 (post affordable oil), big call.

There is also an alternative, non-revolutionary outcome you fail to identify, collapse. That remains on the cards if we reach a post affordable oil world with approaching 9 billion people. Have you read Jared Diamond’s “Collapse”? Is he tragically naive? What do you think will happen?

Comment from Tony
Time March 30, 2011 at 10:41 pm

C’mon Cal: Fess up! First a few days back it’s:

“You know what I detest about you Australians? You say this stuff while you pretend…”

Now it’s:

“Australians are conservative people. We are not progressive or militant and I doubt we’ll ever be socialist either.”

Please explain. Are there two Cals, the ‘real’ Cal and the ‘fake’ Cal?