Just who are the real extremists – Labor or the Greens?
Posted by John, July 8th, 2012 - under ALP, Australian Building and Construction Commission, Australian Labor Party, Carbon tax, Gillard Government, Gillard Labor, Labor Party, Progressives, The Greens.
The people who gave you Julia Gillard are now attacking the Greens.
Sam Dastyari, the right wing head of the right wing party machine in New South Wales, called the Greens ‘…extremists not unlike One Nation’.
One Nation was a racist, xenophobic group and a mainly middle class party which may have been proto-fascist.
One Nation policies on refugees and Aborigines have been taken up by the two major parties in varying forms.
The Greens oppose the neoliberal consensus of the ALP and the Liberals over the brutal offshore processing of refugees. They oppose the Northern Territory intervention for the racism and paternalism it is, and they oppose income management (first practised on Aborigines in the Northern Territory) and its spread across Australia.
If this is extremism there should be more of it.
Labor continues and has extended these anti- refugee and anti-Aboriginal policies. So it would be more accurate to say that the ALP is an extremist party, not unlike One Nation.
Dastyari said the ALP should think about preferencing the Greens last in seats where it was ‘in the Labor party’s interest to do so’. In other words the ALP should preference the class enemy, the Liberals, before the Greens.
Dastyari will move a motion at the NSW state party conference next weekend calling for Labor to ‘no longer provide the Greens party automatic preferential treatment in any future preference negotiations’.
Dastyari can say this because to the leadership of the ALP, the Liberals, while they might still be the political enemy in the sense that they are the alternative government, are not the class enemy.
Labor does not see the world in class and class conflict terms. It has always been a contradictory party – a capitalist workers’ party committed to managing capitalism, not overthrowing it.
Sometimes that has meant implementing reforms, often pushed forward by workers on strike or by demonstrations, and sometimes by the needs of capital for a healthy and educated workforce when the economy can afford it (ie when profit rates are adequate).
Now that profit rates across the developed world have fallen, the welfare state is under attack in country after country and those attacks are often led by labour or social democratic parties because they are about managing capitalism and ultimately that means running the system for the benefit of the bosses to make a profit.
Labor’s links with the trade union bureaucracy meant that it could impose solutions on capitalists for the benefit of capital. Hawke and Keating could and did do that with, for example, the floating of the Australian dollar.
Because of their relationship with the working class through the trade union bureaucracy the ALP can also sell shit sandwiches to workers with the union officials as their snake oil salesmen and women. The Accord, Enterprise Bargaining and the rotten Fair Work Act come to mind.
The ALP’s capitulation to mining capital over the Resource Super Profits Tax may show that Labor has fundamentally changed and can longer take on the role of ruling for capital against sectional interests.
This paradoxically flows from the ‘success’ of the Accord in the 1980s which not only cut real wages but smashed independent rank and file organisation, concentrated power in the hands of the officials, and gave them a seat at the table of government. This destroyed class struggle in Australia – from up to 1200 days per 1000 workers lost to strikes in the early 70s to just five days per 1000 workers last year.
As workers became divorced from strikes, the trade union bureaucracy and the Labor Party became divorced from workers over time. The ALP moved from being a capitalist workers’ party to being a CAPITALIST workers’ party.
But their influence was enough to enable Hawke and Keating to implement major neoliberal policies and shift wealth from labour to capital to address falling profit rates in Australia.
Falling profit rates have been a global phenomenon in much of the developed world since the late 60s or early 70s and led to the bourgeoisie abandoning Keynesianism and adopting neoliberalism, the ideology of cut, cut, cut and attack, attack, attack.
Because of its relationship with the trade union bureaucracy the ALP can still impose pro-capitalist policies on workers, even if they are increasingly sectional ones, mainly through the influence and control of the union leadership in the key sections of the working class.
Their policies and those of their natural descendants in the Howard Government have been so successful that the share of national income going to capital is now at its highest since records were kept in 1960 and that to labour its lowest.
It is Labor in power, through its management of capitalism and embrace of neoliberalism, which has laid the groundwork for the rise of Abbott and his policies, most of which appear to be variations on the neoliberal or racist policies of the ALP.
Thus for example the ‘debate’ between the two major parties over refugees is not over onshore or offshore processing but how best to process refugees offshore to ‘stop the boats’.
And the ‘debate’ between the two major parties over industrial relations is not over whether to make strikes illegal but how best to do that.
Dastyari of course was in charge of the NSW ALP last year when the Labor Government in that State fell spectacularly. Can’t blame the Greens for that Sam.
And the rout of Labor in Queensland can’t be blamed on the Greens either.
The near loss in the 2010 federal election wasn’t the fault of the Greens either, Sam.
Perhaps the fault, dear Labor, is not in your stars but in yourselves.
Perhaps, just perhaps, it is Labor’s anti-worker policies that sees workers deserting it and some (though not that many) swinging to the Greens? Perhaps, just perhaps, it is Labor’s anti-worker policies that sees or will see many workers holding their noses and voting for the Liberal or National Parties or even Bob Katter’s Australian Party?
Far better to blame a bogey man party like the Greens than to actually analyse why Labor is on the nose with workers.
Union leader Paul Howes, in that well know union supporting paper, Rupert Murdoch’s the Sunday Telegraph, has taken up the theme.
Bizarrely he says that there might be no competitive team sport if the Greens grow in influence. No rugby, Aussie rules, hockey or netball.
Howes sensationalises it by saying that New South Wales might never win another Rugby League State of Origin against Queensland.
In fact, says Howes, there might never be another State of Origin if the Greens were to win power.
This crap is even less believable than Tony Abbot’s ‘the sky is falling in’ campaign against the carbon tax.
Howes claims the Greens are opposed to the core values of the labour movement.
In one sense this is right.
The ALP have often been the party of war. In Opposition in 2003 they supported the invasion of Iraq (including by Australian troops) and the death of over one million Iraqis as a consequence. The Greens opposed this core Labor value.
The ALP have been enthusiastic supporters of the war in Afghanistan and Australian troops there, and the killing of tens of thousands of civilians. The Greens oppose this core Labor value.
Historically the ALP has been the party of white Australia and racism against the indigenous peoples of the country. They supported Howard’s racist Northern Territory intervention. The Greens opposed this core Labor value.
In power the Labor Government has extended the Intervention for another decade and expanded income management into others areas of Australia, punishing the poor. The Greens oppose this core Labor value.
Like the Liberals the Labor Party believe in stopping the boats and so want offshore detention in Malaysia with its barbaric conditions as a ‘solution’ to the non-problem of asylum seekers. The Greens oppose this core Labor value. They want onshore processing.
Howes referred to loopy and extremist policies and mentioned the Greens’ drug policies. The war on drugs is a complete failure because it treats drug use as a crime and not as a medical issue.
For example the war on drugs in the US is a way of criminalising and imprisoning many, including minorities trying to escape systemic racism and its economic consequences. The war on drugs also makes it more profitable for organised crime.
The Greens’ national drugs policy is about harm minimisation and non-jailing for personal use misdemeanours. They see drug addiction as a medical issue, not a criminal one. This is something many experts in the field agree with.
Of course the ALP gets major support from the main drug suppliers in Australia, the alcohol companies and the clubs and pubs where alcohol is consumed in huge quantities.
Leaving aside tobacco, in terms of destructive effects, alcohol is the most dangerous drug. In the A.C.T where I live the Labor Party has received millions over the years from the Labor Club, a registered club which sells a lot of grog and makes a lot of money from the pokies.
The Gillard Government has kept Howard’s rotten Australian Building and Construction Commission and moved it into Fair Work Australia. The Greens oppose this core Labor value. They want to abolish the ABCC in whatever form it takes.
The Labor Government was elected in 2007 on a wave of opposition to WorkChoices. The ALP repealed this odious anti-union anti-worker legislation but in a sleight of hand kept most of the repugnant anti-worker and anti-union provisions in the Fair Work Australia Act.
And what about employment? According to Howes:
The Greens do not support working people. They would rather we all squat in share houses in Newtown than work in real jobs that actually make things.
Now I doubt even many rusted on Labor Party members or most of their voters actually believe this bullshit.
In fact a switch to renewable energy over the next ten years, while it would cost hundreds of billions, would also create more jobs long term than just digging stuff short term out of the ground will.
And it will give our kids a future rather than the threat that the current profit system through its emissions poses to the system’s long term existence. (My article ’The carbon tax: heaven or hell? goes into this in more detail.)
A policy of taxing the polluters and building the renewable energy systems necessary to provide the energy needs of modern Australian capitalism and workers might be possible, if the short term profit motive didn’t dominate the thinking of the bourgeoisie and their politicians.
Apparently the Greens are dividing the progressive cause (whatever that is). Thus Howes says:
The Greens juggernaut is now threatening to cause serious long-term damage to the cause of the labour movement and progressive politics in Australia.
By cannibalising the progressive vote, the Greens are paving the way for the election of the most feverishly conservative prime minister in Australia’s history. They are Tony Abbott’s secret weapon.
This puts the cart before the horse. It is Labor’s rush to the right, its embrace of neoliberalism, which has opened up a space for the Greens. To call the ALP progressive is to live in a fool’s paradise. That is why so many have left the party and why few people, especially not young people, are joining it.
Whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad. Howes and Dastyari are living examples of this Euripidean tragedy unfolding before our eyes.
The madness is spreading. In the Victorian State by-election for the seat of Melbourne the ALP have preferenced Family First ahead of the Greens. Family First is a reactionary, homophobic and anti-women’s choice organisation and the last time the geniuses from the ALP did such a preference deal Steven Fielding became a senator and opposed Labor’s agenda in the Senate.
None of this is to imply that the Greens are a real left wing party. There is no organised working class presence in the party. It has many left wing people in it. But it is not a left wing party, and that contradiction is being played out now both in terms of internal tensions and the parliamentary focus of the party at the expense of mobilising its members in campaigns around refugees, same sex marriage, Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders and climate change, to name a few.
Imagine if the Greens joined with unions in a real campaign against the Fair Work Act, Labor’s WorkChoices, or the ABCC. The leadership of both groups however won’t mobilise their members in a way that challenges Labor. Maybe they fear their members more than they fear their enemies.
The membership of the Greens is mainly middle class, not working class. And their embrace of neoliberalism in the form of the ineffective carbon tax (the irrelevant discourse Andrew Glikson talks about) makes them something to be wary of in the eyes of many workers.
The Greens have benefited from the exposure of Labor in power as just another party of neoliberalism and the 1%.
But they are not left wing in any real sense. They have some left wing and progressive policies, but they believe strongly in the market and the profit motive.
When in power or coalition across the globe and in places like Tasmania they have sold out time and time again.
In Ireland for example they were at the centre of imposing austerity and lost all their seats. The United Left Alliance (including a member of the Irish Socialist Workers’ Party) won five seats by opposing austerity.
In Germany their then foreign minister, Joschka Fischer, supported the invasion of Afghanistan, and had doubts about the opposition of their Social Democrat partners in Government to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
This is not because they have bad people in them but because of the nature of their party – a party that accepts the basic precepts of capitalism and so governs in that context and with that in mind.
Even their track record in alliance with the Gillard Labor Government isn’t that great either. Apart from a pathetic neoliberal anti-worker carbon tax, what have they really achieved?
The myth and hope of reformism lives on and the Greens benefit from that. But that doesn’t make them a working class party.
The task is to build that party; to build a revolutionary socialist working class party that challenges not just aspects of neoliberalism but the system that produces neoliberlaism and inequity, that produces war and poverty.
When that happens then Howes can talk about extremism – the extremism of the pro-capitalist parties compared to the sensible and human centred policies of the revolutionary socialist party of the working class which mobilises and is mobilised by the working class.
For only through the spread of democracy into all aspects of society and the organisation of production to satisfy human need can humanity now progress.