Labor’s crisis is about politics and policies, not personalities
Labor’s crisis is about politics and policies, not people. It doesn’t make much difference if Labor is led by Gillard or Rudd or some other snake oil sales person – the pro-profit and pro-business policies of the party would be much the same.
Labor’s foundational relationship with the trade union bureaucracy means the Party, like that bureaucracy, balances between labour and capital. Its ambition is to win power and manage capitalism. These two elements combine in the ALP as a capitalist workers’ party.
The Labor Party’s embrace of neoliberalism – let the market rule, curb union power, shift wealth to the rich and business – more appropriately make Labor today a CAPITALIST workers’ party. The contradictions between the two define the party’s nature but one can dominate over the other as is the case now.
Neoliberalism is Labor’s response to the crisis of profitability in much of the developed world.
The ALP’s first priority when in government is to defend and improve the profit system and profitability. All the talk about Labor values and fairness is so much bunkum to hide the reality of the ALP – that it rules in the interests of capital and the capitalist system.
When Labor does introduce progressive and pro-working class policies it does so for the benefit of capital as a whole or because it is driven to do so by the working class and/or social movements.
When profitability globally is falling then Labor joins in and often leads the attacks on jobs, living standards and the welfare state to try to restore profit rates.
The chimera of Labor values is clear after 5 years of the Rudd and Gillard Labor Governments. Poverty under Labor has increased. The gender pay gap is greater now than under Howard in 2004.The share of national income going to capital is at its highest and that to labour its lowest since records began to be kept. Inequality has increased under Labor.
The vilification of refugees sees Labor joining the Liberals in a bidding war of reaction and racist hysteria. The ALP has continued and refined the racist Northern Territory Intervention. Labor has followed the conservatives and continues the orgy of the killing of innocents in Afghanistan. The Gillard government is setting up a US defence base at Darwin as part of the Americans’ China containment strategy.
Even the repeal of WorkChoices sold us the snake oil of Fair Work, in reality WorkChoices Lite.
All of these reactionary policies flow from Labor’s Grundnorm – ruling in the interests of capital and their profits.
When the long boom of the 1950s and 60s collapsed after the tendency for the rate of profit to fall reimposed itself, politicians around the globe abandoned Keynesianism and embraced neoliberalism.
The election of the Hawke Government in 1983 bought this ideology of the rich to Australia. Neoliberalism is a response to the crisis of profitability, a crisis which Marx argues flow from the way capitalist production is organised.
The underlying cause of crisis in the ALP is the crisis of profitability in much of the developed world.
This expresses itself in all sorts of seemingly unconnected crises at a political level.
For example the Independent Commission against Corruption is daily reminding voters of the political bankruptcy of the New South Wales Labor Party.
We shouldn’t accept the few rotten apples argument. Parliamentarians are about running capitalism, a ruthless dog eat dog society of brutal competition to claw one’s way to the top and ‘earn’ more profits. MPs fiddling travel or corruptly enriching themselves are a reflection of the outcome and ideology of capitalist competition – the more dollars you have the ‘better’ person you are.
Because Labor is a capitalist workers’ party and its role is to manage capitalism these overriding priorities rub off on some of the Labor members of Parliament. Defending systemic profit elides easily into making individual profit. Without a strong radical current in politics the Labor Party’s shift to the right and its total embrace of the market means that individuals can succumb to the temptations that managing capitalism offer.
The same could Eb said of trade union officials, balancing as they are between labour and capital, operating as the retailers of labour power to the bosses. The destruction of rank and file organisation and control over the bureaucracy that the Accord produced removed the most vital layer of democratic oversight of the officials.
The outbreak of sudden family syndrome among 2 (so far) members of Gillard’s Cabinet indicates a government in crisis. To lose one Minister may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose two looks like carelessness. Well, actually Mr Wilde, it looks more like rats leaving a sinking ship.
Of course Evans and Roxon are resigning to spend more time with their family. I am sure if Labor were in a dominant position in the polls, looking likely to be returned with a big majority, they would still leave politics. I also believe in Santa Claus.
The crisis in Labor is a consequence of its explicitly pro-business policies and views.
The task of the radical left today is to build an alternative to Labor. Such an alternative must, given the systemically rotten nature of the ALP, not replace ‘bad’ Labor with ‘good’ Labor but work towards the day when the mass of workers, the vast majority of society, overthrow the whole rotten system.
This new society would be a thoroughgoing democratic system in which production is organised to satisfy human need, not to make a profit.
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