Labor: making Abbott and his ship of fools look good
It is not about who can or should lead the Labor Government. It’s about the rotten anti-worker policies Labor serves up to we workers. That’s why Abbott and has ship of fools is leading 56% to 44% in the two party preferred vote in the latest Nielsen poll.
If only Kevin rather than Julia were in charge the shit sandwich that Labor sells us every day would taste so much better, wouldn’t it? No, of course not.
Workers aren’t fools. Let’s look at the big picture of why workers might be feeling pissed off with Labor.
First there has been an unrelenting shift of wealth from labour to capital under Hawke, Keating, Howard, Rudd and Gillard. The share of national income going to capital is now at is highest ever and that to labour its lowest since figures began to be kept.
Ian McAuley’s graph from New Matilda shows the magnitude of the shift over time, especially since 1983 with the election of the Hawke Labor government.
It is no accident that as profit rates around the developed world and in Australia fell, this wealth shift from labour to capital occurred. Shifting wealth to the rich and business is the way capitalists think they can resolve the systemic crisis of capitalism.
But there are other tactics the bosses have used too to address falling profit rates.
According to Brigid Van Wanrooy of the University of Sydney Workplace Research Centre Australians work long hours. The average hours worked is about 44, well above the standard 38 hour week. Much of that extra time is unpaid and worth about $72 billion to the bosses.
Then there is increasing job insecurity. The idea of a secure job is being destroyed in industry after industry not only in terms of permanent employees being at threat of losing their jobs but also non-secure employment (casual, fixed term, part-time, sessional and the like) replacing secure employment.
Unemployment or rather the threat of being unemployed haunts many workers. In Australia unemployment is officially running at 5.4%. Partly this is due to low participation rates. People are discouraged looking for work and so drop out. It is also a matter of governments fudging the figures since one hour of paid work takes you off the unemployed list.
The real unemployment figures are much higher. Based on interviews with nearly 4000 people in January 2013 Roy Morgan Research has put the real rate of unemployment in Australia at 10.9%, more than double the government’s figure of 5.4%.
On top of that, and based on the same interviews, 8.8% of the workforce were under-employed and wanted to work more hours. Adding these two figures together just under 20% of the workforce, according to Roy Morgan Research are unemployed or under-employed.
Maybe the shift in wealth to the rich, the increase insecurity in employment and the high real level of unemployment and under-employment, coupled with Labor in power, trapped by its systemic embrace of neoliberalism and running the system for the bosses doing nothing or even worsening these trends, explains why the current ALP government is one the nose.
Add to that Labor’s repulsive social policies, such as its locking up of refugees in concentration camps, its continuation of the racist Northern intervention, its attacks on single Mums and consequent loss of some of the middle class vote, and Labor’s support is hemorrhaging. The blood spurt is probably fatal for Gillard now or in September (if she lasts that long).
Ironically the socially repulsive policies are aimed at convincing the very people alienated by high unemployment and under-employment, job insecurity and seeing Gina Rinehart quadruple her wealth to $29 billion to vote Labor. But why settle for the carbon copy on refugees and indigenous Australians when you can vote for the original?
All Labor’s pandering to the backward sections of the working class does is give greater credence to the Liberals on these issues and push Labor further to the right in a downwards tumble for the Hansonite vote.
Profit rates in the developed world have been failing since the late 60s, a consequence of what Marx identified as the tendency of the rate of profit to fall. Neoliberalism has addressed some of this fall partially but not to anything near the levels of the 50s and the 60s. But the tendency has proved stronger than the countervailing tendencies such as lengthening the working day, shifting wealth to capital, cutting government expenditure, curbing union rights etc.
Without a massive devalorisation of capital, something the too big to fail policies across the globe have so far resisted, capitalism in all likelihood cannot recover and will be doomed to deeper and deeper recessions and weaker recoveries, or as we now seem to have in Europe and North America what Andrew Kliman calls the ongoing and long term Great Recession.
This means the economic base for reforms has dried up. The consequence is Labor is either dismantling the social welfare system (single Mums is the latest instance) or its reforms are spin. The National Disability Insurance Scheme is a voucher system, not reform. The dental health ‘reforms’ are built on abolishing acute dental care for the poor; Gonski is about reinforcing the gap between rich private schools and working class ones; the support for the equal pay case was belies the fact the gender pay gap is higher under Gillard than under Howard in 2004; the recognition of prior ownership does nothing to address the real issue of sovereignty; the carbon tax is a market non-solution to the environmental crisis the market has unleashed. The Minerals Resource Rent Tax is a tax that deliberately doesn’t tax the big mining companies.
This is reformism without reforms, the promise of reforms without their substantive reality. That is why Labor is so on the nose with so many workers. The lack of a viable working class left wing alternative, let alone a socialist alternative, means for many workers the only option seems to them to be Tony Abbott.
It is because Labor’s policies have been the policies of neoliberalism, of kowtowing to the rich and powerful, with occasional rhetorical flourishes of class war merely showing how far removed we are from it, and the fact that the ALP offers no class analysis of society and no way forward for workers that Tony Abbott will be the next Prime Minister.
Rather than this being a rupture it is a continuation of Labor’s politics of neoliberalism. As Hawke and Keating led to Howard, so Rudd and Gillard are now leading to Abbott.
The solution for workers seems clear enough. Fight both brands of neoliberalism, not with television advertisements but with strikes.
That of course is the real element missing from this story – the 30 years of one sided class war the bosses have waged against us with nary a peep from our side. That and the lack of a mass working class party arguing in the long term for the overthrow of capitalism and workers taking power and for the defence of workers’ jobs and pay here and now have laid the groundwork for the 30 year onslaught against workers and the coming victory of Tony Abbott at the election on 14 September.
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