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John Passant

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April 2009



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Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

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Democracy is a funny thing

In Canberra the local Labor Party changed its rules to disenfranchise the Community and Public Sector Union.

My keen reader will remember that the CPSU is affiliating to the ALP around the country to “influence Labor Governments” or some such rubbish.

In Canberra, affiliation under the old rules would have seen the CPSU dominate the left, and with it the Party. So the gold ole apparatchiks in the ALP here at the citadel of democracy decided to cut CPSU representation so they wouldn’t take over.

The real reason the ALP gerrymandered its rules to restrict the power of the CPSU was to protect two other unions – the Shoppies and the building workers’ union, the CFMEU.

The Shop, Distributive and Allied Employees’ Association is a reactionary talk fest with a leadership as representative of its membership as Stalin was of workers. 

The CFMEU runs a few clubs, donates lots and lots of poker machine money to the ALP, sponsors the Canberra Raiders rugby league team and does some good work around health and safety.  It has a puppet in the Senate from the A.C.T called  Kate Lundy.

I wonder what the latest audits of membership show about unions in the ACT as compared to their claimed membership for ALP purposes.

The ALP’s commitment to democracy is wafer thin when it comes to challenging entrenched power bases, power bases divorced for the every day needs and interests of their members .

Yet the CPSU’s push for affiliation was hardly democratic either.  It wasn’t  a major part of the last union elections.

 When members have complained and organised against affiliation, they have got no hearing at all.

A democratic union would have in place rights of automatic recall to enable members to sack leaders who act against their interests.

The ALP has met the anti-democratic manoeuvrings of the CPSU with anti-democratic manoeuvrings!

We live in a profoundly undemocratic society. 

The limited 3 or 4 yearly suffrage means we elect a dictatorship for that period, a dictatorship that has little influence over the wage slave system.  In the realm of  production democracy is banned. 

Workers are prohibited from running the company or the department or the workplace because such profoundly democratic structures would of their essence challenge the rule of the tiny elite who live off our labour.

The left needs to be honest here too.

The war, civil war, foreign intervention and the failure of the revolution to spread in Europe saw the democratic Bolshevik revolution deteriorate.  The workers councils became shells. 

As the Councils died, and workers’ democracy withered, the Communists substituted themselves for the working class, hoping that democratic and socialist revolutions in Europe  would provide a material base for re-building Russia and save the revolution.

Those European revolutions failed – although it was close run – and the Russian revolution produced its own gravedigger, Stalin.

Lenin and Trotsky were trapped in history. As Trotsky remarked, if the Bolsheviks had been defeated or had surrendered, fascism would have been a Russian word.

Yet in defending the revolution they played a role in destroying its ideals. 

That doesn’t mean all revolutions must end in dictatorship. 

It was the material conditions of Russia that trapped the Bolsheviks. Revolutions in Europe would have provided enough capital and food to allow reconstruction to begin and democracy to establish itself in Russia again.

We too are trapped in history.  But the trap is the wage slave system.

It is incapable of providing jobs and adequate living standards for workers. 

Out of the struggles of today  around the world against job losses and wage freezes we can see the outlines of  a new and democratic society. Let every job placement worker govern.

Then the anti-democratic rubbish we’ve seen in Canberra recently from the ALP and CPSU can become a thing of the past.



Comment from Tel
Time April 16, 2009 at 9:37 pm

This is the problem with compulsory union membership, and for that matter compulsory membership of any organisation. If individual liberty was respected (and Socialists by definition never respect individual liberty) then any time the organisation failed to promote the member’s interests, those members would simply leave the organisation and join another.

However, once the union takes over a workplace and members are no longer free to decide to leave, there is no longer any incentive to look after the interests of members either. The conclusion is obvious, a Socialist organisation will inevitably be dominated by tricksters, crooks and liars… those who are skilled at manipulating the system to their own ends, and who manage to convince 51% of the people that what happens to the other 49% is of no concern.

This is equally a problem with any business that gets large enough to dominate an entire industry (i.e. a monopoly). Large businesses also take on the trappings of Socialism: centralised command structure, uniform pay grades, inflexible company rules, and of course special privileges for the “inner circle” who hold the real power.

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