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John Passant

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June 2015



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

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



The problem is not just Bill Shorten; it is the Labor Party


So Bill Shorten as a leader of the Australian Workers’ Union negotiated some rotten Enterprise Agreement deals that kept the bosses very happy and the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union out. The CFMEU called one agreement, the East Link deal that saved the bosses up to $100 million, as second rate and a shocker.

It just so happens that some bosses like the AWU so much they make payments to it – up to $1m over the period 2004 to 2007 – to express their gratitude. Sometimes the payments are the union dues of the workforce. Bosses paying their workers’ union dues? Nothing unethical here. Move on. And it may be such payments increased the voting power of the AWU within the ALP.

Other payments appear to be for unexplained services or in one case for ‘an on-site “workplace change facilitator”, whose role was to balance the “needs of the unionised workforce and the company”.’

One Labor Party heavy, Richard Marles,  has defended Shorten saying that the East link deal is an example of how well enterprise bargaining works. In that truth lies a reality of the sickness at the heart of the Labor Party and the reformist project.

Labor is a party committed to managing capitalism. Its links with the trade union bureucracy mean it can often implement pro-boss policies that the Liberals, the open party of capital, can often only dream about. The Hawke and Keating Labor governments were the best of the neoliberal governments around the globe in delivering more and more wealth and income from labour to capital.

Hawke and Keating could only do this with the collaboration of the trade union leadership.  They got it with the Accord. The end result has been a massive decline in union membership, a massive increase in the total factor income share going to capital at the expense of labour and the collapse of strikes as a way of winning wage increases and defending jobs.

Trade union bureaucrats are not members of the working class. They do not sell their labour power to survive and have real control over their work.

The role of paid union officials is to haggle with the bosses over the price of labour power, that is wages. Often, especially if there is pressure from below, the price will be OK.  Of course that doesn’t challenge the exploitation at the heart of capitalism but can improve workers’ lives for a while.

Pressure from below is the thing that is missing today from most unions.

The Labor Party is the creature and creation of the trade union bureaucracy. It expresses the idea that what we need to do is negotiate between different classes for outcomes that are acceptable to workers and bosses but don’t challenge capitalism itself.

With the decline in rank and file influence (let alone control) of their unions the pressure from below to produce acceptable outcomes has collapsed. Couple that with a relative reduction in the social surplus available to Labor governments flowing from the global fall in profit rates from the late 60s or early 70s in Australia and the process of the degeneration of the ALP from a capitalist workers’ party to a capitalist party is at best resulting today in a CAPITALIST workers’ party if not a capitalist party. Shorten is but one indicator of that process.

Is there an alternative to the ongoing degeneration of the Labor Party? One response is to urge the left to join the party to win socialism or some version of reformed capitalism. This misunderstands the nature of the ALP as a party of capitalism and imagines change comes from above rather than from below.

It also imagines Parliament as an institution of capitalism is one capable of implementing socialism, or in the case of most ALP members, able to instiute reforms contrary to the wishes and needs of the capitalist class or its ability to pay for them. Without mass pressure from below (strikes, demonstrations etc) that will never happe

This desire for soemthing better often gets expressed as hope in particular Labor Party hacks. If only we had Albo/Plibersek/whoever in charge instead of Shorten. The trouble is that Labor Party hacks like Albanese and Plibersek are an expression of its degeneration, not its revitalisation. They will and do manage capitalism and as the economy worsens they will do whatever it takes to restore profit rates.

The revolutionary left in Australia is small and divided. I for example am a member of the small group Solidarity. There are other similar but small revolutionary groups.

We are with others trying to keep alive the ideas of resistance and fighting back and building as we can the idea and we hope eventually thata ctuality of workers’ control of their unions. We also help social struggles like equal marriage, asylum seekers, Aborigines, anti-racism and others that break out to fight for change.

We are minnows compared to the might of the ALP, the second eleven of capital. However, in the words of Rosa Luxemburg ‘those who choose reform in contradistinction to revolution don’t choose a calmer, more tranquil path to the same goal, but a different goal altogether.’

A society of peace, one where production is organised democraticlaly to satisfy human need – that is why I keep fighting.

One of our tasks is to win over those who support reform to the side of revolution. Shorten and the rest of his rotten crew might make that task just a little easier, especially when (or if) they get into power in a time of economic decline.

I have written about the ALP and the process of its change over time in some depth in this article: (2014) “The Minerals Resource Rent Tax: The Australian Labor Party and the continuity of change”, Accounting Research Journal, Vol. 27 Iss: 1, pp.19 – 36



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