One Pay Day from Poverty - “The disappearing dreams of yesterday” (Kris Kristoffersen)
Written by: John G. on 2 April 2020
Kristoffersen’s lyric from Sunday Morning Coming Down embodies the rupture in many people’s thinking and lives over the last few weeks.
The sharpest rupture has been a million thrown out of work, on short shifts, without an income, some penniless, mortgages in peril, threats from the landlord, debts on the car, nothing to keep food on the table, a roof overhead, petrol in the car and the phone running.
After 232 years of capitalism in Australia, the last two weeks exposed the damning reality that huge numbers of workers here are one single pay day from poverty, hunger and losing the roof over their family’s head. However much the illusion of some level of financial security had made it into most people’s heads, half the workforce had the reality of their insecurity in this system forced upon them. The rest were stunned by what they were seeing and hearing.
It was former British rebel MP George Galloway whose phrase characterised how precarious many workers over the world found their lives, with destitution, devastation "just one pay day away”.
It’s such a damning reality that capitalism’s defenders here were forced to release $180 billion in welfare to stave off hunger and homelessness from around half the workforce and nearly half the population.
Billions on a down payment to stave off revolt
The lines at Centrelink offices broke down ideas of Australia as a society in which the working class is doing fine, making their way with secure futures. For many, under the pressures of housing costs, debt, insecure work, relentless employers ramping up workloads while holding back wages, this may not be news. But even for them the pace and ferocity of this crisis has driven home the precariously subservient position they occupy in their relations with their employers.
This has thrust to the fore the necessity of struggle to change that situation, to relegate casual and insecure employment, erosion of workers’ collective rights, to the dustbin of history. The JobSeeker and JobKeeper schemes are mere stopgaps, easing the immediate pain of the condition. They do nothing to change the precarious position of workers in their employment.
Solutions, not band-aids, are needed
The collusion of the ACTU leaders in backrooms, claiming and endorsing responsibility for the JobKeeper program without a peep about a solution, exposed their weakness and failure to lead workers. The bandaid is welcome but it should never have come to this.
Comfortable dreams of the future in capitalist Australia are disappearing. The Covid-19 crisis is revealing flaws and sharpening the contradictions within Australia’s capitalist system.
One pay cheque away from poverty – no more! Finding the way to achieve this can only be found in in ongoing analysis and in resolute and persistent struggle.
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