EDITORIAL: Hard or Soft? Two Tactics of the Ruling Class
Written by: Editorial Committee on 2 June 2020
Since the beginning of the economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, the peak union leadership of the ACTU has been in close talks with the LNP federal government.
The usual hardline anti-union “thugs” and “law breakers” vitriol of the government and business class has been replaced with “dialog” and “working together” to achieve “the best outcomes for workers and businesses”.
The government has reportedly even shelved its second bid to pass its anti-union Ensuring Integrity Bill, supposedly as a sign of “good faith” (more likely they still couldn’t get the numbers), wanting to sit down with the unions to reform the country’s industrial relations system. A new recruit to the ACTU’s Change the Rules Campaign perhaps?
Unlikely. While the bosses and the governments that represent them may have been forced by the economic crisis to shift their tactics, the goal remains the same. Just as a leopard never changes it spots, so too the capitalists never change their drive for ever greater profits at the expense of the working class. Sometimes it can get them with an open attack on workers’ rights and conditions – the hard tactic. Sometimes it takes a little flattery and co-opting as it sets a surprise attack – the soft tactic. The ruling class chooses its tactics depending on what it thinks will give it the best outcome in the situation.
What will come out of the round table talks on industrial relations still remains to be seen. But Australian workers have an important historical lesson in the Prices and Incomes Accord of the 1980s to see the price paid for class collaboration between unions and big business.
As workers we should have no illusions that the interests of our class can be served by walking hand in hand with the bosses. The economic crisis is threatening their profits. Working people must be organised and prepared to defend their rights and conditions.
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