Federal election: Don’t mourn, Organise!
The outcome of the federal election has come as a shock to many.
People with a deeply-felt commitment to the parliamentary process as a vehicle for progressive reforms are grieving. Right-wing and reactionary forces will be emboldened, and not just on the conservative side of politics. The likes of Joel Fitzgibbon and Senator Don Farrell are calling for Labor to “return to the sensible centre” and to “get back in touch with blue-collar workers”.
Their meaning is clear, and echoes the advice of the National’s Barnaby Joyce and powerful voices in the capitalist media: drop the “class warfare rhetoric” of wealth redistribution and give the green light to Adani.
The inadequacies of Bill Shorten
Of course, there was no real class warfare content to the policies advanced by Shorten and the Labor Party. Labor presented an appearance of a “progressive” agenda for social change (invoking Whitlam), but without touching the multinational corporations’ tax evasions and their power. Instead it targeted the small fish – franking, superannuation, etc. which gave ammunition to the ultra- reactionary forces (and most of the ruling class) to divide and divert people's attention from multinational's tax evasions.
Shorten's lack of policy on Adani gave him no credit with either side of that debate. Labor did not offer a viable and realistic program of transition from fossil fuel to sustainable energy, creating jobs, because that would require Labor to start talking about nationalising extractive industries and energy suppliers. Instead, it was a mish mash of a few empty platitudes without any substance that no one believed Labor would do anything about anyway. Workers are not stupid.
Up until the end of the Menzies era, the personality of a Prime Minister or Opposition leader was not the spoonfed daily diet of the great mass of the people. The Labor machine reacted to Rudd-Gillard-Rudd by adopting a set of rules that make it almost impossible to replace a loser as a leader. Workers could not warm to Shorten’s gormless personality; indeed, Shorten’s gift, out of his own mouth, of a weekly “zinger” to political satirist Shaun Micallef ensured he could never be seen as a credible leader. He was a machine man and people sensed it. Generally, the Coalition actually believe what they say, poisonous as it is. Shorten had to be pushed and pushed to take pro-people policies, and he did it because otherwise unions weren’t going to support him and Labor has so few members it needed us knocking on doors to have any chance to get elected. Shorten only stood for what would get him elected. He actually stands for nothing. Australian people despise pretence. They see through it.
The imported Obama method of targeting seats and now streets and bombarding them has backfired. The right knows how to deal with it. People don’t like teams of evangelical outsiders, whether led by Bob Brown or anyone else, coming into their communities and acting like they own them. Everyday people don’t generally dress in bright red or green or whatever colour T-shirts. We make ourselves obvious as outsiders by these uniforms. We only turn up at election times.
Get ready for the attack
Any leash on mining and fracking will be removed. That will be terrible for First Peoples. In the NT, Labor polled well in remote areas - among First Peoples it seems. Jacinta Price polled well on a law and order campaign in regional centres like Alice and Katherine. She has little standing among her own people. On top of the ongoing Intervention with its 12th anniversary next month, her election as an Aboriginal person blaming her own people, would justify more large-scale attacks. At least Warren Snowden now stands against the Intervention, unlike his party.
The departure of 10,000 jobs and the people who did them, with the completion of the gas hub in Darwin, has had a very negative impact on the economy and community there. We know having a job is critical. But fracking is a disaster. Divide and conquer of First Peoples will continue over fracking as Native Title allows them no veto.
Over the next decade, public schools will lose the $14 billion Abbott promised way back in defeating Rudd. That will be deeply felt in schools which are increasingly concentrating disadvantage. The loss of the commitment for 70% of contracts going automatically to TAFE instead of private providers is also a big blow.
Anybody on Newstart will be wondering how to face the future.
The Australian Building and Construction Commission remains and may be strengthened. Workers defying the ABCC currently find themselves facing 6 months gaol– or be silenced by fear of it.
There will be more attacks on unions. Their channeling of the Change the Rules campaign into parliament will come back to bite them. The ALP and union leadership had directed and pinned many working people’s hopes to fervently believing that change could simply be brought about by voting in parliamentary elections. They were misled and deceived (manipulated) by ALP and union leadership. Many are devastated and unsure where the campaign can now go. The need to run the campaign as an independent working class movement was not made a mass question. Social democracy cannot build movements that lead away from the promise of high parliamentary office.
Fight on our ground, not theirs
We mention impending attacks not to feed the gloom and despondency that some are feeling. Quite the contrary. We remember the words of murdered American labour activist Joe Hill as he faced his execution by the capitalist state: “Don’t mourn, Organise!”
Real people’s organisation needs to be built upon and developed. Organisation in the workplace and the community is crucial to advancing a working class movement independent of parliamentary careerism. Even if it had attained office this time, a Labor government would have essentially administered the system overseen by the Business Council of Australia, the Property Council and other peak bodies of the capitalist class. Their power is enormous. They can subvert and sabotage anything that challenges their fundamental interests. They have all the powers of the state, all the means of manipulating opinion, on their side.
Parliament is their ground. It runs according to their rules. We should fight on our ground, the workplaces and communities, not on theirs.
We are ready for the task. We must take to road of Clarrie O’Shea, recently celebrated at gatherings around the country. Never underestimate the people’s enthusiasm for real struggle!