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Step up Change the Rules campaign – don’t let it die in a parliamentary election!

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Nick G.      1 May 2019 

On May Day 2019, the day of international working class struggle and solidarity, workers in Australia will show our united resolve to step up the fight to Change the Rules and continue the struggle for a fairer, more just society for working people.

The last great mass struggle by workers and communities who succeeded in pushing back the anti-union Penal Powers was 50 years ago, in May 1969.

More than a million workers across the country courageously defied the oppressive Penal Powers. They ignored the threats and intimidation and resolutely demanded the release from gaol of Victorian Tramways Union Secretary Clarrie O’Shea and the smashing of the Penal Powers.

O’Shea, a Vice-Chairman of the CPA (M-L), acting on behalf of his union members, led the battle by refusing to be questioned about union finances or to pay fines imposed, and was gaoled indefinitely.

Five days of illegal national strikes, ongoing wild-cat industrial action, protests and marches across the country forced the ruling class of big business to release O’Shea from gaol and suspend the Penal Powers.
Many lessons can be learnt today from this magnificent struggle.

No sell-out!
We wholeheartedly support the original demands and mass mobilisation for the Change the Rules campaign initiated by the ACTU in 2018.

However, with the declaration of the federal election on May 18, this campaign has been turned into one of supporting the ALP and surrendering our original independent demands to the ALP’s electoral agenda.

The defeat of the Coalition government and the election of Labor is a necessary step in a much longer independent mobilisation in a protracted Change the Rules campaign.

Under no circumstances should we allow this campaign to suffer the fate of Your Rights at Work, a genuinely mass campaign organised and fought for by workers through their unions and communities. It too was diverted into support for the ALP (against Abbott’s reactionary team).  It was then brought to an end and the working people’s independent organisations dismantled.
Workchoices ended in name, but its Labor replacement, Fair Work Australia, reintroduced massive financial penalties for unions and their members.

If you don’t fight, you lose
For some, despite all the betrayals by Labor governments, it’s hard to break out of a cycle of hoping for a better deal, and then losing heart every time Labor wins office and backtracks on its promises, to the point where it seems indistinguishable from the more open party of big business. 

We respect this sentiment, but do not share it.  We need to break out of its dead-end cycle.

We suggest that people keep the strong pressure of the Change the Rules campaign on a Labor government, but do not ever rely on Labor.  We need to go into a period of Labor government with our eyes open: realising that behind its promises to the working class lies its essential service to capitalism and the big end of town.

There are many working people cynical about parliament and the main political parties. They don’t hold much hope for either Labor or the LNP to look after their interests. They sense that big business and multinationals dictate policies to parliament. They will respond with enthusiasm to an independent and militant Change the Rules campaign that’s not subservient to the ALP and targets multinational corporations.

Change the Rules must not be an appendage to the electoral fortunes of a capitalist political party.  It must be a component of an independent working class agenda and fought for in our workplaces and communities.

Everything unfair and unjust needs to be dealt the blows of the organised working class.  If it’s not hit in militant class struggle, it won’t be changed at all.

We’re not just talking of restoring penalty rates or introducing the basic wage as a ‘living wage’.  We must have the legal right to strike, abolishing the Fair work Commission, abolishing the ABCC and the Registered Organisations Commission.

To Change the Rules, we really need to Change the System!


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