PASSWORD RESET

Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

2012 Socialist Party Conference resolution

Reading Time: 21 minutes

The following perspectives document was discussed, amended and voted on at the recent Socialist Party National Conference held in Melbourne. This document builds upon past perspectives documents and should be read in conjunction with the documents which were agreed by the last meeting of the International Executive Committee (IEC) of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI).

While the economic crisis has not had the same dire impacts on Australia as it has in places like the US and Europe, it has begun to have an effect. Unemployment is set to rise further over the next six months, as is underemployment.

According to Newspoll 60% of voters rate unemployment as a very important issue, putting it ahead of national security concerns. The last time Newspoll surveyed attitudes towards unemployment was July 2008, when only 46% rated it as a very important issue.

With nearly 40% of the workforce employed on an insecure basis concern about secure working hours is at an all time high. This goes hand in hand with housing stress and a general worry about rising costs of living and the growing divide between rich and poor.

The international backdrop does nothing to alleviate people’s concerns. There is a series of global crises hanging in balance. The economic situation in Europe and the US is dire, and China is also facing a slow down with the distinct possibility of a hard landing.

Any one of these issues can have global ramifications. Australia, being connected to the world economy by a thousand strings, will not be left untouched.

Undoubtedly there is also growing opposition to increasing wealth inequality. This has become a worldwide phenomenon, typified in 2011 by the spread of the Occupy movement. In Australia the movement was met with mass sympathy but not mass participation. This was largely due to the fact that Australia has been somewhat shielded from the crisis because of the mining boom.

Because of the rotten role played by the trade union leaders and the absence of a mass party of the working class, movements of this character can and will develop in the future. While Occupy expressed a low political level, it was able to reflect the mood of wide layers of young people and even an older layer of workers.

The Occupy movement has led to attempts from the capitalists and their representatives to try to address the opposition to growing inequality. Even Deputy PM Wayne Swan penned an essay for The Monthly in early March which set off a national debate about wealth inequality.

Swan’s words were really a reflection of the pressures that the ALP finds itself under due to the impacts of the economic crisis.

Economic situation

The Australian economy is unique compared to most other advanced economies in the sense that it has two distinct speeds. The mining sector is still growing and this especially props up the States of Western Australia and Queensland. The rest of the States rest heavily on manufacturing and the service sectors which are effectively flat or in recession.

In the 1960s mining made up 8% of all exports. Now mining makes up around 60% of all exports. Despite this rapid growth the Treasury Department has estimated that the ‘mining related’ economy could account for as little as 9% of GDP. The sector directly employs about 200,000 people but at the same time, since the financial crisis began, many more than 200,000 workers have lost their jobs in other sectors.

The non-mining capitalists are feeling left out of the mining boom and are in fact experiencing negative impacts because of it. One example of this is the high Australian dollar. It is making Australian exports less competitive on the global market, including manufactured goods and private education. Tourism is affected as is retail thanks to cheaper online shopping.

The one sided nature of the mining boom is shown by the fact that in 2011-12 more than 70% of all investment in Australia is slated for the minerals and energy sector. We have a situation where an industry that makes up just one-tenth of the economy now commands more capital than the other 90%.

Between the political coup that removed Kevin Rudd as PM and recently, the ALP has been a staunch representative of the mining industry. Gillard’s first task as PM was to modify the mining tax thereby saving the mining bosses billions of dollars. This was at the expense of other sections of big business, like manufacturing, which missed out on tax cuts as a result.

Since then the global economic downturn has further impacted on Australia. While mining continues to power along with record profits, the rest of the economy is effectively in recession. This has seen other sections of the big business elite cry out for government support. They, along with the more far sighted strategists of capitalism, are demanding reforms that can provide a buffer for the non-mining sectors.

It seems that the ALP is now starting to accept that putting all of your eggs in the mining basket is a dangerous plan. This is especially the case as China’s economy is slowing down and it is likely that we see a fall in commodity prices in the short term. While Australia has missed out on the worst so far, the ALP knows that this can not last.

China

The biggest single factor that has kept the Australian economy afloat is the export of raw materials from mining to China. Demand for these raw materials in China is largely thanks to speculation in the property market and a resulting construction boom.

China’s property bubble is unsustainable and will inevitably burst. When it does it will send commodity prices tumbling and impact badly on Australian government revenue. Flow on effects will be felt in the Australian housing sector and by Australian banks.

There is already a significant slowing of growth in China, which could be reduced to 8% or even 7%. Reduced demand for industrial commodities, food and energy from China, moreover, will have a knock-on effect on the Australian economy as well as other economies that have grown on the basis of trade with China.

Local government debt in China is something that is also causing a great deal of alarm. Further to that loans to property developers, to industries with high levels of overcapacity, to home buyers and to businesses that diverted funds into property or stock market speculation are all areas harbouring significant default risks.

In an attempt to avert a banking crisis, the Chinese government has imposed tighter controls on bank lending and on real estate transactions. This has led to many infrastructure projects being axed due to insufficient funds and banks cutting credit lines to local governments and their financial vehicles.

The railway sector is perhaps the most glaring example, with cutbacks to around a third of planned projects and many of the industry’s six million casually employed migrant construction workers going unpaid for months. It is projects like this that require steel which is made from Australia’s raw materials.

China is clearly heading for a new bad loans crisis and very probably the need for a banking system bailout in some form. The effects of this can be a long-term drag on economic growth, by soaking up funds that would otherwise be used for investment or to finance basic welfare provisions. The likelihood of this rises as the economy slows, property prices fall and local governments sink deeper into debt.

This all has major implications, not only for Australia, but for global capitalism. The Chinese economy has accounted for around 30% of global GDP growth in the last three years. The rise in problem loans within the banking system means it may not be possible for the Chinese regime to repeat its stimulus feat of 2009-10, at least not in the same way. This makes it highly unlikely that China can be the ‘white knight’ to again rescue global capitalism, something Australia’s politicians seem to be hoping for. The unfolding crisis at the heart of Asia means all sectors of the global economy are threatened with upheaval and crisis in the period ahead.

Employment

While Australia has so far managed to avert the worst of the crisis, the effects of the downturn have disproportionally affected young people and women. The female unemployment rate is 9.7% compared to the male unemployment rate of 7.7%.

The number of young people unable to work or a place in education peaked at the onset of the crisis and has yet to recover. The youth unemployment rate also remains much higher than for adults, and with an estimated 200,000 jobs losses in the retail sector by the end of 2012, many more young people will find themselves jobless soon enough.

The number of school leavers not fully engaged in education or work remains higher than at any time during the last 20 years. Those who have managed to find employment struggle with insecure working conditions, low wages and a rising cost of living. Those lucky enough to secure a place in higher education suffer from ever-increasing tuition fees, which even when deferred represent an enormous debt burden that can take decades to overcome.

The pathway of schooling to higher education to a secure job to eventual home-ownership has become an unattainable dream for this generation. The idea that if you work hard you can get ahead does not ring true for those studying full time, working long hours and still failing to make ends meet.

Unemployment more generally is expected to rise further in 2012 with the high dollar continuing to impact on jobs in the manufacturing and tourism sectors. One of the reasons youth unemployment has risen is due to substantive job losses in the retail sector, one of the main employers of young people.

Since the onset of the global financial crisis, the retail sector has placed the full burden of reduced sales onto their workforce. Instead of accepting slightly reduced profit margins, retail bosses have slashed tens of thousands of jobs. Because many young people are employed as casuals, they are the easiest to get rid of.

By employing young workers as casuals on youth wages, then sacking them when sales dip, the retail industry has increased its profits by 67.4% over the last 5 years, while wages have barely kept up with inflation.

Youth unemployment (15- 19 year olds not fully engaged in work or study) stands at around 18%. This is over three times higher than the unemployment rate across the whole of the population (5.2%), and does not include those looking for work whilst studying or those who have stopped looking for work.

Some regions are particularly impacted by youth unemployment, with areas such as the outer eastern parts of Melbourne, the western suburbs of Adelaide and the Central Coast of NSW experiencing youth unemployment rates of well over 30%!

Not yet satisfied, the National Retail Association has now proposed reducing the retail minimum wage by 10%, scrapping penalty rates for nights and Saturdays, reducing penalty rates on Sundays and cutting the minimum shift to one hour!

Poor retail sales reflect the financial stress many people are feeling due to the rising cost of living. These problems will only worsen with the introduction of further job insecurity and wage reductions, as people will be less willing and less able to spend money on consumer goods.

One of the reasons why bosses see young people as an easy target is because only around 1 in 10 young workers are members of their trade union. However, a mass fighting union of young workers across the retail, hospitality and fast food industries, taking up the issues of casualisation and youth wages could win important reforms and improve conditions for young workers across the board.

Frustration at the lack of opportunities for young people is demonstrated with over 40% of young people in Australia feeling that they have very little or only some control over their life. This is no surprise, considering young people have no genuine representation in political and economic life. To make matters worse the vast bulk of student unions and trade unions have failed to fight for the interests of students and young workers.

On top of increasing job losses, education costs and low wages, young people are also suffering from the housing affordability crisis. Young people today are staying at home longer than ever before. 80% of young people remain in the parental home at least until they are 24 years of age. One in four people aged 20–34 can’t afford to live independently of their parents.

The average rental property is often out of reach for low income earners or those in full-time study. Figures from the Tenants Union of Victoria show that the average rental property often consumes more than 30% of household income. This is often much higher for young people. Some households are spending up to half their income on rent!

Of course it is the disadvantaged that suffer the most as Australia’s housing crisis gets worse. 41,000 people in Victoria alone are on the public housing waiting list. The average waiting time is 4 years but some have waited up to 18 years in some circumstances. The longest wait on record for an individual was an appalling 226 months – just under 19 years!

The problems faced by young people, and indeed by all ordinary people, are not temporary or a diversion from the status quo. The problems come part and parcel with a system that puts profits before all else.

Banks

The banks have also announced huge job cuts with Westpac set to slash 560 jobs while ANZ have announced more than 700 sackings. This is despite huge profits. For example ANZ made $4.36 billion annual profit last year. With European banks lurching further into crisis, the ‘big four’ Australian banks are already being forced to pay steeper interest rates on the international markets. It is estimated that combined they have $96 billion worth of borrowings at this point in time.

The Australian Financial Review has reported that these increased costs marked a “steep change” in the cost of funds for Australian markets, therefore increasing the financial pressure on them not to pass on any future official interest rate cuts by the Reserve Bank.

The facts are that because of the crisis centred in Europe borrowing costs are increasing sharply. This is starting to impact on domestic interest rates and it is also a reason for the increased job losses in the banking sector. At the same time the banks are seeing an increase in bad debts.

Company liquidations and mortgage defaults are also on the rise. Over the 12 months to June 30, 2011 Victoria as a whole had 4518 bankruptcies. Queensland had 6148 bankruptcies in the same period while New South Wales’ was by far the highest of any state with 8133.

As we have said before far from being rock solid, the Australian banks and the entire economy are highly exposed to the deepening global crisis. As job losses continue to mount, this will further impact on people’s ability to pay their mortgages.

Interestingly Bob Carr’s elevation to the Foreign Ministry is seen as a boon for the big banks. Since leaving the NSW State parliament Carr has worked as a consultant for the Macquarie Bank. He will certainly represent the views of the big banks in his new job.

Electoral perspectives

While it is possible for this weak ALP minority government to limp along for a little while longer it is also possible that events could take a sharp turn and an election could be called sooner rather than later.

Recent polls (23/3/2012) show the Coalition leading the ALP 57-43 on a two party preferred basis. As preferred leader Julia Gillard’s has also lost ground to opposition leader Tony Abbott. This has in part been because of issues like the carbon tax. While most working class voters want to see action on climate change they see no reason why they should be forced to pay for it when it is big business that does all the polluting.

Polls show that 82% of people are concerned that pollution is making climate change worse, yet 75% think the ALP’s carbon tax policy will have little or no effect in reducing carbon emissions.

Policies like the carbon tax along with regular corporate handouts to the tune of billions of dollars each year have helped develop an ‘anti-rich’ mood in society. This mood was typified by the rise of the Occupy movement on a global scale.

Wayne Swan’s recent attacks on the mining barons are part of a broader populist strategy which is aimed at trying to win back votes amongst working class and middle class people by taking advantage of this ‘anti-rich’ mood.

While it is still possible for the ALP to claw back some support we would have to say that that seems unlikely at this point in time. It is likely that the next election will see the coming to power of a conservative government.

This coupled with a worsening economic situation would be seen by the ruling class as a green light to move forward with deeper cuts and attacks on the working class. With all the underlying problems, the establishment would be immediately pushing for European style austerity measures in an attempt to shore up their own interests.

We say that punishing one big business party by voting for the other is no solution to the problems ordinary people face. We need a party that fights for the interests of the 99% in the parliament, in the workplaces and in our local communities. The need to build such a party will become clearer to more people as economic and political instability increases.

Indigenous people

The Gillard Government has both continued and extended the racist Northern Territory Intervention which was first introduced by Howard. This policy has now been extended under a new name and, as we warned at the time, some of the measures are now being rolled out in other parts of Australia.

At the same time State governments, like the West Australian Barnett Government, continue to use the race card to demonise Aboriginal people. There are a number of examples whereby racist arguments have been used by state governments to assist them in their quest secure Aboriginal land for big mining and resource companies.

The conditions of life for Aboriginal people and Torres Straight Islanders continue to get worse. Recent findings show that income for Indigenous men is only 44.2% of that of non-Indigenous men, and 75.7% for Indigenous women. The imprisonment rate of Indigenous women increased by 46% in the last decade and by 27% for Indigenous men. Indigenous people in general are 13 times more likely to end up in prison than non-Indigenous people.

Despite this oppression Aboriginal activists around Australia have waged a number of struggles to highlight the conditions that they face. The tent embassy protests in Canberra and Perth were two such examples. There are ongoing discussions amongst activists about how to win land rights and self determination.

Socialists point out that we need fundamental system change to address the inequality that exists within capitalism. We strive for maximum unity between ordinary people both Indigenous and non-Indigenous. We campaign against institutional racism as well as discrimination in our schools, workplaces and in the wider community.

ALP leadership tensions

While Julia Gillard was able to fend off a challenge from Kevin Rudd in late February, the underlying issues that led to the tensions remain. Many commentators in the capitalist press tried to portray the Gillard/Rudd battle as one of competing personalities. While inevitably there were aspects of personality involved, the real underlying issues were political.

The ALP clearly needs a leader who can give them more credibility amongst voters but at the same time they are a party who, like the Coalition, is at the mercy of big business interests. The rich and powerful need a leadership that will be best placed to deliver for them – especially in a period of deepening economic crisis.

All of this manoeuvring for leadership in the ALP has shown once again that despite the apparent economic stability around the mining boom, the underlying atmosphere in Australia is one of uncertainty. This is especially the case with slowing growth in China and falling commodity prices.

As we have explained the Australian economy is extremely vulnerable on a number of fronts. The political crisis and divisions in the ALP are really a reflection of the problems Australian capitalism faces and differences about how to deal with the fall out.

While it is true that both Gillard and Rudd are pro-capitalist to the core, they do differ on a number of secondary questions which are important consideration for the ruling class. For example Rudd was originally removed as PM after attempting to bring in a mining tax. At base this tax was about taking from the super rich to give to the rich. The idea was to use mining super profits to stimulate less profitable sections of the economy.

Gillard opposed this plan and was seen as a more reliable representative of big mining interests. She was also seen as someone who was better placed to make the shift away from stimulus to austerity more generally. This has been a trend the rich have pushed internationally in order to make ordinary people pay for the crisis.

With the ever present threat of a worldwide double dip recession it is certain that the debate around austerity verses stimulus will come back to the fore in Australia. The ruling class are looking for an ALP leader who will best represent their interests. At the moment Gillard is their best bet.

Further to this Rudd and Gillard have diverging views about how to deal with increased tensions between the US and China. This is a major dilemma facing the ruling class as Australia has always been tied politically to the US but the economy is now almost totally reliant on exports to China.

Gillard is seen by the US as more reliable ally. The US is clearly uneasy with Rudd’s ideas about creating an ‘Asia Pacific community’ that would include China. They think that could undermine their influence in the region.

These are just some of the things being considered by the ruling elite who play a key role in choosing the leaders of the major parties and in many cases governments themselves.

At this stage many sections of big business are not convinced that the Coalition under Abbott could hold together a stable government against the backdrop of an economic downturn. He is seen by some as a populist and has yet to outline an economic vision that satisfies their needs. That said they would manage with Abbott should he be thrown into power.

A consideration for more far sighted sections of the ruling class however is which party and which leader can lead a government that can both protect their profits but also maintain political and social stability.

The ALP is a very reliable servant of big business but at the same time they also have connections to the working class through the trade union movement. This means they can be used to act as a brake on struggle and social unrest.

In times of crisis this makes them a much better option for the rich. The problem for the rich however is that often the ALP’s policies are so unpopular that the working class choose to throw them out of office and replace them with the other main capitalist party.

This was most recently seen in Queensland where the ALP was voted out of the State Government in a spectacular fashion. They have been reduced to a parliamentary rump of a mere 7 MPs. The willingness of voters to punish the major parties at the ballot box is an indication of the general dissatisfaction that exists under the surface in society.

In a sign of where the priorities of the ALP lie Rudd said recently that the reason for his resignation as Foreign Minister was because the “ongoing tension over the federal Labor leadership had been damaging for the business community” (!). Not a word about the issues faced by working people just a pitch to big business that he would better represent them!

If nothing else, what the ALP leadership crisis has shown is that while big business has two parties to choose from, workers, the unemployed and young people are currently without any genuine representation.

Greens

The Green party in Australia occupies a significant place on the political landscape. They are the largest party seen to be to the left of the ALP and until recently effectively held the balance of power in both houses of the federal parliament. The Government currently needs the support of either the Greens and Independents or the opposition Liberal-National Coalition to pass legislation.

As we predicted the Greens have not used their position to push through any significant reforms, let alone to assist in the building of social movements or grass roots campaigns. They have a purely parliamentary perspective which has allowed them to be sucked into the game and rendered them ineffective in real terms.

The Greens have agreed to oppose any parliamentary no-confidence motions and vote for Labor’s budgets – even if they contain deep cuts to spending. It is not ruled out that at some time in the future the Greens end up in a similar position to the Liberal Democrats in Britain, where that party is helping to implement some of the harshest austerity measures ever seen.

Even on climate change the Greens have been ineffectual. The proposed carbon tax operates firmly within the confines of the market system and will do next to nothing to reduce emissions. The big polluters are set to pass on any costs to ordinary people. The carbon tax is a step towards an emissions trading system which will create yet another market – this time for big business to profit from trading in pollution permits.

The real role that the Greens are playing is providing the ALP with a left cover for their right-wing policies. Under pressure, and particularly in times of economic crisis, they find themselves implementing the opposite of what they claim to stand for.

While many hundreds of thousands of people voted for the Greens hoping to see progressive change, we have to say that unfortunately they will be bitterly disappointed. To effect real change requires developing both a political and economic alternative to the profit-driven system.

Trade unions

The trade union movement’s response to the mounting job losses has been pathetic at best. At the moment most union leaders have resisted putting up a fight against unemployment instead preferring to call on the government to prop up failing companies. What they are really doing is parroting the bosses’ arguments for tax-funded corporate subsidies and protectionism. None of these measures are in the interests of workers.

Subsidies have consistently failed. In 2008 the car industry bosses received $6.2 billion in corporate welfare. At the time we commented that that this would be a stop-gap measure and that it wouldn’t be too long before they came back again, cap-in-hand, threatening to slash jobs.

The basic problem with this idea is that once the money is handed over to private companies there is no way to make sure it is used to protect jobs, wages and conditions. It is impossible to control what you don’t own.

Similarly protectionist measures like tariffs only lead to higher prices and inevitably off load the problems on to workers in other countries. Not only do they not address any of the fundamental issues but they create new economic problems.

Instead of accepting the logic of a system that puts profits before people’s needs the trade union movement needs to adopt a new fighting strategy. Every job should be defended with industrial action if necessary. Employers who claim they can not operate without slashing jobs should be forced to open their books. Let us see where all the profits and subsidies have gone. Further to this rather than subsiding companies that threaten job losses the movement needs to demand that they are brought into public ownership.

The key to understanding the conservative nature of today’s trade union bureaucracy lies in its material roots as a privileged stratum. This layer is almost without exception bound hand and foot to the ALP. It is the ALP that provides their ideas and marching orders.

Not only are the unions politically bound to the ALP, but the Accord introduced in 1983 under the Hawke/Keating government led to fundamental structural changes to all unions. A minority of unions who resisted were forced to comply or were crushed.

We saw the creation of super unions brought under the control of imposed national bodies and union rules. This was all done with little to no say from union members themselves. These structural changes are coupled with an increasingly repressive legislative framework that binds unions even more closely to the state and the needs of the ruling class.

The results are clear. Shrinking union membership goes side by side with wage deals that, in the main, deliver cuts to pay and conditions year after year. All independent working class action and thought is stifled and past successful militant actions are written out of history. Anyone who dares outline an alternative view is labelled as ‘divisive’.

Almost without exception pro-ALP union leaders have replaced action with theatrics. This serves to cover their policies of collaboration with employers and governments for what they claim to be the ‘good of the industry’. In short their politics have meant that the rich get richer while social services are destroyed and more and more workers struggle to make ends meet.

While there are low level differences around Keynesian economic polices verses neo-liberalism, none of the pro-ALP union leaders have any economic or political alternative to capitalism. From their pro-capitalist world view flows the policies of class collaboration, economic nationalism, and support for the ALP.

The current batch of union leaders will go down in history as presiding over the movement at a time when profits soared, wages declined and strike levels were at an all time low. They will be known as the most ineffective union leaders in the history of Australian capitalism. While the Health Services Union (HSU) is in spotlight right now many other pro-ALP leaderships are involved in similar levels of corruption. The task ahead is to remove these rotten leaders and rebuild the union movement along militant and democratic lines.

Even recently rank and file workers have shown their willingness to struggle but on almost every occasion they have been held back by their conservative leaders. This highlights both the opportunities and challenges of building an alternative political current in the union movement.

In contrast to the politics of the current union leaders the Socialist Party is fighting for a totally different type of trade unionism. We fight for a militant class struggle unionism that is anti-capitalist in nature and therefore necessarily internationalist.

Our goal is to strengthen this current in the unions through the building of rank and file groups. Further to this we campaign for the unions to break from the ALP and contribute to the building of a new workers party in Australia.

Potential for struggle

While the ALP remains in power it is almost certain that the union leaders will do very little to organise any serious struggle. At this stage they feel that they have their feet under the table in Canberra and they do not want to do anything to rock the boat.

If the Coalition came to power it is possible that their attitude could change and that they could allow limited struggles to take place. But just as we saw in the lead up to 2007 this would all be designed to supplement an ALP re-election campaign.

The difference however now is that the working class is likely to be less patient with the ALP given their failures of recent years. We could see a process take place in a similar fashion to what happened in Victoria in the early 1990s where the working class responded to the coming to power of the conservative Kennett Government with a series of impressive strikes and mobilisations.

Even in the short term it is possible that some defensive industrial battles can take place. With falling revenues more budget cuts are on the agenda. This will mean a continuation of the attacks on the public sector. We can expect more job losses and a reduction in services as the government attempts to ‘bring the budget back into surplus’.

It is also possible that industrial struggles could take off outside of official union structures. As we have seen elsewhere in the world on occasion workers that are outside of the control of the conservative leaders can sometimes go further than those who are held back by a tight grip.

However, because of the role of the union leaders it is unlikely that we will see major struggle break out on the industrial arena in the short term. We are much more likely to see struggles develop amongst young people, students, around community campaigns and around social issues.

Consciousness

The consciousness of the working class still lags behind the objective situation. This is in part because of the role of the trade union leaders but also because of the absence of a broad mass workers’ party. In Australia there is a layer of workers who are still hoping against hope that we will avoid the worst of the downturn.

Another layer reluctantly still puts some faith in the ALP or the Greens because they are the only big ‘shows in town’. Unfortunately we have to say that neither the ALP nor the Greens will be a saviour for ordinary people. Because of the absence of genuine political representation many working people are likely to be disappointed in the next period.

There is, on the other hand, an important layer of workers and young people who are searching for a political alternative. They have already been affected by the crisis, they are influenced by world events, they have been inspired by movements like Occupy and they are moving towards political activity. Our task is to reach them and then win them to our party.

The period ahead

Given the objective conditions we face in Australia we need to be prepared for two possible perspectives. One is that because of the underlying instability, things can change quickly. We need to be alert to this and make sure that our organisation is prepared to make a turn quickly if the situation requires it.

The other perspective is that things could continue to move along at a slow pace for a little while longer. The slowdown in China could take a little while longer to have an impact on Australia and we could see a situation where by the ALP, the union leaders, the Greens and the cross bench independents do all within their power to keep this government hanging on for a full term.

For all of them a change in government would see them locked out of influence for the foreseeable future so they will do all they can to cling on. This type of situation could mean that there is a lull in struggle for a little while longer. The absence of any objective pressure pushing people into struggle can mean that people are reluctant to be fully engaged in political activity.

Either way we can say that a change in Australia’s fortunes is on the horizon. The only question is the timing which is always the hardest thing to predict in politics. If we witness a sharp turn in events we can expect large sections of the class to change their outlook quickly. This may not mean that they will adopt a fighting attitude straight away. A layer can be knocked by events especially if they are accompanied by a sharp drop in living standards.

Regardless of whether we see a sharp turn in events or not we know already that a layer of young people in particular are feeling the pinch. It is this layer who can be drawn around radical politics now. If we are able to draw a layer of youth around our periphery in the short term a change in circumstances can see them come closer to revolutionary politics in a short space of time.

Our job is to prepare for a change in the objective situation drawing in those who are open now but understanding that the system is creating the conditions for many more people to be drawn to the ideas of socialism.

Socialism is the only alternative to the chaos and callousness of capitalism. Economic and political power must be taken out of the hands of the 1% who are destroying the lives of the 99%. We need a system based on production for human need not private profit. On the basis of public ownership and democratic control a sustainable plan of production could be developed to provide jobs, homes and services to all while at the same time protecting the environment. This is the type of future that the Socialist Party is fighting for.

See also this document on world and European perspectives which will be proposed by the CWI’s International Secretariat to a meeting of the European Bureau in late April.

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