This year has seen the political crisis facing the ruling class deepen, as the economy continues to decline with no real prospect of recovery on the horizon.
Meanwhile, as working people we have faced our own crisis of leadership for many decades. The only way out is through independent working class action, but the majority of trade unions are hamstrung through their continued affiliation with the capitalist Labor Party.
Turnbull’s prestige has declined very rapidly. The Coalition won the election with the slimmest margin. They have already been forced to negotiate with One Nation on the ABCC bill, and Turnbull can’t even control his own party and keep his MPs in the House. He has led the first majority government in 50 years to lose a vote in the House of Representatives.
People have rightly lost faith in the political establishment. This has been reflected in the fact that we have seen four prime ministers in six years, with both the Liberals and Labor having faced leadership spills. The recent election was an unprecedented rejection of both major parties.
The Greens, having aligned themselves over and over with mainstream politics, failed to increase their vote despite the anti-establishment mood. Instead, people have turned to right-wing micro-parties, including the racist One Nation.
This is not because working people are inherently racist, but because, in the total absence of an anti-establishment left alternative, many people are drawn to populist and economic protectionist rhetoric from the right. These right-wing populists have nothing to offer, and ultimately they too represent the interests of capitalism, but they can gain traction for a period with such a stark vacuum on the left.
Despite the Coalition’s inability to pass key legislation, they are in agreement with Labor on attacks on working class people. Both parties passed the Omnibus Bill, which made $6.3 billion in cuts. And yet big business commentators are still not happy, demanding $60 billion more!
This is all in preparation for an oncoming financial crisis likely to hit the world economy. Australia will not be shielded this time around; during the GFC, only last minute action prevented the potential collapse of the banking sector. Now with continually declining tax revenue, there is no room in the budget for a second round of stimulus and bailouts.
The next crisis will hit Australia hard. Strategists of capital are determined that when that happens, it should be the working class who pay for it – not their profits. They have been largely unopposed in this, with Labor on-side and no mass working class political party to replace it.
Both parties use divide-and-rule tactics, demonising minority groups from Aboriginal people to Muslims to the unemployed. This demonisation feeds into the growth of far right and racist groups. Socialists must highlight the fact that the real cause of our economic woes is the capitalist system itself.
A solution will only come through mass action against anti working class measures. We have already seen the beginnings of movements around a range of pressing social issues. The abuse at Don Dale and the killing of an Aboriginal child in Kalgoorlie have also been met with outrage this year, as has the ongoing abuse of refugees in detention.
All of these abuses are endemic to the system we live under. Without an alternative and a fighting, militant perspective of how to confront these issues, we will see these same outrages occur time and time again.
The current batch of trade union leaders largely accept the capitalist system. Their failure in recent years to defend, let alone improve, wages and conditions has been noticed by the bosses. Measures such as the ABCC are attempts to wipe out the last holdouts of militant unionism.
This situation will not last indefinitely. We are moving into a new period, and the limited tactics currently used to oppose these measures will fall more and more behind actual needs. Working people will be forced push back in order to maintain their living conditions. The working class will begin to engage in politics in a decisive way and with the presence of a strong socialist force, real change will be possible in Australia and beyond.
Editorial comment from the November-December 2016 issue of ‘The Socialist’