Magazine of Socialist Action in Australia

For a 24-hour national strike against Abbott’s budget!

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Less than a year since the Abbott government was elected its support in the polls has plummeted. At the same time a movement against the Liberals is gathering momentum. The biggest street marches since the fall of John Howard have taken place showing the potential to mobilise people into action to bring down this government and stop the budget measures.

By Kirk Leonard, Socialist Party

Deep anger amongst whole swathes of the population reflects the common understanding that Abbott’s budget is a form of class war being waged by the rich minority against the majority in society. Tax rates on corporate profits fall while social services are cut and taxes imposed on the young, the poor, the sick and the elderly. Desire to stop this budget is widespread. The main question is how.

John Howard’s government was booted out of office on the back of a mass movement that partially harnessed the latent power of workers. On designated days of action people left their workplaces together to attend massive protests. Much of the economy stopped and the ruling class was shaken. Learning and building from this precedent, the movement against Abbott needs to organise a 24-hour national general strike as the next step in the campaign.

A strike of workers across the country would take the protest actions to an even higher level. The big business elite, set to benefit from the budget, would be sent a strong message and if mass rallies were organised in all the major cities people would get a sense of their collective strength. People’s confidence to struggle on a local level would also be boosted.

At the same time, an already weak and divided Liberal Party would be rocked. A major political turning point could be brought about and the government could be taken down quite quickly.

But political will for this type of action does not exist amongst the current trade union leaders. They have declared their intention to run a drawn out two year campaign that would basically encourage people to re-elect the Labor Party.

As a strategy to fight for better living standards this fails from the start. Labor support at least two thirds of Abbott’s budget measures. Moreover the last Labor government had a record of themselves cutting education funding, sole parent’s pensions, public sector jobs and more. They are no alternative.

Side by side with an industrial campaign of strike action we need to build a political alternative to the major parties. A new mass workers party, which stood unashamedly against cuts and austerity, could get a huge echo amongst working class people. A new political party for working people, with roots in the trade unions, would also help to transform those organisations along fighting lines.

While we need to pressure the current union leaders to go further, ultimately we need to break the link the unions currently have with Labor and return them to their socialist traditions.

In order to help provoke discussions like this trade union activists should organise workplace meetings. Resolutions and petitions calling for a 24-hour nation wide strike should be discussed and sent to the ACTU. Union delegates should demand that state wide delegates meetings are called so that generalised industrial action can be discussed.

The entire movement should mobilise to support any local campaigns that are resisting cuts, job losses or the implementation of any regressive budget measures. Efforts should be made for the union movement to work closely with active community campaigns.

This government, and its budget measures, can be stopped if the right strategy is adopted. It is urgent that these issues are discussed democratically in our movement and that the campaign is escalated in order to protect our hard won living conditions.