The recent National Fightback Conference in Melbourne had a good turnout
of about 300 people. This shows the thirst amongst the more politically
advanced workers for explanation and strategies as to how to defend their
class from the imminent attacks of the Coalition.
Editorial from July issue of ‘The Socialist’
There were great responses to fighting speeches from likes of Craig
Johnston and WA Maritime Union of Australia Secretary, Chris Cain. These
more left wing, militant leaders are seen by class conscious workers as
fighters who will use industrial action to fight the bosses if necessary.
The most obvious split in the unions is between the ACTU and generally
pro-ALP or class compromising leaders on the one hand, and the class
struggle leaders in the CFMEU, ETU, NSW NUW etc on the other.
The former, at best, want to wait until Labor wins again – at worst are
preparing any rotten deal they can sell to Howard. But why would he make a
deal now? In the face of such cowardice he is going in for the kill.
The militant unions have called various strikes or rallies on June 30th
(on July 1st in NSW). They have a general uneasy relationship with State
Labor governments and the Federal Opposition. However, they have no plans to
create a new workers’ party and, therefore, have to slide back to backing
Labor in elections.
At the Fightback Conference, even Socialist Alliance (SA) member Craig
Johnson called for unions to pressurise Labor. Of course in general this is
correct. The ABC of politics tells us that Labor is a bosses’ party with
capitalist ideas, policies and leaders and has little left of its past
working class rank and file. The D-Z of politics however is that they still
have power, controlling every State. This side of a socialist revolution,
unions must deal with every boss and every bosses’ party that exists in
order to get the best for their members. The trick is to see the ALP in this
light, not as a wing of our movement. If you have illusions in them, rather
than treat them as a party we have no choice but to deal with, you will be
disappointed each time.
Johnston said the alternative to pressurising the ALP was to wait until
the Greens or SA make an electoral breakthrough – this may never happen. It
was unfortunately not pointed out at the Conference that SA got 0.1% in the
WA State elections – despite have Chris Cain as a member there. Only the
Socialist Party has been able to win an election for the socialist movement
SP members pointed out that there is a third alternative to Greens/SA or
ALP – that is the creation of a new workers’ party using the millions given
by militant unions to the ALP as seed money.
The strong militant unions have been able, in some industries, to force
employers to sign early Enterprise Bargaining Agreements to nail down
workers’ wages and conditions before the post-July 1st changes. We support
However with a mortgaged-up rank and file there will be pressure on the
leftwing, pragmatic union leaders to buy out of the general fightback
against Howard, or at least only get involved in the bigger rallies. This
would be a big mistake.
Strong unions will not survive by putting their heads in the sand. In any
event, the counter reforms of Howard will lower the standard of living of
the working class (in terms of more expensive health and education,
casualisation, user pays etc) – so whatever wages a building or metal worker
gets will be eaten into by the rest of their family having bigger and bigger
bills to survive.
There is no alternative but a generalised industrial response to Howard
and the bosses through the strategy outlined elsewhere in this issue of The
Socialist. If the ACTU and their rightwing mates won’t support this,
militant unions must strike out anyway. This will force the others to
follow, as has occurred many times in Australian trade union history.
We also need to open up a real discussion in the class around the need for
a new workers’ party. The ALP is a wing of the enemy. The Greens are a
middle class party that caves into the ruling class whenever they get into
power (see Yarra City Council, New Zealand, Germany). The Socialist Alliance
is an electoral failure, dominated by the increasingly aggressive Democratic
Socialist Perspective faction.
We in the Socialist Party will raise these ideas in the movement. If you
agree with them, join our party now!