Impending crisis, the broken rules of the system v the 90%

Here, Michael Roberts gives a good overview of the global picture regarding new levels of instability in the economic system. Instability is an intrinsic feature of the capitalists system we live in.

He starts as follows:

The US stock market turned volatile this week and has now erased all the gains made up to now in 2018 in just a week or so.  So much for Trump’s boast that things for rich investors have never been better.  The fall in the US market has been matched by similar drops in the European and Asian stock markets.  The all-world index has had its worst performance since the Euro debt crisis of 2012.

— Read on thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2018/10/25/correction/

What does it mean for Australia?

Australia is affected, and the impact will sharpen in the months ahead as the national election gets closer.

Living in denial is dangerous. Governing in denial is destructive. Campaigning in denial is not very smart.

That does not mean giving up. It does means re-thinking the campaigns we are active in and how we join in them, and bringing others with us. Many of our demands will be just as valid. We will have to be tougher and more united in defending and winning them.

Living … in brief

Among other things, profits and profitability will fall. There will be bankruptcies. If you are a small business employer that possibility is very sharp. If you are a worker with a job, the likelihood that you will lose it or be pressured to take a big cut in wages will escalate. If you are a worker without a job there will be downward pressure on your social welfare entitlements. Just surviving will be tougher and we will have to resist a louder call to blame it on refugees and migrant workers. It will infect our thinking and our social solidarity instincts or, it will make them stronger.

Governing … in brief

The LNP government is preparing to leave the next economic crisis to the market. Deciding to do that takes about 5 minutes and means the government is not in control.

In the meantime, they will seek to get re-elected on the basis of “their record”: current growth numbers, reduced unemployment, and very low strike figures.

Growth as GDP is barely adequate.

Unemployment has fallen. They say, for example Kelly O’Dwyer (the rather shrill and vacuous Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations), that unemployment is at 5%. She is using the volatile nominal figures not the more reliable “trend” figures that say it’s a bit higher. I haven’t seen an interview with her that deals with that.

She also does not talk about underemployment. That is now rising and more entrenched.

Campaigning … brief, but not so brief

On climate change …

Apart from the big and growing campaigns against the Adani mega coal mine there remains no coordinated national campaign. There is rich potential for this in the dozens of small initiatives and mini campaigns.

A thousand flowers blooming, each one in its own paddock, will not be good enough to win the battle to reverse climate change.

On workers rights and Changing the Rules …

The union movement’s campaign to “Change the Rules” (CtR) that seeks more power in the hands of workers to reverse inequality and poverty will be affected by instability and new crisis.

We must factor impending crisis into our strategy. Not to do so would be negligent.

Electoral intervention will not be enough.

This is true for those who want the campaign to be focussed almost entirely on getting a new Labor government. That is, an electoral strategy that focuses on the marginal seats that the Labor Party must win.

If the crisis hits not long after such a government, as it did in 2008-9, that new government – on historical form – will seek that we retreat from our most important demands. They will join with the employers, albeit with some reforms to make retreat “excusable”. Recent and longer history says that the dominant (these days) laborist tendency in our union movement will go along with that.

Compliant industrial strategy will not be enough

The CtR’s current industrial strategy is to comply with the rules (even though a percentage who attended last week’s rallies did not do that) and then whinge about them through social media and national union leader media appearances.

This is a dead end strategy because it leaves both union and non union workers fully exposed to the bankruptcies and wage cut demands that go with economic crisis.

The champions of the dead end approach are also champions of rules that restore arbitration powers to the Fair Work Commission and inspectorial and prosecuting powers to the Fair Work Ombudsman. They oppose a comprehensive “right to strike” that puts power into the hands of workers, union and non union alike.

A prospective new Labor government relies on the “dead end” champions as it prepares to win the election with the focus on the ALP National Conference in December.

A defiant strategy: electoral and industrial action before and after the national election

For those who want an strong, interventionist industrial strategy for CtR that interacts with the electoral strategy and also escalates the priority on the “right to strike”, the impending economic and climate crisis is also a big deal.

If we are “fair dinkum”, the need to change the rules by defying them – a big part of Australian history – will rise.

There is a serious option: a minimum wage increase

The National Minimum Wage Review starts soon. The Fair Work Commission will announce a timetable at any time in the next few weeks. The Review process will then start and traverse through to June 2019. This is the period leading up to and probably just after the national election.

In the next few weeks, the ACTU will prepare and present a proposal for a minimum pay increase by taking all minimum wages – the statutory and award based minimums closer to a “living wage”.

Lets start discussing that proposal now even, if necessary, before it is formalised.

Lets build an industrial campaign, reinforced by our efforts in the key electorates, that puts pressure on employer organisations, the government and the Commission to accept that proposal.

Otherwise they will dominate the public debate with the economic c risks logic of 0% increase.

All methods and tactics of campaigning can be harnessed into such a campaign.

It can be designed to appeal to all of those workers who are not in unions but who try to live on the minimum wage and those whose thieving employers pay below the minimum.

The 90% in charge

The modest efforts that the Rudd Labor government produced in 2008-9 to deal with the economic crash back then will be inadequate. They complied with the financial management rules of the day. But we know the rules of the finance system are stacked for the 1-10%, even more today. They must not be allowed to dominate “governing” as the crisis strikes and takes effect. Unless the 90 % take charge, the 90%, and the natural world we are dependent on, will suffer horrendously.

But we also have the rich working class potential to develop and win an alternative.

Not just workplace relations, a whole network of broken rules!

The ACTU’S Change the Rules Campaign draws attention to the “broken rules” – from the point of view of workers – in the Fair Work Act 2009. The campaign is borne out of a system that adds to employer power and this enables wages repression. The system thus contributes to growing poverty and inequality.

Broken rules galore

At the same time we can create a list of other “broken rules” that attack the environment we must live in, living standards, democracy and humanist values. For example:

  • First Nations peoples exploitation, oppression, incarceration
  • The finance and banking system
  • Taxation – powerful corporations pay little or no tax;
  • Social welfare payments – denying a dignified life to tens of thousands;
  • Climate change – now no rules at all;
  • Trade policy;
  • Immigration and refugee policy;
  • Corporations law.

One can go on.

Put the transnational corporations in even stronger command?

It is clear that parliamentary democracy, in its current, Australian form has seriously broken rules also.

On climate change the government has morphed into being so bad that the large corporations are saying, through the Business Council of Australia, that they will go it alone on climate change mitigation.

Maybe that has been the objective all along.

Let the most powerful have more power to control the future. After all, that’s 21st century capitalism.

Its not just the LNP government who is the protagonist, although they are at the extreme end. The ALP is a co-creator of some of them, or insipid in its efforts to “solve the problem”.

Recently, the TTP (trade policy) is a good example. A closer look at Labor’s control of the negotiations for the Fair Work Act 2009 that reproduced or established “the broken rules”, reveals another.

Broken rules: separate? Or connected?

The big question is: are all of these sets of broken rules separate and discrete?

Or, are they – in various ways – connected and mutually dependent … systemic?

If the answer to these is “No” and “Yes”, that must lead to a very different response from all of those engaged in the largely discrete struggles and campaigns against them.

The challenge from a real alternative: the seeds within the separated struggles

All of the separated struggles contain an analysis of what is wrong with the :”broken rules” and, to one degree or another, an alternative set of ideas, proposals and sometimes specific demands. Many stand well as a real alternative, new rules that are democratic and reverse exploitation of people and nature, many require further development in the realm of power and democracy.

Defeating the sets of requires a unifying programme of demands and proposals, and a strategy for a unifying Organisation that can bring them together and put them in the hands of the people for further development and political pressure. That would include an approach that “unites the identities” (gender, race, ethnicity, sexual preference, disabilities) based on a working class framework.

The driving principles would be solidarity and unifying across the struggles, more power in the hands of the people, especially at work, equality, environmental renewal, and equality.

Leaving the politics of dissatisfaction as they are now – an inadequate combination of 1) silo campaigns, 2) protest driven electing of “independent” and right wing nationalists, and 3) click activism – will not put the majority in charge of their futures.