It should come as no surprise to anyone that a new LNP government would go after workers and union rights after winning an election. There has not been an LNP government that has not done that or regulatory bodies that have not fallen into line.
It’s in their DNA and in a perverse sense there is a logic to it that contains a profound truth. It is worth noting, based on that report, how strategically thoughtful Morrison appears to be on behalf of his base in the Business Council of Australia, the Australian Industry Group, and the Australian Mines and Minerals Association. He is a formidable warrior for his class.
The logic is that falling profitability, and with that falling investment, can only be reversed by cutting the total wages share. In our times, that means also getting their hands more firmly on the superannuation share of that. In a capitalist society that’s how it really works. It is naive and idealistic to see it any other way. And denialist.
Which is not to say that there is not a genuine workers’ alternative to the capitalist class formula.
The profound truth
The profound truth that lies behind that logic is that all new wealth and its further accumulation depends upon workers’ labour (no matter the mix of intellect and muscle) and the gifts from the natural world, as well as the day by day reproduction of the society itself. Here is an immediate example.
Of course workers do not own that part of the natural world they work upon. That has been appropriated by employers for free or at the lowest value possible. Inherited wealth originates in workers’ labour and its work upon the natural world. Investment dollars are the same. And taxes paid, no matter how much and by whom, although the social wage outcome (see below) might reduce the rate of exploitation. And so is the trading and inflating of dollars by the bludgers in the financial system. And so on.
As the old song, “Solidarity Forever” – the late Hawkie’s favourite song apparently, although on several occasions I never heard him sing it without forgetting the words – says:
“They have taken untold millions they never toiled to earn
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn.”
This is not a mawkish, sentimental lament. Rather, It’s the poetry (not all poetry is sweet) of 21 st century exploitation and thus the core rationale for the common sense of unionism. As much as in any previous capitalism.
The acolytes to the logic
It should also not be a surprise to see that the Australian Financial Review is and will be promoting workplace and industrial relations “reform”. Nor that they will be joined by most economic commentators to some degree or another. That’s because they are with the system. They believe in it.
And that’s why the parliamentary ALP will entertain the reforms – both industrial relations and tax – and agree to some of it.
It reflects the percipient observations but rather sad conclusions of Robert Reich, the yankee labour economist much admired in the ALP, including some in its left. The poor bloke doesn’t understand (or wilfully denies) that the more benign capitalism he wants actually creates the extreme capitalism he doesn’t want.
Now it is reported that the laborists in the parliamentary ALP will in effect accept the LNP’s tax cuts. That leaves begging a simple question that they hope will not get elevated.
Is the social wage important to the broad labour movement?
What will this do to the social wage? The social wage is the return to workers, especially those who for various reasons are not in regular or full time employment or who are dependent on public health and public education and public transport, out of the relationship between tax and government (public spending).
Making the social wage a part of working class and union business originated out of the union movement left in the late 1970’s, smack bang in the middle of the right wing Fraser LNP government ascendancy, and coinciding with that government’s introduction an industrial relations police force.
Why is the laborist ALP not talking about this? This gift to the LNP will punish a significant part of the working class.
What the general membership of the ALP make of and do about the parliamentary ALP’s actions in their name is an important question. “Trust our parliamentarians” is an important, although sometimes fragile, part of their belief system also. Watch out for more on this in a separate post.
Meanwhile, in the face of at least 12 months of denialism, in various forms and across the spectrum, the economy is marching steadily into recession. And monetarism (Reserve Bank leadership), as embraced by both major parties, says that it does not have the answer. This demands a workers’ alternative.