Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Vanguard August 2013

Vanguard August 2013

Throw out the corporate parasites - not the refugees!

Vanguard August 2013 p. 1
Alice M.

The exploitation of the asylum seekers and refugees by the two main parliamentary parties is a shameful disgrace.

The equally repressive policies of both the Labor government and the Liberal Party targeting refugees seeking asylum has infuriated many Australians.

The two main parliamentary parties, the media and, standing behind them the corporate monopolies, foment and incite fear against refugees arriving in decrepit boats.

Scapegoats are put up to divert attention from the real causes for the difficulties of the people – the economic system of capitalism, imperialist globalisation and wars. 

This has always been the case in times of capitalist economic crisis when working people face attacks on their economic conditions, unemployment and job insecurity, government cuts to public and community services, pensions and benefits. 

Big business demands governments divert more public funds to their profit making.  They demand more infrastructure such as freeways to improve the productivity (profits) in freight transportation and billions of dollars in hand outs to multinational car corporations.

Big business demands cuts to their taxes, and the mining corporations demand a miniscule tax or no tax at all on their super profits extracted from Australian resources and the labour of workers. Rio Tinto announced that it will not pay any tax at all for the June quarter.

Yet, the asylum seekers are treated by the Labor government and the Liberal opposition as cheats, liars, queue jumpers and a burden on Australian society. 

In this capitalist economic crisis corporate monopolies don’t want public funds spent on support for asylum seekers and refugees.  There is already an abundance of cheap migrant labour around the world.  This is the source of the problem. The two main parliamentary parties and media monopolies do the bidding for the monopoly corporations.
This is outrageous.  Australia is an industrially developed country with an abundance of wealth in our natural resources, diverse and large food production industries, and until recently, minerals processing, technological and manufacturing industries.  Imperialist globalisation is decimating our manufacturing industries.

We could be well placed to provide a secure and decent standard of living, not only for the people residing in Australia, but also for asylum seekers and refugees fleeing wars of aggression, foreign military occupations, repression and poverty created by the brutality of imperialism.

So who are the real parasites in Australia? It’s not the asylum seekers who want a secure life, secure work and contribute their share to the well-being of the whole of society.

The real parasites and cheats are the local and foreign owned mining monopolies; it’s the foreign owned Ford, Holden, Toyota who have pocketed more than a billion dollars in hand-outs from people’s taxes and then sacked thousands of workers anyway. Most of their profits are shipped out of Australia to their overseas corporate head offices.

It’s also the big banks who’ve made mega profits from swindling working people. 

Australia behaves like a mini colonial power. Both Labor and Liberals have resorted to colonial policies of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Labor is dumping desperate refugees on the deeply impoverished people of Papua New Guinea. The Liberals are promising a naval armada to blast the refugees out of the water all together. 

They’re trying to outdo each other in their jingoism and inhumanity.

The treatment of asylum seekers and refugees by the two main parliamentary parties exposes the decadence of Australia’s bourgeois parliament as administering the country in the interests of capital.

Fourteen years of struggle for Woolies' workers

Vanguard August 2013 p. 2

For the workers at the Woolworths Hume Distribution Centre in the northern Melbourne suburb of Broadmeadows, 2013 presents an opportunity to further improve wages and conditions, with the current Enterprise Agreement set to expire on September 1st.

Through fourteen years of struggle, the Hume Distribution Centre workers, members of the National Union of Workers, enjoy some of the best wages and conditions in the logistics industry across Australia.

In the face of aggressive campaigns by Woolworths at the Brisbane Liquor and Wodonga Regional Distribution Centres to attack penalty rates, workers who are the highest paid across the Woolworths supply chain are set to mount a defence in order to protect current standards and improve our wages and conditions in a campaign titled United for Our Future.

The Broadmeadows Distribution Centre emerged from a Greenfields site in 2003, with the workers winning their first Enterprise Agreement. A major gain resulting from the inaugural agreement was a provision for part time workers winning the right to greater access to weekly hours, thus providing more secure employment, allowing transition into full-time employment and placing a restraint on the ever increasing casualisation issue. First implemented at the Broadmeadows site, this condition has since flowed through the entire Woolworths supply and retail chain.

2005 witnessed the site’s first strike, with the workers mounting a two day period of industrial action, resulting in the company backing down on its attempt to remove directly employed casuals, and place those workers with a third party provider. Permanent workers stood in solidarity, protected their casual comrades, also winning close to one hundred permanent jobs through the life of that agreement.

At the height of Howard’s WorkChoices in 2008, the Broadmeadows workers, fighting off an attack by Woolworths to have the Enterprise Agreement removed, protected all conditions for a further two years.

With the ink barely drying on the balance sheet in 2010 following a $2 billion record profit at the time, and a fourteenth consecutive year of record surplus, Woolworths announced a vicious attack, planning to wash away previously hard fought and won conditions, and ignoring the workers’ quest for a decent wage increase and to maintain job security.

A bitter round of negotiations unfolded and with Woolworths unwilling to negotiate around member’s priorities the 600 strong work force embarked on industrial action, withdrawing their labour for a period of one week.

It was a successful week of mounting protests at the Broadmeadows site, along with Corrigan’s Qube warehouse in which a scab workforce was operating, and Woolworth’s stores. Woolworths Liquor Laverton shed was completely closed for one day.

Returning to work victorious, the NUW members had won, among numerous items, protections around roster changes and the right to a redundancy package upon the site’s closure. A 3.4% wage increase for each year of the agreement was also guaranteed following the company’s vindictive threat that no wage rise would be granted.

Gearing towards another tough battle through the 2013 campaign, delegates recently won an additional forty permanent jobs for casual workers, going some small way in reversing the recent trend in Australia which currently sees 40% of the total workforce placed in insecure casual employment.

Workers at the Broadmeadows warehouse are currently pitched in a battle with Woolworths management in a struggle to have the company recognise agency casual workers as members of the union, recognise their right to representation, and recognise the elected agency casual delegate with full rights. Permanent workers have stood up for their casual comrades, demanding they be treated on the same terms and conditions.

Kicking off the current campaign, a union publication was recently sent to the site’s members, highlighting that the company has recorded no fewer than nine major breaches of the Enterprise Agreement in a mere two year period. The report concluded by stating ‘with four months of the current Enterprise Agreement before the date of expiry, it now appears that Woolworths are attempting to break every clause in the book before re-negotiation’

The National Union of Workers have been prominent in recent times through successful industrial campaigns against Baiada, Coles and Toll Logistics, and the Hume Distributions Centre workers can add to that history through a united struggle against one of the nation’s largest and most profitable corporations.

Rudd's return to the two horse race

Vanguard August 2013 p. 3
Ned K.

A few years ago Rudd wrote a paper in which he saw himself as a warrior to “save capitalism from itself”.

With Gillard as Labor leader, the opinion polls forecast a wipe-out for Labor, with an Abbott-led government likely to control both upper and lower houses.

A gutted Labor has advantages for big business, but also a danger in that people look for other alternatives if they perceive that Labor has lost any of its pretence or electoral capacity to be a party representing the interests of working people.

Hence the mass media of Murdoch and Fairfax both applaud that with Rudd there is again ‘a contest’, which they hope will steer people back to satisfaction with the two party parliamentary road. If this occurs, the big business rulers can continue to rule in the ‘old way’ of the parliamentary two party circus.

Opinion polls in the very early days of Rudd’s return as Prime Minister and leader of the ALP indicate that the illusion of the Labor Party as a party for the people is far from dead, and the old trick of just blaming the leader (in this case Gillard) is working again.

Given this scenario, what is the best option for the progressive movement in Australia in the coming federal election?

It is clear that that the 2007 to 2013 experience of Labor ‘in government’ demonstrates the primacy of building a broad social movement led by the working class, with an independent political and economic agenda and independent organisational capacity in workplaces and the community.

A secondary need is further exposure of Labor ‘in government’ so that even more people learn through experience that the problem with Labor is not who the leader is, but that it is one of the main political props of ‘free market’ multinational dominated capitalism in Australia.

Supporting Vanguard

Vanguard August 2013 p. 3

Next month it will be fifty years since the very first Vanguard was published. By any measure Vanguard is the longest continuously published revolutionary newspaper in Australia.

It is a tribute to the dedication and loyalty of many comrades who have generously given their time and effort to the tasks that contribute to bringing revolutionary ideas, analysis and news to the working class.

These comrades include the writers, both regular and occasional, editors, proof-readers, comrades who do the lay-out, fold the wrappers, and do the mailing and distribution.

The Vanguard team greatly appreciates all those readers who have supported the paper over the years with their comments and criticisms, their subscriptions and donations.

In the period ahead, the Australian people will face harsh times. US imperialism is tightening its grip on the Pacific region. There is the threat of war. The economy is stagnating, jobs are drying up, casualisation and off-shoring are undermining hard-won conditions for the working class, and social services and benefits are being wound back. Austerity measures and further anti-union attacks are in the pipeline.

The political line of Vanguard on many of these issues strikes a chord with people, but needs to reach many more. Readers and subscribers are urged to find ways to increase the distribution of Vanguard, and contribute articles, comments and whatever financial assistance they can afford.

Opposition to US war preparations

Vanguard August 2013  p. 3
Bill F.

Across the Pacific region, there is growing opposition to the build-up of US military bases and war games exercises. National and international connections are coming together to forge a united campaign to roll back the threat of war. 

In Melbourne on 25 July, a public meeting’ organised by the Independent and Peaceful Australia Network (IPAN), was held at the Victorian Trades Hall, to hear from two international guests active in the struggle against imperialist war.

Bruce Gagnon is co-founder and current co-ordinator of the Global Network against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, and a senior fellow of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute. He is a leading expert on the issue of weapons in space.

His talk featured the US military’s “pivot” to Asia, the militarisation of space and the environmental impact of military expansion.

This expansion of US military forces in the Pacific is designed to consolidate and increase the domination of US corporate interests over the wealth and resources of the Pacific region. 

It is not simply a reaction to China’s growing naval power, but is a proactive, offensive move to control the sea-lanes that China depends on for the resources it needs.

Furthermore, it boosts the profits of the military-industrial complex which feeds on war and the threat of war.

Because the costs of this expansion are so great at a time when the US government has a financial crisis as well as an economic one, the US is pressuring its ‘allies’ to contribute more and more. Hence, the US is establishing more bases and outposts across the Pacific, with much of the infrastructure costs carried by the hosts - Australia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Philippines, etc.

For quick offensive purposes, the US is pre-positioning military supplies and equipment, vehicles, planes and weapons in these so-called ‘lily-pad bases’. The troops can then fly in at short notice, as required.

There is a lot of pressure on these ‘allies’ of the US. The key words used are “inter-operability” and “modernisation”. The US wants its ‘allies’ to become dependent on US technology and their military forces integrated under US command.

US military technology is    increasingly shifting to space warfare, with more than 100 US military satellites spying on the whole world and directing intelligence to submarines, Aegis missile destroyers, planes and troops.

Pine Gap in central Australia is one of the major collection and transmission points for this intelligence - scooping up telephone calls, emails, economic data, as well as monitoring  government and military communications of other countries, including Australia.

Pine Gap has a major role in directing signals for drone attacks and missile interception. The US is geared to a ‘first strike’ capability and its so-called ‘missile defence’ system is really to counter any retaliation.

Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero is a Chamorro, the people who are indigenous to Guam. She is a writer and award-winning investigative journalist who testified on behalf of her people to the UN Decolonisation Committee in 2006 and currently writes for local and US press and hosts a radio show in Guam.

She detailed the expansion of the US military bases on Guam, which already cover 30% of the island, and its effects on the 160,000 local people on the island.

Adding to the 3000 troops already in Guam, the US intends to transfer a further 8600 with 9000 dependents from Okinawa in Japan.

As a US territory (colony), the local people are not consulted about the takeover of their farmland, the dredging of the coral reefs or access to ancestral sites. With less farmland available, the population is even more dependent on the US for imported food, fuel and other traded goods.

US government officials also determine what infrastructure and services will be provided, and this is minimal.

Nevertheless, there is an active movement among the people for self-determination and political independence. This movement has delayed the time-tabled expansion of the bases, but it is still on the Pentagon’s agenda.

The local people are very mindful of the fact that Guam would be a prime target in any outbreak of war between the US and China. The same is true for the people of Okinawa in Japan and Jeju Island in Sth. Korea, where there are fierce battles against US military bases and virtual occupation.

The information provided by the two speakers accurately described the true nature of imperialism, even though that particular word was not mentioned.

The electricity market is a complete rip-off - former general manager of ETSA

Vanguard August 2013 p. 4
Max O.

People know that electricity prices are exploitative but when the former boss of ETSA (Electricity Trust of SA), Bruce Dinham comes out publicly against electricity privatisation it signals that the internal contradictions of the capitalist mode of production are coming to a head! Bureaucrats such as Dinham don't lightly put their reputation on the line and criticise energy corporations and the state apparatus for flagrant swindling.

The goose that once laid the golden egg (ETSA - which came about as a result when the Liberal Premier, Playford in 1946 nationalised the privately run Adelaide Electric Company for the purpose of nation building) is now a destructive Medusa (A multitude of privately run and quite often foreign owned electricity businesses and the National Electricity Market bureaucracy) where monopolising capitals are a fetter on the productive forces, in particular areas of production that are undertaken by small and medium businesses in South Australia. In other words the electricity market is pricing consumers and small/medium industries out of existence.

Below is an analysis by Dinham, that was reported in the Advertiser, July 9. It gives a sobering examination of the real purpose of the privatised electricity market - to maximise the profits of power suppliers!

"WE complain about high electricity prices but ignore one of the main causes - the so-called National Electricity Market.

It is not a market at all but more of an arrangement for maximising profits rather than reducing costs - and it is seriously flawed.

When this arrangement was introduced, key features of electricity supply systems seem to have been ignored or not understood.

Features of such systems are that they are: 1) inherently vertically integrated with a style of management control united by a common owner; 2) have several essential operating features; and 3) cannot be run in separately managed parts.

The old Electricity Trust (ETSA) was an integrated organisation.

Splitting it into a number of separately owned parts created problems, the effects of which are now manifest as flaws in the present arrangement.

To deal with the number of separately owned generators, a system of bidding was introduced to derive what is called a spot price, which determines the amount generators are paid. The theory is that bidding is competitive and produces lower prices. The reality is that it does the opposite.

There is normally no competition and the bidding system simply allows generators to manipulate prices for their own benefit.

There is no competition, nor should there be. This is because a properly managed electricity supply system would aim to have enough firm generating plant available (wind and solar-voltaic are not firm) to meet the likely maximum demand, plus a margin for maintenance and breakdown.

There would be little or no spare capacity for competition.

A competent system operator would or should know the relative efficiencies and costs of generators and schedule them accordingly, with prices set from known and proven cost factors, not sham bids from profit seekers and speculators.

Effects of the flawed bidding system are aggravated by a ridiculously high bid ceiling set at $12.50/kWh, CPI indexed. For comparison, the final selling price to consumers is about 30 cents/kWh.

The $12.50 amount is said to be needed to enable generators to recover fixed costs. However, with the range of factors involved, together with the fact that generators can manipulate prices, a definite figure is indeterminate. The $12.50 is arbitrary and questionable and in itself shows that the bidding system is a farce and easily manipulated.

This extreme amount also applies automatically if there is a breakdown or shortage of generators.

As well as being open to exploitation with questionable shortages and breakdowns, it also introduces an unnecessary and undesirable element of risk, leading to hedging and trading in financial derivatives by retailers, adding to costs passed on to consumers in retail prices.

Retailers themselves are an unnecessary cost.

They do not own or operate any part of the generation, transmission or distribution systems and contribute nothing to the production and delivery of electricity.

The argument that they give choice of supplier is spurious. The only choice they give is who sends your electricity bill.

The electricity you get comes from the same generator, through the same wires and the real cost, as distinct from some manipulated and inflated price, is the same regardless of who your retailer might be. Retailers are essentially parasitic and there is no real need for them, other than for billing and account collection purposes, which could be done by the distributor.

The National Electricity Market is seriously flawed and an expensive shambles with a bloated attendant bureaucracy.

It is an empire builders' paradise, the extent of which can be judged from the string of acronyms of organisations with fingers now in the electricity pie - NEM, SCER, AEMO, AER, AEMC, NEL, NREL, ACCC, and ESCOSA.

Once upon a time in South Australia we had just one, ETSA. Now in SA there are, as well as this extensive bureaucracy, six separate generating companies (not counting wind and solar), two transmission, one distribution and 11 retailers, each with a main aim of maximum profits for their local and overseas shareholders.

It is no surprise that electricity prices have gone through the roof.

The question needs to be asked: Who benefits from this arrangement? It is certainly not electricity consumers, so why would any responsible government promote it?

The Commonwealth has no constitutional authority or responsibility for electricity supply in the states so the arrangements under which this so-called national market operates derive from states' legislation. It is up to the states, particularly South Australia, to take the lead in getting rid of this blatant and egregious rip-off of electricity consumers."

Dinham hits the nail on the head when he points out the weakness of the Australian Constitution in dealing with the matter of nationalising electricity supply. However there is no point looking to State Governments to nationalise this industry. History shows us that the cry of 'States' Rights' is in effect the voice of the imperialist class.

As Vanguard has repeatedly pointed out, the current Australian Constitution is a patchwork quilt of competing requirements of different sections of the imperialist dominated ruling class. It and the current Australian States were designed to serve capitalism, in particular British Imperialism in the past and now US Imperialism, in the systematic economic exploitation of the working class.

The constitution is primarily concerned with finance and trade and gives no attention to citizens’ rights. It is an unworkable anachronism that needs to be replaced by an anti-imperialist one that enshrines the right of the state to run electricity supply for the good of the Australian people and a sustainable socialist society.

The people think so. The Advertiser held an online poll asking the question: Should SA's electricity supply be brought back under State Government control, ending privatisation? Response - Yes 95%, No 5%.

Labor swindles Adelaide's western suburbs residents for developer's profiteering

Vanguard August 2013 p. 5
Max O.

The Labor party knows no bounds in how far it is prepared to stoop in carrying out the wishes of the big end of town. The western suburbs of Adelaide have in particular had a hard time with Labor local government councillors from the Charles Sturt Council selling out the communities of Cheltenham and Woodville.

The land of the old Cheltenham racecourse was lost to the local residents about 4 years ago and now a new housing estate is under construction by the developers, AV Jennings. The Cheltenham Park Residents Association campaigned for the racecourse to be turned over to open space parklands and for a wetlands that could harvest storm water, thereby recycling water and mitigating flooding to which the area is prone. Charles Sturt has one of the smallest percentages of open space (less than 7%) of any council area in Australia.

The SA Premier Weatherill, who is also the local MP for the state electorate of Cheltenham, pretended to be the white knight claiming that he would seek a commitment from the developers to leave 35 per cent of open space, 15 per cent affordable housing and promised a State Government funded $20-million stormwater project at the site. In contrast the Liberal held electorate of Adelaide, where local residents stopped the former Labor state treasurer Kevin Foley and his developer mates from turning over the old Victoria Park racecourse into a mega entertainment and racing car precinct, has now become an open space parkland.

The old Cheltenham racecourse-cum-housing estate has cynically been renamed St Clair. This renaming is cynical because the whole nefarious story doesn't stop there.

The next plot of land that the developers wanted to profit from was the St Clair reserve in Woodville. Originally the developers had purchased the old Actil (Australian Cotton Textile Industries Limited) factory site, which is adjacent to the St Clair reserve, to build their housing estate. The St Clair reserve was created as a result of a 1942 petition from local residents for a memorial park dedicated to war serviceman from the area, and the St Clair recreation reserve was kept in trust by the council until recently.

However once they became aware that the Actil land was contaminated, the developers had no interest in building on this site and convinced their mates on the then Labor controlled Charles Sturt Council to swap the 4.7 hectares of Actil land for a similar amount of land from the St Clair reserve. An almighty storm for the last 4 years then descended on this local council and the community as a result of this cosy bit of corrupt, insider trading.

The local community were so outraged by this land swap deal that they voted out the previous mayor, Harold Andersen and the save the St Clair campaigner, Kirsten Alexander (below), became the new mayor. Many of the old Labor councillors were also shown the door at the last local government elections and were replaced by the save St Clair campaigners who organised themselves under the banner of City of Charles Sturt Ratepayers and Residents.

Unfortunately the struggle to save the St Clair reserve has been a bitter, slow rear-guard battle. Even though the land swap was a done deal, it hasn't stopped the save St Clair campaigners from pursuing all avenues of blocking and reversing this scheming decision.

However the Labor party has done its utmost to thwart the independents’ attempts to save St Clair as open space. They have 'worked over' some ward councillors to change sides (offering one councillor preselection for a state seat at the next 2014 state election and inducements to other councillors the community don't yet know about) and were able in May of this year to rescind an earlier decision to lobby the State Government to preserve the 4.7ha piece of St Clair Reserve earmarked for the housing development.

The contest over preserving the St Clair reserve is so tight that at the March council meeting Mayor Kirsten Alexander had cast her deciding vote to pass a motion which asked the Labor State Government to halt the housing development. Now this has been overturned by just one vote (8 : 7). No doubt the save St Clair campaigners won't be daunted and will continue on the fight.

Karl Marx's adage from the Communist Manifesto," All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned......", which chillingly described the bourgeoisie’s voracious appetite for exploiting and changing our existence and the environment for the pursuit of profit, also aptly depicts the behaviour of not only the malicious developers but also the social opportunists in the Labor Party!

Farmers facing debt crisis

Vanguard August 2013 p. 5
Duncan B.

Many Victorian farmers are facing financial hardship.

During July, hundreds of farmers contacted the Rural Finance Corporation when a new farm finance deal between the Federal and Victorian governments was announced.

The scheme will make concessional loans, up to $650,000, available to farmers so that they can
re-finance existing farm debt.

The loans will cover about 50% of a farmer’s total debt at an interest rate of 4.5%.

There are strings attached to these loans however.

Farmers receiving the loans must demonstrate that over the next three to five years they will be able to resume profi table trading and be able to manage the debts. What a lot of hoops to jump through!

A combination of dry weather, low milk costs and high fodder costs has meant that many dairy farmers have had to borrow money to buy fodder and grain to feed their cows.

Dairy processors such as Fonterra and Murray Goulburn are owed many millions of dollars in loans by their farmer suppliers.

In Fonterra’s case, their suppliers owe $18 million dollars, up $14 million from this time last year.

What can farmers do?

Small farmers must realise that their real interests lie with the working class, not with the big farmers and agribusiness corporations.

It is essential that they unite with the working class and recognise that workers and farmers have the same enemies. Small farmers are part of the United Front of Australians against imperialism.

Crisis in our fruit and vegetable industry

Vanguard August 2013 p. 5

 Growers can win if they organise and fight hard and don’t rely solely on their politicians and so-called ‘official’ growers’ organisations.

Active many years ago, committees to demand jobs were involved in many struggles to save jobs and oppose factory closures. Whenever the people united and fought hard they were successful. The campaign to oppose banana imports was an example and still holds good today.

One example of collusion and betrayal was the closure of the Letona factory in Leeton N.S.W. many years ago. This factory employed hundreds of workers in the cannery and was grower controlled and had exports to 24 overseas markets. Management unions and the state Labor government did nothing to keep it alive. They blamed the bank. This was far from the truth. In my discussion with the bank manager in Leeton, the company called it on. After closure some managers went to work with SPC and SPC ended up with the export customers – without a doubt the enemy within at work.

Some years later the plan to import apples and pears into Australia was bitterly opposed by growers and workers, especially in the Goulburn Valley. A town rally was organised and the town of Shepparton actually shut down for half a day. To my knowledge it has never happened before anywhere in Australia. The plans to import were set aside and defeated for the time being especially when unions agreed not to touch the cargo on the ships if farmers and workers came to the docks to support them.

Realising they could not win this round the foreign money and its lackeys decided to take over or buy SPC which they did after convincing the major shareholders to sell. The buyer, Coca-Cola Amital was successful. This was the start of the demise of our processing industry thanks to the stupidity and greed of some shareholders. They have a lot to answer for.

(Above: 150 SPC Ardmona workers sacked following closure of the Mooroopna plant in August 2011)

The opportunity to build and organise another rally is alive and well. People are angry and given leadership they will come forward, especially when workers take a leading role.

(Above: July 12, 2013 and Shepaprton workers rally to save local fruit processing industry)

More on the role of trade unions

Vanguard August 2013 p. 6

Commemorating 50 Years of Vanguard

In this issue we continue our occasional series of reprints from across the 50 years of Vanguard’s publication.  These articles help trace the origin and development of the ideological foundations of our Party.

More on the Role of Trade Unions[1]
(Vanguard Vol 5 No. 4 1968)

In the present period of sharpening class struggle more and more workers are beginning to question the role of trade unions in capitalist society.
Experience is revealing that the trade unions actually restrict class struggle.  The trade unions have become a part of the establishment.

Their very acceptance by the capitalist class means that they have been adapted to capitalism.
The capitalist class is very skilled at hiding the real issues of class struggle.

For many years the class struggle has been channelled into the parliamentary ballot box.  Parliament has been promoted as the centre of political struggle.  If sufficient votes can be mustered for candidates who allegedly represent the working masses, then social change will be achieved.
This illusion is carefully fostered by the capitalist class.  It is the main way in which the capitalist class gives “legitimacy” to exploitation.

It also gives “life” to the illusion of democracy, that is things can be changed through “legal processes”.
The capitalist class must take this illusion right down the line.

All the organisations of the people are carefully dovetailed into the “legal processes” of society.
Trade unions are the biggest mass organisations of the working people. They came into existence through struggle. The trade union movement has traditions of struggle.  All this is skilfully used by the capitalist class.  They say that the trade unions fought for their existence and won out. Likewise they can fight for a change in society; the struggle may be longer, but finally it will win, providing the processes of the “law” are observed. The idea is “to take things gradually”.

The capitalist class speaks thus with its tongue in its cheek for it knows full well that if the trade union movement can be contained “within the processes of the law” then these great mass organisations of the working class will remain harmless.  They will not become a real challenge to the capitalist system.
The capitalist class fears the trade unions.  It does not like any sort of working class organisation. It knows that it is a difficult job to keep the working class “within the processes of the law” when that law demands servile obedience to ever-more intense exploitation.

Therefore the capitalist class pays much attention to the trade unions.  It sees that it exercises control over them through the trade union bureaucracy.
This is the reality of today.

The capitalist class controls the trade union movement through its state apparatus.  It has tied the trade unions to the arbitration system and thereby has skilfully ensnared trade union officials in “the processes of the law”[2].
When workers in a factory or any other workplace take direct action against the exploiters they are immediately bogged down with trade union “procedures”.  Executives and trades and labor councils, and finally the ACTU executive has to be consulted.  There must be “unity of action”.  Inevitably compromise solutions are reached.  The recent postal dispute over the employment of scabs is a good example.  A compromise was worked out by the trade union bureaucracy and the government.

And this will continue to be the case because the trade union bureaucracy does not challenge the system of capitalism.  It works out “adjustments”, “compromises” WITHIN capitalism.
The trade unions have a leadership and a mass membership.  The leadership inevitably, and must inevitably, become caught up with the “legal processes” of capitalism.  Therefore it stands in contradiction to the membership.

The masses of trade unionists are all important.  It is here that revolutionary work must be carried out. The objective conditions are maturing for such revolutionary work.  The workers know by their own experience that negotiations with the boss, either through arbitration tribunals or even directly, do not fundamentally solve their problems.
It is impossible to solve the fundamental problem of exploitation through the “processes” of capitalist law.

The reality in Australia today is that the working people are being exploited more intensely. Large sections of the middle classes are being forced closer and closer to the proletariat. This is the fundamental reason for the expansion of the white collar union organisation and the growing cooperation between the masses of white collar workers and the blue collar workers.
This reality is an objective fact despite years and years of negotiations.

There must be a change.
And that change is gradually coming about. The Australian workers are very restive.  They are challenging old concepts. They are beginning to see through the false cries of “unity”. This was demonstrated by the Tram Union membership vote for disaffiliation from the Melbourne THC[3].

The hard reality of life overcomes habit and tradition which is used falsely.
The working people of Australia want revolutionary change.  They want to put an end to exploitation.  They are beginning to realise that they trade unions, important as they are, cannot bring about a revolutionary change. This can only be brought about by the millions of masses acting in the light of revolutionary theory.

Without a revolutionary theory there cannot be a revolutionary movement.  Once revolutionary theory is grasped by the masses it becomes an invincible material force.
The Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) is bringing revolutionary Marxism-Leninism, the thought of Mao Tse-tung, to the Australian people. Trade union leaders can assist this development.  The masses of trade unionists can be a mighty force in the revolutionary movement.

The lifting of the political consciousness of the trade union members is the main task – not the winning of reforms, although this must be done.  The winning of reforms can be used to heighten revolutionary class consciousness.
Let us place the emphasis on revolutionary theory in the trade union movement.  A good practical step in this direction is to ensure the widest possible circulation of the booklet, “Looking Backward: Looking Forward” by E. F. Hill[4], which deals with the question of the struggle of revolutionary, socialist politics against trade union and parliamentary politics.

[1] For the newly formed CPA (M-L) the trade unions figured prominently in discussions about how to break ideologically, politically and organisationally from the revisionist policies and practices which had come to dominate the former Communist Party of Australia (CPA).  Some “left” mistakes were inevitably made in the process of drawing a clear line of demarcation between the CPA, where the capturing of union leadership positions and adhering to the “processes of the law” were the rule.  Nevertheless, some of the earliest publicly acknowledged leaders of the CPA (M-L) were themselves trade union leaders – Paddy Malone and Norm Gallagher (Builders Laborers Federation), Ted Bull (Waterside Workers Federation) and Clarrie O’Shea (Tramways Union). Over the years, the question of the relationship between the trade unions and the party of revolution continued to be a major focus of discussion within the CPA (M-L).
[2] Following the 1969 defeat of the penal powers of the Arbitration system, the ruling class turned to other legislation not originally designed to restrain unions –the Trade Practices Act for example – and then to new forms of industrial relations legislation including Howard’s WorkChoices and the ALP’s Fair Work Act to ensure the right to strike was restricted by “the processes of the law”. It is a simple fact of life that trade unions by and large comply with these “laws” and therefore contain any real possibility of a break-out of mass working class struggle.
[3] In all, 27 unions broke with the right wing leadership of the Melbourne Trades Hall. The CPA (M-L) assessment of the “restiveness” of the workers helped Hill, O’Shea and other Party leaders to decide that the time was ripe for a challenge to the penal powers. In 1969 these 27 “rebel unions” decided to support O’Shea if he was prosecuted for observing decisions by his members that fines imposed on their union not be paid. By deciding to lift the level of struggle against the penal powers, the Party led a movement away from opposition in words, but within the “processes of the law,” which had been the position of the revisionists and social democrats, to opposition in deeds that defied and challenged the “law” and which were carried through to success by relying on the mass actions of the working class.