Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Statement from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist)

This statement from the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) offers an overview on key economic and political conditions and tasks.

The economic and political crisis of monopoly capital

World- wide, monopoly capitalism is in a major crisis.  Internationally, there’s a strong general trend towards a major crisis that is increasingly unavoidable.   The economic and political crisis is uneven and characterised by each country’s own specific and distinct historical and national class features. And even within each national circumstance there are uneven and contradictory developments.

This report mainly, and very briefly, attempts to outline the general trends globally, with more attention to Australia’s specific characteristics.

Globally, there is excess production (overproduction) and unprecedented high levels of unproductive finance capital sloshing around the world desperately searching for profit-yielding investments. As markets are over-flowing with excess supplies, and production of commodities winds down globally, the arms manufacturing monopolies are expanding as the most lucrative source of profit for industrially-invested capital. 

Capital shifted into the services industries, health, education, hospitality, public services is unproductive from the viewpoint of private capital accumulation.  Sourced mainly from federal and state governments, it is resented by the big monopoly capitalists who, despite paying no or little tax, are reluctant to part with even a cent for the sake of services to the people.  Privatisation of previously capitalist state-owned and run public services has reached unparalleled levels.
The monopolisation of production and finance capital is reaching its peak and little is left of bourgeois state-owned assets in most parts of the capitalist world.  Finance capital is stumbling under its own weight of enormous debt.

Any legal obstructions to maximising and seizing new sources of investment and profit, including sovereign rights, are either weakened or removed altogether to enable capital to capture more markets and intensify the exploitation of labour and the environment (imperialist “free” trade pacts – TPP, TTIP, TISA, are created as a solution). 

Capitalism has well and truly reached its use-by date.  It has reached a point of not only holding back the development of productive forces but is now destroying the same immense productive forces it created.

Capitalism is now an obstacle to the advancement and progress of technological, scientific and human development on a number of fronts, including climate change, medical and educational progress.  Capitalism is obstructing technology and science from serving the people and protecting the environment.   The present anarchy and chaos of the capitalist mode of production and the bourgeois class relations of production are intensifying the contradictions between capital and labour.  Imperialist expansion is finite and is now accelerating the crisis.
The economic and political crisis of monopoly capital is intensifying the competition amongst industrial-finance capital and different groups of imperialist blocs.

Inevitably, people’s resistance to capitalist crises will also grow and develop, and the capitalist state will resort to more open force to suppress the people’s struggle.

Preparations for major wars between old and emerging imperialist powers are building up
US imperialism is presently the most powerful and aggressive super-power militarily, and the main instigator and aggressor of military conflicts, imperialist wars, destabilisation of sovereign governments, coups, and assassinations of millions of people through wars; destroying anything or anyone standing in its way, or challenging its economic and military world hegemony. Militarily it has proven incapable of effecting regime change in Syria despite the huge numbers of dead it has left in its wake.  Its economic power is weakening under its own debt crisis and excess capacity.  Politically, it’s taking on more features of a fascist state.

US imperialism targets its main competitors Russia and China, whose present economic growth and development is founded on their former socialist economic base.

The Middle East is in a state of perpetual imperialist inflicted wars.  US and European imperialism gave birth to ISIS and continue to cultivate it, or back the supposedly ‘sanitised’ Al Queda off-shoot Al Nusra Front.  These monsters are created by US imperialism and Israel, which is its economic and military outpost in the Middle East. 

Russia and China are US and EU next targets, with Ukraine and the South China Sea used as a launching pad for US imperialist provocations. 


As international monopoly capitalism (imperialism) plunges into a deeper economic crisis so are the political institutions of bourgeois democracy – the superstructure.

In times of capitalist economic crisis, there’s less room for monopoly capitalism and imperialism to manoeuvre under its political system of bourgeois democracy.  There’s less economic capacity for reforms that benefit the people.  The only growth comes from moving more assets away from the people to capital.  There are fewer markets to capture and re-divide, ballooning unproductive capital and debt, overproduction, the falling rate of profit and growing resistance by the working people to escalating attacks on living standards, workers’ rights, collective organisations, wages, conditions, jobs, the environment and sovereignty.  Social democracy is much harder to maintain even though it is the most effective method for the bourgeoisie to control the working class.  

Social Democracy

The economic crisis of capitalism is creating a political crisis of social democracy with its bourgeois parliamentarism and governments.

Bourgeois social democracy gives rise to ideas that “greed” and the “excesses” of the capitalist system can be removed, modified or reformed ; that capitalism has the capacity to treat all classes fairly and equally;  that capitalism can reconcile class contradictions and antagonism;  that “class war is over”, as one militant unionist was overheard saying.  All that’s required, claims the “ideology” of social democracy, is to get rid of rotten apples in political parties or change governments.  During times of economic boom that illusion is reinforced with capital having a limited economic capacity to make some concessions to workers’ demands and struggles, without the status quo being challenged, and with an added bonus of reinforcing faith in the system and the people’s continuing consent.  Change through parliament as the only means through which people’s needs and demands can be achieved strengthens the illusion and diffuses people’s struggle.  We’ve seen this time after time.

This is not to undervalue or denigrate in any way the important mass struggles of the working class and the people for reforms.

Parliamentary democracy is the most important and effective form of governance by bourgeois social democracy in its effectiveness to control the people.

The strong and wide support for Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in the US, Jeremy Corbyn and Brexit in England, and in Australia the support for smaller parties and independents who appear to reflect more closely the concerns of the people, are expressions of mass opposition to monopoly capital’s austerity and attacks on people’s livelihoods.  It is the deepening disillusionment and rejection of imperialism’s main political parties.  

It is also an indicator of the continuing faith in social and parliamentary democracy which is embedded in the minds of large sections of the people (but at its weakest in the working class).  However, there is a growing movement away from bourgeois democracy as seen in the upheavals in France, other parts of Europe and in the US.

No doubt the absence of a unified, revolutionary working class leadership and movement leaves workers and others nowhere to go beyond parliamentary politics.

The people do feel the system is failing them and it’s expressed through the rejection of main parliamentary parties and main politicians. The overall trend is shifting away from support for main parties, and to a lesser degree from parliamentary democracy.

Nevertheless, the economic instability and political uncertainty seeping into bourgeois parliamentary democracy is creating chaos in the ruling classes of monopoly capital and its political parties.   Differences in tactics, rivalries and allegiances between different sections of big capital are eroding the previous parliamentary “stability”.

Bourgeois social democracy has hit a brick wall. Capital has fewer and fewer options to control the people and solve its economic crisis.

The compulsion and necessity to go to war is increasingly becoming the only or one of very few, of capital’s options to rescue the capitalist economy and its political institutions.  However, as Mao exposed through the science of dialectics, either the people will stop the outbreak of imperialist wars, or wars will unleash revolutionary struggle and movements that will stop the war.

Imperialist globalisation or neo-liberalism and other titles it goes by, is not an ideology, a thought bubble or an economic theory created by think tanks, ultra conservatives, politicians and bourgeois economists, to rescue capitalism.  It is in fact a material force that arises from the necessity and compulsion for capital to constantly expand and increase the rate of profit, to survive.  It is inherent to monopoly capitalism.   Imperialism and monopoly capital can’t be reformed, regulated and given a more humane face because during the economic crisis its survival depends entirely on intensified exploitation and oppression. 

It is the task of revolutionary Marxism to explain and expose scientifically to the working class the material forces of monopoly capitalism and imperialism, and why they can’t be regulated and reformed.  That task includes explaining the necessity of breaking the capitalist relations of production.  Workers instinctively understand the capitalist class relations when the science of Marxism is presented in concrete and relevant ways and connected to struggles.

Australia – battle ground between US and Chinese capital ?

In Australia, the economic, political and military domination by imperialism is deepening, and goes hand in hand with governments’ austerity policies. Contradictions between the Australian people and imperialism are sharpening.

Economically, the US and European imperialists are dominant, whilst China’s capital is growing. The recent appearance of China’s capital investments may seem in some ways to complicate the development of the anti- US imperialist movement.  There are differences within the imperialist and local bourgeois ruling class on how to handle China’s capital investments and the economic and military relations between the US and China.

There is both conflict with and increasing dependency on China’s capital.  The anti-China section of the ruling class, driven by US imperialism, has started taking advantage of the anti-imperialist pro-independence sentiment among sections of the people.  However, this also opens up more opportunities to strengthen the revolutionary anti-imperialist forces’ demands for genuine anti-imperialist independence from all foreign capital and big powers. 

Politically and militarily Australia’s ruling class is enmeshed in US imperialism.  US corporations have long controlled Australia’s key economic sectors, what Lenin called the commanding heights of the economy. In the main, the two major parliamentary parties, Labor and the Liberal-Nationals, act in unison in their support for US imperialism, protecting and administering US domination in Australia.   While at times there are appearances in differences in tactics, subservience to US imperialism is never challenged by the main parties.  

Both parties support the TPP, exhibit servile support for US military aggression and integration into the US industrial-military complex – Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, etc.  There are differences within both parties on how to handle China.

Australia is becoming an even more critically important military and economic outpost for US imperialism, not only through extensive integration into the US military machine, but also as an outpost and an important base for its arms manufacturing.  Raytheon, the Lockheed Martin so-called research centre in Melbourne, and other US arms manufacturing are expanding their branches in Australia.

New US bases are built and older ones are expanded and brought back into operations.  US marines will now be permanently stationed in Darwin.  Strategically Pine Gap is the most important US military/spy base in Asia-Pacific.  Australia is a loyal US agent and proxy in US war preparations and provocations in South China Sea.

Imperialism is wiping out manufacturing industries in Australia; worldwide excess capacity (overproduction) and a drop in the price of minerals is winding down the boom in the mining industry; whilst the US weapons manufacturing  is expanding across the world.  US imperialist strategy is to lock Australia tighter into its economic and military hegemony and sphere of influence.   Australia is a battle ground of competition by US and China’s capital. 

Working Class

The bankruptcy and treachery of social democracy is experienced by the working class no deeper than through the ALP control of unions. Bourgeois social democracy can no longer deliver even the most minimum reforms to the working class.  It’s a ball and chain for restraining workers’ resistance to austerity and attacks on job security, conditions and the right to organise.  Social democracy ensures workers confine their struggle solely within parliamentarism, against the Coalition, company CEOs and individual bosses.  Taking a step further and making connections between the struggle and the ruling class of big business (foreign and local), running the country is avoided at all cost, to safeguard the ALP.

Generally speaking, many workers have little confidence in unions to protect jobs, conditions, manufacturing industries and wages.  The main exceptions are the traditionally strong unions in construction and the maritime industries.  Despite the difficulties in a period of low participation by workers in unions, many honest and dedicated union activists have thrown their heart and soul into defending workers and building a powerful working class movement around its own class agenda. It is an independent agenda because it contains demands ALP social democrats are unwilling to support, and actions in support of those demands that they are incapable of initiating or endorsing. The independent working class agenda goes beyond the boundaries imposed by monopoly capital.

Whilst there is growing resentment in the working class to foreign control and selling off Australia, the ALP’s grip over union leadership and bureaucracy ensures these anti-imperialist sentiments in the working class don’t get out for too long and too far.  The ALP, no matter how honest and brave its supporters are, serves the interests of imperialism well.  

Dependence on parliament and the courts continues to be held up by most sections of the union leadership as the only “strategy” of resistance to attacks against workers and unions.  Whilst there has been some interest in unions creating more distance and independence from parliamentary parties it has been temporarily de-railed, coinciding with Bill Shorten’s ascent as leader of ALP opposition.

“Where is the ACTU?”, as many unionists and other sectors of the community are asking for real leadership.

The ruling class will continue to roll out the ABCC and other laws to chain down workers’ struggle.  Unions urgently need to pull together, unite and mobilise the entire union movement and develop long term strategies to challenge these outrageous anti-worker, fascist laws.

They must restore confidence in the strength and power of the awakened working class in action and stand up to immense pressure on the union movement from the ALP not to rebel and confront the status quo. 

Monopoly capital’s attacks on the organised working class will intensify and spread, with more manufacturing and jobs disappearing (except for a relatively short period still to come in construction jobs in major centres), casualisation, attacks on wages and conditions, privatisation and cuts to social services, welfare, education, health continue.

How will the organised working class deal with this?  The unions’ leadership is hoping Labor will get in and save them.  The working class itself has to break the chains that hold back struggle, and rally other sectors of the people around them. That will not be an easy task, but the cost of not doing it will be far greater.

Where does a revolutionary Communist Party sits in these conditions?

How can, and should, the Communist Party best serve the working class in the immediate struggles. How do we integrate the revolutionary Marxism into the struggles of the people.  Communists live, work and struggle with workers and working people every day.

We try to do our best in understanding and using the science of Marxism, not only to expose and explain the class relations of each struggle; but also to patiently explain and make connections between the immediate struggles and the main class relations and forces in Australian economic and political conditions. 

We need to continue our patient mass work, developing tactics and strategies with the people in the immediate struggles, recognising the protracted struggle we face, and seek every opportunity to build connections and organisation among the working class. 

Not every worker has the time or capacity to make a sustained study of Marx’s Capital.  But the politically and ideologically advanced workers who join the Communist Party discipline themselves to study just as they discipline themselves to get to work every day. They are the vanguard of the workers of Australia, its brain, its heart, its soul. 

All of Marx’s and Engels’ writings show how to approach the study of economics, politics, history and culture. Lenin, Stalin and Mao offer the revolutionary working class movement many valuable insights and experiences into the tactics and strategies of class struggle and the anti-imperialist struggle.  The writings of the founding Chairperson of the CPA (M-L), Ted Hill, soon to be available on a dedicated site, show the approach to be taken to the analysis of capitalism and imperialism in Australia and to the task of building a revolutionary party in Australian conditions.

The classics of Marxism-Leninism are not to be taken as some form of holy writ; rather, they are studied so that we can better grasp the method used by the great revolutionaries of the past in dealing with the problems of their day. We study so as to use those methods with confidence in the ability of the revolutionary working class to solve the problems of our own day, arising from situations that the classic teachers had not themselves encountered. 

Our task is to take those ideas forward, to create Australian revolutionary theory and organisation, embedded deep in practice amongst the Australian people, to get rid of this stinking, exploiting imperialist system of monopoly capitalism once and for all.

All comrades must prepare themselves for whatever unanticipated developments may arise.  We have said that monopoly capitalism is in crisis. A repeat of the Global Financial Crisis is not out of the question.  We have said that regional instability is growing and that US imperialism is unstable and beset with crisis. New wars are not out of the question.  The precise details cannot be predicted, but all must get prepared.

September 2016

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Australia: The Looming Crisis


There is a growing awareness in Australia the country is edging toward an economic crisis.
National income is falling, the economy is slowing. Unemployment has become a serious problem in many areas.

National decision-makers, however, have been slow to deal with the main cause of the problem: economic rationalist policies and their implementation at the behest of international financial institutions controlled by the United States.

It is as if the higher echelons of the Australian governmental system remain in a state of denial, actually believing political spin from a past age.

Income growth slowest in 50 years

Australians began the New Year with a warning the economy faced the slowest income growth in over half a century. Reliable estimates noted expected national income growth was only expected to increase by 1.2 per cent. (1) In fact, the historical depth of the problem was possibly far greater although impossible to verify as governments records only began in 1960.

The figures rested upon a similarly gloomy estimate Australian economic growth would fall 'well short of Treasury forecasts of growth accelerating from 2.5 per cent to 2.75 per cent in 2016-7'. (2)

Other reliable estimates about the Australian economy reveal a general slowing of GDP growth: in 2007, a total of 4.54 per cent was recorded, it has now fallen to projections of 2.88 per cent for 2017. The figures have coincided with global projections for the same period of 5.55 per cent, dropping to 3.34 per cent. (3)

It has become a sad fact of life for most Australians their economic fortunes fall in continued and prolonged decline beginning well before the GFC. Using the simple method of a ruler against a graph of peaks of GDP growth from the 1982 recession to the present time very few years rise above a general trend of decline. The only departure from the general trend of decline was a sudden one year spurt of growth in 1997. (4)

Longer term projections, likewise, reveal still further economic decline: global economic growth for the present decade is expected to average 3.6 per cent. It is projected to fall to 2.4 per cent by the decade, 2050-60. (5)

The figures are not a good advertisement for globalisation or the international financial institutions largely controlled by the US. Their dilemma can be noted from earlier times of the co-called New World Order, with economic considerations strongly linked to defence and security provision: a myriad of so-called Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) rest upon military alliances.

Economic arguments in support of imperialist finance capital

The economic arguments were not original. They were modelled upon Chicago School, free-market thinking of the inter-war period which was replaced by Keynesian economics after the Second World War. Previous economic thinking had become totally discredited following the turmoil of the inter-war period. Free market economic thinking suddenly, however, became fashionable again in the 1970s with a rising generation of right-wing theorists. Within a few years it became dominant orthodoxy, serving the purpose of defending and furthering 'US interests'.

Submitting a report for US Congress on 21 July 1994, then President Clinton defined the three main objectives of US Security strategy: to enhance security by maintaining a strong defence capability and promoting cooperative security measures; to open foreign markets and spur global economic growth; promote US-style democracy abroad.

The economic rationalist policies were imposed through international financial institutions with directives for subject governments to de-regulate, privatise and liberalise their economies. 

Australian political leaders, like many others, proved positively sycophantic and true believers in the 'new' model economic thinking; they therefore slavishly followed the every whim of those in Washington to fling capital to the four corners of the globe in search of higher and higher returns. The moves were accompanied by selling off state assets for quick profit through user-pays philosophies: health services, education, welfare, public transport. 

World trade crisis revealed in shipping malaise

While the opening of foreign markets took place, it did not, however, spur economic growth. In fact, trade statistics reveal the origin of decline.

From 1986 to 2000, a one per cent increase in global GDP was associated with a 2.2 percent increase in world trade. In the period 2001-14, the same percentage increase in GDP has resulted in only a 1.3 per cent increase in world trade. (6) Global trade has dropped by about half during the period from before the GFC to the present day. (7)

In fact, further evidence of the decline in global trade totals can be assessed with the fate of the maritime and shipping industries. It is in terminal decline. In the period 2010-15, owners ordered an average of 1450 ships a year. This year the totals have dropped to only 293 vessels. (8) Many shipping companies are already scrapping vessels as the industry has become non-viable.

Those shipping companies remaining in the industry have been forced to become more competitive for reduced levels of trade. The immediate impact has been dramatic. A benchmark Europe-Asia trade pattern has required US$1,400 a container for viability. Present rates have dropped as low as US$575 this year from US$620 in 2015. (9) They are likely to drop still lower.

It is in this chaotic state of affairs the South Korea Hanjin Shipping Company, one of the largest in the world, has filed for bankruptcy in the US. The problem is symptomatic of far greater issues. A total of 84 Hanjin ships stranded at sea has created a backlog of over half a million containers with uncertainty about payment of docking and storage fees at ports. Maritime workers have not been paid. Some Hanjin ships have already been seized by creditors. (10)

Apologists for capital have no answers

The response to this catastrophic state of affairs by leaders of the advanced, industrial countries is a state of denial. Their excuses remain so implausible they undermine their own credibility.

A statement from James Pearson, CEO of the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry following the recent G20 meeting, noted that Australia and others could remove further trade barriers 'to reduce costs in their economies by freeing up trade'. (11) A pedantic individual and advocate of past economic theories, Pearson appeared an aloof figure from a bygone age of level playing- fields and ivory towers. Being ever economical with his words, however, he chose to not elaborate on which barriers he wanted removing. It is not difficult to establish the reason. In reality, there are few left. Most were 'removed' long ago.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) head Christine Lagarde, likewise, had to eventually acknowledge previous planning to boost economic growth by a paltry two per cent, had failed. Her only suggestion, nevertheless, for future provision was to continue on course with the already discredited policies and 'more action was required'. (12) Like Pearson, Lagarde did not elaborate on what type of action was required to bolster any semblance of economic growth. Idle political spin remained the name of the game.

What is even more revealing about developments is the fact those in control of financial institutions do not even bother to support the remnants of once thriving economies and businesses in which they have created mayhem. Business investment into Australia is almost at a standstill, despite low interest rates and frantic support from State governments to buttress their economies in the face of possible collapse. Business investors appear to have lost interest.

Looming crisis accompanied by attacks on workers

There is a looming crisis striking to the very heart of the Australian economy. Those responsible for creating it, however, do not accept responsibility. To the contrary, the business-classes attempt to shift blame onto others and ordinary working people, demonising and scapegoating trade unions. The real issue is not high wages, despite business propaganda. Wage-levels are much further down the business agenda. There is a bigger picture: their chosen economic thinking. They conveniently, for example, overlook the fact wage growth in Australia is now the lowest in over two decades. (13)

It is not difficult to find examples of how the beginning of the looming crisis is already having drastic effects upon ordinary working people. Employment statistics are perhaps the most apparent. The business-classes and their tame flunkies in the mass media, nevertheless, hide the true figures, for obvious reasons. It is not good publicity for economists in Canberra that ordinary working people have to pay for the endeavour of the business-classes. It is hardly a vote winner for political parties which advocate such economic thinking.

National figures for those without employment do not publicise that volunteers and those working a recorded one hour per week have their identities removed from official unemployment statistics. The unemployment figures pushed through mass media outlets are meaningless.

When questioned about the issue, AMP chief economist Shane Oliver, however, stated a more appropriate record was 'the spare capacity in the labour force'. It included 'both those without a job and those who would like to work more hours. This stands at 14.2 per cent'. (14) Oliver also noted the figure was relatively constant, not altering with movement in official unemployment statistics.

Other reliable sources have estimated only 68.1 per cent of the Australian workforce have full-time employment, with about 32 per cent being part-time. (15) Those without full-time employment are denied usual entitlements including paid sick-leave, holidays and other benefits.
There is also the further problem of casualisation which has become the norm in contemporary Australia. The business-classes view such planning as increasing workplace flexibility. In reality, it is solely concerned with maximising levels of exploitation, undermining trade-unions in workplaces and making labour even cheaper to employ.

It is high time there is discussion within the labor and trade-union movement about economic rationalist philosophies. The insidious thinking has even permeated our movement. Some prominent figures should be questioned about what is being advocated in our name. Ordinary working people have nothing to gain by their governments implementing economic philosophies which only favour the business-classes.

Suitable people to question might begin with Chris Bowen, opposition ALP Treasury spokesperson, who recently addressed a business lunch in Sydney to outline future ALP policy. He also spoke about 'Australia's economic success over the past 26 years'. (16)

Perhaps Bowen should be encouraged to go and wander around a few ordinary working-class suburbs and discuss with residents the finer details of the so-called 'success' and how it has affected their and their children's life-styles and opportunities.

A good place for Bowen to consider such a walkabout might be Adelaide. There does not appear to be much 'success' taking place in either the northern suburbs or southern region. Census material released in recent years has provided adequate evidence about how economic decline has already affected numerous households. Those in full-time employment receive well below average wages even for South Australia. Unemployment and casualisation has become generational. When Holden closes next October, the economic effect will be both immediate and devastating for even more South Australians.

Bowen might also like to consider discussing with residents the issue of a 'free lunch' and whether or not it also really exists.

Workers meanwhile must continue to develop their own independent class agenda and fight for socialism and anti-imperialist independence.
1. Income growth lowest in 50 year, Australian, 18 January 2016.
2. Ibid.
3. OECD Economic Outlook, 99, June 2016.
4. Australian Bureau of Statistics, ANZ Research, quoted, Taxpayer funds holding up economy, Australian, 8 September 2016.
5. OECD 2016 – Policy challenges for the next 50 years, Global economic growth forecasts.
6. Global trade stuck in the slow lane, Australian, 19 January 2015.
7. Shipping slumps as slowdown in global trade growth deepens, Australian, 11 January 2016; and, World Bank slashes global economic growth outlook, Australian, 9 June 2016.
8. Big ships pile up on scrap heaps, Australian, 16 August 2016.
9. Ibid.
10. $18 bn in Hanjin's cargo left stranded, Australian, 9 September 2016.
11. G20 nations urged to show leadership, Australian, 6 September 2016.
12. G20 must focus on growth and US must stay in Asia, Editorial, Australian, 7 September 2016.
13. Lowest wage growth delivered in 20 years, Australian, 18 August 2016.
14. ibid
15. Australian Bureau of Statistics data for July, 2016, quoted, Part-time job trend locked in, Australian, 19 August 2016; and, Low-wage economy taking a haircut, Weekend Australian, 20-21 August 2016.
16. Free trade facing a 'popularist crusade', Australian, 7 September 2016.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Hypocrisy of the Legal Drug Barons

Ned K.

Recently a worker who works for a large multinational alcoholic beverage manufacturer went to a party on a Saturday night and had a few drinks and consumed another non-alcoholic recreational drug. He went to work on Monday morning and the company drug tested him.

The test showed the remnants of the drug in his system still. He explained to the boss exactly what he had taken and that it was on Saturday night, two days before out of working time. The boss said thanks for your honesty but you are sacked for breach of the company's drug and alcohol policy! The worker had been employed there for nearly twenty years and had no previous record of drug consumption.

Just like that a worker's livelihood was taken away by a multinational corporation that makes millions of dollars out of manufacturing a drug, being an alcoholic beverage. Their drug is legal and they get off with "no charge" when thousands of lives, especially Indigenous lives, are ruined by their production for profit. They spend millions on encouraging and enticing people to consume their drugs and then have the audacity to take away a worker's livelihood for taking a non-alcoholic stimulant at a party on a Saturday night!

Why do workers resort to excessive alcohol or try this or that other drug? Many do this to escape the exploitative experience of their work for the big corporations like his employer.

Companies like this hypocritical beverage producer are trying to incorporate their drug and alcohol policies in Enterprise Agreements to give them more legal status. This should be opposed because these policies are not designed to keep workers healthy and they are not concerned with workers' safety.

If a policy is required then it should be an impairment policy rather than a drug and alcohol testing regime. An impairment policy will show if a worker is unable to work safely rather than if the worker has alcohol or drugs in his/her system. Employers don’t like using the impairment system because it also shows up when workers are too tired or stressed from overwork. An easy impairment test can be done on a computer or moving a looped wire around a stationary twisted power wire so when there is contact a noise is made. They can be bought as kids’ games and are more efficient and cheaper than drug tests.

Their real intent of employers is for the bosses to have a ready-made 'weapon' to get rid of workers they don't want or like. If the situation had applied to the Managing Director, would he have been sacked? It’s very doubtful if he would have been.

It comes down to a class question. If workers were in control of what they produce in society they would find a way to assist individuals straying down the wrong path in a way that does not take away their livelihood. 

Sacking workers only leads to greater potential for the individual going in to a downward spiral of depression, broken family, loss of self-esteem and resorting to more drugs of an even more dangerous type.

Disappearing truck driver jobs

Ned K.

The development of passenger cars that do not require a human driver behind the steering wheel is well-advanced. 

This development is not receiving much opposition from people who hope that such technology will somehow make urban travel by car in particular more appealing. It is not seen as destroying jobs either, although a taxi driver may disagree with this conclusion.

What is given less media space is that in the road transport industry automated long haul trucks are already a reality in the US and Europe and likely to hit Australia soon. According to real estate firm CBRE in a report "Automated Technology Driving Change in Real Estate", the automation of road transport will also effect warehousing and distribution workers.

CBRE predict that it will result in the development of massive warehouses outside cities adjacent to major highways and these warehouses will be highly automated as well. 

The impact on jobs will be significant at a time when full time jobs are becoming a prized possession as part time and casual work grows at a steady rate.

These trends in technology within the transport and warehousing industries are likely to see more big struggles by workers fighting for their livelihoods in a similar way that the trend to outsourcing and labour hire by multinational corporations has given rise to the CUB dispute.

Neither major political party nor parliament will stop these trends. However the working class will have no choice but to find a way to overcome these attacks on their very existence as workers. 

The ACTU must respond to challenges to its leadership

Nick G.

The Australian union movement is under vicious and sustained attack from the imperialists and local monopoly capitalists.

Some of that takes the form of open, undisguised threats and actions, including the police, the courts and the jails.

Some of it takes the form of disguised “support” designed to undermine, demoralise and white-ant the movement.

Recently, Murdoch’s un-Australian carried a lengthy piece from former Assistant Secretary of the ACTU, Tim Lyons.  Titled “Unions on the road to irrelevance”, it contained extensive criticism of the union movement’s subservience to electoral politics, much of which we would agree with, and put forward alternatives that would see organised labour supporting a “strong Left agenda”.

The question arises as to why Murdoch (by which we mean this filthy rich American’s editorial hatchet men and women in Australia) would give pages of space to an apparently “left” call for stronger unions in the workplace and the community.

Who is Tim Lyons?

Part of the answer lies in Lyons’ personal history.

Lyons worked for 13 years with the National Union of Workers before he joined the ACTU as Assistant National Secretary.  The NUW was part of the right wing group of unions in the ACTU and there was nothing in its history at that time to suggest that Lyons was on about building the "permanent organised power in workplaces and communities" that he now espouses.
After six years as deputy to National Secretary Dave Oliver, Lyons mounted a leadership challenge. 

Although the challenge by Lyons to Oliver was couched in terms of the ACTU being “out of touch with ordinary workers”, and having an “outdated approach that didn't appeal to members”, his real target appeared to be Ged Kearney who had upset Labor powerbrokers from the moment she became ACTU President.  

In one of her first speeches she stated that the agendas of the ACTU and ALP were not necessarily the same and that the ACTU needed to have its own independent agenda. This  position of ACTU independence from the ALP’s electoral fortunes was reflecting the wishes of growing numbers of union activists and rank and file unionists.  It was a tactical position that the CPA (M-L) has been promoting for several years - we were the only organisation within the labour movement that had been raising a demand for an independent working class agenda.

The Lyons challenge to Kearney and Oliver was meant to change the direction of the ACTU. Fairfax’sAustralian Financial Review correctly identified “long running tensions inside ACTU headquarters over the strategic direction of the union movement” as the trigger for Lyons’ challenge.

It is indicative of how the ruling class viewed this challenge that the AFR article was basically a puff piece for Lyons, extolling his “skills as an advocate and strategist” and remarking that these would be “a significant loss for the peak union body”.
Lyons’ timing of the challenge was condemned by many in the labour movement, coming as a major distraction from the main event of that week, the Liberal Party’s spill motion against Tony Abbott.

In the event, Lyons withdrew his challenge and resigned his position. He had failed to get the support of the right-wing Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Union.  Only the National Union of Workers and the progressive United Voice seemed inclined to support him.

ACTU vacillates on independent agenda

One of the outcomes of the Lyons challenge was a commitment to keep the ACTU independent of the ALP.  In a Campaign Operational Plan for 2014-2015, the ACTU stated clearly its position, namely:

“We will not be campaigning for the election of an ALP Government, we will be campaigning for an independent agenda or vision for our country.  This agenda is also a demand we have on business and all those who influence the living standards of our members.

“We will not make the mistakes of the past where we stopped campaigning after the election.  We will build an alternative agenda through undertaking the biggest mass participatory process ever undertaken in our country.  We aim to involve hundreds of thousands of people online, in their workplaces and in their communities.”

In practice, and in the context of a campaign that focussed on marginal seats, the ACTU in the last federal election became consumed with working for the re-election of a Labor government and adopted the ALP’s electoral “strategy” in its entirety.  Nothing was really done that might have resulted in the election being a platform for the promotion of an independent working class agenda. Attempts by union activists and rank and file to even broaden the agenda and strategy beyond the ALP were squashed. 

Lyons understands the significance of the ACTU’s vacillation on an independent agenda and the opening it provides to attack its leadership for spending “workers’ money on general issues of campaigning and electoral politics because it’s easier than talking about and doing real organising…”

What does Lyons propose?

Lyons essentially proposes a traditionally economist brand of trade unionism.  Economism is that trend within the labour movement that argues that the fight for better wages and conditions should be the sole focus of unions.  

Economism stands squarely opposed to the revolutionary agenda of removing the system that forces workers onto the eternal treadmill of fighting for bigger crumbs, or even the same small crumbs, from the bosses’ table. 

Economism stands squarely opposed to introducing into struggles around wages and conditions the ideological, political and organisational leadership to enable the working class to think and act independently of capitalism, to be a class-for-itself.

It is economism that runs through the five proposals with which Lyons concludes his piece in the un-Australian.  Within those five proposals is reference to “collective power” and “making a difference”.

It is all very well for Lyons to criticise the unions for the fact that "strikes are statistically extinct", but what does he say about the reason for that, about the unremitting fight by capital to smash even the smallest acts of resistance and struggle?  

Where in his five concluding points is there any call to take back the right to strike, and any suggestion of the sacrifices (not just fines and jail, but seizure of houses and sale of workers' assets) that will need to be made to win back basic industrial rights in this country? 

He refers to the days of the Accord as "salad days", as a paradise for workers, but the Accord was set up by the ALP-ACTU as a gift to the bosses and it began the process of disarming the workers in this country.  We now have “rights” at about the level of those “enjoyed” by workers in Turkey, the Philippines, in Indonesia, and Lyons wants us to believe that without the most militant struggle, without the most extraordinary sacrifices, that we can “transform unionism” on the basis of “core industrial and organising issues”!

With the ACTU in seeming retreat from its commitment to an independent working class agenda, Lyons’ attack from the “Left” on its recent performance serves only to further weaken confidence in key ACTU leaders.

The real challenge for ACTU is to start fighting for Australia’s working class first and foremost, and stop being a lackey of the ALP politically, organisationally and ideologically.
The challenge for ACTU leaders is to uphold an independent and fighting working class agenda that will restore workers’ confidence in the power of a united and fighting union movement.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Workers unite in powerful support for CUB 55

Bill F.

Chanting, “The workers, united, will never be defeated”, and “CUB, Shame! Shame! Shame!” 15,000 workers and supporters marched through the streets of Melbourne on Thursday 8th September. A similar rally took place in Brisbane on the same day.

It was a powerful show of strength and solidarity that inspired confidence in many workers of the potential power of a united and mobilised working class in action.

They were incensed at the actions of Carlton and United Brewery (CUB) in sacking 55 contract maintenance electricians and fitters, and then using a scab-hire mob to offer their jobs back with a 65% reduction in wage rates!

This shameless and disgusting treatment by the company was a direct result of cost-cutting to satisfy the multinational owners, SABMiller, who have just been taken over in a deal by the world’s biggest beer monopoly, Anheuser-InBev. (See earlier article Imperialism is driving the attacks on CUB workers )

Since the sackings in early June, the workers and supporters have continued to maintain a permanent protest outside the brewery in the inner Melbourne suburb of Abbotsford, demanding their jobs back at the rates and conditions they had before.

There have been weekly lunchtime rallies outside the brewery in Abbotsford and the CUB headquarters in Southbank; and an ongoing campaign to boycott CUB beer and other products. 
Workers have received tremendous support from the local community, from many unions and from decent people all across Melbourne, Victoria and indeed other states. Tens of thousands of dollars for the 55 sacked workers has been raised in many workplaces across Australia.  A boycott of CUB products is spreading to many pubs, hotels and restaurants not only in Victoria, but around Australia. 

“One day longer, one day stronger!”

The company and its scab-hire agents sneaked in scabs from interstate to do the maintenance work. They even obtained a legal injunction (from the hypocritically named Fair Work Commission) to prevent the sacked workers from pointing out to the scabs their current role, their social status and their future prospects.

The resilience of the CUB sacked maintenance workers scored them a small but unexpected victory when the scab labour hire company, Programmed Skilled, suddenly announced that they were breaking the contract with CUB. The reasons they gave were concerns for the health and safety of their scab labour who were being educated on the treachery of scabbing, and difficulties in dealing with CUB management.

“Out of bounds!”

As part of a national campaign, the Melbourne rally was called by the Victorian Trades Hall Council and pulled together members of many unions, including Electrical Trades (ETU), Metalworkers (AMWU), Construction workers (CFMEU), Meatworkers (AMIEU), Maritime workers (MUA), Teachers  (AEU), Tertiary Education workers (NTEU), Health and community workers (ASU, ANF), and others. It was a great cross-section of the organised working class, uniting unionists and community supporters in a common expression of solidarity and determination to beat the CUB bosses.

At AFL House and again on the steps of the Victorian Parliament speakers called for the AFL to break the sponsorship agreement with CUB and boycott CUB products during the footy finals matches, until all 55 sacked maintenance workers are reinstated permanently without any reduction to their pay.

The workers marched from Australian Football League (AFL) headquarters in Docklands to parliament house on the opposite side of the city area. The march fanned out across Bourke Street taking up three city blocks, with angry chants interspersed with shrill whistles. A huge Eureka flag was carried with great respect and pride by dozens of workers.  Several large Eureka flags flew high through the march.

With their plastic whistles the marchers were reminding the CUB bosses that the AFL football finals were starting that evening and that the campaign to boycott CUB products was only just beginning. The football finals season is a time of big sales for the breweries, but the union boycott campaign was calling CUB “out of bounds” and suggesting that working people give the smaller local breweries a try.

This boycott campaign has kicked on strongly, with many regular drinkers and quite a few pubs and hotels refusing to buy CUB products (includes Carlton Draught, Carlton Dry, VB, Crown Lager and Pure Blonde, etc) until the 55 workers are reinstated.

Speakers at the rally re-affirmed the strong support and determination of the union movement, drawing much applause. They included Troy Gray from the ETU, Steve Dargavel from the AMWU, Luke Hilakari from the Victorian Trades Hall, sacked worker Chris …, Victorian Industrial Relations Minister Natalie Hutchins, and the Greens Federal Member for Melbourne, Adam Bandt.

Words of support were also warmly welcomed from Father Bob McGuire and Phil Cleary, who is standing for Lord Mayor of the City of Melbourne in the coming elections.

The protest march gave a glimpse once again of the united power and enthusiasm of the organised working class when they are informed and called on to take united action. There was a great sense of solidarity as workers from different job sites, different industries and different nationalities marched together. Workers could easily see that that failure to defend the CUB 55 would only make it easier for companies to use similar tactics to drive down wages and conditions and threaten the livelihoods of all workers. 

It’s clear to all workers that the CUB (and all big business) tactics of using labour hire scab outfits to crush unions and workers wages and conditions, is spreading into many industries and needs to be stopped.

The bosses’ latest weapons are the labour-hire sham-contracting outfits that use the financially desperate and ignorant workers against their fellow workers.

Under pressure from the  massive public support rolling out for the CUB 55, an alliance of the ALP, the Greens and the independent Jacqui Lambie is pressing for a parliamentary inquiry into the shonky labour-hire industry.  The CUB workers’ struggle has exposed the class bias of the Fair Work Commission that allows companies to get away with breaching the EBAs, whilst threatening workers and unionists with heavy fines and gaol. While greater exposure of this rotten practice is a good thing, it also demonstrates the limitations of expecting any significant or rapid change through parliamentarism – another inquiry is the most we can possibly expect.

The fact is, the bosses and their lawyers and politicians  will always come up with schemes and laws and regulations to undercut workers’ wages and conditions – some will be crude, some will be subtle , some downright devious, but the attacks are always coming or in the pipeline. By the same token, the workers always look for ways to defend their ground. Class struggle never ceases.

On this occasion, a combination of sustained militant struggle, widespread community support and parliamentary pressure may yet force CUB to wilt.

Militant and united trade union struggle can indeed defend the workers and even occasionally break through for a solid gain, but capitalism inevitably erodes these footholds and the battles have to be fought again and again.

As always, the biggest and most lasting struggle of all is the raising of political consciousness to take the working class beyond trade union battles to the revolutionary demand that the whole system of multinational and local corporate wage exploitation be swept away and replaced by a rational and humane system of socialism – only the working class has the unity, strength and resilience to lead this fight. We see glimpses of this, we sense the potential, we need to build on it