One of my comrades is a member of Workers’ Liberty. After having a conference recently, the organisation drew up a proposal platform for the radical left in Australia to endorse for a renewed struggle against the bosses and the state. I reproduce the article this comrade wrote here. I endorse the charter.
I The Article
Is the Turnbull government in such a shambles that Labor can confidently expect to win the next election?
If Labor were to win the next federal election, do many people really expect that Labor would reverse “rising income and wealth inequality”, and insecurity, that are feeding “non-mainstream parties that promote a more nationalistic agenda”. Is Labor in a position to satisfy the “concerns of electorates … who feel left behind by the solutions put forward to address weakened post-crisis economic growth?” (An investment advisor’s description of the problem).
At the last election Labor did eat a long way into the LNPs majority on the strength of commitments to protect Medicare, to tighten bank regulations, and cut back on tax breaks and subsidies to the most wealthy in superannuation and negative gearing. But Labor has credibility problems. Since the Accord it has helped to create many of the conditions for growing inequality, and many union officials have been complicit.
The vacuum of “political capital” is what has opened up room for the right wing nationalists to step in with their line on how to “make Australia great again”. It is a crude appeal to nation, blaming global trade and refugees for insecurity.
We make a class analysis of the roots of inequality and insecurity. In brief:
- The continuing decline of union density is linked to changes made by successive conservative and Labor governments to the legal basis for collective bargaining. Union leaders show much greater passion and drive for electing the ALP and beating the Liberal Party, than they show for organised labour and beating the employers, or for holding the ALP accountable to the interests and needs of workers.
- Many leaders of the labour movement have converted the legacy of the setbacks of the 1970s and 80s into a smothering ideological defeatism, educating workers to appeal to and defer to an imaginary national consensus rather than to try to find their own voice. We dissent from official union campaign slogans about workers being sacked for “being Australian”. This obscures the central issue of defending union organisation and conditions.
- Risk is increasingly being shifted onto workers, through job insecurity and high rates of unemployment and underemployment. Privatisation and cuts to welfare payments further undermine the political economy of the working class, and increase inequality.
The story that neoliberalism is the problem does not point to an alternative, nor does it appeal to an identifiable social force to change things. Growing political instability in the western democracies has cracked open one of the biggest inhibitors for putting forward a radical socialist platform – that it would undermine stability.
Workers Liberty believes that the left could now assert a more radical platform in the labour movement and for the working class to rebuild a movement for itself as the social force that needs this platform for equality and freedom. A platform that clearly addresses working class interests is also a potentially constructive basis for uniting and organising, and could enable the left to transcend some the more factional pursuits that repel many people from organised politics.
II The Charter
We propose these draft points for a union charter with demands on both government and employers:
- Union rights, the right to strike and take solidarity action, for organising the unorganised in workplaces and educating their delegates, to take on the employer and the government.
- Secure employment. For action against insecurity and casualisation. Transfer rights between employers, increase the dole, end work for the dole and renationalise employment services.
- Public ownership of banks and other financial institutions, and utilities.
- Union conditions and rates for all workers in Australia, whatever country they are from. Campaign to increase and enforce the minimum wage. Stop bosses blackmailing workers with temporary work visas. International solidarity.
- Rapid transition to renewable energy, and renewable energy jobs, via public ownership.
We would like to hear responses to this draft charter from labour movement activists.