COVID-19 and the role of Labor and trade unions in Australia
April 16, 2020
In the global coronavirus pandemic, workers and young people in Australia, as in every country in the world, face crucial political problems amid worsening health, economic and social disasters.
In combating mass unemployment, financial ruin, and danger to their health and life in many workplaces, the main political obstacles facing the working class are the Labor Party and trade unions.
It was not only employers and the Liberal National Coalition government that urged workers to return to work in unsafe conditions, but Labor and trade union bureaucracies. They worked hand in hand with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his ministers, including to provide billions to employers and banks whose workers would inevitably be forced to pay.
People who work watch with shock, disgust, and increasingly angry scenes of mass death in the US, Britain and continental Europe produced by indifference and response driven by profits from governments at the world’s capitalist headquarters.
Despite premature and misleading claims about “leveling the curve” of infection, workers know that similar scenes can quickly emerge across Australia. The danger was demonstrated by the COVID-19 outbreak in places such as Tasmanian hospitals, Victorian health services, and elderly and disability care facilities in western Sydney.
This pandemic is an accusation against the failure of the capitalist system, which subordinates everything, including human life, to the conditions of profit from the financial elite.
But Labor and trade unions are determined to sustain this greedy social order in every way, including by helping employers cut jobs, wages and conditions during the pandemic and so on.
That was explained very clearly when Secretary of the Australian Trade Union Council (ACTU) Sally McManus appeared on national television on April 5 to promise employers that, in terms of cutting salaries and provisions, “you can get everything you want through cooperation” with the union the worker.
The Labor Party has formed a virtual power sharing regime with the Morrison government. Labor leader Anthony Albanese and his shadow minister meet weekly with their government colleagues, behind closed doors, to help design government steps.
Labor also holds a majority in Morrison’s “national cabinet” of state and territory government leaders, who effectively govern the country by decree, exercising broader emergency powers.
In just one month, with full support from Labor and ACTU, the Morrison government has provided big business with more than $ 325 billion in tax concessions, subsidies, grants and loans. This downgrades the totally inadequate amount allocated to public health facilities and mass testing is urgently needed to combat the corona virus.
The ruling class will demand that every penny be revoked from the working class by deeper cuts in social spending, increased taxes, reduced salaries and provisions as well as further privatization and asset sales.
Fearing widespread social unrest, it is necessary for Labor and trade unions to try to suppress growing opposition in the working class, including among teachers, child care workers and construction workers.
To sustain their lives, livelihoods and futures, workers and youth must carry out political struggles against workers and union apparatus. That means seriously reviewing the history of the Labor Party and drawing the necessary political lessons.
There has been widespread hostility to the Labor Party and trade unions as a result of decades of betrayal, especially since the Hawke Agreement and the Keating Labor Agreement in the 1980s and 1990s.
Union membership has shrunk to less than 10 percent of private sector workers. Among young workers, under the age of 25, the figure is only 5 percent.
The base for supporting labor elections has also collapsed. In the federal election last May, his vote dropped by 33 percent – the lowest level in a century – although the Coalition’s vote dropped as well. For good reason, millions of workers simply do not believe that Labor falsity promises to get a “fair path” from the wealthy elite.
But anger and disgust are not enough. Those who voted to try to pressure Labor to improve their ways would be very disappointed. The only response to the election disaster was to shift further to the right, led by Albanians, who promised to increase “wealth creation” and appeal to “successful people.”
Now he is at the forefront of sustaining the capitalist system even as workers become aware that he places profits above all, including the health, welfare and life of the population, and begins to consider socialist alternatives.
This is not merely a problem of Labor leaders and trade unions that are corrupt or poor, but rather the whole perspective of the Labor Party.
Since its birth, which was formed by trade unions in the 1890s, Labor was committed to defending the nation’s capitalist nation state, giving the racist ideology of the founder of “White Australia.”
The workers’ leaders always insisted that there was no need to overthrow capitalism because the working class could improve its destiny through the struggle of the militant unions or by electing the Labor Party. Within a nationally regulated economic framework, the ruling class can be pressed for concessions.
Relying on prospective labor bureaucrats and parliamentary careers, the Labor Party strongly rejects the struggle of the Marxist movement for the struggle of a global united worker to overthrow capitalism and reorganize society for the benefit of all, not personal gain.
That is why Labor is called to take office in every major crisis of capitalist government. During the world war and the Great Depression of the 1930s, companies in power in Australia turned to the Labor government, which was supported by trade unions, to uphold the sacrifices of life and livelihoods needed.
During the post-World War II boom, the capitalist class was able to make limited concessions to prevent the struggle of the working class. But the national reformist program of the Labor Party and trade unions was destroyed by the globalization of production from the 1980s, which allowed transnational companies to easily move their operations from one country to another to secure lower labor costs.
The Hawke and Keating Agreement marks the transformation of Labor and trade unions, like their counterparts throughout the world, into tools that work to reverse the past profits of the working class to help make “their” national capitalist economies “competitive” in the world. market.
It is no longer a matter of urging employers to give concessions to workers, but rather trade unions who arm workers for “exchanges” to ensure employers continue to benefit.
Today, we see the final product of that process. For Labor and trade unions, workers must be rehired as soon as possible so that their workforce can be exploited once again, even if it means countless deaths.
Conclusions need to be drawn. The corona virus pandemic graphically shows that there is no possibility of reforming the capitalist system in Australia or anywhere in the world. Assisted and abetted by all his political servants, including the Labor Party and the union apparatus, the ruling class was willing to let hundreds, thousands, even millions die to ensure the flow of profits for a handful of rich people.
This social order does not deserve to be continued and must be overthrown. The working class is the only social force capable of carrying out this historic task and building a socialist society.
Instead of big business and banks sustained by the intervention of the capitalist state, they must be placed under public ownership and control of democratic workers. This means the working class must take power from the hands of the financial elite and reorganize society to meet the immediate needs of the majority of the community, not a handful of rich people.
Instead of capitalist countries fighting each other over resources and profits, it is important to form a working government that works together in a globally coordinated response to threats to humanity presented by coronaviruses.
An important lesson from all of the 20th century’s strategic experiences is that to overthrow capitalism, a revolutionary party is needed to educate, mobilize and lead the working class in the struggle for power. That is the perspective of the Socialist Equality Party and its twin parties in the international world. We urge our readers to join the SEP to continue this struggle.
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