As the world economy again teeters on the edge of crisis, the Occupy protests that have spread across the globe has inspired people to fight against the priorities of the capitalist system.
In Australia, the Occupy protests have forced even Treasurer Wayne Swan to acknowledge, “there appears to be a growing sense of frustration in many countries that opportunities are not being evenly shared and that the burden of the global economic downturn has been carried by those who can least bear it.”
It was an astonishing comment from a slavishly pro-business Treasurer who has driven the policies that have created an even greater gap between rich and poor in Australia (see p20).
But, Swan, Gillard and the rest are not about to learn any lessons. The Labor Party hasn’t been so unpopular since the 1930s. They are so concerned with running the system for the 1 per cent that they’re incapable of doing anything meaningful for their supporters.
Although Swan admits that the economic crisis may yet hit harder here, he blindly declares that he is “absolutely determined” to return the budget to surplus in 2012-2013. Commonwealth public servants have begun rolling stoppages as they take on Swan’s efforts to impose a wage cap.
At a state level, Barry O’Farrell, the NSW Premier, has rammed through the first 1,900 of 5,000 job cuts planned for the NSW public sector.
One in ten Australian households is in housing stress and at risk of financial hardship, according to Australians for Affordable Housing. Many households are saddled with huge mortgage debts to the big banks. The median house price is around 6.5 times the disposable income, or more than double what is considered “affordable”.
Yet NAB is challenging the Victorian Residential Tenancies Act in the Supreme Court because they want to give renters less than 28 days notice for evictions.
And it was recently revealed that the US Federal Reserve bailed out the NAB to the extent of $4.5 billion US dollars in 2008-2009. Westpac, too, took $1.09 billion from American taxpayers.
Everybody knows that four years of a Labor government has changed virtually nothing in our lives. Gillard’s shift to the right has only worked to push Abbott and the Coalition to an election winning high in the polls and pushed the mainstream political debate further to the right.
The comment more than a year ago by Patrick McGorry that detention centres are “factories of mental illness” has been proven again in the worst way, with yet another suicide at Villawood detention centre in October.
But even despite the defeat of third country processing, Gillard is still desperate to appear the best at stopping the boats.
It is no wonder the Occupy protests have hit a nerve.
The political and economic system is failing the 99 per cent, but Labor’s worship of the market is unquestioning. In preparation for the November meeting of G20 of rich nations, Gillard even lectured European leaders to effectively speed up their austerity drive, calling for “less debt … freer trade and fewer barriers”—austerity that has driven down living standards and driven up unemployment.
The market approach has failed us on climate change.
At the same time as Gillard made a song and dance about a “clean energy future”, pushing the carbon tax through parliament, the South Australian parliament pushed ahead with the expansion of the massive uranium, copper and gold mine, Olympic Dam.
The environmentally toxic project will cost more than $30 billion dollars (massively subsided by the state). It shows the kind of money and planning that is possible when BHP stands to make more billions in profit.
But there is no money for renewable energy development and green jobs.
These are the perverse priorities of the capitalist system. While The Greens have stood strongly against some of Labor’s agenda, the real issues will not be settled in parliament. We need to organise to fight the Labor and the system itself. That means building stronger movements but also a stronger socialist organisation to link up the struggles into a fight against the system.
Qantas workers are still battling to get decent pay rises and keep jobs. Wharfies are facing up to battle with the union-bashing company Patricks.
A six-hour occupation of a Shell ship by nine MUA members has stopped Shell’s plans to use a “flag of convenience” ship and cheap labour. Customs staff are staging a 24-hour strike as Solidarity goes to press.
There will be two major rallies at Labor’s national conference in December—on Saturday 3 December for Equal Marriage and on Sunday 4 December for refugee rights—demanding an end to offshore processing and mandatory detention.
We need to build every fight for a different world—a world where those who create the wealth can reclaim it from the 1 per cent who exploit us.