Gillard digging Labor’s grave: build the left alternative

Day by day, Gillard is dragging Labor further to the right—and closer to oblivion.

US President Obama’s visit was a disgusting display of US militarism. Gillard was all-too-happy to parade as US imperialism’s “deputy sheriff” in the region every bit as much as Howard did.
In a move that will ratchet up military tensions in the region, thousands of US marines will now be based in the Northern Territory.

Gillard also used Obama’s visit to announce that Labor is ready to start selling uranium to India, in violation of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty. This is a sop to the US, which is courting India to help keep China in check. As an added bonus, it will make the mining companies happy.

If Labor thought that Obama’s visit or the carbon tax was going to give them any permanent lift in the polls, they were mistaken. Gillard is now as equally unpopular as Abbott. Gillard has enlisted the support of Image Media Services to improve her image but nothing can hide the fact that her right-wing politics are set to hand Abbott a landslide.

It says everything that Gillard is going to the Labor conference to push to sell uranium to India, to oppose same-sex marriage and to change the party platform to allow sending asylum seekers to Malaysia.

Seventy-one per cent of Labor voters support same-sex marriage but Gillard has arrogantly declared “As I have said many times, I support maintaining the Marriage Act in its current form, and the government will not move legislation to change it.”

The Labor Left says it will fight to ensure Labor policy is committed to changing the law to support same-sex marriage and to stop uranium sales to India and Labor for Refugees will fight to change Labor’s refugee policy.

But the limitations of Labor and parliament are graphically on display. While the fight inside the party is not insignificant, it is almost certain that the conference will agree to sell uranium to India and vote down the pro-refugee resolutions. Even if same-sex marriage becomes policy, Gillard is doing her best to make sure it won’t become law.

On top of this, the mining tax has now passed parliament, but only after Labor gave into the mining bosses, handing them back billions of their super profits.

As the Eurozone crisis deepens, the Australian economy is slowing and budget revenues are set to drop. According to Access Economics, next year’s projected budget surplus of $3.5 billion is now likely to be a deficit of $1.9 billion. Treasurer Wayne Swan is already preparing cuts to maintain the surplus. He’s prepared to make us pay, but not the mining bosses.

All this is evidence enough that hope for change doesn’t lie in parliament.

Even The Greens’ parliamentarians were astonishingly silent when Obama visited. While they are for a debate about withdrawal from Afghanistan, during Obama’s visit they said nearly nothing about the US military alliance, about Guantanamo, or about Bradley Manning, kept naked in solitary confinement in a US military prison for allegedly leaking information about US atrocities to Wikileaks.

Disillusionment with the political establishment is growing. An ANU poll taken in September found the level of dissatisfaction with democracy had almost doubled since Labor won the 2007 election, from 14 to 27 per cent.

There is an urgent need to build the left. Internationally, Occupy shows there is a mood for real change from the grassroots. And in the streets and factories of Egypt, workers are fighting to keep alive the hopes of the February revolution that toppled Mubarak.

Occupy Australia, too, showed the potential to build movements here to oppose rampant corporate greed, to fight for union and refugee rights and for action to stop climate change.

In November, student protests at Sydney University won back the Department of Political Economy, under threat from widespread university cuts. More will be needed now the university is talking about 7.5 per cent cuts across every department next year.

Qantas boss Alan Joyce may have got what he wanted by forcing that dispute into arbitration. But the nurses in Victoria have not backed down after threats from FairWork. The determination of low-paid workers at Baiada to hold their picket line against cops and bosses won an impressive victory.

It is in these struggles we see the possibility for building an alternative to Gillard and to Abbott.
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