The left, the trade unions and the Labor Party ranks
- The left, the trade unions and the Labor rank and file between Rudd
and a hard place
By Bob Gould
There's overwhelming sentiment throughout the workers' movement,
except among a small coterie of cranks, that the pressing question of
the moment is the removal of the Howard Government and its replacement
by a Labor government led by Kevin Rudd.
Many on the left hope this will be accompanied by a strengthening of
the Greens in parliament.
Alongside this lies the difficult circumstance that Kevin Rudd clearly
sees himself as an innovating conservative figure, and wishes to move
the general policy and practice of the Labor Party to the right.
Recent parliamentary leadership actions, such as declaring policies on
IR that weren't clearly decided on at the recent Labor federal
conference, clearly indicate that he wishes to establish his right to
decide policy rather than accept the policies decided by the
structures of the Labor Party, such as federal and state conferences.
Rudd has also, in recent weeks, clearly indicated a desire to
marginalise union influence in the Labor Party, if that is at all
What part of all this represents his own aspirations and what part is
an electoralist response to the relentless pressure of the media and
the ruling class is not entirely clear.
It's possible that Rudd and Gillard are telling the unions that this
is necessary for the elections, but the reality after the election
will be more pro-union than the current rhetoric.
Rudd and Gillard in these matters are Bonapartists, in the sense that
they balance between the different forces and the pressures exerted on
them. All this puts the trade unions and the Labor rank and file, both
left and right, in a difficult position.
The desire of the left half of Australian society to get rid of Howard
and elect Rudd is palpably apparent to anyone with even half a brain.
Eccentric voices on the left, such as the man called Raven on the GLW
list, who talk recklessly about driving a wedge between the unions and
Labor are objectively playing into the hands of the reactionary forces
in Australian society.
The overwhelming majority of the left half of Australian society,
including the most active people, of whom there are many tens of
thousands, recognise that it's necessary to work hard to defeat Howard
and elect a Labor government. It's not possible, however, to evade the
issues that have been served up to us by recent events. The ranks of
the movement, both left and right, and the ranks of the trade unions,
must unite to defeat the pressure coming in the final analysis from
both the ruling class and the media, to marginalise the unions in the
Labor Party. That's the political imperative of the moment, along with
the other political imperative of electing a Rudd Labor government.
The opposite argument, that it would be a good thing if the unions
were pushed out of the Labor Party, is political poison from the point
of view of the future of the workers' movement. The result of such a
development wouldn't be any growth of a leftist alternative, it would
be the further demoralisation and retreat of the socialist forces and
the class-struggle militants in Australian society.
If Howard gets in again, it is unlikely to lead to a radicalisation,
it's much more likely to lead to further demoralisation and retreat of
The major current project of the ruling class, that of driving the
unions out of the Labor Party (even if Rudd is making major
concessions to that pressure) is much easier said than done,
thankfully from the socialist point of view. Left and right factions
of the Labor Party, both federally and in all six states and
territories, are factions in which union interests are very powerful
and often dominant.
It's clear that some Labor politicians both left and right would like
to get rid of this "incubus" of trade union influence, as they see it,
but it's not in the nature of the unions, either left or right, and in
this instance their leaderships, to easily give up their long-held
prerogatives. Even most leaders of the trade union bureaucracy who in
the final analysis make their living out of the unions and to their
credit are emotionally committed to the institutions in which they've
spent most of their lives, understand that the union movement is
fighting for its life.
It flows from this conjuncture of contradictory circumstances that the
leadership of important militant unions, both left and right, ought to
take the initiative for the formation in every state of something like
the Pledge Group of unions that existed in Victoria for a number of years.
A national Pledge should focus on a kind of minimum program, which
should involve a "thus far and no further" kind of approach.
The first plank should be the election of a Rudd government. The
second plank should be total defence of trade union affiliations,
interests and prerogatives in the Labor Party. The third plank should
be the insistence that the incoming Labor government adopt an
industrial relations policy acceptable to the overwhelming majority of
unions on key matters.
The fourth plank should be vigorous opposition to further
privatisation. The immediate cutting edge to that battle is the latest
push for electricity privatisation in NSW.
A fifth plank should be opposition to so-call public-private
partnerships, which usually mean that the public shoulders the burden
of debt and the private sector pockets any profits.
The whole of the labour movement should be mobilised to fight around
this kind of minimum program. In the real world of politics, it's
obvious that the main momentum for such a mass Pledge-style movement
will come after the election, rather than before. However, with the
instructive experience of the past few weeks in front of us it seems
to me the preliminary work on such a movement should begin now, and it
has been forced on the unions and the ranks of the workers' movement
by the speed of events.
PS. A very important aspect of the coming electoral battle will be the
question of the necessary comprehensive national exchange of
preferences between Labor and the Greens. Feral Greens in a few places
should be vigorously persuaded to accept a preference deal with Labor
for the general good.
It is necessary, by negotiation, to remove any possible basis for the
kind of thoughtless actions by the Labor leadership in Victoria at the
last federal election, which led to the election of the Family First
senator instead of a Green, and contributed to Howard's (one hopes)
temporary grip on the Senate. It would be a tragedy if sectarianism on
the part of either Labor or the Greens damaged the chance of wresting
control of the Senate from Howard, given the importance of a
progressive majority in the Senate to make easier the necessary
campaign for progressive policies from a new Labor government.
- Bob, ths seems a well argued set of proposals that both Labor and those to
their left need to seriously consider one by one.
Alas the ALP leadership caring more about perceptions of economic
'orthodoxy' promoting favourable economic climate for business and loyalty
to Washminister (Washington and Westminister roled into one) than to their
own members, trade unionists and other workers, students the natural
environment and promoting a violence free world. National conferences no
longer determine party policy - ALP state and federal members are no longer
to be elected by local branch stallwarts. Senate and Leglislative Council
positions long determined by back room deals. Iwould sincerely love the
true believers left within the ALP like Bob, to achieve their goals. Long
ago I was a naive Year 11 studentwho belived Bill Hayden would be a
reincarnation of Atlee and Bevan roled together. I joined in 1979, became
disillusioned in 83 and did not renew in 1984.
On 6/5/07, bobgould987 <bobgould987@...> wrote:
> The left, the trade unions and the Labor rank and file between Rudd
> and a hard place
> By Bob Gould
> There's overwhelming sentiment throughout the workers' movement,
> except among a small coterie of cranks, that the pressing question of
> the moment is the removal of the Howard Government and its replacement
> by a Labor government led by Kevin Rudd.
> Many on the left hope this will be accompanied by a strengthening of
> the Greens in parliament.
> Alongside this lies the difficult circumstance that Kevin Rudd clearly
> sees himself as an innovating conservative figure, and wishes to move
> the general policy and practice of the Labor Party to the right.
> Recent parliamentary leadership actions, such as declaring policies on
> IR that weren't clearly decided on at the recent Labor federal
> conference, clearly indicate that he wishes to establish his right to
> decide policy rather than accept the policies decided by the
> structures of the Labor Party, such as federal and state conferences.
> Rudd has also, in recent weeks, clearly indicated a desire to
> marginalise union influence in the Labor Party, if that is at all
> What part of all this represents his own aspirations and what part is
> an electoralist response to the relentless pressure of the media and
> the ruling class is not entirely clear.
> It's possible that Rudd and Gillard are telling the unions that this
> is necessary for the elections, but the reality after the election
> will be more pro-union than the current rhetoric.
> Rudd and Gillard in these matters are Bonapartists, in the sense that
> they balance between the different forces and the pressures exerted on
> them. All this puts the trade unions and the Labor rank and file, both
> left and right, in a difficult position.
> The desire of the left half of Australian society to get rid of Howard
> and elect Rudd is palpably apparent to anyone with even half a brain.
> Eccentric voices on the left, such as the man called Raven on the GLW
> list, who talk recklessly about driving a wedge between the unions and
> Labor are objectively playing into the hands of the reactionary forces
> in Australian society.
> The overwhelming majority of the left half of Australian society,
> including the most active people, of whom there are many tens of
> thousands, recognise that it's necessary to work hard to defeat Howard
> and elect a Labor government. It's not possible, however, to evade the
> issues that have been served up to us by recent events. The ranks of
> the movement, both left and right, and the ranks of the trade unions,
> must unite to defeat the pressure coming in the final analysis from
> both the ruling class and the media, to marginalise the unions in the
> Labor Party. That's the political imperative of the moment, along with
> the other political imperative of electing a Rudd Labor government.
> The opposite argument, that it would be a good thing if the unions
> were pushed out of the Labor Party, is political poison from the point
> of view of the future of the workers' movement. The result of such a
> development wouldn't be any growth of a leftist alternative, it would
> be the further demoralisation and retreat of the socialist forces and
> the class-struggle militants in Australian society.
> If Howard gets in again, it is unlikely to lead to a radicalisation,
> it's much more likely to lead to further demoralisation and retreat of
> the left.
> The major current project of the ruling class, that of driving the
> unions out of the Labor Party (even if Rudd is making major
> concessions to that pressure) is much easier said than done,
> thankfully from the socialist point of view. Left and right factions
> of the Labor Party, both federally and in all six states and
> territories, are factions in which union interests are very powerful
> and often dominant.
> It's clear that some Labor politicians both left and right would like
> to get rid of this "incubus" of trade union influence, as they see it,
> but it's not in the nature of the unions, either left or right, and in
> this instance their leaderships, to easily give up their long-held
> prerogatives. Even most leaders of the trade union bureaucracy who in
> the final analysis make their living out of the unions and to their
> credit are emotionally committed to the institutions in which they've
> spent most of their lives, understand that the union movement is
> fighting for its life.
> It flows from this conjuncture of contradictory circumstances that the
> leadership of important militant unions, both left and right, ought to
> take the initiative for the formation in every state of something like
> the Pledge Group of unions that existed in Victoria for a number of years.
> A national Pledge should focus on a kind of minimum program, which
> should involve a "thus far and no further" kind of approach.
> The first plank should be the election of a Rudd government. The
> second plank should be total defence of trade union affiliations,
> interests and prerogatives in the Labor Party. The third plank should
> be the insistence that the incoming Labor government adopt an
> industrial relations policy acceptable to the overwhelming majority of
> unions on key matters.
> The fourth plank should be vigorous opposition to further
> privatisation. The immediate cutting edge to that battle is the latest
> push for electricity privatisation in NSW.
> A fifth plank should be opposition to so-call public-private
> partnerships, which usually mean that the public shoulders the burden
> of debt and the private sector pockets any profits.
> The whole of the labour movement should be mobilised to fight around
> this kind of minimum program. In the real world of politics, it's
> obvious that the main momentum for such a mass Pledge-style movement
> will come after the election, rather than before. However, with the
> instructive experience of the past few weeks in front of us it seems
> to me the preliminary work on such a movement should begin now, and it
> has been forced on the unions and the ranks of the workers' movement
> by the speed of events.
> PS. A very important aspect of the coming electoral battle will be the
> question of the necessary comprehensive national exchange of
> preferences between Labor and the Greens. Feral Greens in a few places
> should be vigorously persuaded to accept a preference deal with Labor
> for the general good.
> It is necessary, by negotiation, to remove any possible basis for the
> kind of thoughtless actions by the Labor leadership in Victoria at the
> last federal election, which led to the election of the Family First
> senator instead of a Green, and contributed to Howard's (one hopes)
> temporary grip on the Senate. It would be a tragedy if sectarianism on
> the part of either Labor or the Greens damaged the chance of wresting
> control of the Senate from Howard, given the importance of a
> progressive majority in the Senate to make easier the necessary
> campaign for progressive policies from a new Labor government.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- "bobgould987" wrote:
> If Howard gets in again, it is unlikely to lead to aWithout a doubt.
> radicalisation, it's much more likely to lead to further
> demoralisation and retreat of the left.
The aftermath of Howard's 2004 victory makes that obvious.
> The major current project of the ruling class, that of driving theYes. This stuff is interesting.
> unions out of the Labor Party (even if Rudd is making major
> concessions to that pressure) is much easier said than done,
> thankfully from the socialist point of view.
Concretely, it looks like individual unionists are being targetted,
rather than "the unions" per se. Obviously we support their right to
not be driven out of the ALP. That's not at all in contradiction with
arguing that a break from the ALP is necessary. There is a difference
between jumping and being pushed.
I won't comment on Bob's "Pledge" proposals - if they get off the
ground, that would be fine by me.
- --- In GreenLeft_discussion@yahoogroups.com, "alanb1000"
>It goes without saying that Howard must be defeated, and Rudd
> "bobgould987" wrote:
> I won't comment on Bob's "Pledge" proposals - if they get off the
> ground, that would be fine by me.
> Alan Bradley
government is preferable. But what do these ``pledge''ites do if or
when the ALP leadership refuses to commit to such a ``pledge'' or
backtracks later? What should be their reaction? Remain in the abusive
relationship come what may, because the ALP really does love the
unions till death do us part? Why would the ALP right (which is
clearly for PPPs and privatisation) and the capitalist governments it
leads take such posturing seriously if it not backed up a genuine
willingness to confront them and mobilise the ranks politically, up to
and including building an alternative? By all means attempt it
(perhaps Bob can keep us informed what is being organised, so the left
outside can offer solidarity) but what is the ``Plan B'' for militant
unionists and socialists within the ALP?
- "glparramatta" wrote:
> but what is the ``Plan B'' for militantFrom: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sisyphus
> unionists and socialists within the ALP?
As a punishment from the gods for his trickery, Sisyphus was compelled
to roll a huge rock up a steep hill, but before he reached the top of
the hill, the rock always escaped him and he had to begin again
(Odyssey, xi. 593).
Welcome to hell.
- I am writing this in response to Bob Gould's constructive contribution
to debate on the ALP and unions.
I have been an ALP member for over 10 years now, and as many rank and
file ALP members would tell you, it's an often demoralising experience.
Over the years rank and file members, and the ALP Left, have had to
live with a succession of privatisations, including that of the
Commonwealth Bank - against the party platform. We've had to live with
the destruction of free higher education, an Accord that did not
deliver to workers in return for wage restraint, ALP support for the
1991 Gulf War: and now we have Rudd opposing pattern bargaining and
proposing the maintenence of the ABCC. Then there's Labor's support for
VSU, and the determination to privatise the rest of Telstra to aid in
the creation of a part-private fibre-optic monopoly. (A public monopoly
which can look to the public interest makes sense, but why not borrow
instead of getting the private sector involved?)
Against this, many in the Left, including myself, have perservered in
the ALP. For me, my main form of activism today is promoting events
and actions on the net, participating in major rallies and maintaining
a profile as a freelance writer. Being a member of the ALP doesn't
prevent me from engaging in this activism, and at the same time I
contribute to Left influence in the Party.
Despite the disappointments of the ALP on IR, many of the ACTU's
proposals were accepted. The election of the ALP will be a step
forward - even if it is 'one step forward, two steps back'. And the ALP
looks to have adopted progressive positions on dental care, indigenous
health and ending Australia's participation in the Iraq war.
Despite this, though, the ALP platform commits the party to hold taxes
down as a proportion of GDP. There's also Rudd's commitment to maintain
a massive surplus, and the question of how spending will be maintained
in the event that the mining boom ends; or in response to the
additional health and welfare costs of an ageing population. We need
more money for the states - for transport infrastructure, hospitals,
government school teachers and infrastructure; and we need to restore
pensions for the disabled and for single parents. We also need to
raise pensions and wages to deal with increased power costs as a
consequence of an emissions trading scheme. This is without
considering that a carbon tax makes more sense than a market based
schene. And we should look to resocialise communications infrastructure.
I remember from long ago the old DSP line that the ALP is a 'prison'
for the Left. Well, given that I have no parliamentary ambitions and
don't have to hold my tongue, it's not a prison for me. But I think
there are many in the Left who are uncomfortable with the policy
direction under Rudd. I think the ALP Left needs to work out where it
stands. Are we, or are we not socialists? Do we have any commitment
to public ownership any more, or even to progressive redistribution
thorugh progressive tax, the social wage, the welfare state...? If we
do have such commitments, do we ever express them publicly, and does
the Right compromise sufficiently to make our commitment to the ALP
worthwhile. (I'm talking in terms of policy here, not just in terms of
To begin with the ALP Left needs an independent profile and voice.
It should have its own participatory website and maybe its own journal.
And establishing committees to promote the ALP Left and also ALP
branchs' involvement in progressive campaigns would also be a step
forward. Left parliamentarians should strategically speak out on
social issues to keep them in the public eye; to pressure the ALP Right
to compromise on policy, and to relativise debate by making radical
demands - and thus making progressive compromises seem 'reasonable'.
This is the kind of role I see for the ALP Left, and this is the sort
of thing I work for in the ALP.
But the reality is that the ALP Left allows the discipline of the
parliamentary party to silence, contain and marginalise it. And since
so much of the broader Left has a great deal invested in the ALP - the
result of this is crushing - and again, demoralising.
I conclude a few things from this.
To begin with, there is a need to reform the ALP and the ALP Left in
the fashion I describe above.
Secondly, I think there is a role in Australian politics for the kind
of party that is represented in Europe by the Left parties of Germany
and Sweden and the Socialists in Holland. If the ALP Left needs to
compromise for the sake of discipline, it is a fair call to say there
should be a formation outside of the ALP that can more readily lead
debate, and lead a counter-hegemonic cultural struggle.
Such a party would need to be aimed at the mainstream, and would need
to be credible on economic management. This does not mean being
conservative. It does mean realisitically assessing the balance of
class forces, and the dynamics of the system, and only attempting what
we're confident we can achieve - without sending the system into
economic meltdown. With greater labour movement mobilisation we could
fight for wage earner funds, subsidies and support for co-operative
enterprises. Probably right now the ALP could get away with
incremental tax reform, adding 1%-2% of GDP in new progressive taxes
per term (ie: $10 billion to $20 billion) to pay for programs in
health, education, aged care, transport, communications, welfare etc.
But if the ALP will not lead debate, the rest of the Left might
reasonably ask if it ought attempt to instead.
I'm not arguing for union disaffiliation from the ALP, but I think that
Left unions who find they cannot support ALP policy, and thus are
already not affiliated, could consider supporting an alternative party.
And I think there could be support from the welfare and social services
sector also. I think there is a whole layer of people out there who
would be attracted to a new Left party - people who have left the ALP
or who don't find its treatment of rank and file members attractive;
people who see the Greens as having the image of a 'single issue
party'; unionists who'd like to see a party which was less equivocal in
its support for organised labour.
Assuming such a party could mobilise a whole layer of people not
already involved in the ALP, the formation of such a party would be a
very positive step. I'm not about to leave the ALP, and I don't think
Socialist Alliance is orientated enough to the mainstream to form the
crux of such a new formation. And I think the argument of 'wedging'
unions and Labor neglects to consider the consequences of an ALP 'cut
free' from unions, or the fact that such unions would simply be moving
into the 'political wilderness' without a credible and mainstream
alternative home. But even working within the ALP I'd feel a lot
better if there was a credible political formation to Labor's left -
which could lead debate, mobilise for popular campaigns in a way the
ALP doesn't, involve activists who are disllusioned by or alienated by
Labor, and act as a pole of attraction for the maintstream space to
Personally, I would love to see a Left Party/SPD coalition government
in Germany, and already we've seen Social Democrat/Green/Left Party
coalitions in Sweden. Perhaps, with much hard work, such a situation
could arise in Australia also. And if it did, I don't think it would be
a bad thing for a party to Labor's Left, yet still operating in the
mainstream, to have leverage over a Labor government - perhaps even as
partners in a coalition.
- With all due respect to Bob Gould -=- and everyone knows how much due
respect I owe him --what IF the trade unionsts want to really and
truly cut their ties with the ALP and Bob Gould says otherwise --as
he does always....How progressive is that?
Theres' also the issue that maybe, just maybe, the unions have very
good reasons for disaffiliating -- Look at the affiliate groups in the
Socialist Alliance, I'm sure Bob would approve of their actions and
insist that they all had just cause....
It comes down to a question raised on the New Matilda recently --
should the ALP dump the unions?
On this list for years Gould has labeled as crazed anyone who even
suggested that the unions might consider leaving the ALP -- and now
when the issue is a lot bigger than this list Bob wants to close the
Maybe if I can reformat the question this way so that you can get my
meaning:IF the unions started leaving the ALP, especially those of
some lefty substance, the VERY RATIONALE for socialists (such a
B.Gould) staying IN the ALP begins to whither very quickly. Their
whole raison d'etre crumbles.
The related question I think needs to be bluntly stated: what do the
unions get out of being affiliated to the ALP? You know what they get
-- they get what they got out of the last federal conference -- a sign
on statement for no strikee no start.
Back in 83 they got the Accord which besides destroying on the job
democracy and union organisation, rolled real wages back two decades.
However, IF the Labor lefts want to take up this issue and put up a
fight -- despite the fact that there's some dispute about who they
have to fight against -- then its all grist for the mill and it's
good to see that these people exist. But if the Labor lefts want to
go around to the union ranks lobbying them to stick with the ALP then
I think we should pass.
I think its likely that the richest PM ever (by default anyway) to
occupy the lodge may want to dump the unions from power shares in the
ALP. I think it's the case that the ACTU is trying to combat that by
posing relevant by selling out unionism...by being servile and passive
and self interested
So the exercise cuts both ways. The conundrum is that IF the ALP
actively begins to dump the unions what can the party offer the
bourgeoisie thats' organically different from what the Coalition has
on offer? The Alp's political niche is that it offers a way to dupe
working people by posing as a class aligned party. Take that away and
they are exposed for what they are -- another bourgeois party waiting
in line to rule the capitalist state.
- A useful critique can be derived from this example of disingenuous and
self-serving Hard Labor propaganda. Fortunately such contributions
have become relatively uncommon on this list.
Firstly, it would now seem too late for any compromises. Any change
to resolve the tensions created by Rudd and Gillard between the party
and the unions will require an effective backdown by one side. If by
Rudd et al., it can and will be exploited by the Coalition; if by the
unions workers and progressive people will lose.
Secondly, "power versus principle" long ago became "power" at any
price, without any principle. A short time ago, Hard Laborites would
have been urging the election of a Beazley Labor Government, before
that Latham, now Rudd is the Anointed One. Beazley, like Latham, is
now at least forgotten and preferably an unperson. Such an easy
change in allegiances suggests neither consistency or principle.
Hawke reinforced the presidential style of campaigning and government;
under Rudd it has become infallibility in doctrinal matters - he can
dictate to anyone in the party about anything.
Secondly, there is no real dispute except by Hard Laborite cranks -
that Rudd is genuinely and deeply opposed to socialism, allowing of
course for the individual capacity for self-delusion. He has said
that "I am not a socialist. I have never been a socialist and I never
will be a socialist."
Thirdly, to actively support someone so obviously opposed to leftist
principles is a dereliction of duty as well as being an elementary act
of folly. What is the point in replacing Howard with a clone?
"Trust us" is a message that politicians like Howard, Gillard and Rudd
have been using for decades; let us at last learn.
Fourthly, to combine a Pledge arrangement with "the election of a Rudd
government" (note well - NOT "a Labor government") is no more than a
shabby political con job. This disingenuous proposition focusses on
getting power for Rudd (plus an implicit endorsement of his anti-union
position), with the interests of working people being left to hope and
Once in office, K. Rudd and his supporters would be in a much better
position to implement truly anti-union policies. They'll have the
money and positions to give jobs to the boys and girls (Combet,
Harker, et al) and can rely on tremendous support from business and
the bourgeois media. Rudd already has Rupert Murdoch's endorsement.
Yet we are called on to use a non-existent "Pledge" to justify the
reality of a deliberate focus on the Great Helmsman rather than his
Party. Has this not been for decades the classic Hard Labor ploy for
using then betraying Labor leftists? Note Gould's focus on "the
election of a Rudd government" (note well - NOT "a Labor government").
Consider the subsequent fate of Mighell who'd prior to this year's
ALP National Conference co-sponsored an open letter to conference
delegates urging them to reject Rudd's "Work Choices lite" and "defend
the right to strike". Despite telling the conference he was backing
the platform out of loyalty to Gillard and to help Labor win the
election (just as A-P Gould is calling on us to do), Rudd took the
first opportunity not merely to criticise him, but to force him out of
Consider the behaviour of one of K. Rudd's staffers (from Crikey)::
When it comes to a threat or two there is no beating Lachlan
Harris, a lawyer from Sydney who also learned his politics in the
delicate school of the NSW Branch of the ALP. Harris joined the staff
of front bencher Robert McClelland before moving on to help the shadow
Treasurer Wayne Swan who in turn lent him to a new Opposition Leader.
The bully boy style was illustrated perfectly in Alan Ramsey's column
of a few weeks ago detailing conversations with staff of the Sydney
Sun Herald who dared to run a story questioning the Rudd version of
leaving his childhood farm. It is worth reading this excellent piece
to get the flavour of the true character of those who advise the
quietly spoken and scholarly Labor Leader. This extract will give you
Walsh began phoning Rudd's staff at 8.15am. She tracked down
Alister Jordan and told him what their story was. The paper wanted
Rudd's response, she said. She emailed Jordan a list of questions. But
it was Harris who phoned 90 minutes later, "ranting like a lunatic".
Her "insulting" questions were "disgusting" and "impugned Kevin's
integrity". "How dare" she ask them. "Are you calling him a liar?" And
"Kevin's going to hit the roof". He was "so disgusted", Harris said,
he wouldn't discuss it any longer. With that, he hung up. Three hours
later, about 1pm, Harris phoned Walsh back in "the same feral,
belligerent mood". He went through a detailed time line of Rudd's
recall after his father's death in February 1969. However, it was
non-attributable, "on deep background only". And if the paper decided
to publish, knowing what they were being told, "we will regard it is a
deliberate malicious assault" on Rudd. If this happened, "we'll have
100 people ready to roll tomorrow morning to trash you and your paper.
Back in February, quoting The Australian, "In his most explicit
disavowal of union ties since winning the Labor leadership, the
federal Opposition Leader said he had "never been close" to any union
and his leadership victory in December was proof unions had "much
less" influence over the party than most people thought. The
parliamentary party determines the alternative policy for the next
election, not the ACTU,..."
According to the WSWS, "The 2007 conference's final act was to pass a
resolution allowing the party's national executive to parachute a
series of "star" right-wing and ex-military candidates into
parliamentary seats. All remaining 21 pre-selection ballots in New
South Wales, the most populous state, were taken out of the hands of
local electorate committees. Having just expelled scores of members in
the Newcastle area who objected to the similar ousting of a long-time
MP at the state level, the Labor machine is moving to make such head
office interventions the norm."
Why should a Rudd in victory abandon methods that he would seem fully
entitled to believe won it for him? Any anti-Rudd Pledge or faction
would suffer the same fate as Mighell. To quote Kev himself "action
speaks louder than any words".
Fifthly, though, to have independents and minor parties again hold the
balance of power in the Senate would seem a very useful goal. It
would also be much more likely both to produce good laws and to hinder
While the insult "Feral Greens in a few places should be vigorously
persuaded to accept a preference deal with Labor for the general
good." is somewhat counterbalanced by the acknowledgement of
"thoughtless actions by the Labor leadership in Victoria", he
overlooks presumably deliberately that Family First won the last
Senate position in Victoria at the 2004 election because every party
including the Democrats had preferenced the Greens last. In
contrast to Labor, the Greens deserve no blame whatever for that.
Last but certainly not least, it remains a gross error to think of
elections as something won at election time.
Especially note that Rudd expressed similar views in the AFR six years
ago presumably no-one who mattered thought then that it mattered;
now, when everyone can see that it does matter, it is too late.
A simple question for Gould: does he support and endorse a
socio-economic system in which the means of production and the
distribution of wealth are subject to social control, whether through
popular collectives or via the state? "Yes" or "No'" will suffice;
we'll take silence as a "No".
- I'm getting a sense that people are missing the point here.
Rudd ("Ruddism") needs to be opposed - within the unions, within the
ALP, where ever. I would go so far as to say *especially* within the
We want that fight to be fought, and fought to the end. Win or lose.
Then we will deal with the results.
In that fight, we are not neutral. We want to see Ruddism defeated, and
we are firmly on the side of Ruddism's opponents, in this regard, at
Of course, the biggest problem with all this is the high probability
that the fight won't be fought, or won't be fought to the end. I think
that sooner or later Rudd will have the facts of life explained to him
by ALP warlords like Bill Ludwig - probably after the election.
But if it is fought, the fallout could be interesting.
I get that sense too - the question is where is the working class in
all this. Dave can say rhetorically what the effect of the unions
leaving the ALP would be - Bob has proposed that it would lead to
further demoralisation - is Dave suggesting otherwise. Of course
Bob's claim that 'feral' Greens will sabotage a preference deal is
obviously disingenuous when he knows that it is the hard men of the
Labour right who would rather preference Family First or even the DLP
than the Greens (and then they can cite their lack of control over
the Senate as the reason the IR laws can't be changed.
I will reply to Roger separately re the class question.
--- In GreenLeft_discussion@yahoogroups.com, "alanb1000"
> I'm getting a sense that people are missing the point here.
> Rudd ("Ruddism") needs to be opposed - within the unions, within
> ALP, where ever. I would go so far as to say *especially* withinthe
> We want that fight to be fought, and fought to the end. Win or
> Then we will deal with the results.and
> In that fight, we are not neutral. We want to see Ruddism defeated,
> we are firmly on the side of Ruddism's opponents, in this regard,at
> Of course, the biggest problem with all this is the high
> that the fight won't be fought, or won't be fought to the end. Ithink
> that sooner or later Rudd will have the facts of life explained tohim
> by ALP warlords like Bill Ludwig - probably after the election.
> But if it is fought, the fallout could be interesting.
> Alan B
It was Dave who pointed out what an oppotunity all this might be for
the Greens and has been collecting a lot of good ecosocialist
material - so thanks for that. But as I said to Alan the class
question is being overlooked.
--- In GreenLeft_discussion@yahoogroups.com, "rogerraven"
> Firstly, it would now seem too late for any compromises.This kinds of black/white thinking never leads us far. Its all about
the balance of forces not win/lose.
> Secondly, "power versus principle" long ago became "power" at anyThis is certainly true - but what do the working class make of it
> price, without any principle.
all? Mostly they seem to me to be completely indifferent and much
more interested in 'Australian Idol' than the election results. As
Bob says those with any political consciousness will vote for the ALP
and the most political conscious recognise that - at this point - its
what we want as well. When they are elected workers will be better
off than they would be under Howard (not by much but still better
off) and then there will be a new struggle.
> Secondly, there is no real dispute except by Hard LaboriteThe only ones I have heard suggest Rudd might be a socialist are the
>cranks - that Rudd is genuinely and deeply opposed to socialism,
>allowing of course for the individual capacity for self-delusion.
>He has said that "I am not a socialist. I have never been a
>socialist and I never will be a socialist."
far-right - and Rudd's politics are not at issue. The question is how
many members of the working class think of themselves as socialists
and what the hell so we do about that?
> Thirdly, to actively support someone so obviously opposed to leftistWho is the 'us' in this? I expect most of us on this list see thru
> principles is a dereliction of duty as well as being an elementary
>act of folly. What is the point in replacing Howard with a clone?
> "Trust us" is a message that politicians like Howard, Gillard and
>Rudd have been using for decades; let us at last learn.
the message of trust as the everyday ravings of bourgeois
politicians - as do most workers. Given that we have learned this
lesson - what do we do NEXT especially when most workers are
> Fourthly, to combine a Pledge arrangement with "the election of aI'm not particularly concerned about strategies in the ALP but its
>Rudd government" (note well - NOT "a Labor government") is no more
>than a shabby political con job. This disingenuous proposition
>focusses on getting power for Rudd (plus an implicit endorsement of
>his anti-union position), with the interests of working people being
>left to hope and a "Pledge".
ridiculous to caricature ideas. Whatever Bob's faults the idea that
he endorses Rudd's anti-union politics is stupid. Ok so the pledge
idea is stupid, you say, so what are you suggesting? What ARE working
people hoping for out there and how do we tap into that?
> Once in office, K. Rudd and his supporters would be in a much betterYes bourgeois politics as usual - but thats a struggle in the future
> position to implement truly anti-union policies. They'll have the
> money and positions to give jobs to the boys and girls (Combet,
> Harker, et al) and can rely on tremendous support from business and
> the bourgeois media.
since there's no viable socialist alternative being presented at
these elections (nor will there ever be such I suspect). The question
is what should we say NOW that positions ourselves for that struggle?
I assume thats what BG's pledge is getting at? What are you
> Consider the subsequent fate of Mighell Rudd took theSo what will Mighell do now? He has offered money to the Greens - and
> first opportunity not merely to criticise him, but to force him out
>of the ALP.
has joined them in the past. This is encouraging for my Green project
but I think we can be pretty certain he won't join - and he'll be
back in the ALP 'in due course'. Why? Well either its because he is a
opportunist sell out or because he thinks, as a militant trade
unionist, that he can get the best deal for his members that way.
Maybe he's wrong about that but then someone should be explaining
that to him and his members (assuming we have the gumption) not
rabbiting on about how awful the ALP leadership is. They are a bunch
of right-wing thugs - you don't get to the top in capitalist politics
if you're not. So what?
There's a lot of theatrics around the Mighell thing and I am sure
there are limits to how many the ALP leadership can expel especially
on the grounds of a 'pledge' to defend trade unions, abolish IR laws
and anti-privatisation (assuming there is a core of support among
working class people for such things). If the ALP is elected there
won't be explusions of militant unionists unless the class struggle
really heats up - in which case expelling them would potentially
create a 'political centre' but now we really are speculating.
- Alan B:
I'm getting a sense that people are missing the point here.Rudd ("Ruddism") needs to be opposed - within the unions, within the ALP, where ever.
I would go so far as to say *especially* within the ALP.
Are you saying that Rudd represents something new because I see him more as just the latest face to front Labor's steady and longterm slide towards pro-capital and anti-worker policy.
We want that fight to be fought, and fought to the end. Win or lose. Then we will deal with the results.
In that fight, we are not neutral. We want to see Ruddism defeated, and we are firmly on the side of Ruddism's opponents, in this regard, at least.
Rudd defeated. Sounds good... but replaced by who exactly? Gillard? Would that represent a victory? I'm not trying to be smart here Alan. I'm asking this in an honest kind of way, not in a snearing way.
Of course, the biggest problem with all this is the high probability that the fight won't be fought, or won't be fought to the end. I think that sooner or later Rudd will have the facts of life explained to him by ALP warlords like Bill Ludwig - probably after the election.
What difference does it make who the captain of the ALP ship is when virtually all of the crew on board agree that the destination is "successful neoliberal Australian economy"?
I'm confused as whether the crappy ALP is the disease. Maybe this state of affairs is actually the symptom of a structually weakened Australian working class in the face of the global neoliberal assault by capial against labour?
But the trouble with putting it this way is that I sound to much like one of those, "This is the best we can get for you, comrades," ALP union bureaucrats.
How would you spend $50,000 to create a more sustainable environment in Australia? Go to Yahoo!7 Answers and share your idea.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- rudd will do a republic second term ... best call for a women's legislature.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- --- In GreenLeft_discussion@yahoogroups.com, "Shane H"
> I get that sense too - the question is where is the working class inI'm suggesting that demoralisation -- FURTHER demoralisation is
> all this. Dave can say rhetorically what the effect of the unions
> leaving the ALP would be - Bob has proposed that it would lead to
> further demoralisation - is Dave suggesting otherwise. Of course
> Bob's claim that 'feral' Greens will sabotage a preference deal is
> obviously disingenuous when he knows that it is the hard men of the
> Labour right who would rather preference Family First or even the DLP
> than the Greens (and then they can cite their lack of control over
> the Senate as the reason the IR laws can't be changed.
inevitable -- unless there is a way out There are many options that
could be demoralising. For Bob it would indeed be demoralising for a
union -- any union -- to leave the ALP, but for me it would not. So
you have to consider which POV you are framing. In the main I doubt
that there would be many unionists who would be miffed if their union
left the ALP. In effect ALP affiliation serves the primary function
to shepherd a career path for a few and enhance ALP coffers. The
ability of unionism -- let alone militant trade unionism -- to rule
anything inside the ALP hasn't been the case for a very long time
indeed. So why pay for the privilege that is not granted?
Without going back in time, its pretty obvious that Work Choices Lite
and the subsequent add ons engineered by Rudd and Gillard, are not in
the trade union interest no matter which way you try to sell them.
So why shouldn't unions tell the ALP they don't want a bar of it?
Thats' what they're there for, aint it? Its' a question of
independence -- something Bob Gould has forgotten all about.
However, it's too early to start talking up this disaffiliation option
because we don't know what gives. We also need to note that the push
is on in the CPSU to AFFILIATE to the ALP with as little regard to
consulting the ranks as the union leadership can manage. So theres' a
few balls in the air at the moment and we don't know which way they'll
But this discussion began because B.Gould formulated it as being a
attempt by the bourgeoisie to 'split" the ALP from its trade union
affiliates. Is that whats' happening such that little Ruddy and Julia
G are victims of a naughty class based conspiracy to deprive them of
their true believer co thinkers in the unions?
Bob must think we're a pack of fools. If there is this push, then
whose side is is Gillard and Rudd on? Not the unions -- can we at
least agree to that.
But for Bob, as soon as you enter the hallowed halls of the ALP, class
divide gets all mushy and dissipates into a consensual blob where you
aren't supposed to raise such matters.
You can't tell me that that isn't a recipe for demoralisation.Sue
Bolton said it here on another thread: workers attracted back to
voting Labor over the issue of Work Choices will be thinking again
because they can see such little difference between the ALP's IR
policy and Howards.
So you have to address the question that demoralsiation is already
setting in -- well before any union considers its ALP affiliation.
After so long campaigning against Work Choices & the hopes that that
activity raised we get a watered down version of it as the only one
the ALP is willing to offer.
And Bob says the way to avoid FURTHER demoralisation is to stick with
it. Why? What can possibly change inside the ALP that is ever likely
to make it a place where workers rights are going to be respected.
However, the games afoot -- I think something is brewing. Yheres' no
sure way it is going to go but, as I keep saying, it's a long time
before the poll.
As for the Socialist Alliance -- I draw your attention to what we are
doing now, which is trying to get another NDA off the ground over the
right to strike-- especially since Gillard insists NDA's like that
will be illegal under a Rudd Labor government...I think thats' the
best call, don't you Bob?
- --- In GreenLeft_discussion@yahoogroups.com, "Ratbag Radio"
re: the union affiliation to the ALP - I think this is a tough one to
call. On the one hand, union disaffiliation from the ALP could
provide an opportunity for unions to openly support the Greens, or a
new party of the Left: parties who are more willing to defend the
rights of labour and respond firmly to the threat of climate change.
In the event that we had a new Left party, I'd like to imagine that
with union support such a formation could finally actively campaign
on issues of social wage expansion, provision of infrastructure,
improvements to welfare, restoring IR regulation - with comprehensive
protections for vulnerable workers, progressive restructuring of the
tax system, even economic democracy... Such issues, at the moment,
are marginalised even further than otherwise would be the case by the
willingness of the ALP Left to allow itself to be 'contained' by
On the other hand, if we're only talking about the Greens there's
still the problem of whether they can gain traction on any issue
other than the environment. Already the AMWU and ETU are supporting
the Greens without disaffiliating - but the Greens' statements on IR
have received little coverage. At the moment the Greens are polling
around 9%. At their strongest they were polling around 12%. This is
a good place to start, but I can't help but wonder whether the Greens
will ever make sufficient inroads into Labor's working class
heartland. Also, even if they Greens won Lower House seats, this
would probably be to the detriment of the ALP Left (presumably
reducing its influence on policy), and would provide an opportunity
only really if they managed to secure the balance of power. So you
can see it's a very complex picture.
Again - on the issue of affiliation: this is only meaningful if the
ALP Left is serious about 'getting the numbers'. If the ALP did 'get
the numbers', if would have to be careful in its method of
leadership. It would have to placate the Right enough to ward off
division - as the Right currently has to with the Left. It would have
to grapple seriously with the realities of economic management -
providing reforms that were not destabilising. But even while being
careful and responsible - it would need a long term vision of what
democratic socialist reform would look like. Anyway, I think I've
said this before - so I'll move on.
If the ALP Left was actually WILLING to take on the responsibility of
leadership, it could realistically achieve reforms such as enabling
pattern bargaining, restoring more comprehensive Award protection,
establishing a co-operative development fund, achieving maybe $10b-
$20b of progressive tax reform - ploughing the proceeds into health,
education, infrastructure, aged care, public and community
broadcasting, media diversification, welfare. The gains would be
limited in the big picture of an economy valued at over a $1
trillion - but they would be significant. More significant than
anything we've seen since Whitlam. And they could be built upon
during successive terms of Labor government.
The question, though, is whether the leaders of the ALP Left even
WANT to get the numbers, or whether they think they would stumble
upon having to take the lead on hard decisions; or that their
government would face destabilisation that would inevitably bring it
undone. Perhaps they think it is better to push consensus politics
in the ALP.
If this is the case then they could do a lot better: the right to
pattern bargaining and the abolition of the ABCC are pretty core
issues. If the ALP Left is serious about increasing its policy
influence on a large scale, and pressing for leadership of the party -
then perhaps it would be worthwhile for unaffiliated Left unions to
affiliate. Perhaps that could even lead to control of National
Conference. But again, I'm not even sure all the Left is serious
about getting control.
The point is that affiliating Left unions such as the CPSU to the ALP
makes sense if this will contribute meaningfully to Left influence at
Conference and in the Parliamentary Labor Party... And if this will
lead to real progressive policy outcomes for working Australians...
But if there is no prospect of gaining further policy influence, then
it begs the question of what the point of the whole process is. This
is something that only ALP Left leaders can answer: but the decision-
making processes are probably so centralised that you're unlikely to
get a clear answer.
Regardless of this, the ALP Left should not allow itself to
be "contained" and "neutralised" by consensus or Right dominance. If
we don't speak out it will only further and hasten our
marginalisation, demoralise out members, dilute and ultimately
liquidate our ideological base... Before we know it, we won't even
know what we stand for anymore - because there simply aren't any
forums left where we actually talk about what we believe...
And if the Left continues to simply be 'contained' and 'neutralised'
through ALP processes, then yes - forming an alternative party, or
directing some union resources to the Greens - needs to be seriously
> I'm not particularly concerned about strategies in the ALP but itsGould has repeatedly declined to answer my question as to whether he's
> ridiculous to caricature ideas. Whatever Bob's faults the idea that
> he endorses Rudd's anti-union politics is stupid. Ok so the pledge
> idea is stupid, you say, so what are you suggesting? What ARE working
> people hoping for out there and how do we tap into that?
a socialist, so it would seem very very stupid to reject the idea that
he endorses Rudd's anti-union politics. His whole approach is to
work for concrete support for Ruddism on the basis of a vague
suggestion of some so far nonexistent grouping. That is itself
ridiculous - a caricature of any serious and sensible leftist position.
Again, my point is that it is completely unrealistic to be a serious
participant in an election if we only appear at election time. There
has to be a continuing and publicly visible focus on at least a few
key issues. Venezuela is not a key issue, nor is East Timor.
Housing affordability certainly is, climate change certainly is.
I've covered all that more than a few times in previous posts, which
are all still there.
- Rohan Gaiswinkler wrote:
> Are you saying that Rudd represents something new because I seehim more as just the latest face to front Labor's steady and longterm
slide towards pro-capital and anti-worker policy.
>I think he represents a cruder than previously version of this.
His openness about it makes it easier to fight, although the
underlying problem is harder to address.
> Rudd defeated. Sounds good... but replaced by who exactly?Gillard? Would that represent a victory? I'm not trying to be smart
here Alan. I'm asking this in an honest kind of way, not in a
>The fight is the important part. It would require the ALP left to get
their act together to a degree they haven't for decades.
They might lose, but who cares? The worst that could happen would be
that they all get expelled, and have to organise a new party... ;)
- Federal Politics: Dumping the Unions
By: Andrew West <http://www.newmatilda.com/>
Wednesday 30 May 2007
It's been a long time since the Australian Labor Party was the Party
of Australian labour.
Ever since former NSW Premier Neville Wran and former Prime Ministers
Bob Hawke and Paul Keating began `walking both sides of the street'
as the spin doctors described their simultaneous courting of Big
Business and hoodwinking of Middle Australia the ALP has been almost
as much a corporate Party as the Liberals.
With the solitary exception of WorkChoices, the interests of major
corporations have increasingly prevailed in Labor's collective
thinking over the interests of ordinary working stiffs whether they
wear blue, white or pink collars; whether they're paid $30,000 or
$60,000 per annum.
I'm still waiting for a prominent Labor politician to denounce the
obscenity, the sheer immorality, of the $33.5 million salary paid to
Macquarie Bank chief Allan Moss a money shuffler who
thinks he is worth 335 life-saving doctors. Even John Howard denounced
his salary as `over the top.'
So why keep up the pretence? Why maintain a formal relationship
between the ALP and the unions, which is just as damaging for both of
As a unionist of some 20 years standing, I believe in the unions'
right to political activism, to influence and even pressure
politicians for the benefit of working families. They have as much
right as corporate Australia to get the best deal for their
constituency. Even with falling union membership, unions still
represent a good 20 per cent of the workforce, which is a far bigger
cohort than the handful of obscenely paid executives represented by
the business lobbyists.
But unions are ill-served by a formal affiliation with Labor. Put
simply, the Party takes advantage of union members, while sticking a
thumb in their eyes when it suits the ALP politically.
For example, at the 2003 and 2007 NSW State elections, the union
hierarchy endorsed and campaigned for a Labor Government that had
devastated the Common Law rights of injured workers to sue negligent
employers. While Bob Carr and Morris Iemma's Governments took generous
donations from the top end of town, especially the property
developers, injured often permanently maimed workers were told the
loss of a limb, eyesight or hearing was worth a desultory sum.
In 2001, in response to the Carr Government's proposed changes to
WorkCover, the Law Society of NSW highlighted
<http://www.lawsociety.com.au/page.asp?PartID=475> the plight of a
25-year-old machinist who, having lost two fingers in an industrial
accident, would go from receiving total compensation of almost
$300,000 to receiving nothing.
NSW Treasurer Michael Costa has never denied or, more precisely, has
never been able to deny telling union representatives that he
believes the State has 20 per cent more public employees than it
needs. Once the Federal election is out of the way, Costa will bare
Thanks to Fiona Katauskas <http://www.fionakatauskas.com/>
As a tariff-slashing Federal Treasurer, Paul Keating helped shrink the
industrial workforce of the Illawarra from about 30,000 employees to
about 9000, while raising its unemployment level to 10 per cent.
Later, out of office and utterly unremorseful, he told the retrenched
workers mostly middle-aged men with limited skills, whose lives he
had upended to simply get other jobs
Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU) squealed at the time
but, come the next election, still wrote a cheque to Keating's old Party.
Rather than forking over vast sums in annual affiliation fees and
unconditional campaign donations to the ALP machine, unions would be
better off endorsing specific candidates, including progressive
Independents, who support a pro-working families agenda. Union members
could study a candidate's record of support for employee rights, and
their position on outrageous executive perks and tax lurks then
decide who truly deserves union endorsement. Corporate Labor flunkies
need not apply.
The current system of union affiliation works well for certain
compliant union officials who hanker for seats in Parliament or
well-paid, part-time sinecures on government boards. But it
compromises the unions' ability to defend the interests of working
Australians by, for example, opposing free trade deals that Labor MPs
embrace but which destroy
Nor is this kind of union affiliation a useful relationship for the
ALP, which can be characterised as representing a sectional if
worthy interest. As the distinguished historian of Australian
liberalism, Judith Brett, has explained, the strength of Robert
Menzies's Party was that it could claim to represent /all/
Australians, not merely one social class or interest group.
A Labor Party with cordial, but informal, relations with the union
movement could market itself as a broader social democratic coalition,
attracting talent from outside the current narrow gene pool of former
paid union officials (as opposed to workplace delegates) and
In this current round of Federal Labor pre-selections, the cozy
arrangement between the Head Office machine and union bosses endured.
The pre-selection of ACTU Secretary Greg Combet for a Hunter Valley
seat is easily defensible his leadership of the campaign for justice
for victims of the asbestos company James Hardie elevated him above
the ruck to the status of genuine community leader. But you would have
to work overtime to justify as good for Labor's image or in the
interests of working families the endorsements of AMWU boss Doug
Cameron, Australian Workers Union heavy Bill Shorten and Combet's
ambitious Deputy, Richard Marles.
Will Cameron, for example, pledge to vote against any free trade deals
that destroy what is left of Australian manufacturing, even if it
means violating caucus solidarity and risking expulsion from the
Party? Will Shorten and Marles insist on a tax system that offers
genuine relief to Middle Australia, while demanding their friends in
the executive suites finally pay their fair share?
In Keating's old seat of Blaxland, the NSW machine passed over one of
the most impressive intellects in Australian jurisprudence, University
of NSW Law Professor George Williams, in favour of Bob Carr's former
staffer-turned-corporate affairs operative, Jason Clare. We all await
his penetrating insights into the national debate.
If Labor wants to be a Party of no fixed values or ideology,
ingratiating itself with big business while populating itself with
careerists from the union hierarchy, let it do so without taking
advantage of the resources of rank and file union members.
/Andrew West will be appearing at the Sydney Writers' Festival, in
conversation with Radio National /Breakfast/'s Fran Kelly about his book
/Inside The Lifestyles of the Rich and Tasteful/ (Pluto, 2006), a study
of the clash inside Australia's upper middle class between
`materialists' and `culturists.' 1:00pm, Friday 1 June 2007, The Mint,
10 Macquarie Street, Sydney./
About the author
*Andrew West* writes regularly for /New Matilda/.
- By Bob Gould
The lines are being drawn on pushing unions out of the Labor Party and
Riley, Raven and their mates are on the side of the conservatives in
this battle. Ratbag Radio Riley and the curious man called Raven have
made their views quite clear: it would be a good thing, not a bad
thing, if the unions were pushed out of the Labor Party.
That's also the view of the current DSP leadership, although they
don't express it quite as crudely as Radio Riley.
Riley posts on the GLW list as good coin a lengthy article by Andrew
West, who I know quite well. he's a pleasant enough bloke personally,
but he's clearly one of the technocratic centre-right figures in the
Labor Party who want to push unions out of the party to free up Labor
parliamentary leaders from the pressure exerted on them by trade unions.
He's the author of a reasonable, mildly critical, biography of Bob
Carr, but his technocratic parliamentarist views and hopes are quite
clear in that book.
He dresses it up with a bit of rhetoric about how he has been a
unionist, but his core aim is to free Labor leaderships from trade
Kevin Rudd's staff is stuffed full of people like Andrew West, with
similar views: get rid of the union incubus from the Labor Party,
again dressed up in a bit of rhetoric about how unions would get a
better deal for their members if they weren't tied up in Labor
politics. Pigs might fly in some alternative universe, but in the one
we inhabit, freeing Labor politicians of trade union pressure would
leave almost no restraint on how far they would go to the right.
No less a luminary than former Labor prime minister Paul Keating
joined the anti-union push on Lateline last night, and this is
reported with enthusiasm in the bourgeois press this morning.
It is true that the divisions between the organised left and right
factions in the Labor Party have diminished and become a bit confused,
but the most conservative force in both the left and right factions
are the parliamentary aspirants who want to get rid of union
influence. Blind Freddy can see that about labour movement politics at
The Murdoch newspapers, in particular, are in an absolute frenzy
pressing Rudd and his supporters to push the unions out of the Labor
Party. The Murdoch papers have taken to routinely referring to
unionists as union thugs.
The chronic and sclerotic ultraleft politics of the present DSP
leadership are carrying them into the same camp as Andrew West et al.
Dick Nichols recently issued an eccentric press release that baldly
said the Socialist Alliance was the major force that had generated the
struggle against Howard's Work Choices.
Delusional ultraleft politics can take you almost anywhere, in your
mind, but in the real world of the labour movment, that cautious but
reasonably militant body, Unions NSW, is busily organising two things
in its current campaign. A Unions NSW bus will visit eight or nine
non-urban marginal seats over the next couple of months, helping to
organise and train several thousand activists in its marginal seats
campaign. At the same time, as part of the same campaign, Unions NSW
is preparing a petition directed at Kevin Rudd and the Labor
leadership with five or six minimum demands on trade union and
workers' rights, in the most careful and respectful language.
My understanding is that the five or six demands are very concrete and
Unions NSW is aiming for, and probably will get, several hundred
thousand signatures to this petition in NSW. Unions NSW, at least,
sees no Chinese wall between organising to elect a Rudd Labor
government and insisting that such a Labor government represent the
interests of unions and workers.
Riley and his mates are welcome to line up with Andrew West and his
associates in trying to push the unions out of the Labor Party, but my
choice is the trade union base of all the major Labor factions, which
are asserting workers' prerogatives, interests and rights in the ALP,
and insisting that a future Labor government defend the interests of
- bobgould987 wrote:
> The lines are being drawn on pushing unions out of the Labor Party andThe DSP has been publicly campaigning - for years - for the trade unions
> Riley, Raven and their mates are on the side of the conservatives in
> this battle. Ratbag Radio Riley and the curious man called Raven have
> made their views quite clear: it would be a good thing, not a bad
> thing, if the unions were pushed out of the Labor Party.
> That's also the view of the current DSP leadership, although they
> don't express it quite as crudely as Radio Riley.
to break from the right-wing, pro-neo-liberal, pro-capitalist Labor
party and form a new party that really defends the interest of the
working ! It's not a secret in anyway. It is the best thing the unions
could do, whatever right-wing reasons part of the right-wing leadership
of the Labor party may have.
Who is the serial apologist for the right-wing ALP on this list (see
below)? Bob Gould! You've proved to the list which side YOU are on.
"I ask you to cast your mind back twenty-four years. Then, as now,
Labor's planned industrial relations reforms were the subject of
criticism. When the Hawke Labor Government proposed sitting down with
business and unions before the 1983 election to find a middle way out of
the recession, the then head of the Confederation of Australian
Industry, George Polities, accused Labor of having a secret agenda to
socialize industry. [The SMH, 17 February 1983.] But as everyone now
knows, all this mistrust and anger came to nothing.
"Labor's reforms actually replaced centralized wage fixing with
enterprise bargaining and helped kick-start a new era of rising
productivity, profitability and employment. Immediately after Labor's
industrial relations reforms, days lost from industrial disputes were
slashed in half.
"During that reform period the decline in trade union membership levels
averaged 5 per cent per year, compared to an annual average
fall of 2 per cent under the Howard Government. So much for the
socialist revolution of George Polities' fevered imagination."
* * *
Paul Keating says Rudd Labor not rightwing enough on IR:
In an interview on ABC television last night, Mr Keating criticised Ms
Gillard's understanding of industrial relations principles such as
enterprise bargaining established under the Labor government in the late
1980s and early 1990s.
Asked how he thought Ms Gillard had performed, he said: "Not very well.
Not very well."
"She hasn't got it all wrong, but she doesn't quite understand, I don't
think, the difference between the centralised system I inherited ... and
the enterprise bargaining system of 1993, such a revolutionary change,"
Mr Keating said.
- I caught the tailend of Keating's appearance on "Lateline" last night. A curious performance. His intervention seems timed to give Howard a leg up and provide ammunition to those who argue that a Rudd Labor Government would be dominated by unions. This dovetals with Costello's line that a union dominated Rudd Labor Government would destroy Australia's prosperity.
Keating reminds me of Gorbachev even looks a bit like him these days. Keating's policies were responsible for almost destroying the Labor Party and giving it ten long years in opposition. Keating's policies were responsible for knocking Labor's primary vote down from 50% in 1983 to around 38% where its languished since 1996 really since 1990.
Despite attempts to construct Keating as some type of grand statesman, the type of person modern Labor should look to, the fact remains that he was electoral poison when dumped from office in 1996 and remains so. His sporadic interventions and appearances in the public media can only do Labor's chances harm.
These days Keating is driven by a deep seeded personal animosity toward John Howard and toward those he feels would undermine the economic reforms of the 80s.
He reminds me of Gorbachev in that Gorbachev too is feted as a kind of elder statesman who appears periodically in the public media to pontificate on international politics when in fact he's completely irrelevant and impotent and was at the time of his departure from office in 1991 deeply unpopular. Like Keating, Gorbachev all but destroyed and shat on the thing that nurtured him. Neither Keating nor Gorbachev should have the temerity to lecture anyone on anything.
Bob's right about one thing. If Howard and the tories (Great name for a rock band) manage to scrape back in at the end of the year, and with the economy doing so well you can't write them off, there will be a major demoralisation on the left side of politics. One could be forgiven for wondering whether Federal Labor can ever get back in again. Certainly a defeated, demoralised ALP woul lurch to the right, ditching its opposition to AWAS and giving ammunition to those in the party who want to sever the party's ties with the trade union movement. Rudd has made no secret of the fact that he would like to transform the ALP into something akin to the US Democrats.
The person most likely to emerge to challenge Rudd in the event of electoral defeat would be Lindsay Tanner which should tell some on this lift that the so called ALP left is just as culpable as the right on this matter.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- Hard Labor agent A-P Gould, having unsuccessfully attempted to smear
the DSP/SA using the Mighell transcript business, nevertheless
continues his efforts to create division within the left.
Gould actually expects us to believe that a deeply anti-union ALP
"leadership", having won power on the explicit basis that they intend
to betray working people, will because of a minimalist "petition" give
to the union movement all the things they told all their supporters
they'd take away from it should they win.
- Our Common Cause
Unions must act to end ALP backflips on Work Choices
First, the big mining, energy, media and construction corporations’
lobbying campaign has succeeded in getting Labor leader Kevin Rudd and
his deputy, Julia Gillard, to renege on Labor’s promise to abolish all
Australian Workplace Agreements (individual contracts) and the
Australian Building and Construction Commission. Then, all union leaders
from Australian Council of Trade Unions secretary Greg Combet down have
remained tight-lipped for fear that, if they protest and Labor loses the
next federal election, defeat will be blamed on them. The union movement
must take urgent action to end the ALP’s backflips on industrial relations.
* Download petition for continuing the mass campaign in the streets
* Download Right To Strike leaflet here:
- Mr Gould:
>My understanding is that the five or six demands are very concrete and Unions NSW is aiming for, and probably will get, several hundred thousand signatures to this petition in NSW. Unions NSW, at least, sees no Chinese wall between organising to elect a Rudd Labor government and insisting that such a Labor government represent the interests of unions and workers.Bob, how does it feel to be seeking left-cover from the notorious NSW Labor Right? Feeling just a little painted into the corner are we?
Send instant messages to your online friends http://au.messenger.yahoo.com
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- The problem with the debate we're having is that DSP contributers
seem to assume that union disaffiliation in of itself is a step
forward - without there necessarily being a credible alternative to
labour as an alternative pole of attraction.
Personally I see the ALP Left as having three options;
i) either demand more in return for consensus in the party,
including the right to maintain independent positions on policy,
ableit putting formal party policy first... Evan Thornley suggested
that a more independent role for the ALP Left might be preferable
in 'Coming to the Party'. He noted that the existence of figures
taking a more radical Rightist position in the Liberal Party actually
gave Howard cover to move more gradually to the Right while looking
reasonable. Such a strategy could be combined with an effort to
reach consensus on the broad Left that affiliation of all Left unions
was desirable if it would lead to Left control of the ALP National
Exec, Conference etc... Here the Left would have to consider whether
it was really ready to lead with vision and responsibility, or
whether it was too afraid of destabilisation and a fear campaign
about 'the socialists';
ii) OR seriously consider regroupment outside the Labor Party in the
form of a new mainstream party of the Left, with a realistic program
of reform which unites the currents of liberalism, socialism and
social democracy of which the party is comprised. As I've said
elsewhere, with support from unions, prominent intellectuals, the
welfare sector, such a party could make a real impact;
iii) OR continue 'business as usual', with minimal policy influence,
attacks on the building unions and on the right of all unionists to
engage in pattern bargaining, no movement on expanding the social
wage, silence and demobilisation as a condition for unity and the
Left's share of the jobs...
The DSP is only really considering option ii) seriously, which might
be part of Bob Gould's objection, as I imagine he would prefer option
i), but is in no position to spur the ALP Left into action...
The reality is that most on the Left want to pretend everything's ok -
as getting Rudd elected after over a decade of Howard is all that
matters to them... A Labor government is the best prospect we have
at the moment - but let's remember the Left's past experience - being
sidelined, silenced and contained through successful tax cuts,
austerity, the future marginalisation of government pensions as a
consequence of the superannuation system, introduction of user pays
in education, privatisation of utilities, Government Business
Enterprises, the Commonwealth Bank, the wasteful duplication of
infrastructure between Optus and Telstra... And now we're going to
have a part-private monopoly in fibre optic cable infrastructure -
unless Howard does a deal with Telstra first - and we get a full
private monopoly with few protections for consumers...
But everything's not ok... And already Rudd's showing - with is
commitment to maintain the ABCC - that he only respects the binding
nature of conference in so far as he can use it to get his own
way... Personally, for instance, while I think I should be free to
campaign to expand taxation, I accept that we can't expand it as a
proportion of GDP until the next National Conference opens the way
for such measures... This is a bitter pill to swallow, but that's
democracy... But I could well see Rudd following the example of
British Labour and Tony Blair; just disregarding Conference when he
doesn't get his way...
So - what are we going to do? As I stated, we have three options.
It's probably best to leave any movement on building a new party
until after the election... But if people with real influence in the
Left decided on this path it would be necessary to begin private
discussions and planning. And even discussion on the issue could
spur Rudd to compromise - if he imagined he was no longer going to
get away with policy unilateralism...
Problematic as a Rudd government would be, we know the prospect of a
new wave of Conservative 'reforms' would be worse... Whatever we
decide, we should try, on the broad left, to reach agreement
first... The last thing we need is the Left self-destructing in
schisms and recriminations...
- I think you are wrong Tristam. I doubt that anyone would project
disaffiliation as the key marker for any new direction. Thats
bit of a furphy. It should be raised and debated but it isn't
something that in itself leads anywhere special. You have to have a
Plan B that follows if it is to mean anything. No one is saying otherwise.
But let's say thats' on the table because some unions have put it
there. It isn't a webified concoction sucked a out of a typist's thumb
The core issue is NOW. And while I accept your 'new party' notions as
being something for consideration after the poll -- depending -- that
is nonetheless on the table because, you ,at least, put them there.
It is now that we have to address --a few months short of a federal
election --with some key issues looming up at us. So what can we do
now, today, to defend unionism from Kevin Rudd?
If we consider one of your options -- that the left should wage a
campaign in the party to roll this Ruddism back -- I have to say
thats' is a bit late. Don't you agree? The unconditional and
uncritical authority has more or less been handed to Rudd and Gillard
so I very much doubt that this left can or will rise to the occasion
within the party to change the present course. And IF Labor is elected
-- theres' not a hope in hell that this left will be able to change
things via inner party means. I think thats' self evident.A triumphant
ALP will have all this electoral authority to squash, disown,
marginalise and probably expel any dissent on IR matters gievn their
present fait accompli.
Whats' required is something else that can drive the sort of
perspectives we all agree on..and you have to look at something that
puts political pressure on Labor. If you say thats' not the way to go,
that we have to simply keep our powder dry and stall until after the
poll-- then I don't agree, and I think you can see that.
Something has to happen that is NOT contained by the ALP leadership --
that takes some of the industrial agenda out of their hands and that
of the ACTU heavies by challenging this franchise they are saying they
Another NDA? A campaign for the right to strike? What do you think of
that as a first up response? So let's get concrete. Let's consider
ways the Labor left and the left outside the party can work together
so that we aren't constrained by brutal categories.
Then later...maybe we can consider what our collective options are
after we've worked our bit to test the waters with a very relevant
But IF things move quicker than that -- unlike Bob Gould, let's not
try to sabotage them and roll them back.
- --- In GreenLeft_discussion@yahoogroups.com, "Ratbag Radio"
re: whether or not it's possible to 'roll back' some of the more
Conservative positions adopted by Rudd... It's worth remembering that
Rudd and Gillard were elevated to power with the help of the Left.
This seems to have been the right choice since Rudd has been
outperforming Beazley in the polls ever since...
But I think the Left's negotiators should have made certain things
crystal clear to Rudd and Gillard prior to their challenge for the
leadership. To begin with, they should have emphasised that no
matter what mandate they felt they had, the mandate of the party rank
and file, provided by Conference matters most. Here, Conference was
clear that the ABCC should go. The Left should have also raised the
issue of pattern bargaining at Conference rather than letting it
slip, and allowing Rudd to unilaterally declare a policy. And it
should have emphasised to the Right that Conference support for
pattern bargaining was a key condition for unity in the movement in
the run up to the election.
The problem, now, is that it's hard to respond without discrediting
the leader. There is a desperate need for damage control. Factional
negotiators, and National Exec (behind the scenes), need to make it
clear to Rudd that he should make no more statements of policy in
contravention of Conference... And there should be an understanding
that if the ABCC is to remain until 2010 that its powers will be
wound back, as will associated sanctions against workers, and that
charges will be dropped after the election against those workers who
have faced the body's wrath. And while industry-wide industrial
action in pursuit of an industry agreement might be spurned by the
movement to avoid division and backlash, it should be asserted after
the election that the pursuit of common wages and conditions across
an industry is not 'illegal'. These compromises, negotiated behind
the scenes, could avoid costly blood-letting. If Rudd did not agree
to these terms it would be made clear that the labour movement would
find itself in a divided and fractious state after the election.
Meanwhile, I'm in favour of holding additional NDAs to press the
claims of the labour movement. And I think such NDAs, while pressing
for a Labor government, ought also mobilise people around claims that
go beyond Labor's platform. Dissolution of the ABCC is Labor policy,
and pressing this claim should occur as a matter of course.
But ACTU leaders should also make it clear that pattern bargaining is
a core right, and that banning pattern bargaining could have bad
consequences for workers. (ie: a 'race to the bottom' in wages and
Such claims would have to be carefully balanced, however: against the
need to keep the movement mobilised around the aim of electing a
Labor government. The situation is complex; but people respond to
simple messages, and confusion can result in demobilisation,
Elections are not everyting, and the ACTU should be running a
campaign that goes beyond electoralism; but the election is in about
five months, and its outcome will be critical.
The problem I see is that outside the ACTU or state labour councils
the Left just doesn't have the resources to mobilise a credible NDA.
You'd really need tens of thousands in Melbourne and Sydney to have a
credible mandate for pattern bargaining and the aboliton of the ABCC.
To do this you'd need support across the breadth of the labour
movement. We can't do this without ACTU logistics; unless we have the
support, say, of a state labour council. The real challenge for
leftists is to win the debate at the level of the movement's
leadership, and to build a movement on the ground that can take
unions in a new direction. In the meantime, there's the option of a
petition: but GetUp and Labour Start rejected my proposals for a
campaign aimed at garnering support for a more progressive ALP IR
policy... Without these options, I just don't know where else to
Many people, including myself, feel we have to 'do something'... But
whatever we do, we need to be clear that we have the logistical depth
In the meantime, I will continue to argue against these policies;
with the hope of influencing the Left leadership to lean on Rudd to
provide a settlement that's more acceptable to all of us.
- "Ratbag Radio" wrote:
> And IF Labor is elected -- theres' not a hope in hell that thisYes, but...
> left will be able to change things via inner party means. I think
> thats' self evident.A triumphant ALP will have all this electoral
> authority to squash, disown, marginalise and probably expel any
> dissent on IR matters gievn their present fait accompli.
This IR stuff directly impacts on a whole bunch of people in the ALP.
As such, I don't think this dissent can be marginalised all that
easily. It will just keep coming back again and again.
That means that there is room for the ALP left to earn their keep
trying to organise and articulate it.
This dissent exists and will be expressed, in an organised form, or
not. Obviously the former is preferable.
And if the dissenters get expelled, too bad. If there is enough of
them, we can help them get organised outside the ALP...
Of course, what we do between now and the election is the interesting