Re: The left, the trade unions and the Labor Party ranks
- 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.
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- 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