||Issue No. 298||10 March 2006|
Interview: Organising In Cyberspace
Industrial: How Low Is Low
Industrial: Cloak and Dagger
Unions: Bad Medicine
History: Right Turn, Clyde
Economics: Long Division
International: Union Proud
Politics: Howardís Sick Joke
Indigenous: The year of living dangerously
Review: Lights, Camera, Strike!
Culture: News Front
The Locker Room
Nick Minchin's call for another wave of anti-worker laws; MacBank's retail plans taking precedence over aircraft maintenance at Sydney Airport, and the NSW Libs accepting how obnoxious the federal IR laws actually are.
Sadly though, the issue that dominated the labour movement this week was one where truth is such a relative construct that to even talk of it draws one into a debate that is counter-productive and, I fear, ultimately pointless.
That debate, of course, is the 'factions'; with some senior figures in the federal ALP who have managed to negotiate their way up the greasy pole now suddenly discovering them and the evil they can do.
Now we at Workers Online have no great love for the factional system - we are not of the factions, we have often been critical of them and we witness, on a regular basis, the downside of their operation.
But for individuals within the ALP to wake up one day and conclude, like Alice in Wonderland, that these 'evil factional warlords' exist is a bit like discovering the house has foundations and beginning a campaign against bricks.
The problem is that this public debate is so profoundly destructive on many levels; it takes attention away from the political battles we are paying our MPs to fight; it adds fuel to arguments that the ALP is not fit to govern and, in a week like this, it lets the Howard Government off the hook on IR.
Media love faction stories because the usual discipline of politics is let go - all sorts of revelations, assertions and downright lies are served up in the interests of personal ambition. But at a time when labour's heartland is crying out for effective political advocacy, the debate is at best, indulgent.
At its heart the debate about factions is the debate about the management of power. And the idea of a viable political movement that has no structures for power is simply a recipe for anarchy.
From this outsider's perspective the question should not be whether factions exist - but whether they are doing their job of providing a stable political base for the labour movement.
In this light it is worth comparing the way the factions operate within the party and the labour movement, particularly here in New South Wales.
Yes, unions still have factional alignments, but increasingly they are working together in the face of huge external challenges.
In recent years we have even witnessed the emergence of cross-factional blocs at party conferences when dealing with issues of significance to the working people the movement represents.
Perhaps because union control is seen as more a responsibility than a prize, we seldom see these sorts of bitter battles for power played out - and when they do there seems to be a discipline that prevents it being played out in the public domain.
That is because there is a general acceptance by those in leadership positions that reform within the parameters of the existing structures is the most constructive way to change.
This is the sort of leadership that ALP members are now expecting from their elected representatives, regardless of their factional allegiance.
At a time when the only thing standing between working Australians and even more attacks on their rights at work is a change of government, political unity must be the primary focus for every True Believer.
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