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  Issue No 48 Official Organ of LaborNet 31 March 2000  

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Review

Casino Royale

By Ian Ferguson

Laurie Aaron's new book is sparking a lively debate about how a progressive agenda can be adapted to the challenges of globalisation.

 
 

Laurie Aarons' book Casino Oz: Winners and losers in global capitalism (Goanna Publishing, Sydney, 1999) is another of the mass of 'left-wing' critiques of globalisation produced over recent years. In it, Aarons provides a

relatively detailed and statistically well substantiated account of the reduction in living standards and social welfare suffered by the 'people' of Australia since the 1980s. However, this quantitative assessment constitutes the greatest depth achieved by Aarons' analysis.

The old unsophisticated utopian call for 'justice and equality' is the limit of Aarons' response to globalisation. Everyone hurt by commodity relations will join in the chorus for justice. Everyone who is poor or feels disempowered will call for an end to inequality. These stock reflexes, the rhetoric of 'left-wing' activism, do not however manifest either an analysis or solution to the needs of wage-earners.

While we agree essentially with Aarons practical response to the falling standard of living, that we must (1) "tackle the task of creating jobs", (2) "redistribute wealth by a radical tax reform" and (3) "raise labour's share of

GDP at the expense of capital's by raising wages" through " ...A popular [!?! - a very ambiguous term at best] movement [that] can and should be built" (Aarons, pp. 111 - 116); we see such proposals, which are the limit of Aarons' policy initiatives and strategy, as extending no further than the post-war reform agenda of Keynsian economic policy and trade unionism. If one wishes to address the new problems of the global economy, a much better strategy than an appeal to return to the past is required.

The profit motive cannot be abolished arbitrarily due to the will of 'the majority' alone, especially if the majority are not conscious of their economic position and interests as wage-earners, or do not have an independent

political organisation aimed at influencing public policy, and ultimately taking power democratically and forming governments. That is the only certain way to gain "an effective say in deciding social goals and public policy, not just [having] the right to vote every few years..." (Aarons, p. 111). The point is not to fight globalisation, but to understand it in order to advance the interests of wage-earners.

If one understands globalisation in terms of the further development of commodity relations and the growth of 'world-history', wherein there are no longer merely 'local' events and social conditions are becoming universal, it can be seen as ultimately favouring the interests of wage-earners. The accumulation of capital and concentration of ownership are inevitable consequences of the development of the 'free-market' system. This is not a product of the machinations of global capital, but in spite of them. It is not globalisation that has made capital aggressive and 'greedy', but the nature of capitalism itself - this is not new (see Karl Marx' writings of 1844 and 1848).

The essential condition for the existence, and for the sway of the bourgeois class, is the accumulation of wealth in the hands of private individuals... the condition for capital is wage labour. Wage labour rests exclusively on competition between the labourers. The advance of industry [e.g., globalisation], whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the labourers, due to competition, by their revolutionary combination, due to association. The development of modern industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, is its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.

Thus, what is new under globalisation is the break-down of nationally based 'social contracts' in the developed nations through the expansion of the global labour market, the increased international socialisation of the production process and the fluidity of finance capital. This means that more of the world's population is entering the wage-earning class and the common struggle against capital's exploitation is widening globally.

Immediately, this means increased power to 'global capital'. However, this qualitatively new economic and political environment must cause the wage-earners' movement to adapt and change into an independent international political force far beyond its nationally based predecessors (in organisation, strength and experience). It would serve Aarons and his kind well to investigate the historical process and economic system in greater depth, rather than rely upon old style 'left-wing' rhetoric alone. All too often have 'left-wingers' obfuscated the essence of the wage-earners' position with utopian demands. Simply, as opposed to demagogic calls for 'justice and equality', the basis of Democracy International's position is that, " The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles... the first step in the revolution by the working class, is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy. "

This goal requires a thorough understanding of reality and achievable strategies, not ambiguous calls for "people's action".

Lastly, a note regarding Laurie Aarons' background as the national secretary of the Communist Party of Australia (1966 - 1976); the world communist movement was a virulent opponent of working class democracy and supported a system that brutally oppressed its own working class (i.e., the Soviet Union). Under the guidance of the USSR, the world's first fascist state, the Communist Parties of the world split the wage-earning class, undermining its cohesiveness and putting the international wage-earners' movement back many decades.

Thus, any ambiguity regarding the opposition to 'big capital' and the democratic form of organisation necessary for its success can only be counterproductive. Although the general interest of 'the people' is opposed to

capital, it is only the wage-earning section of society who can provide the political organisation needed to overcome it - and this must be democratic (in form and means).


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*   View entire issue - print all of the articles!

*   Issue 48 contents

In this issue
Features
*  Interview: The New President
At the end of her first week in the job, new ACTU President Sharan Burrow trades emails with Workers Online.
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*  Health: Making Sense of Medicare
Nurses lift the lid on the Medicare myths as they shape up for a major national campaign.
*
*  Unions: Bush Bashing
The Finance Sector Union is taking to the road to pressure the government to impose community service obligations on banks.
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*  Politics: The French Connection
While Victorian building unions are seeking a 36 hour week, Eurpoean nations like France are taking a more communcal approach to working time.
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*  Economics: Mutual Obligation
New statistics show that an increasing number of people are volunteering to contribute to the community.
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*  History: Living Library - Part II
More on the rich labour history that is housed within the walls of Sydney's Mitchell Library.
*
*  International: Russian Revolution
Russian trade unions are calling for the revision of a draft Labour Code, against the backdrop of Presidential elections.
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*  Review: Casino Royale
Laurie Aaron's new book is sparking a lively debate about how a progressive agenda can be adapted to the challenges of globalisation.
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*  Satire: Chop ‘em Up and Stick ‘em in Acid”
The West Australian Government is poised to pass Pakistani-style sentencing laws.
*

News
»  Workers Demand Internet Access to Organise
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»  ILO Condemns Australian Labor Laws
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»  Flying Doctor Grounds Aussie Jobs
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»  Bank-Bulance Hits the Road
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»  April Deadline on Olympics Pay Claim
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»  Pressure Builds on Stellar Contract
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»  Shares Plummets But Rio Bosses Get Millions
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»  Nurses to Launch Medicare Campaign
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»  Action Boosts Wages for Disabled Workers
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»  SA Workers Close Building Industry
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»  Political Economy for Activists
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»  Workers to Set the Tunes for Dili Streets
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»  OBITUARY - George Petersen (1921-2000)
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Columns
»  The Soapbox
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»  Sport
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»  Trades Hall
*
»  Tool Shed
*

Letters to the editor
»  An Open Letter to Ansett
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»  Moved by Wal's Life Story
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»  The Problem With Mandatory Sentencing
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