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March 2003   

Poetry: If I Were a Rich Man
Through a distortion in the time-space continuum, we have found a recording showing how people a few years into the future will deal with health care.

Interview: League of Nations
ICFTU general secretary Guy Ryder on the war, core labour standards and why Australia is an international pariah.

Industrial: 20/20 Hindsight
A retrospective analysis of the Accord is needed to help develop future strategies. Is it worth trying again? And if so, what would need to be different?

Organising: On The Buses
A new rank and file leadership team is standing up for the harried bus driver in the run-up to the NSW State Election

Unions: National Focus
A gaze around the country reveals some inspiring and innovative organising initiatives, a fruitful connection with young workers in South Australia and some typically robust industrial campaigns reports Noel Hester.

History: The Banner Room
On the eve of it�s refurbishment, Jim Marr ventures into one of Trades Hall�s best kept secrets; the room that houses relics of labour�s halcyon days.

International: The Slaughter Continues
Chilling new statistics from Colombia's main trade union confederation CUT: nine trade unionists assassinated in the first two months of this year.

Legal: A Legal Case For War?
Aaron Magner looks at the legal implications of the crusade of the Coalition of the Willing

Culture: Singing For The People
When there�s a struggle for social justice, when a war is brewing or rights are being eroded, the first ones to pen, paper and protest are often the folkwriters.

Review: The Hours
On the eve of International Women�s Day Tara de Boehmler follows the tale of three women who would rather choose death than a life devoid of personal choice.

Poetry: I Wanna Bomb Saddam
Scarier than Star Wars, the latest weapon to be deployed in the battle for Iraq is the Singing Dubya.

Satire: Diuretic Makes Warne's Excuses Look Thin
Australian cricketer Shane Warne today admitted that he was still feeling the after effects of the diuretic he tested positive to.


The Soapbox
Workers Friend
Shock jock Alan Jones snubbed his Liberal mates to bucket the Cole Royal Commission and launch Jim Marr's book

The Locker Room
Boer Bore Boring
In the face of oppression Phil Doyle falls asleep in front of the TV

Guest Report
Dead Labor
The Hawke and Keating legacy is John Howard, Leonie Bronstein argues.

Hands Off, Tony
John Della Bosca argues the NSW Industrial Relations System gives his State a competitive advantage.

Groundhog Day
Another year, another round of corporate excess. Bosswatch returns from its summer slumber to find the same old dogs up to the same tricks.


Re-considering The Accord
The twentieth anniversary of the Hawke Government�s election provides an opportunity to ponder the Accord�s historical conundrum: how at the moment of the union movement�s greatest influence did it suffer its greatest loss of members?


 Sacre Bleu � It�s �La Gong� Now

 Mum Raises Labour Hire Bar

 Investigate the Buggers

 NSW Libs Madder Than The Monk

 Kits Strike Terror into Govt

 West Braces for Shelling

 Executive Pay Under Senate Spotlight

 Clean Energy�s Jobs Bonus

 Zoo Workers Buck �Mercy Killing�

 Canberra Firefighters Win Union Backing

 Global Equity Under Spotlight

 Aussie Workers Fight Indian Child Labour

 Water on the Brain

 Activists Notebook

 Re - Core/Non Core promises.
 Strangers in the House
 Nursing Home Concerns
 Catholic Tastes
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Guest Report

Dead Labor

The Hawke and Keating legacy is John Howard, Leonie Bronstein argues.


The Labor Party is dead. Its long slow death agonies began when Bob Hawke won Government twenty years ago.

This is not because Bob Hawke was any worse or better than Whitlam or Hayden, Chifley or Curtin.

It is because Labor is fundamentally a pro-capitalist party where profit comes first. That means labour comes second. Hawke and Keating had thirteen years to expose their rotten capitalist politics to the Australian people.

That expos� resulted in confusion for working people and a turn, in the short term, to the arch reactionary.

To understand the problems with Labor, we need to understand its roots and social makeup.

The ALP was formed out of the industrial defeats of the 1890s. It quickly became a party that substituted parliamentary change for industrial action.

As the trade union movement became more developed in the twentieth century a trade union bureaucracy developed. Trade union leaders have a different class position to their members. They balance between workers and bosses. Their very existence is dependent on the continuation of capitalism.

The ALP was the political expression of this group in society.

Trade unions arise out of the class divisions of society between employer and employee. The employing class lives off the labour of workers.

It is this exploitation that is fundamental to capitalism. Trade unions at their best exist to ameliorate this exploitation, not to abolish it. At their worst, trade unions are part of the process which increases exploitation.

It is this latter role that trade unions in practice adopted under the Hawke and Keating governments. The long working hours of today were built out of the capitulation of the trade union bureaucracy in the early 1980s to capital in the form of the social con trick the Accord.

The Accord between unions and the Hawke Government was about increasing the exploitation of workers. It was played out in terms of crass class collaboration and nonsense about working together (i.e. with the employing class) to make society better. Politically the Accord laid the groundwork for John Howard's resurgence. Economically the present government is a continuation of the Hawke and Keating governments.

Industrially the Accord concentrated power in the hands of the trade union bureaucracy and destroyed the last vestiges of rank and file control over the leadership.

The results were disastrous. Trade union membership fell markedly. Working conditions worsened. Working hours increased. Job security disappeared. Unemployment remained high.

Under the Accord capital increased its share of Gross National Product markedly, at the expense of labour.

This class collaboration politically expressed itself in the ascendancy of the economic rationalists in the ALP (Hawke and Keating, for example) over the left and right wing nationalists.

Something else has been happening. The Australian working class has changed. That process had been going on in the 1970s, but accelerated under Hawke and Keating because of their pro-market policies. To put it crudely, the number of white-collar workers increased and the number of blue-collar workers decreased.

However, while certain specific interests of blue collar and white-collar workers may conflict, all are wage slaves creating wealth for the employers. Teachers have as much interest in better wages and health services as builders' labourers.

While the nature of the workforce is changing, the complexity of modern day capitalism has created a managerial group in the workforce whose interests lie with the employer. These overlords of capitalism have come to dominate many workplaces at the expense of working people.

Economic rationalism at the political level is reflected in the new managerialism in the workplace. Although the mantra of the managerialists is working smarter, what it really means is screwing more and more out of workers to counter balance declining profit rates.

There has been a decline in the general profit rate in major industrialized countries. The political response to this decline has been, among other things, in Australia to open the economy up to the market, to cut back government services, to reform the tax system to shift the burden of tax further onto workers and to de-regulate the labour market so that when the economic bust comes the employing class can drive wages down.

To do this, the Hawke and Keating Governments consciously weakened union power. Paradoxically, they did this by increasing the power of the trade union bureaucracy. The bureaucracy became the conduit for economic rationalism into the workforce. That increased power in the higher levels of the trade union movement was at the expense of rank and file power - the very place where unions draw their real strength from. So while Kelty and Crean supped with Hawke and Keating, union members ended up working harder and longer in a more insecure job environment for slightly increased real wages.

The ALP attacked unions which didn't co-operate. Hawke used the air force to break the pilots dispute. He and the Labor premiers outlawed the Builders Labourers' Federation - the one union which had the power to challenge the Accord. Keating introduced enterprise bargaining.

These are the actions of a thoroughly pro-capitalist anti-worker party. 1996 was the reckoning.

The combination of falling profit rates, weak pro-capitalist unions, a labor party committed to economic rationalism and the implantation of capitalist overlords in the workforce has created a greedy individualistic Australia where working hours are the second longest of the OECD countries and family life is a memory for many working parents.

The ALP is now a two-headed monster. In its higher echelons it is made up of the new managerialists and the trade union bureaucracy. This is an uneasy alliance since the two groups, although they are similarly committed to capital, have different visions about how to achieve their goals. The new managerialists favour capital directly; the trade union bureaucracy does so indirectly.

That section of society concerned with equity and justice has abandoned the ALP and turned to the Greens. However in the long term the Greens cannot be the political expression of labour. This is because the Greens are a cross class alliance without any real links to the working class or trade unions. Their politics are middle class, seeing Parliament rather than the struggle as the way to implement real change. The Greens unequivocally accept the logic of capitalism.

While many good left activists and supporters are shifting to the Greens, the trade union bureaucracy remains within the ALP. They fear they will lose any influence they presently have. Of course, any rational analysis of the Hawke and Keating years might conclude that unions were systemically weakened by the dance of death they had with Labor during those years.

Hawke and Keating made respectable the ideas of John Howard. Simon Crean cannot now compete with the Liberals because he agrees with them.

The Hawke and Keating legacy is John Howard.

All that is left is dead Labor.


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