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Issue #1548      23 May 2012


Neo-liberalism’s long losing streak

Incumbents are being ditched unceremoniously across the globe as people show their anger at austerity, privatisation and the rest of the neo-liberal agenda. We have the demise of the governments of Ireland, Portugal, Spain, Finland, Slovakia and Italy over the past two years. The administrations of the Netherlands and the Czech Republic look very shaky and France now has a new “socialist” president.

We’ve seen it happen in Australia with the comprehensive drubbing of the NSW and Queensland Labor governments and, with a massive turnaround of political fortunes looking unlikely, it will happen at the federal level, as well.

The problems driving voters to judge so harshly are the same here as with the headline-grabbing elections in France, Greece and elsewhere. People are sick of privatisation, the erosion of services and the rapid rise in their cost to households. They’re tired of the lack of action to secure local jobs (especially manufacturing jobs); the unwillingness to extract decent rates of tax from transnational corporations and big business’ thinly disguised control of the political process. They’ve had enough of war, corruption and the bosses’ mantra that “the community is living beyond its means”.

Overseas, there have been huge demonstrations but relatively low voter turnouts. The traditional political parties are on the nose. The whole bourgeois political apparatus is viewed with increasing scepticism. In Italy and Greece, caretaker “technocrats” had to be installed as the major parties lost all credibility.

Trade union leaderships that tail behind the old parties of capital are struggling. The circumstances should be ripe for the advance of the political alternative – socialism. But that development is not consistent across the countries suffering the devastating effects of the global capitalist crisis.

In Greece the Communist Party and other left parties rejecting austerity have made ground. But so, too, have groups from the extreme right like Golden Dawn. It is finding support for an essentially neo-Nazi program of expelling or imprisoning immigrants along with anti-capitalist sounding slogans based on the most jingoistic forms of nationalism. The world has seen it all before and suffered the consequences of the triumph of these reactionary ideas.

The danger in Australia

If voters in Australia turn on the Gillard government, it will be because they reject the reality of neo-liberalism. The deterioration of social conditions cannot be masked by the propaganda of a resource-led “boom”. The major contradiction in such a defeat would be that a Coalition government threatens even greater attacks on the assets and wellbeing of the community.

The real alternative – one that will satisfy the genuine grievances of the people – is simply not cutting through. Even relatively established groups like the Greens find it difficult to get their message of modest reform across in the current conditions.

The fog of media misinformation and incessant anti-socialism and anti-Communism make progress extremely difficult. But that’s not the only problem; disunity is the greatest enemy of left and progressive forces today as it has been for some time. The alternative simply does not look viable if it is presented incoherently by a divided and scattered opposition.

The Communist Party of Australia doesn’t deny that it considers its ideological position and consequent analysis the most advanced and appropriate for the circumstances in which we find ourselves. It seeks to lead left and progressive forces to victory in establishing a government of a truly new type that will ultimately lead to socialism in Australia.

But these conclusions in no way indicate that we consider the Party too “pure” to unite in the broadest possible front of left and progressive groups to challenge the dominance of capitalist politics. Trade unions must be brought into this process, also.

Time is short and the capitalist crisis is deepening. It is only a matter of time before a desperate ruling class throws its support and resources behind more organisations like Golden Dawn. Australia is not immune from such a possibility. It doesn’t advance the working class’ interests to criticise from the sidelines and wait for what the capitalist ruling class serves up next.

Next article – Australia challenged at UN over racist laws

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