- The Guardian
- Issue #1991
2021 has been a year that has intensified the elements of the class struggle we have been experiencing since the pandemic arrived in Australia in 2020.
The working conditions and pay of the working class have been systematically undermined as employment becomes increasingly casualised and major corporations underpay their workers. This was a result, in no small part, to the continued attacks on workers by the Morrison government with the amendments made to the Fair Work Act. The latter is particularly atrocious given the financial support in the form of COVID-19 corporate relief payments by the Morrison government and that many of these corporations still managed to make significant profits.
These conditions are not sustainable. This is particularly evident in the hospitality sector, where the ruling class have loudly protested the inability to employ workers to staff their venues. These businesses heavily relied on cheap labour provided by a stream of foreign labour (e.g. backpackers) who do not know their rights and will work any job to secure a wage. The Australian working class cannot simply afford to be underpaid, which is why these jobs are going unfulfilled.
The pandemic has also continued to be a site of ideological tension between the right and the left. Fascists have been channelling unrest around lockdowns and vaccines into centres of disruption. Here, the right has continued a major misinformation spree that has only further exacerbated the situation felt by the working class, dividing us among lines of “anti-vax/pro-vax” instead of uniting us against our class enemy. The prime example of such a tactic was the protest at the CFMEU office in Melbourne. These false divisions only serve the ruling class, who are happy to accept the distractions. This is evident in Morrison’s soft response to the series of far-right protests occurring nationally, which have included death threats to Premier Dan Andrews. This is a sharp contrast to Morrison’s harsh response to protests the left activates, such as those around climate change, and in solidarity with Indigenous struggle.
The Morrison government also placed Australia at the centre of a new Cold War when it signed the AUKUS agreement, a military pact between Australia, the UK, and the US. As a result of AUKUS, Australia will waste an additional $100 billion on militarisation, the centrepiece of which is nuclear submarines. The AUKUS agreement is a military aggression that will only heighten tensions and concerns for our trading partners in the Asia Pacific and will only further isolate us in the region. Furthermore, rather than spending this exorbitant amount of money on military equipment, Australia could be investing in renewables, hospitals, schools, housing, to name a few.
In 2022, we have an opportunity to end the near-decade of Coalition government. While we are under no illusions that the ALP will on its own provide equitable conditions and pay for the working class, its desire to preserve its labour links along with its support base in the union movement means that the working class is better placed to apply political pressure on these structures than it was on the Coalition.
Thus, it is important that we learn from 2021, that we take the class struggle forward and unite in fighting for climate action, workers’ rights, Indigenous struggle, better healthcare, and peace. We can do this if we remember that we are fighting from a class position, as the majority class, against a minority ruling class desperate to hoard its wealth while the majority class struggles to meet basic living needs.