The Guardian • Issue #2073


  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2073

Karl Marx exposed the real meaning of “free trade” in 1848. “What is free trade under the present condition of society?” he asked. “It is freedom of capital. When you have overthrown the few national barriers which still restrict the progress of capital, you will merely have given it complete freedom of action. So long as you let the relation of wage labour to capital exist, it does not matter how favourable the conditions under which the exchange of commodities takes place, there will always be a class which will exploit and a class which will be exploited. It is really difficult to understand the claim of the free-traders who imagine that the more advantageous application of capital will abolish the antagonism between industrial capitalist and wage workers. On the contrary, the only result will be that the antagonism of these two classes will stand out still more clearly. Do not allow yourselves to be deluded by the abstract word ‘freedom.’ Whose freedom? It is not the freedom of one individual in relation to another, but the freedom of capital to crush the worker. All the destructive phenomena which unlimited competition gives rise to within one country are reproduced in more gigantic proportions on the world market. One other thing must never be forgotten, namely, that just as everything has become a monopoly, there are also some branches of industry which dominate all others, and secure to the nations which most largely cultivate them, the command of the world market … Do not imagine … that in criticising freedom of trade we have the least intention of defending the system of protection … The protectionism system is nothing but a means of establishing large-scale industry in any given country, that is to say, of making it dependent upon the world market, and from the moment that dependence upon the world market is established, there is already more or less dependence upon free trade.”


It takes some time to create the best conditions for a big company like Telstra to be taken over by private enterprise. Private companies want all the dirty work, like sacking thousands of staff, to be done for them in advance. They want the latest technology to be acquired at the public’s expense and then, when all this has been done, the plums can be picked by private companies. Another hurdle is the opposition of the Australian people who mostly opposed to the sell-off of their collective property. In 1999 the then Howard Coalition government set Telstra’s full privatisation in motion with the appointment of Ziggy Switkowski as Chief Executive Officer. (Switkowski is currently organising a cover-up at PWC on behalf of the Albanese government.) Switkowski is listed among the clique of top company executives in Australia who are committed to private enterprise and, when on the boards of a publicly-owned companies, do all they can to push the privatisation cause. Switkowski has close ties to both the Murdochs and Packers and was on the board of Optus; Optus has been a big winner in the deregulation and privatisation of telecommunications. Like its other “competitors” it simply attached itself to Telstra’s integrated national system created from taxpayers’ money, as parasites do.

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