Abolish the Coronavirus Commission!

Abolish the Coronavirus Commission!

14-06-2020: The fake coronavirus pandemic has now spawned its own fake coronavirus government. Unfortunately, the entirely appointed National Covid-19 Coordination Commission (NCCC) is all too real. Unelected by anyone, and unaccountable to the federal (or any) parliament, the NCCC is yet another example of the blatant disregard for even a pretence of democracy that the ruling class exhibits from time to time, but especially during a manufactured crisis. Funded by taxpayers, but not required to report or answer to them, the NCCC could be a replica of the V for Vendetta storyline. Some who have been well within the establishment during their careers are raising serious concerns. Retired Justice Margaret White makes eminently valid criticisms, stating that the NCCC is not underpinned by legislation[1], there is no known work plan, and the make-up of the commission is a who’s who of corporate Australia. Aside from a few token representatives from “civil” society, the NCCC is stacked with million-dollar CEOs from the fossil fuel industry, many of whom have never been accountable to anyone except large shareholders.

Rule by CEO

The existence of the NCCC arguably negates the need to cast a vote in elections. Why go to the polls on election day, if the politicians elected can simply be overridden by an appointed body of corporate sector highfliers? Many working people already feel that capitalist democracy equates to rule by private corporations, and here is an egregious example. The NCCC’s Chairman is Nev Power, former CEO of Fortescue Metals. Deputy Chair is David Thodey, a former CEO of Telstra, and IBM in Australia and New Zealand. Commissioner Jane Halton is a board member of ANZ Bank, Clayton Utz and Crown Resorts. Paul Little is Chairman of the Little Group, and former long-term managing director of Toll Holdings. Catherine Tanna is managing director of Energy Australia, and board member of the Business Council of Australia. Yet Commissioner Andrew Liveris takes the cake. He is former Chairman of Dow Chemical and DowDuPont, and sits on the board of Saudi Aramco – a Saudi Arabian oil company!![2] This hand-picked Commission will “advise the Prime Minister and operate within his portfolio”.[3]  There is barely an attempt to conceal corporate domination of elite rule.

The only “Commissioner” who is not directly from the corporate sector is Greg Combet, the former head of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and Labor Party member of federal parliament. No doubt his presence will attempt to lay a veneer of legitimacy on the savage wave of attacks already launched on workers and their Unions with the excuse of a virus. To date, compromised Union officials have already worked with the government to enable changes to a collective agreement by employers would only require 24 hours’ notice. This essentially means that all wages and conditions won through struggle by workers and their Unions, and codified in enterprise or collective agreements, could be abolished overnight – regardless of what is written on paper. Wage rates, working hours, annual leave, sick leave – all could potentially be reduced or wiped at one stroke.

While most of us have been pre-occupied dealing with draconian rules imposed by a police state under the guise of a coronavirus, fossil fuel corporations have asked for, and received, 14 “exemptions” to environmental and corporate regulation, 11 requests for financial assistance and tax cuts, and 12 cases of fast-track approval for projects.[4] As far as the government is concerned, the fake pandemic provides a convenient pretext for yet more handouts for the wealthiest and most environmentally destructive corporations in the hemisphere. In addition, the cover of the coronavirus is being used to once again open up the Narrabri in north east New South Wales (NSW) to coal seam gas. The Coronavirus Commission and the NSW government are literally lining up to give Santos free rein to plunder the earth with hydraulic fracturing – “fracking” – to obtain the methane laden gas which is extremely flammable. Needless to say, this will again escalate carbon emissions which are potentially past the “tipping point” of being able to maintain a safe climate.

Resist corporate takeover

It is critical that workers resist this flagrant disregard for even the pretence of elected government, and blatant environmental destruction under the guise of “getting Australia back to work”. The Covid-19 fraud was never about a virus. It was, and remains, vicious class struggle waged by finance capital against working people. The Coronavirus Commission is but one manifestation of the economic, political and ideological decay of Western imperialism. It is being used to sideline the threadbare trappings of capitalist parliamentary democracy, and to discharge outrageous attacks on working people and the natural environment which would otherwise spark a mass revolt.

Unfortunately, the very bodies that are supposed to defend workers against such an onslaught are the same ones which are leading the assault on the innocent masses. We refer to Union bureaucrats and the ostensible “left” parties – who have combined to repress workers who have the temerity to point out that lockdowns and social-distancing don’t even make logical sense. The lockdown left have prostrated themselves before the politicians and the government they feign to oppose and have gone on to act as police guards of a totalitarian order that would horrify the likes of George Orwell.

What is required is the building and extension of the anti-lockdown movement, for this is the only movement which has made a complete break with bourgeois ideology. The anti-lockdown movement does not accept the false rationale of a “threat” to society from a very mild pathogen, and rejects any authority deceitfully claimed by self-serving politicians, health czars and the corporate media. Workers must assist this movement to evolve in an anti-capitalist and pro-socialist direction, as difficult as that task presently appears. Key to this perspective is the forging of the first elements of a Marxist vanguard party, which can help lead masses in struggle against corona tyranny and for a world fit for human habitation. ABOLISH THE CORONAVIRUS COMMISSION!




E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

PO  Box  66   NUNDAH  QLD  4012

[1] https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-06-03/coronavirus-commission-concerns-former-judge-royal-commissioner/12284458 (10-06-2020)

[2] https://www.pmc.gov.au/nccc/who-we-are (10-06-2020)

[3] https://www.pmc.gov.au/nccc/terms-reference (10-06-2020)

[4] https://www.michaelwest.com.au/covert-19-government-stacks-covid-commission-with-oil-and-gas-mates-cosy-deals-follow/ (13-06-2020)


No to House Arrest! Resist Martial Law!

Image from Yahoo News Australia

No to House Arrest!  Resist Martial Law!

12-04-2020: Australia, the US and Europe stand on the precipice of “medical” martial law. Fascistic lockdowns which effectively amount to house arrest are in place, enforced by a beefed-up police presence, who are monitoring and controlling workers with measures that in any other circumstance would trigger a township rebellion. Western governments have not only shredded basic rights but have in many cases eliminated elementary human decency. Millions have been thrown onto the unemployment scrapheap, and the economy has been deliberately crashed, pushing people to the brink of despair. All this has been imposed on the basis of government and corporate media hysteria fuelled by a big lie – “we all gone die!”

There is little danger from a virus – the real danger is fascism and imperialist war. Fascism and imperialist war were the only way out for the capitalist economies during the 1930s, but workers cannot allow history to repeat itself today. The Anglo/US Empire has been itching for war against Russia and China for the last ten years. Due to extreme patience and skilled political moves, Russia and China (and Iran and the DPRK) have, so far, prevented Washington from plunging the globe into World War III. Unable to procure the war outcome through relentless provocations, imperialism has turned against “their own” workers. After imposing devastating sanctions on umpteen foreign countries, the Western ruling classes are now effectively applying starvation sanctions at home.

Truth is the first casualty

Working people must resist this genocidal course. As in the 1930s, and even more so today, the first prerequisite to a generalised fightback is a complete break with the current phase of bourgeois ideology. Its fundamental tenet is that millions of people will die from an alleged coronavirus unless “we” lockdown the entire society, throw millions out of work, detain workers under house arrest, and install a police state redolent of Nazi Germany. This bare-faced lie must be rejected before there can be moves made to resist the vulgar display of power. For, if one accepts the spurious claim of a “deadly coronavirus pandemic”, one cannot then go on to oppose the measures which the ruling class maintains are a response to it – job cuts, house arrest, martial law and Orwellian “social-distancing”. The lives of millions are NOT at stake, and half of humanity will NOT perish from a coronavirus (Covid-19) which contains some similarities to a seasonal flu.[1]

The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared a “pandemic” on March 11, after previously using the term PHEIC (Public Health Emergency of International Concern). Yet just as the 2009 “Swine flu” WHO declared pandemic was fake, so too is the coronavirus “pandemic”. WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom is the first WHO director who is NOT a medical doctor. He is a doctor of philosophy and was previously an Ethiopian Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Health.[2] He is a run-of-the-mill politician, in other words. A fake pandemic declared by a fake doctor! There’s one for the books.

Try as they might, Western governments cannot suppress facts about the coronavirus from emerging – facts which totally contradict their narrative. In Australia, PM Scott Morrison (“Scomo”) has every level of government, all health departments, all major parties, all corporate media, conservative Trade Union leaders (not members), most left parties, the intelligentsia etc – all on his side, fanning the flames of relentless panic-mongering. Yet the numbers and statistics to indicate a supposed mortal danger are just not there. This is not to say that some preventative health measures – arguably for temporarily isolating the most vulnerable – may be justified. However, a mass coronavirus die-off is a fantasy.

Pandemic’s rubbery figures

The world is a large place, inhabited by 7.8 billion people, of whom around 90 000 people pass away each day[3], from all causes. Dr John Lee states that over the first three months of this year, we could expect around 14 million people to pass away. Of that, the world’s 18 944 coronavirus deaths represent only 0.14% of that total.[4]  This mortality rate is lower than other infectious diseases, such as the seasonal flu, that we currently live with. In the United Kingdom (UK), on March 19, Covid-19 was downgraded as a danger, and was no longer considered a High Consequence Infectious Disease (HCID).[5] Why? Due to a low mortality rate. Ironically, this was four days before the UK entered lockdown. Their lockdown appears to have been implemented for other (suspicious) reasons.

In the US Dr Anthony Fauci is the White House spokesperson on Covid-19. In public press conferences in front of the media, Dr Fauci speaks of a doomsday like coronavirus worst case scenario. Yet this is completely at odds with a report he co-authored on the coronavirus. That report explicitly states that “the overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively.”[6] Again the fatality rates of Covid-19 are nowhere near “pandemic” levels. In fact, a seasonal flu much more resembles a “pandemic”. So, while his own academic research (which most people will never see) says one thing, he says the opposite in a White House media scrum. Here we have a concrete example of medicos paid by the state skewing their public message to that of those who fund their careers.

In any other situation, the notion that workers could be confined to their homes and not be allowed to venture out unless for a “good reason”, on pain of arrest and prosecution, would be rejected as unimaginable tyranny. Yet this has been implemented in the US, UK and Australia, alongside “social distancing” measures for which little or no scientific or medical justification has been presented. In fact, there are some indications that social distancing may prolong the existence of the coronavirus, whereas if it was left to run its course, nature would allow humans to develop immunity in a matter of weeks. In a stunning interview, an epidemiologist with 35 years’ experience stated that the coronavirus could be exterminated by lifting the lockdowns, and only taking measures to temporarily isolate very vulnerable sections of society such as those with advanced age. Knutt Wittkowski, previously the long-time head of Biostatistics, Epidemiology and Research Design at Rockefeller University in New York, also stated that going outdoors is what kills every respiratory disease.[7] “Flattening the Curve”, used nowadays by government and the media to insane groupthink levels, and enforcing social distancing as part of that, can in fact make the disease hang around much longer than it should. Perversely, that seems to be the government’s aim – to keep us in lockdown and apart from each other for between six months to two years.

Social control, not social distancing

The big lie propaganda machine insists that social distancing will “stop the spread”, and that “staying at home saves lives”. How convenient for the authorities that such measures disorient and paralyse the masses, as well as generating spontaneous deference to the government. This is the same Scomo led government which, little more than a couple of months ago, was condemned from all quarters for displaying callous disregard for people and wildlife losing their lives and/or livelihoods in catastrophic global warming fuelled bushfires. Many have switched from believing that the government doesn’t care if we die, to the government is trying to save our lives – overnight. We can’t have it both ways.

A few examples of the absurdities of police enforcement demonstrate that social distancing is about social and political control, rather than about “stopping the spread”. In the US, a paddleboarder was arrested in Malibu for refusing to exit the water. He was paddling alone in the ocean, clearly distancing himself from anyone.[8] In Pennsylvania, a woman was fined for violating stay-at-home orders – when she was actually just driving alone.[9] She had gone for a drive to relieve the boredom of isolation, but had obviously maintained isolation. Closer to home, the Queensland Police Commissioner reaffirmed that over Easter, anyone “blatantly” just going for a drive – which is not “essential travel” – will if found be apprehended and fined.[10] Go for a drive, be punished by the state. There is clearly another agenda here; it cannot be about “health” or “safety”. This is about getting working people accustomed to blind and unthinking submission to authority, even when it is irrational and counterproductive.

Even some who retain some level of backing for certain restrictions have major reservations about the practice of the lockdowns. Professor Peter Collignon, of the Australian National University medical school, is concerned that Australia’s extreme measures against going outside “don’t even make biological sense”. He is another expert who says that people are safer from a virus when they are outside, as opposed to being locked inside.[11] He has called for the implementation of biologically plausible measures which do not cause social, mental or economic harm.[12] A man of science cannot be expected to imagine that the lockdowns are primarily motivated by anti-working class politics, rather than biology. The ruling elite of Australia, the US and Europe have separate aims.

False “Overwhelmed hospitals” news

In the US, the LA Times was exposed as distributing transparent fake news when it claimed that its city hospitals were “overwhelmed” with Covid-19 infected patients. When journalist Del Bigtree visited the hospitals himself just to check on this story, he found that the waiting areas and entrances to the hospitals were empty – hardly a soul in sight.[13] Here in Australia, we are not even allowed to check our hospitals here, because we are basically not allowed outside, on pain of prosecution! In addition, there are no media photos or video of hospitals or local GP wards here being flooded with coronavirus patients – no prizes for guessing why.

It needs emphasising over and over again, passing away WITH the coronavirus is not at all the same as passing away FROM the coronavirus. Time and time again, from various countries around the world, there emerge reports which confirm that medical statistics of Covid-19 “deaths” simply record IF the patient had Covid-19 present in their body at the time of their passing.[14] Whether it is the US, Europe or Australia, these skewed stats do not at all indicate to what extent the coronavirus contributed to their deteriorating condition or their eventual death. These skewed stats do not mention what other serious health conditions the patients had. Suffice to say, if there are ANY other serious health conditions, ANY flu strain or virus could be dangerous – but it is hardly the sole cause.

Drop the charges, waive the fines

Others have noted that martial law is not “law” at all. It is the abolition of any pretext of a legal process and is direct rule by the decree of the head of the armed forces. In a sense we have entered into a period of “medical” martial law, and effective house arrest. It is estimated that one million workers have been sacked, and many businesses have simply been forced to cease trading. The mental health of millions is now being threatened, and poverty is rising. Fascism and imperialist war launched by Washington (backed by Canberra) looms large. If this is not fought, the ruling classes will get away with even more than they have planned with the coronavirus diversion.

Tragically, left-wing leadership of the working class is all but absent. What has taken its place is a Union bureaucracy actively aiding the government itself[15], and so-called left parties who also act as government auxiliaries. Whomever falls for the Covid-19 psy-op is of no use to those who labour. What we demand is the dropping of all charges and the waiving of all fines against all those apprehended under the draconian “social-distancing” and “stay-at-home” orders. Out of resistance to the “health” fiasco must be forged a vanguard party of advanced workers, who will lead a struggle for a planned economy based on public ownership of the means of production.



E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

PO Box 66  NUNDAH  QLD  4012

[1] https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/coronavirus/coronavirus-disease-2019-vs-the-flu (10-04-2020)

[2] https://journal-neo.org/2020/04/02/can-we-trust-the-who/ (10-04-2020)

[3] https://www.worldometers.info/world-population/ (10-04-2020)

[4] https://www.spectator.co.uk/article/The-evidence-on-Covid-19-is-not-as-clear-as-we-think (10-04-2020)

[5] https://www.gov.uk/guidance/high-consequence-infectious-diseases-hcid (10-04-2020)

[6] https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2020/04/02/ground-control-planet-lockdown-only-test/ (10-04-2020)

[7] https://www.thecollegefix.com/epidemiologist-coronavirus-could-be-exterminated-if-lockdowns-were-lifted (10-04-2020)

[8] https://losangeles.cbslocal.com/2020/04/03/paddleboarder-arrested-in-malibu-for-refusing-to-exit-water/ (10-04-2020)

[9] https://reason.com/2020/04/07/to-enforce-social-distancing-rules-cops-fined-a-pennsylvania-woman-who-was-driving-alone/ (10-04-2020)

[10] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8190769/Top-cop-says-Australians-shouldnt-driving-amid-coronavirus-lockdown.html (10-04-2020)

[11] https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6707817/expert-pans-panic-decisions-that-dont-make-biological-sense/?fbclid=IwAR0vWHAgHVkTx3w2VKwBshpeX–TlH4L7x1-KdnAg0u4ZHOKrVwoML4hSNE (10-04-2020)

[12] https://amp.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/apr/05/we-need-to-live-restricted-lives-for-at-least-six-months-police-enforced-lockdowns-are-unnecessary? (10-04-2020)

[13] https://www.sott.net/article/431750-Empty-Hospitals-Where-Are-All-The-Coronavirus-Patients (11-04-2020)

[14] https://off-guardian.org/2020/04/05/covid19-death-figures-a-substantial-over-estimate/ (11-04-2020)

[15] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AOPNv2t0grQ  (11-04-2020)

No Virus Recession!

Queues form outside Centrelink Offices in the wake of overnight job losses. Image from abc.net.au

No Virus Recession!


26-03-2020 – Amidst the Coronavirus crisis, the civil and democratic rights of working people are fast becoming collateral damage. Australia’s Prime Minister yesterday announced the closure of pubs, clubs, gymnasiums, indoor sporting venues, cinemas and places of worship, and warned that these closures could be in place for six months.[1]  PM Scott Morrison feigned to apologise for the workers who would lose their jobs as a consequence. A recession, or more to the point, a worsening of an already dire economic malaise, is inevitable. Public gatherings of 500 or more, and indoor gatherings of 100 or more have already been banned. Incredibly, the PM put the blame for this situation on “young people” supposedly not abiding by the rules.

Tens of thousands of workers have been thrown out of employment overnight. The Virgin Australia airline stood down 8000 of its staff,[2] following QANTAS which stood down 20 000.[3] It is estimated that one million workers have lost their jobs following the closure of “non-essential” services. Queues have formed automatically at Centrelink, overwhelming their capacity to respond – but this is after years of funding and staffing cuts. Centrelink advised workers not to attempt to visit a Centrelink office, but to go to the MyGov website and lodge an “intent to claim” form online.[4] All this did was to cause the MyGov website to crash – twice.[5]

Corporate media and government fuel hysteria

It is vital that working people resist this enforced recession. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (SRV) effectively and swiftly dealt with the Coronavirus outbreak, and as far as we know, no workers were thrown out of work. This included temporary shutdowns of workplaces and temporary directions to stay at home. While the PRC and the SRV are weighed down by bureaucratic political leaderships which do not consistently defend workers’ interests, the contrast between the socialist response and the capitalist response to coronavirus could not be more stark. However deformed socialism may be in the PRC and the SRV, there was co-operation with the government measures there, because workers knew that it was unlikely that they would be the targets, and that they would not be asked to pay the costs. In capitalist Australia, on the other hand, many workers have already lost what is most vital to them – an income to keep food on the table. More than this, fear and uncertainty of the future grips workers in the West, engendering despair.

What is more, this has been done on the basis of wild distortions of scientific facts and realities. Coronavirus hysteria is pounding people non-stop, inducing fear. Yet, the government, the corporate media, bought and paid for medicos, employers, big business and obsequious Union officials are all vastly exaggerating the danger of the coronavirus. They have abominable political reasons for doing so. There is evidence that this may well have been an act of biological war by the Pentagon against China and Iran, and also Italy. The latter may well have been punished for being the first G7 (Group of seven most industrialised countries) to sign on to China’s gargantuan trade and infrastructure development project, the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI or “New Silk Road”).[6] It may well have backfired spectacularly on Washington, given that the virus appears to be rapidly spreading throughout the USA. Nonetheless, the ruling classes of the capitalist West from Australia to Europe to the US have seized on the opportunity the coronavirus presents to them. Their economy has been staggering along for ten years or so, but now there is a chance to throw millions of workers onto the scrapheap, and thereby push down the price of labour-power, or wages, even further than legal minimums. Moreover, it provides the opportunity to launch catastrophic war against China or whoever – with a crippled and disoriented working-class unwilling or unable to take political action against “their own” imperialism.

Lockdowns may worsen health conditions

Of concern is the fact that it is likely that lockdowns and closures of workplaces and places of recreation and needed social gatherings will lead to more unnecessary fatalities, not less. Not to speak of the mental health problems created by mass unemployment, the severe curtailing of social interaction for almost all purposes exacerbates the extent of the symptoms those with accompanying health conditions suffer. One medical specialist who, to his credit, is not bowing down to his government, has inferred that the social lockdowns are “collective suicide” that will shorten the lives of millions.[7] The cancellations of elective surgery, which has already occurred in Australia, by itself will mean prolonged suffering for those waiting – and even premature death.

The fact is that the numbers of cases of a virus are nowhere near “pandemic” levels. In addition, the vast majority of those infected with coronavirus will suffer mild symptoms and recover after a period of about two weeks. While reasonable and rational precautionary measures to counter this virus are justified, a full-scale economic recession and all of its life-extinguishing consequences needs to be avoided at all costs. What has to be recognised is that all points of authority within capitalist society are universally on board with the elite’s recession and war planning – for they will not suffer from it. Working people must grapple with the fact that fascism is a distinct possibility.

Workers must not despair, and must not fear, however. Throughout history, fascism has only triumphed in the absence of determined working class opposition, i.e. without a strong and organised left-wing. It is critical that a Marxist vanguard party is formed, now more than ever. Such a party can form out of mobilisations behind demands that can address parts of this crisis, and others besides. For a start, we urge workers to fight for:
1.  A six hour day!

2. Public ownership of energy, infrastructure, banks!

3. A Workers’ Government!




E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

[1] http://www.mygc.com.au/australia-shut-down-pm-orders-pubs-restaurants-churches-gyms-to-close/ (23-03-2020)

[2] https://www.hepburnadvocate.com.au/story/6695892/virgin-australia-stands-down-8000-staff/ (25-03-2020)

[3] https://www.hcamag.com/au/specialisation/employee-engagement/qantas-stands-down-two-thirds-of-staff/217358 (25-03-2020)

[4] https://www.skynews.com.au/details/_6144476072001 (25-03-2020)

[5] https://www.themercury.com.au/news/coronavirus/anxious-tasmanians-continue-to-line-up-at-centrelink-as-mygov-website-crashes-again/news-story/d2a20f022f52cae32052bceaf7962f8c (25-03-2020)

[6] https://redfireonline.com/2020/03/22/covid-19-natural-pathogen-or-biological-war/ (25-03-2020)

[7] https://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:nhbO6vLdYsgJ:https://www.anti-empire.com/fantastic-video-interview-german-infectologist-govt-lockdowns-are-collective-suicide-will-shorten-the-lives-of-millions/%20&cd=1&hl=pt-BR&ct=clnk&gl=br&fbclid=IwAR0cr0zTLxTKRUNvDqPQoCmCcU2qSFkyyof971KVX0CLPiY0j6BiSzmeOGw (25-03-2020)



‘Change the Rules’ or Elect the Labor Party?

05-05-2018 – It is not a grand statement to make to acknowledge that wages and conditions for workers in Australia have never been at the state they are now. Outright wage theft is rampant, from small business to large scale private and public sectors. The right to strike, an elementary condition without which the line between the modern workers and slavery is blurred, is all but non-existent. Up to 40% of the workforce is not employed on a permanent basis – they are either in casual, temporary or contract arrangements. Enterprise bargaining is failing to deliver much but derisory pay “increases”, many of which are below inflation. Construction workers and their Unions face ongoing government attacks on their right to organise, with massive and crippling fines being imposed even for stopping work if there is a serious health and safety issue. The average pay gap between working men and women is being maintained, pushing many women of near retirement age into precarious housing situations. Penalty rates, a hard won gain from over a century of Union struggles, are being whittled away in industry after industry.

‘Change the Rules’ ?

One response from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is the ‘Change the Rules’ campaign. On the surface, ACTU Secretary Sally McManus appears to be a “breath of fresh air”, in contrast to previous ACTU stale officialdom. The demands and issues she highlights are urgent and need addressing, and her calls for action sound militant. But there is little or no action following the speeches to the National Press Club and the like. The overall political approach soon reveals itself. The ‘Change the Rules’ campaign is ultimately a re-elect the Australian Labor Party (ALP) campaign, being ramped up in a Federal Election year. No matter how much McManus and other top Union officials avoid directly stating it – this is an arm of ALP’s efforts to unseat the Liberal National Coalition government led by Malcolm Turnbull, and install the almost invisible “opposition” ALP leader Bill Shorten. Needless to say, an elected ALP Federal Government will barely change the dire situation for working people.

What McManus and other officials studiously avoid admitting is that the very rules that do need changing were almost entirely put in place by the ALP when it was last in government! The ‘rules’ largely referred to include the (grossly misnamed) Fair Work Act (FWA), the anti-construction Union Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), and the secondary boycott bans in sections 45D and E of the Trade Practices Act. The Fair Work Act was put in place by the Rudd and Gillard ALP governments, which also retained the ABCC and failed to even attempt to get rid of the bans on secondary boycotts – solidarity actions across workplaces. Predictably, there has been no commitment from the ALP that ANY of these anti-worker laws will be repealed, or even amended. It barely needs repeating that the ALP, no less than the Liberal Party, governs for the capitalist class, despite the occasional but fraudulent “pro-worker” lip service. It is a dangerous dead-end to go through the pretence, yet again, that the ALP will do much else other than force workers to swallow more privatisation and public spending cuts. Governing for capital, the ALP makes no apology for whole industries closing, large corporations paying no tax, high unemployment, increasing homelessness and widening inequality.

Lack of Union organisation

Prime responsibility for this situation lies with politically conservative Union officials, who, with a few exceptions, have allowed Union organisation to sink to its lowest ebb. From Sally McManus down, these are the very same careerists who are now claiming that the rules are stacked against them! In a recent speech to the National Press Club, McManus rightly points out that wage theft is continuing across many industries, from celebrity chef restaurants, to 7-11 convenience stores, to Caltex, to Woolworths and more. She then states that wage theft has become a business model but the laws have been too weak to stop them.[1] To put it bluntly, this puts the cart before the horse.  Official industrial relations laws, like wages themselves, come about as a result of the balance of class forces. As long as conservative Union officials fail to organise and mobilise workers to defend their rights on the ground, a thousand laws can be written that benefit employers. Or, more than likely, the absence of Union led struggle emboldens employers – leading them to conclude that there is nothing that can stop them disregarding the remnants of the laws that are on the books. Wage theft – the underpayment of wages to the tune of thousands, or millions of dollars – is one direct result.

Well-heeled Union officials are now comparing the situation for casual labour in Australia to the United Kingdom (UK). In the UK, employees can apply for the benefits of permanent employment (sick leave, annual leave etc) after a period of only three months. Whereas in Australia, there is currently no limit to the amount of time workers can remain on casual or temporary arrangements. In some areas of the public sector, this time limit has been set at two years – but even this is difficult to enforce. Two million workers, or around 40% of the workforce, remain in casual or temporary work.[2] This is a huge proportion. Casual and insecure work has a drastic effect on workers, who cannot begin to plan their lives. But much more than this is the effect it has in the workplace itself. Casual workers can barely question their employer on any issue, such as health and safety, pay and conditions, or anything much at all – as they can be replaced at a moment’s notice. From the employers’ point of view, casual work is the perfect anti-Union measure. This casualisation has been ongoing for more than two decades, yet many Union officials have turned a blind eye, leaving workers to suffer the consequences.

The right to withdraw your labour – without which little there is little differentiation from slavery – is all but illegal in Australia. Under current industrial law, striking is only permitted during an enterprise bargaining period, and even then it is subjected to severe conditions, such as the balloting of members and sufficient notice being given to the employer. And even then, a strike can be ruled illegal, and workers can be ordered back to work, if the action is deemed likely to cause “significant damage” to a part of the economy. In January this year, Rail Tram and Bus Union (RTBU) members were ordered by the Orwellian named Fair Work Commission to abandon a 24 hour strike, as well as planned bans on overtime.[3] This was after train drivers were regularly being forced to work 13 out of 14 days in a row, and being directly rostered to do overtime without their consent. The response of the RTBU officials was to accept the decision of the “independent umpire” !! That was a precise opportunity for the officials to defy the alleged “umpire”, go through with the strike, and call on other Unions and all workers for support.

The only response from the ACTU was that this was a demonstration that the rules are broken, and the rules have to be changed. Yet the only way the “rules” are going to be re-written is by Union led industrial action to challenge the legitimacy of the laws – the laws have to be openly defied, and the state must be challenged to see what they will do in response. “Bad laws have to be broken” – this was the message originally put forward by McManus – but it has scarcely been followed with any action. And only now, with a Federal Election in the offing, does a “Change the Rules” campaign – complete with fancy logo – appear. The blurb of the “Change the Rules” campaign gives the game away – it calls for a government to back working people, not big business. This is code for a return of the Labor Party to federal government.

Capital in Crisis

The ongoing wage theft, the theft of penalty rates, outlawing strike action, lowest wages in history: all of these are a result of the direct crisis that the private profit system is undergoing specifically in Australia, Europe, the United States and Japan. Stagnating economic growth and extremely low rate of return on investment means that investment simply doesn’t happen. The more difficult the conditions for private capital to operate, the more it demands the capitalist state funnel more public funds towards it. In Australia, Liberal and Labor governments oblige, in the form of relentless cuts to government spending, as well as the privatisation of healthcare, education, aged care, public transport, legal aid, the provision of welfare services and any other area where it can politically get away with it. The floundering profit system, especially since the financial crisis of 2008, is the real reason that the “rules” have been changed to give employers unparalleled advantage. Calling for a change of the rules without challenging the political rule of big capital dooms working people to continually beg for things they themselves could achieve.

The threat of war

It should be noted that the fragile and desperate crisis of the profitability of Western capital has its reflection in the reckless and criminally dangerous wars that Canberra flings itself into, which threaten the world with nuclear holocaust. Canberra, Washington, Paris and London recently brought the world to the brink of nuclear war with Russia over a blatantly staged and fake chemical weapons incident in Syria. This followed the blaming of Russia, without a shred of evidence, for the alleged poisoning of a retired double agent in London. The Liberal and Labor parties do not hesitate to ramp up deliberate provocations against the People’s Republic of China, with both gunning for extremely risky provocations with the Australian and US militaries in the South China Sea. After the US came close to a nuclear strike on the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or “North Korea”) last year, the Australian government will now reportedly send military aircraft to “monitor” the DPRK’s adherence to punitive sanctions.[4] Both Liberal and Labor parties have not hesitated to back the actions of NATO, constantly mobilising troops right throughout Eastern Europe. Whether it is Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Iran, China, Russia, the DPRK, the Ukraine or elsewhere, the Australian ruling class risks world war through its war alliance with Washington.

These are directly Union issues, but conservative Union officials have their careers guaranteed by the profit system – if they can contain and restrict the insurgent workers within certain boundaries. This means they are tied to the foreign policy of the “Australian” corporate magnates. Their silence on potential nuclear war is the flip side of their plaintive pleas to “change the rules” with regard to industrial law within Australian shores. Economic crisis in the West can ultimately only be solved by them through recourse to imperialist war, which is one reason Canberra pushes so hard for it. Workers must therefore oppose the entire political outlook of the Australian corporate elite, from working rights on the job, right through to its reckless threat to human civilisation through unthinkable war.

This pre-supposes a struggle for a pro-working class leadership of the Unions. The need is urgent for rank and file committees of workers within the Unions, which exclude the well-paid organisers and officials. Within these committees, leftists need to push an explicitly anti-capitalist line. Marxists need to push for socialist measures within these groups, directly bringing working class politics into the Unions on all issues facing working people – from the threat of catastrophic climate change to the need to oppose imperialism’s drive to World War III. This will entail a bitter but necessary struggle against the Laborite Union leaders, and a whole host of Union organisers and staff who shepherd their own careers. Working people are suffering, and we cannot wait until the day sell-out Union officials decide to seriously organise the working class. For this is a day that will never come.

A pro-worker and class struggle leadership of the Unions would strive to organise workers around demands for a six-hour day, or a 30 hour week. This would address the huge issue of high unemployment, as well as the threat to jobs through automation. Such a demand could seriously galvanise a Union movement in dire need of rejuvenation, after decades of decline. Legions of the unemployed could be mobilised to help the Unions achieve this, which could strongly increase the fighting spirit of working people, and giving impetus towards a drive for a living wage for all of those relying on welfare, such as students and pensioners. This could then spur demands for full public funding of healthcare, education and public transport and other services which have endured savage cuts.

The struggle for a pro-worker leadership of the Unions is necessarily bound up with the struggle to forge a Leninist vanguard party. There are a whole host of left parties who recognise the dire limitations of the conservative Union bureaucrats, and the obstacle of the Labor Party directly on many Union officials, but fear to break politically from them. Some grumble about the lack of action, while others excuse the right-wing politics which accompanies the huge salaries of some officials, which are sometimes double or triple the wages of the workers they are supposed to represent. Rather, what is required is a workers’ party which fights for a workers’ government. Only with workers in power will the numberless crimes of capitalism be able to be curtailed. Then the workers will not only ‘change the rules’, but write them.





E: workersleague@redfireonline.com

PO Box 66  NUNDAH  QLD  4012

[1] https://www.actu.org.au/media/1033746/180320-national-press-club-speech-sally-mcmanus-march-21-2018.pdf (05-05-18)

[2] https://www.australianunions.org.au/casual_workers_factsheet (05-05-18)

[3] https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/fair-work-commission-orders-nsw-rail-workers-to-abandon-24hour-strike-20180125-h0o1s1.html (06-05-18)

[4] https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/australianz/australia-to-send-military-aircraft-to-monitor-north-korean-ships (06-05-18)

Catalonia: The Affluent “Revolution”

Map showing the location of Catalonia within Spain. Image from Wikipedia

15-10-2017 – When is a revolution not a revolution? Amongst other things, it is when it is led by wealthy industrialists and conservative politicians, and when it is not supported by a majority of its people. Witness Catalonia today. All manner of misguided left parties and those who take a progressive political stand generally have been taken in by this movement for separatist independence of the wealthiest region of modern day Spain. It is true that there is right wing opposition to this movement, from Spanish nationalists to the conservative Spanish government, to the imperialist dominated European Union (EU). But the fact is, this movement is not supported by a majority of Catalans, even if the majority of Catalans and Spaniards support the right to vote on the question.

Catalonian wealth

Catalonia is the wealthiest region of Spain, bar none. Andalusia in the south of Spain, for example, has less than two thirds the per capita income of Catalonia.[1] It was never really industrialised, unlike the industry which was developed in Catalonia. Many suspect that the current push for Catalonian independence has much to do with the fact that the wealthy business owners and industrialists resent having to pay taxes to the Spanish state, which then redistributes much of them to the poorer regions of Spain, such as Andalusia and Galicia. Of course, this is relative, as a capitalist state’s prime function is far from ensuring the welfare of the masses. Catalonia has 7.3 million people, and a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of over $300 billion, similar to that of Scotland and Singapore.[2] It goes without saying that the Catalan working class does not automatically share in this wealth, but the region itself is not short of a quid.

Under normal circumstances, the left usually comes behind a small prospective nation against a larger one, or a nation seeking national liberation against stronger imperialist powers. There is a sense of siding with the underdog, of siding with the less powerful against the mighty. However, the situation of Catalonia today is not what any self-respecting leftist would refer to as “normal”. By definition, it can’t be a “revolution” if it is led by the wealthiest sections of a society, and/or their political representatives. The affluent have never been oppressed by the poor, and never can be.

One can agree that Catalonia meets the criteria for the Marxist conception of a nation, that is, it contains: 1. a common language (Catalan), a common territory, a common economy and a common culture. And leftists usually point to Lenin’s work affirming that Marxists can support the right of a nation to self-determination – the right to self-administration up to and including the right to secede, to form their own nation.[3] However, what some left parties misunderstand is that while Marxists support the right of nations to self-determination, it does not follow automatically that Marxists will advocate the exercise of that right. Whether or not Marxists advocate the exercise of the right of nations to self-determination depends almost entirely on whether this will advance, or set back, the class struggle, both in the oppressed nation and the oppressor nations. If self-determination will clear the way for better conditions for the working class struggle to advance, for example, where national oppression is so great that it clouds over other political issues, then Marxists may decide to support it. If, on the other hand, the exercise of self-determination may lead to the setting back of the working class struggle, for example by unnecessarily boosting harmful nationalism, and cutting workers of small and large nations off from one another, then Marxists may actually campaign against the exercise of the right to self-determination. That leftists should automatically support the exercise of the right to self-determination, regardless of the concrete analysis of concrete conditions, is in flagrant contradiction to Leninism.

In 2017, and for the last five years or so, the Catalonian independence movement has been politically led by conservative nationalists, with links to the Catalan bourgeois class. How conservative? For one thing, these leaders have been, and remain, staunchly in favour of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation – the military arm of anti-Russian US led imperialism).  Former Catalonian Prime Minister Artur Mas made it explicit – Catalonia actively seeks membership of NATO.[4] NATO is arguably the most dangerous organisation in the world today, and the one most likely to be at the heart of itself igniting World War III. One could sustain a case that NATO is thus the most politically reactionary body existing. Yet NATO membership is dearly held by Catalonian independence leaders. One doesn’t have to be a Marxist to recognise something is amiss here.

This alone is enough to recoil, but there is more. The Catalonian independence movement is also pro-EU (European Union). Catalan leaders recently re-stated that a breakaway Catalonia would seek to remain a part of the EU – even despite the EU saying that it won’t recognise an independent Catalonia if not completed via the Spanish constitution.[5] The EU is an imperialist trading bloc, where the stronger imperialist powers, such as Germany and France, lord it over the poorer southern countries such as Portugal, Greece, and Spain itself. It functions to suppress the wages and working conditions of all workers across Europe to advantage European capital against its US and Japanese rivals – even if the US and Japan are mired in capitalist recession, and have been for some years. The pro-EU politics of Catalan leaders is another indication of how right-wing they are.


Undoubtedly there are some left-wing minded Catalans who have been drawn into the campaign for independence. A possible reason for this is that they mistakenly believe that Catalonian independence will lead to an end to the crushing unemployment and austerity measures being implemented across Spain in the wake of the capitalist financial crisis in 2008. However, a majority of Catalans have never favoured independence outright, and certainly not separatist independence. Many polls show that support amongst Catalans for independence has never reached more than around 41%. Support amongst Catalans to a unilateral declaration of independence is even smaller, at 35%. Opposition to a unilateral declaration of independence amongst Catalans stands at 60%, with a near overwhelming 67% opposition to this taking place without a debate in the Catalonian regional parliament.[6]

The left could even consider backing an independence movement if it had a majority of working class people backing it. But this is extremely doubtful in the case of Catalonia. The October 1 referendum, despite a rough-handed attempt to prevent it being carried out by the Spanish police, only had a turn-out of around 2 million votes. Of these, 90.9% supported independence, while 7.87% opposed independence.[7]  So, approximately 5.3 million Catalans did not vote at all – and it is fairly safe to say that the overwhelming majority of these folk did not turn out to vote due to the fact that they were NOT in favour of independence. Of course, this is a separate matter from having the right to vote for independence. But the left should know better than to back an independence movement which does NOT have majority support.

It is the case that the attempted repression meted out by the Spanish authorities against the holding of the referendum may push some more Catalans into supporting the push for independence. But this is by no means guaranteed. In fact, there was a response by those supporting unity with Spain, in a rally on October 8. Some reports put attendance at up to a million people, many waving Spanish flags.[8] To be sure, there was a component, perhaps even the leading elements, which were mobilising on the basis of Spanish nationalism. There was also support for the EU – which the bourgeois led Catalonian independence movement also supports. Yet there was also a clear element of a unity with Spain sentiment, which, from all reports, constitutes the majority within Catalonia. This is the case even if there are major concerns about unemployment, austerity, and so on.

In fact, the majority of Catalans who support unity with Spain are also more than aware that it was in fact the conservative politicians who have led the independence movement themselves who have carried out austerity measures. This has included eliminating public service jobs and slashing wages at the behest of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In 2013, Catalonia’s ambulance workers were forced to take industrial action against a 9.2% wage cut.[9] These savage austerity measures have been carried out by the Catalonian government itself, which is now leading the independence movement!

Amongst the reasons why the Catalonian independence movement does not have overwhelming, or even majority support – is the question of language. It is true that Catalan was forbidden in Catalonia during the 40 odd years of Francoist rule, from the 1930s to the 1970s. Since then Catalan has been bilingual – Catalan and Spanish – while the majority of government, academic and institutional language is usually carried out in Catalan. Yet Catalonia also includes a large proportion of working people from the other regions of Spain, as well as migrants. Neither of these groups have Catalan as their first language. In fact, the Catalonian government’s own statistics show that less than a third – 31% – of Catalonian residents speak Catalan as a first language.[10] Despite this, the Catalonian independence parties want Catalan to be the only language for public affairs.

Nationalism is not the answer

What is more, even the moderate left, let alone Marxists, have to be concerned when a police chief is regarded as a hero by the nationalists. The chief of police of the Catalonian autonomous region, Josep Lluis Trapero, once gave a press conference, as head of the Mossos d’Esquadra (regional police). One reporter walked out when they discovered it was being held in the Catalan language. Trapero reportedly said in response “Okay, very well. So, goodbye”. This farewell in Spanish is now often used by Catalonian independence supporters – a measure of the lack of class awareness.[11] It hardly needs to be said that the police are the bitter class enemies of working people, whether in a small regional capitalist autonomous region, OR in a larger national capitalist state. The logic of small time nationalism – in this case upholding the police as “heroes” very easily lends itself to big power nationalism.

Some left parties say that there are both left wing and right wing Catalonian independence parties, and so the task is to assist the “left”. Yet the “left” they refer to is not socialist in the Marxist sense, even if they refer to themselves as “socialists”. The Popular Unity Candidacy (CUP), reserve the use of “socialist” and “feminist” rhetoric, but overall they are similar to the Greek SYRIZA party of Alexis Tsipras – which led Greek workers into the catastrophe of imposed austerity which was far-worse than the former “social-democratic” politicians they replaced. The CUP currently holds 10 seats in the Catalan regional parliament, and is a part of the JxSi (Together for Yes) Coalition, alongside the Catalan Repulican Left (ERC) and the Catalan Democratic Party of Europe (PDeCAT).[12] The PDeCAT party is the right-wing party of Catalan premier Carles Puigdemont. So the CUP attempts to be the “left” force – while in direct coalition with the right-wing nationalists. The experience of SYRIZA in Greece in 2015 gives a clear indication of where that strategy hits the rocks.

Nationalism is never the answer to pressing political problems facing the working people. As Boris Kagarlitsky writes, whenever the nationalists hold the upper hand, the left is weak. Conversely, whenever the left is the strongest and most influential, nationalists and nationalism often fade away into irrelevance.[13] The task for the left in Catalonia and Spain and Europe today is to unite working people against the profit system. In this case, dividing workers up into smaller and smaller nations can only fuel further isolation from one another, at a time when the greatest pro-working class unity against European capitalism is needed. Austerity can only be defeated by a widespread workers’ struggle for revolutionary power, opening the gates of true socialism. Marxist vanguard parties which prioritise the struggle to win over the majority of Catalan, Spanish, European and international workers to this perspective are the key to solving this and other crucial problems of our time.


PO Box 66   NUNDAH  QLD   4012
E: workersleague@redfireonline.com



[1] https://benjaminstudebaker.com/2017/09/22/the-left-wing-case-against-catalan-independence/ (14-10-2017)

[2] http://landdestroyer.blogspot.com.au/2017/10/catalan-independence-5-things-to-think.html (14-10-2017)

[3] https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1916/jan/x01.htm (14-10-2017)

[4] https://www.vilaweb.cat/noticia/4165393/20140105/catalan-pm-confirms-nato-membership-commitment-to-collective-security.html (14-10-2017)

[5] http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2017/10/08/could-independent-catalonia-stay-eu (14-10-2017)

[6] https://elpais.com/elpais/2017/05/24/inenglish/1495609585_875590.html (15-10-2017)

[7] https://www.sott.net/article/363392-Catalonia-heads-to-the-polls-for-independence-referendum-amid-violent-police-measures-UPDATES (15-10-2017)

[8] https://www.rt.com/news/406049-protest-against-catalan-independence/ (15-10-2017)

[9] http://www.catalannews.com/society-science/item/ambulance-workers-go-on-strike-in-catalonia-for-four-days-but-essential-services-are-guaranteed (15-10-2017)

[10] http://llengua.gencat.cat/web/.content/documents/publicacions/altres/arxius/EULP2013_angles.pdf (15-10-2017)

[11] http://www.internationalist.org/cataloniaselfdetermination1709.html (15-10-2017)

[12] https://newint.org/features/web-exclusive/2017/09/29/the-cup (15-10-2017)

[13] https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/10/11/catalonia-the-revolt-of-the-rich/ (15-10-2017)

Change the Rules or Change the System?

Change the Rules or Change the System?

07-10-2017 – Australian workers are enduring wave after wave of an ongoing onslaught against their wages and conditions. It is not just penalty rates either. The Union movement has arguably never faced such governmental restriction on what was previously regarded as lawful activity. The right to organise a Union, the right of Union officials to meet with members on the job, the right to speak to workers about a Union – all of these and more are in danger of being legislated out of existence. Then we have the assault from employers themselves. Some of them have already tried – successfully – to cancel previously agreed enterprise bargaining agreements, and throw workers back on award conditions – potentially meaning the loss of thousands of dollars per year in employee income.

“Ensuring Integrity” Bill

Currently before federal parliament is the outlandishly misnamed Ensuring Integrity Bill, put as an amendment to the Fair Work (Registered Organisations) Act 2009. The measures contained in this bill would not be out of place in Nazi Germany. It was the Nazis who, on coming to power, outlawed Trade Unions in toto. This “Ensuring Integrity” bill does not outlaw Unions as such, but outlaws major parts of their activity. The Bill, if passed, will allow the Federal Government to directly interfere with the internal operations of Unions. The Bill would allow the government to: disqualify certain Union members from holding a Union position, prevent basic Union activity – such as stopping work over a health and safety issue or incident, to deregister Unions, to place Unions into administration and to prevent Union mergers from going ahead.[1] On top of a restriction where it is basically illegal to take industrial action at any time apart from “bargaining periods” – and then only through secret ballots – this Bill is arguably an attempt by the ruling class to see just how far they can go.
It is not enough for capital to keep wages of workers down. It is generally agreed that the rate of wage growth in Australia this year is the lowest in recorded history.[2] The dire crisis of profitability means that capital also wants to control even more about what potential struggles Unions can lead. The “Ensuring Integrity Bill” seems to be an attempt to head off a Union campaign before it even starts, by using the ability to dismiss certain Union officials if they actually start to organise workers to fight back. Failing this, the Bill could be used to simply deregister the Union, and dismantle it altogether. There is little that is different between a fascist government outlawing trade unions as per the Nazis, and a “liberal democratic” government deregistering and disbanding a union. The effect is the same – a massive blow to virtually the only organisations that stand in the way of workers being subjected to unfettered capitalist exploitation. There is an economic, political and psychological aspect to this insidious attack on all working people.

The fruits of Enterprise Bargaining

The industrial relations situation for Australian workers today is almost totally weighted in favour of the employers, especially big industry groups and the government, and almost totally against workers and their Unions. Arguably, this is the end result of the Enterprise Bargaining system brought in by the Keating Labour government from 1991. Prior to the introduction of Enterprise Bargaining, workers and their Unions were not restricted as to when, and over which issues, they could take industrial action – up to and including strike action. While going on strike was never enshrined in law, prior to the introduction of Enterprise Bargaining, Unions could go on strike and push for their demands to be met. The government and employers would have to go to court themselves in order to claim damages, for example. However, Enterprise Bargaining brought with it the notion of “protected industrial action”. This meant that workers and their Unions could legally take industrial and/or strike action – but only during a “bargaining period”, i.e. the negotiation of a new Enterprise Bargaining agreement, usually once every three years. For the rest of the three years, workers were legally prevented from withdrawing their labour – over any issue at all.

Enterprise bargaining changed the landscape of industrial relations, almost wholly to the benefit of employers over workers. While some workplaces were able to gain pay rises and conditions that were above award conditions, many others did not. The horizon of workers was especially narrowed, as they were encouraged to see themselves not as part of an entire industry, but as an individual company or area battling away, competing against all others. Employers were often encouraged to use Enterprise Bargaining to introduce all kinds of practices which assisted them, to the detriment of workers, such as “multiskilling” – the virtual elimination of specialised roles.[3] For workers, it led to a situation of profound disempowerment. Instead of working with thousands of other workers across an entire industry pushing for the best pay and conditions for all within the sector, workers only had the small confines of their enterprise. This dramatically shifted power to the employers. What is more, workers were encouraged to see themselves as bound to protect the profitability of their own enterprise – often at their own expense. Hard won conditions could be traded away with the excuse that the enterprise could no longer afford them, in order to be “competitive”.

“Change the Rules” campaign

Many workers mistakenly believe that corporations and the governments which serve them are now too powerful, and that Unions are not able to fight back because they are legislatively prevented from doing so. This sentiment reflects not the power of capital per se, but the dire lack of leadership on the side of labour, which boils down to the Trade Union leaderships around the country. Enterprise Bargaining may have begun the breakup of workers across an industry, but this has been facilitated at each step by conservative officials, who are ideologically tied to the capitalist system – and therefore the employer class itself. There are a few exceptions, but there are scarcely any Union officials willing to organise a class struggle fightback not only against anti-worker laws, but against the profit system as a whole.

What we have instead from the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) is the “Change the Rules” campaign. While it is welcome that there is any national campaign at all, the ACTU’s “Change the Rules” has little chance of repealing the misnamed Fair Work Act, and replacing it with pro-worker and pro-Union legislation. This is because it is ultimately an electoral campaign, rather than an industrial campaign. In its purest form, it is yet another re-elect the Australian Labor Party effort – in two years’ time! Correctly, the ACTU note that 40% of the workforce is in casual or contract employment, and thus many workers do not experience a paid holiday or a paid sick day. They note that inequality is at a 70 year high, and that wage growth is the lowest it has ever been.[4] All well and good. However, for this disastrous state of affairs, the ACTU point the finger at…the Liberal Party and Employment Minister Michaelia Cash.[5]

However, it is evident that the all sided assault on workers is coming from the entire political establishment – Labor, Liberal, One Nation, the lot. The Greens offer some cautious words of support, but are tied into the parliamentary gravy train just as much as the major parties. This is because the real source of the attacks on workers is private capital itself (the basis of the parliamentary system), which is facing an ongoing crisis of profitability, and can only react by making workers pay. The increasing application of automation to workplaces – including “robotisation” is eliminating jobs, rather than reducing working hours and increasing the standard of living. The means of production remain in the hands of private profit-seeking business. State and Federal governments are privatising more and more functions previously peformed by the public service – and handing them directly to the private sector. Yet even with this massive assistance, the private sector is not able to re-engage in the serious production of goods and services. Capitalism has reached an impasse – and it is not going back to the “mixed economy”, or the “welfare state”.

Class struggle leadership of the Unions desperately needed

When Sally McManus became head of the ACTU, some left parties welcomed the apparent change of outlook. “Bad laws have to be broken”, Ms McManus stated. But it soon became obvious that it was not going to be followed by any action – other than token online petitions, the occasional rally and a press release. Socialist Alternative correctly note that Union activism has to be rebuilt on the workplace floor, after three decades of attacks on Unions which have largely led to demobilisation, and thus demoralisation. They also note this is a political task as much as an industrial one.[6] Solidarity urge workers to heed the words of Sally McManus, and launch themselves into the struggle.[7] The Socialist Alliance laud the work of Sally McManus for heading the campaign, albeit with the plea for more to be done.[8] The Communist Party of Australia (CPA), are the most enthusiastic in signing up to the “Change the Rules” campaign, with not even one iota of a critique of the ACTU leadership. They even endorse the ACTU leadership’s diversionary calls for a “community” campaign.[9]   What all of these left parties lack is a perspective of seriously challenging, and ultimately replacing, the class collaborationist ACTU and local Union officials with leaderships dedicated to hard class struggle. We will be waiting an eternity for the ACTU and local Union officials to even contemplate such a struggle. It’s not on their agenda.

Many Unions can go for two to three years, without the officials organising even one general meeting of members. There are intense political reasons why the conservative officials avoid organising basic meetings. For one thing, they are aware that the resentment of workers over the loss of pay, worsening conditions, harassment by management at work and a host of other issues, are at a peak. But at a gathering of Union members, the officials’ control over the Union is potentially threatened. Ideas for action can be raised, proposals put forward, workers can draw strength from one another, and more. All of this confronts the no-action approach of conservative officials head-on. So the officials simply refuse to organise even the most basic method of giving Union members some form of say over the direction of the Union they pay their fees to. Whether the Union organises 24 meetings per year, or zero meetings per year, the considerable pay of the officials does not change one iota. Meanwhile, workers suffer.

Workers need to start organising as soon as they are able. Perhaps with some exceptions, rank and file groups will need to be organised within virtually all Unions. Within these rank and file groups, leftist and anti-capitalists should, wherever possible, work together to encourage workers to demand urgent action from the Union officials. Unilateral actions called by these rank and file groups will also be needed – with or without the endorsement of the Union officials. These rank and file groups should also be prepared to picket the offices of their own Unions, demanding action. Organising meetings of members without the sanction of the Union officials will be an unavoidable necessity.

At the very least, the Unions should be leading a national industrial struggle for a shorter working week with no loss in pay. A 30 hour week would be a good start. Serious, nation-wide struggles over this basic demand, which, if won, would substantially undermine unemployment and increase the amount of disposable income of workers, returning a stimulus of the economy even on the terms of the business class itself. This could then set the stage for winning permanent jobs for all workers, and would embolden workers to demand adequate health and safety, the retention of penalty rates, and more.

The reign of capital will resist furiously, which would only point to the need not for a changing of the rules, but a changing of the entire system. Working people need not only a new industrial relations act. Workers ultimately need a state and a government which they own and which defends their interests. No capitalist government, no matter how liberal, can ever fully meet the needs of all workers of all generations to come. What is needed is a workers republic – a government which rests on the organised power of workers themselves. Leading them will be the most class-conscious workers, composed in a vanguard party of activists committed to the struggle for the sweeping away of the power of private capital and the initiation of a socialist order. This system change is the only one which can “change the rules”.



PO Box 66  NUNDAH  QLD  4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com


[1] http://www.cpa.org.au/guardian/2017/1797/01-affront.html (07-10-2017)

[2] http://www.abc.net.au/news/factcheck/2016-06-17/fact-check-is-wage-growth-lowest-on-record/7505512 (07-10-2017)

[3] http://www.peopleculture.com.au/innovation-in-the-workplace-under-the-fair-work-act/ (10-10-17)

[4] https://www.australianunions.org.au/change_the_rules (11-10-17)

[5] https://www.actu.org.au/actu-media/media-releases/2017/actu-launches-change-the-rules-campaign-in-western-australia (11-10-17)

[6] https://redflag.org.au/node/6025 (11-10-17)

[7] https://www.solidarity.net.au/highlights/enterprise-bargaining-un-fair-work-act/ (11-10-17)

[8] https://www.greenleft.org.au/content/time-change-broken-industrial-relations-system (11-10-17)

[9] http://www.cpa.org.au/guardian/2017/1796/07-change.html (11-10-17)

Despite the efforts of some workers, penalty rates have been removed from a number of industries. Image from the Illawarra Mercury.

Jobs Not Casinos! Housing not Hotels! Public not Private!

22-04-2017 – The Queens Wharf Mega Casino and luxury hotel “development”, in the middle of Brisbane city, has begun its seven year construction period. Nine hectares of previously public land is fenced off, with the demolition of previously state owned buildings set to begin. All of this is to make way for not only 2500 poker machines, but an unlimited number of traditional and electronic gaming machines, which has recently been approved by the Queensland government.[1] The Echo business consortium will also build 2000 apartments and 1100 luxury hotel rooms with four, five and six star ratings, from the Ritz-Carlton and Rosewood brand names.[2] The plans include a bridge, which may not happen as it has not yet been funded, from South Bank across the river into the casino floor. Family entertainment indeed!

Working people generally should not attempt to take a moral position of opposition to gambling per se – as we know that billionaire developers represent an alien class and so have an alien perspective of what is and what is not moral. However, working people do have a right to demand decent working and living conditions, and fight for them in opposition to the government which, in this case, clearly represents the billionaires. The fact that these governments are approving the building of a casino and luxury apartments entirely reveals the depth of the economic crisis of the system of private production for private profit. There is a severe recession, because virtually no new value is being created. Whole industries, for example the auto industry, are closing down. Little or no manufacturing is occurring. Unemployment is rife, especially amongst youth. Wage growth for those still in work is the lowest it has ever been in history. What government public spending exists is more and more geared towards providing business opportunities for the private sector – such as the Queens Wharf Casino.

The Right To The City organisation is correct to frame the discussion as “Instead of a Casino”. Instead of luxury apartments and exclusive motel rooms which few working people can afford, what is desperately needed is a state run program of building ample public housing. The building of quality but affordable public housing could not only house the homeless, but will help exert downward pressure on the astronomically high cost of housing. Instead of a casino, there could be a state run program of public works, to upgrade and expand an affordable public transport system – given that Brisbane’s public transport is one of the most expensive in the world, and the passenger rail problems are legion. Instead of a casino, public money could be spent on replacing the millions of dollars of funding ripped out from under schools and hospitals by successive Labor and Liberal federal governments.

Union leadership is key

The only Union action that we know of on the issue of the casino was a rally led by the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) on November 30 last year. The rally was not against the casino, but was calling for construction related jobs for the casino to be given to local workers, rather than 457 visa workers![3] There are two points to be made here. One, Union leaderships should not be encouraging competition against “foreign” workers by lining up with “local” employers. This nationalism encourages racism and xenophobia, which is poison for a workers movement. Two, rather than going cap-in-hand to the employers and pleading for jobs, Union leaderships should be demanding jobs through such demands as: a shorter working week with no loss in pay.  A national campaign for a 30 hour week, or a six-hour day, has the potential to turn around the widespread demoralisation amongst working people. Workers can see society going backwards, and are prepared to fight, but they see no one leading a fightback. Nationalist and conservative Union leaders need to be pushed aside if they will not even organise a struggle to prevent workers from falling into an abyss.

Working people must be aware, if they are not already, that the huge number of problems in society, domestically and internationally, are all linked to the crisis of the capitalist mode of production. The construction of a casino is linked to the thousands of homeless people sleeping on the streets each night. Public space being privatised is linked to increasing harassment on public transport by security services. Banks raking in record profits is linked to schools and hospitals being starved of funds. Youth being offered a future of joblessness, poverty and stress is linked to the ever increasing salaries of politicians who sleep on parliamentary benches. The wholesale destruction of the Great Barrier Reef is linked to the threat of nuclear war launched by the Western powers against anyone who dares to stand up to them.

Unfortunately, a “community” campaign against the Queens Wharf casino is unlikely to stall the ceaseless operations of capital. Everyone, all in together, means power is ceded to those currently holding it. What is required is the intervention of the working class. The obstacle to mobilising this class is the careerist leadership of most Unions, who collaborate with the government, its state, and the corporations it serves. The struggle for class leadership of the Unions is bound up with the struggle for a workers party. To be worthy of the name, a workers party must fight for a workers government, the first step towards the overthrow of the rule of capital, and the initiation of the socialist order.



E: workersleague@redfireonline.com


[1] https://realmoneycasinos.com.au/queensland-approves-crack-cocaine-of-gambling-at-queens-wharf-6502/ (14-04-17)

[2] http://www.smh.com.au/business/echo-consortium-to-build-2000-apartments-for-2b-queens-wharf-complex-20150721-giguyx.html (14-04-17)

[3] http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/industrial-relations/unionists-march-to-back-jobs-for-locals-on-queens-wharf/news-story/f796cc35bd1a52af04d946b712114ff2 (14-04-17)

Hands Off Our Penalty Rates!



11-03-2017- In late February, the grossly misnamed “Fair Work Commission” handed down its decision on the penalty rates of some of Australia’s lowest paid workers. It decided that Public Holiday and Sunday penalty rates be watered down to Saturday rates for workers in the Retail, Fast Food and Hospitality sectors.[1] The decision means some of these workers would be up to $6000 dollars a year worse off.[2] There have been all kinds of social spending cuts for the last 35 years that workers have had to endure, but this one is different. This is not like not offering a much needed pay increase – this is a pay cut. This is literally capital taking money out of workers pockets and forcing them to work longer for less pay. Worse than this is the precedent it sets. If there is no sustained backlash, it will be only a small step towards abolishing the Saturday rates of pay, and from there effectively establishing one flat pay rate no matter what time of the day or night workers toil, from Monday to Sunday.

In addition, there is little doubt that this will flow on to other industries, and into all areas of the private and public sector. Employers negotiating collective bargaining agreements, where they still exist, will simply point to other industries where weekends are treated as weekdays, and use that to lower their wage bill – regardless of the effect on workers livelihoods. The argument that most workers now work from Monday to Sunday is spurious. This is more about the falling rate of profit, and the inability of capital to restart production, which went into a downward spiral with the onset of the “global” financial crisis in 2008. In fact it was only “global” for the capitalist economies. Yet even from the point of view of the “captains of industry”, less income in the pockets of workers means less money spent on goods and services, leading to more business slowdown, and thus further job losses. We have seen this repeated throughout history, most especially during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Union Officialdom complicit

In the face of one of the largest full frontal assaults on working people in a generation – and there have been many- what has been the response of the Union leadership?  Essentially, nothing. From what can be observed by the mass of workers, there have been no meetings of Union members organised, no strikes, hardly any demonstrations, and hardly any Union officials even speaking out. This had been coming for at least the last two years, and still nothing. Some Union officials have sent emails (!) to their members, denouncing the cuts to penalty rates, and asking them to sign an online petition (!!). This type of response is risible, and can barely be taken seriously. It is no wonder that large numbers of workers see little point in joining a Union, when most officials disappear at the very time that they are needed. Unfortunately, due to the absence even of a statement in defence of workers, many workers believe that Unions are legislatively prevented from taking action.

Yet this is far from the case. With some exceptions, Union officials effectively operate as agents of capital within the workers movement. Their entire careers, for which they are paid much more money than the workers they supposedly represent, are guaranteed IF they can restrict workers from challenging the destruction course of the profit system. They do this in a number of ways – even by organising rallies which on the surface appear to be militant. For example, on March 9, rallies were held in most cities by some Unions such as the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) and the Electrical Trades Union (ETU). The theme was “Stop the War on Workers” by – the Turnbull federal government. That is, the politics of the militant rallies, with militant unionists in some cases walking off the job – was electoral. Their basic message, even if not stated openly, vote Labor – in 2019. No pledges to undertake a nationwide industrial campaign – just electoralism.

Demand Officials Act

It should be clear that the real source of the penalty rate cuts, and all of the other attacks raining down on workers, do not just come from the Liberal Party. The Labor Party is no alternative, and works in tandem with the Liberal Party to maintain the system. The source of the penalty rate cuts is the  declining capitalist economy – but workers are far from powerless in the face of these attacks. The depth of the crisis of profitability for capital means that even a well co-ordinated struggle will face stiff opposition. Yet the possibilities for this have not even been tested. Union members, and all working people, should direct their demands to the top Union secretaries of the Union bodies in each state, and demand they immediately call meetings of members and delegates, to organise a nationwide campaign. Union members need to be able to discuss and put forward their own proposals for action.

It needs to be recognised that the struggle to force Union leaders to act in defence of workers is at the same time a struggle to forge working class political leadership. This needs to take the form of a mass, class struggle based, workers party. Hundreds of years of social democracy, and the experience of the socialist countries, have taught us that even just to defend the existing living standards of the current generation of workers, a vanguard party which fights for a workers government is the only type of organisation capable of leading a genuine resistance to the onslaught of a system in peril. Such a party can be built out of efforts to forge a general strike, and similar actions. The catalyst for action now can be the assault on penalty rates, but once in struggle, larger questions begin to be posed. HANDS OFF OUR PENALTY RATES!



E: workersleague@redfireonline.com


[1] http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-23/penalty-rates-decision-likely-to-reignite-political-debate/8293952 (11-03-2017)

[2] http://www.mamamia.com.au/penalty-rate-decision/ (11-03-2017)

“March in March” must break through “community” mobilisation




Crisis after crisis besets Australia, and indeed the world. Here, we have very high unemployment, record numbers of homelessness, housing unaffordability, skyrocketing costs of living and the decimation of basic democratic rights. Privatised banks rake in unprecedented profits through blind rip offs through fees extracted from working people. Increasingly privatised health care and education are placing an unbearable burden upon the majority, who cannot afford private health care – or are robbed of service if they can. Refugees continue to be tortured by government policy, and most Aboriginal people face a daily struggle to survive. Canberra continues to back the US wherever it wages predatory imperialist wars or conducts regime change operations – from Libya to Syria to Ukraine to Eastern Europe to the South China Sea. Climate distortion is already dangerous, and is claiming lives through heatwaves, bushfires, floods, droughts, storms and cyclones. And this is just for starters.


As backward as the Turnbull Liberal government is, it is not the cause of these multiple crises on its own. Just as Obama and Clinton in the US prepared the path for Trump and Bannon, it was Rudd and Gillard here which paved the way for Abbott and Turnbull.  And nor do the Greens provide any alternative, much less the disillusioned elements following the nationalist One Nation. All of the parliamentary parties are a component part of the capitalist system – the system of private production for private profit using social labour. No matter how many soothing words they offer, no element of the parliamentary gravy train is the least bit interested in fighting against the cause of the crisis afflicting working people – for they are part of it. The same goes for the honeyed phrases of top Union officials – some of whom make moving speeches decrying the ongoing assaults on workers. If these Union officials cared about the workers more than their overpaid positions, they would set about organising a broad scale fightback. They could do this for a start by calling meetings of members, and offering their meeting spaces for working people supportive of Unions, to organise various anti-capitalist campaigns.


The “March in March” organisers may have good intentions. However, their political strategy appears doomed before it is enacted. The top Union secretaries, the Labor Party, the Greens, NGOs and so on – will grasp any opportunity to promote themselves and simultaneously derail any serious class based fightback from beginning. “Community” mobilisations, consciously or unconsciously operating on a cross-class basis, strengthen the capitalist system rather than undermine it. Australians cannot be “united for a better government”. We are divided into classes, and unless we mobilise the working class, not the “people”, in a struggle for socialism, our efforts will only bolster well-paid bureaucrats. In the meantime, we must demand Unions lead the defence of working people.



Workers League

PO Box 66  Nundah QLD  4012



Public Space, not Privatisation! No to Mega-Casinos!

05-12-2016 – Make no mistake, Brisbane is being privatised before our very eyes. Huge slabs of public land are being sloughed off the public asset register by Labor and Liberal governments alike. The massive Queens Wharf Mega-Casino is just the latest instalment of a drive to enrich pathological corporations, at the expense of working people – the people who built this city. In the middle of Brisbane, public land will be handed to the Orwellian titled “Destination Brisbane Consortium” on a 99 year lease – in effect, permanent privatisation. The entire political establishment, from the Liberal Brisbane City Council to the Labor State Government, remain oblivious to the decimation of the heritage of the city, to the privatisation of public space, to the plight of the homeless, and to the situation of working people whose taxes they funnel to private business.

Despite our strong political disagreements with the Australian Greens on other issues, we applaud the work of Greens Councillor Jonathon Sri, who is seeking to organise a much- needed campaign against the Queens Wharf Casino. Councillor Sri’s website points out just a few of the many reasons why the Queens Wharf Casino is an affront to the working people of Brisbane, and indeed the world. For one thing, 66 000 square metres of office space formerly owned by the state government for public service staff, will be demolished to make way for the Casino development.[1] It was the former Liberal National Party (LNP) Premier Campbell Newman which began the privatisation of CBD buildings formerly owned by the state government, but this has continued under the ALP Premier Anastacia Palaszczuk.

Public servants, formerly working in a number of buildings in the CBD, will be crammed like sardines into the “Tower of Power”, the cosy deal Campbell Newman signed for a 45 storey tower at 1 William Street. Above them, will sit the Cabinet and the Ministers in much more spaciously accounted floors at the top. For the first time in Queensland’s history, the Premier and Cabinet will “work” from offices owned by the private sector!  Several government departments will be located there, while paying rent to the private sector – to the tune of $10.5 million dollars per year.[2] That is, 10 million odd dollars from the taxpayer, will be going directly into the bank accounts of the private sector – each year. None of that money will ever be spent on public amenities, public housing, schools or hospitals.

The 2 billion dollar contract handed to Echo Entertainment to build the Queens Wharf monstrosity will fill the troughs of corporate developers, and the politicians and councillors who “approve” it, but will privatise 7.8 hectares of the Brisbane CBD, which will be welcoming for those high rollers who can afford to gamble, but will likely lock out poor and working class people who cannot afford gambling and stays in 5 star resorts. Some architects have severely criticised the proposal. Richard Kirk, the President of the Australian Institute of Architects Queensland, has berated the plan which will build gaming floors over the top of public streets, plunging them into darkness.[3] The one piece of the proposal which may be genuinely accessible to the non-paying public is an alleged bridge to South Bank. But this has not been budgeted for, and so will probably not happen.

There has been no public consultation whatsoever, on anything to do with the mega-casino development. This is probably because where casinos have been built, dramatic social problems like poverty and mental illness increase. Not only that, the Queens Wharf  “development” will not even go through the already corporate developer friendly laws that usually apply to such developments. It will not be assessed against the Sustainable Planning Act of 2009, nor the Brisbane City Plan of 2014.[4] It’s a virtual green light before any nominations have even been received.

“Developments” such as these should be enough to shake, if not shatter, any faith that working people hold in governments which are beholden to the corporate elite. The cardinal lesson for working people is that capitalist governments, at whatever level, are not, and never will be, “our” governments, no matter how much we lobby them, or indeed protest against them. All capitalist governments are governments imposed on working people against their will, and are set up to prevent working people from taking part in any decision which seriously affects their living conditions. Behind capitalist governments lie the capitalist state – the police, the courts, the prisons and the armed forces – whose job it is to force working people to accept the further accumulation of private capital at their expense. The capitalist state enforces nothing less than private wealth built on public squalor.

All efforts should be extended to stop the Queens Wharf casino, the privatisation of public land, public housing and indeed public services themselves. At the same time, we need to be aware that it is only a workers’ government, at the head of a socialist state, which can truly act in the interests of the public. A socialist state begins with the seizure of state power by the organised working class, led by a workers’ party. Such a party urgently needs to be formed, and we can begin to build such a party by replacing class-collaborationist Union officials with a class struggle leadership. Then the potential to unleash the real social power of the working class can be breached. As we struggle for decent social living conditions, the socialist objective must remain foremost in our minds. Down with Queens Wharf !

Workers League

PO Box  66  Nundah  QLD  4012

E: workersleague@redfireonline.com


Ph: 0421 408 692

[1] http://jonathansri.com/casino/ (26-11-2016)

[2] http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/1-william-street-to-be-entirely-filled-by-public-servants-20150615-ghof5p.html (26-11-2016)

[3] http://www.afr.com/real-estate/commercial/architects-slam-queens-wharf-casino-site-warn-of-irreparable-damage-to-brisbane-20150805-gis5l9 (26-11-2016)

[4] http://jonathansri.com/casino/ (26-11-2016)