Published on World Socialist Web Site WSWS.org, by Nick Beams, August 31, 2011.
Socialist Equality Party (SEP) National Secretary Nick Beams delivered the following report on political and economic crisis facing the working class in Australia and internationally to SEP conferences held in Sydney on August 20-21 and Melbourne on August 27-28. Beams is a member of the International Editorial Board of the World Socialist Web Site and has written and lectured widely on Marxist political economy.
Follow Points 1 to 24:
- 1. We meet at a very significant political turning point in which the tumultuous events of the past few weeks have served to clarify both the extent of the breakdown of the global capitalist order and the political issues that now confront the working class and youth. The fall in share markets has been greeted with a certain sense of bewilderment by media pundits who have devoted their efforts to insisting that for all its problems the global economy was on the road to recovery. Consider this offering from Financial Times columnist Gavyn Davies. “As recently as six months ago,” he writes, “mainstream economic forecasters were expecting real GDP growth to be comfortable above trend in 2011, and surveys of business activity were hitting new peaks. Of course, everyone knew that the underlying condition of the western economies was still very weak, but that did not seem to be sufficient to prevent a continuing normalisation of economic activity, with GDP returning slowly towards pre-recession trends. We know that these expectations were extremely complacent.” And that was written before the latest turmoil, sparked by warnings that the US Federal Reserve Board was concerned about a number of European banks operating in the US.
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- … 21. The ruling elites have only one response to the social struggles arising from the breakdown of the capitalist order over which they preside—increased repression, war and dictatorial forms of rule. Anyone who tries to maintain that according to the doctrine of “exceptionalism” Australia is somehow exempt from these political developments is either deluding themselves or trying to delude others. In fact, in this instance, Australia, rather than lagging behind the rest of the world, is out in front. The coup of June 23-24, 2010, which saw the removal of elected Prime Minister Kevin Rudd by a cabal of Labor Party apparatchiks and trade union bureaucrats and his replacement by Julia Gillard, was a warning of what is to come. As we insisted at the time, and subsequent events have verified, the coup had nothing to do with Rudd’s poor opinion poll ratings—Gillard’s are now even worse. It was a pre-emptive strike, organised with the backing of US imperialism, to more closely align the government with the US in its Asia-Pacific struggle against China and to install a regime to initiate austerity measures, rather than the stimulus packages associated with Rudd.
- 22. The coup contained more than a whiff of dictatorship and in the 14 months since then the political crisis has deepened. For the first time in 70 years an election saw the return of a hung parliament and a minority government. A year on, the Labor Party, on which the Australian ruling class has relied for more than 120 years, commands the support of less than 30 percent of the population, and grudging support at that. The party has ceased to exist in any meaningful sense. It is a state- and corporate-funded apparatus. The Liberals, on the other hand, may be riding high in opinion polls but this support is based on their espousal of right wing populism. This is provoking the constant criticism from within ruling circles that the Liberal Party is not advancing the kind of policies—based on deepening attacks on the social position of the working class—that are required. This unstable situation will bring very sharp changes, the outcome of which, in whatever form they emerge, will be the development of more authoritarian forms of rule. The crucial question, therefore, is the intervention of the working class on the basis of its own independent socialist program and perspective. The development of such a movement requires the building of a new, revolutionary leadership, the Socialist Equality Party. No one else is even posing this task, and no one else will carry it out.
- 23. It is necessary to grasp the bull by the horns. There are no half-way measures that will do. A new revolutionary party of the working class must be built. In posing this task, let me conclude by pointing to the crucial role that must be played by the youth. The question has been raised by at least one young person, and, has no doubt been raised in the mind of many others: why should I devote my life to the building of this party? Because outside of the struggle to transform society through the building of a revolutionary leadership of the working class, the only social force that can accomplish this task, young people will not have a life … at least not one that provides meaningful fulfillment. Let me recall the words of Leon Trotsky on the occasion of the founding of our world party, the Fourth International: “Our party demands each of us, totally and completely. Let the philistines hunt their individuality in empty space. For a revolutionary to give himself entirely to the party signifies finding himself. Yes, our party takes each one of us wholly. But in return it gives to every one of us the highest happiness: the consciousness that one participates in the building of a better future, that one carries on his shoulders a particle of the fate of mankind, and that one’s life will not have been lived in vain.”
- 24. We are confronted with great dangers arising from the breakdown of the capitalist order. But these dangers also mean great opportunities—to seize the wheel of history and play our part in turning it in the direction of the building of a world fit for humanity to live in.