In this episode of Living the Dream Dave (@withsobersenses) chats with Godfrey Moase (@gemoase) the General Branch Assistant Secretary of the National Union of Workers. Godfrey had a number of criticisms of our last show . We talk about these and Godfrey also addresses the broader strategic and tactical possibilities for anticapitalist struggle and how they relate to trade unions.
In this episode Dave (@withsobersenses) and Rob talk about how the provision of welfare and social services are changing. We chat about the concept of social reproduction, the welfare state and its evolution and critically investigate new developments. As the mining boom ends, the world teeters on a the edge of another economic meltdown and states struggle with increasing amounts of debt we ask what’s going on with welfare and how can we struggle on this terrain in ways that point to a better life and a better society.
Predicting the future is often a mug’s game but we can be fairly confident that 2016 we see the conditions for capitalism, both in Australia and globally, worsen. At the very least the mining boom is grinding to an end and perhaps there will be another global meltdown. What will this mean? Depending on the size of the malfunction it will (probably) mean rising poverty, homelessness, unemployment (though currently employment in Australia is surprisingly high) and general misery and declining wages, government spending (as revenues drop), wealth levels and good vibes. This will (probably) all manifest in impacts on life expectancy, mental health, identity based-conflicts, state repression, social cohesion… all this in a world already marked by war, violence, inequality, alienation and ecological disaster. A grim prospect unless we can collectively change our destiny.
OXI! Fantastic! But what now? As always we must start from the position that it is impossible to really know from afar what is going on – especially on the ground where it really matters. It is ridonculous to give advice [edit: sectarian comment removed] . Kevin Ovenden’s journalism both at Left Flank and on Facebook has been invaluable. He is our John Reed. Still we are compelled to try to think on the run and to try to work out what this moment is teaching us about our world so we can improve our efforts to transform it. So here are some hypotheses arising from my observations at a distance of the struggle in Greece. They are for discussion and debate. Continue reading “#oxi2015 5 hypotheses arising from the struggle in Greece”→
At this moment it certainly appears, it certainly feels, that everything hangs on what happens in Greece. But it is almost impossible to tell from this distance what is actually going on. Those of us who have never been to Greece, who can’t speak Greek don’t have a clue. Even those of us who are reading obsessively are seeing some things but we are missing most things. The fractured nature of the Left (for a lack of a better term) means that there is a tendency to try to seek out those in Greece who fit with our already existing ideological proclivities and amplify what they say. There is also the constant problem, one I don’t think I can escape, that our already existing biases means that we see what we want to see and learn lessons that we already know. And nothing is more foolish or full of hubris than those non-Greek Left organisations issuing statements, judgements and handing down the correct line from a distance – especially because these groups often have no to marginal influence in the places they actually exist.
But that all said something is happening and it behoves us to look at the struggle as it unfolds in all its complexity and see if there are lessons to be learnt.
Recently the following press release was put out by the BrisCAN (BrisCAN being one of the spaces organising against the G20). This press release framed the problems of the G20 as follows:
“G20 is austerity summit” claims protest organiser
BrisCAN spokesperson, Adrian Skerritt said: “The G20 meeting will disrupt the lives of Brisbane residents from November 8 to November 16. But it won’t end there. G20 policies will continue to disrupt our lives long after the meeting is over.”
The G20 forum is committed to shifting wealth from the majority of citizens to the incredibly rich. They will do globally what Newman and Abbott are doing locally – sell public assets, outsource and cuts to social services.”
“The G20 is the Austerity Summit” claimed Mr Skerritt.
“What they can’t achieve through their budgets and trade deals they will attempt to resolve through war. Look at Obama and Abbott’s new war in Iraq and Putin’s use of military force in the Ukraine.”
The rally and march on November 15 will condemn G20 policies that create poverty and inequality. The march will also champion the values that should drive economic and political decisions – justice, sustainability, indigenous sovereignty and democracy.
“BrisCAN is demanding a world with an economy that works for people and the planet, a world safe from the ravages of climate change and war, a world with good jobs, clean air and water and healthy communities” said Mr Skerritt.
The rally will assemble at 11am November 15 2014 at Emma Miller Place (Roma St) and subsequently march past the G20 summit to Musgrave Park.
What’s wrong with this? Two problems:
Austerity is no longer the central plank of the strategy of multilateral organisations like the G20.
It is wrong to conceive of the G20 as some nefarious exterior force set to fuck up our lives. Rather the G20 attempts to coordinate capital accumulation on a global level; the social relations of capitalist society already constitute our lives.[i]
1) The Coalition’s first budget is an intensified assault on the living conditions of the vast majority of people in Australia
2) This assault has generated more opposition and anger than any element of the political class expected or feels comfortable about.
The budget aims to establish the infrastructure state which via encouraging the sale of state assets hopes to generate sufficient funds to create enough effective demand to offset the end of the mining boom; the budget is an attempt to address the rising sovereign debt (caused be the rise in expenditure and drop in revenue due to the global, secular not cyclical, crisis of capitalism) by pushing more of the costs (in both money and labour) of reproduction onto the wage and into the home; and despite (still slowly) rising unemployment the budget attempts to increase the supply of labour through restricting welfare payments, increasing conditions for the disability pension and raising the age to access aged pension ( it could be also argued that the increases in debt and costs for workers increases the pressure to work). All this in part works by using and intensifying the internal hierarchies that exist within the incredibly heterogeneous working class in Australia.
The response from the broader population has been generally hostile and angry. There have been a number of relatively sizable rallies. Students opposed to the deregulation of university fees have also carried out a number of brave and defiant acts of disobedience. The media is both reporting a constant stream of stories that represent people’s criticisms of the budget and a large section of the media and the political class have responded with tatty front pages and snide columns attacking the Australian population on a whole for their reaction.
Amongst the opposition to the budget there are a number of divergent threads. There is a great deal of hope that the ALP, PUP and the Greens will block the budget forcing a double dissolution election. Sections of the socialist and anticapitalist Left hope that putting pressure on the trade unions will lead to industrial action (or that making the demand for unions to act, and then having unions ignore these demands, will lead to recruiting new members….) and social media is circulating a call for a general strike.
The budget and the opposition to it are the peaks, the top of the ice-berg but not the totality, of the current conjuncture of capitalist society in Australia (which I try to examine in more detail here). A particular organisation of capitalism has come into crisis and the deal that was offered to the population has started to fall apart. Equally the political disorientation of so many of us is also part of the conjuncture: the long term changes in class compositions, the massive atrophy of social democracy, the rise of anti-politics and the historical experiences of the defeat of all the major struggles of the last decade(s).
We could say that the ‘disjunctive synthesis’ of this conjuncture is on one hand the crumbling popular authority of the state and the absence of any genuinely active and popular alternative.