Should we care? Or just point and laugh? What is the relationship of the political to capitalism on a whole and to our struggle against it? How much of this is this a broader and global phenomenon and what can it tell us about life in Queensland?
On the 20th January workers at Ergon Bundaberg Depot walked off their jobs in protest at proposed plans to cut positions and increase outsourcing. This followed a similar action in Atherton the previous Friday. Whilst this industrial action has received little news coverage it is of incredible importance. It is the articulation of a group of workers’ collective self-interest in a way that actually points to the deep flaws in the ALP state government’s attempt to manage the challenge of funding social reproduction and honouring the state’s debts (in the context of the end of the mining boom which is a symptom of the Global Recession). What this struggle shows us is that under the layers of mystification debt is ultimately about class struggles: debt hinges on the struggle between the ability of capital to secure the future of its profits via the imposition of work and discipline today and our collective ability to refuse it and assert our dignity and desires.
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.
On this show (@JonPiccini) and Dave (@withsobersenses) talk about what is going on in Queensland under the ALP. We look at the attempt to fund social reproduction and stimulate capital accumulation in the conditions of the end of the mining boom whilst trying to manufacture social peace.
The Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption continued last week in Canberra. The media attention it has received (vastly overshadowed by the Speaker of the House saying ‘Sorry Not Sorry’ and a debate if booing an Indigenous man for displaying pride in Indigenous culture is racist or not) has focused on three related arrests. These arrests need to be separated out. Tuungafasi Manase and Fihi Kivalu have been arrested for a matter of personal criminal corruption. John Lomax on the other hand has been arrested for simply being a successful union official:
Police will allege that Lomax forced a Canberra painter to sign a union enterprise bargaining agreement in April last year.
The owner believed he would be blocked from working in the ACT and NSW if he did not sign.
It is understood police will allege the owner suffered a financial loss as a result because he had to pay his workers $26 an hour when he could have paid as low as $17. (Inman 2015)
John Lomax, a CFMEU official, has been charged with blackmail. The CFMEU reports that ‘Mr Lomax was told by police that he was accused of forcing an employer to enter into an EBA and that as a result the employer suffered financial loss due to paying workers higher wages’ (CFMEU 2015a). Lomax has not yet appeared before the Royal Commission into Trade Union Governance and Corruption however ‘ACT police said his arrest was “in relation to the Canberra hearings” of the royal commission’(2015). Whilst there is an attempt by some to associate Lomax with Halafihi Kivalu an ex-CFMEU official who is accused of acting corruptly for personal benefit and has subsequently been expelled from the CFMEU this seems to be nothing more than a simple smear (CFMEU 2015b). It is necessary to be one hundred per cent clear. The charges facing John Lomax accuse him of simply being an effective union organiser. Whatever the facts of the case it is almost impossible for any union to effectively contest capital and stay within the law. All this in the space of a few weeks where it has been revealed that Grill’d and EB Games are, apparently legally, either underpaying staff or have a culture of compelling staff to work for free and that the Speaker of the House of Representatives spent just under $90,000 for a two week junket in Europe.
The law is stacked against us. As such the arrest of John Lomax and the Royal Commission in total should be viewed as an attempt to use state-power dressed in the most absurd moral pretence to attack the capacity for all workers, union or non-union, to collective assert their own interests and live lives of dignity.
In this episode of Living the Dream we look at the recent Qld election and try to grapple with what it all means, what the new ALP government is planning to do, what the challenges facing capital accumulation are and where the lines of antagonism may be.