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.
Continue reading “#BUSTTHEBUDGET? Conjuncture, strategy and a wager on new possibilities”