Hit the streets to protest this class war budget
Hit the streets to protest this class war budget

For 40 years the Australian ruling class has waged a relentless battle to wind back and abolish the gains made by workers and their unions over many decades. This offensive has, from the bosses’ point of view, taken great strides forward. They have carried out a massive transfer of wealth from workers to the rich. They have privatised public assets, gutted social services, pushed back the trade unions and abolished free higher education.

Most of the time, these attacks have been incremental changes that seemed small. But often they led eventually to qualitative change. There is a reason the ruling class took this approach. Every time it has attempted a full frontal assault, it has met determined mass resistance.

It happened to Malcolm Fraser when he tried to abolish Medibank in the 1970s. That was met with militant union resistance.

It happened to John Howard. His first budget provoked thousands of angry demonstrators to storm Parliament House in 1996.

Two years later Howard launched a war on the maritime union, convinced that if he smashed that powerful group of workers, the whole union movement could be routed. Thousands flocked to picket lines on the docks in solidarity with the MUA, staring down police, and balaclava clad goons. The government was forced to retreat.

In 2005 Howard again tried to take on the unions, introducing the WorkChoices laws. Hundreds of thousands of workers took to the streets in the biggest union protests in Australian history.

The 2007 election defeat was blamed on WorkChoices, and the Liberals have been explaining how “dead and buried” it is ever since.

But the bosses’ successes lie in the compromises, the grubby deals agreed to by unions, and the one cut at a time salami tactics carried out by both Liberal and Labor governments.

The parasites in the Liberal Party and the Business Council didn’t like these half measures, but they learnt from experience that whenever they revealed and tried to implement their full agenda, they met resistance on a scale that threatened to overwhelm them.

Hockey’s 2014 budget is an attempt to turn the tables on all of this recent history. It is a historic turn by the ruling class towards an all-out offensive aimed at completely ripping up the welfare state as we know it.

The bosses are doing it now because they don’t think we can stop them – not because the government is popular, or because there is great support for vicious cutbacks. The outpouring of hostility in the last 24 hours is proof of how much its right wing agenda is hated. But the ruling class thinks that after a few token protests the union movement will go quiet, people will leave the streets and a brave new world of unfettered corporate power will open up.

It is incumbent on anyone and everyone who is shaking with anger about this budget to help build a movement that proves the Liberals and their business mates wrong – a movement that draws the widespread hatred for the political establishment and the corporate elite into a powerful force that can make them back down.

The first opportunity to build such a movement is this Sunday, 18 May. Protests have been called in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Brisbane. We need the biggest showing possible to send a message that we are not going to stand by while education, social welfare and the health system are ripped apart.

The union movement must take a lead. Strikes and mass demonstrations are needed, and they must clearly demand that Labor and the Greens block this budget in the senate.

Labor claims that there is a consensus between the major parties that blocking supply is something you can never do. But this is a “deal” that has only ever applied to our side. When the Liberals and the big capitalists decided that Gough Whitlam had to go in 1975, they didn’t hesitate to block supply and bring down his government.

Now the workers movement needs to be prepared to take the same decisive action to defend our living standards, and push back this savage attack.

It will take a long time to build up the kind of militant, fighting trade union movement and left that we need. But our enemies haven’t given us a choice about when to start that struggle. We have to do it now.

Hit the streets to bust this budget!

Sunday 18 May

MELBOURNE: 2pm, State Library

SYDNEY: 1pm, Belmore Park

PERTH: 1pm, Russell Square Park

ADELAIDE: 11:30am, Victoria Square

BRISBANE: 1pm, Queen's Park

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