Morrison is appalling and so is Labor
Morrison is appalling and so is Labor)

If you had any lingering doubts, then the first leaders’ debate should have more than dispelled them. This is a Tweedledee and Tweedledum election.

On all the fundamental issues, Morrison and Albanese agree. Neither has anything to offer working-class people to offset declining real wages, the lack of affordable housing, the appalling state of the health system, the climate disaster and the growing threat of imperialist war. Both are fully committed to protecting the interests of the corporate elite—the rich and powerful who really run the country.

In the debate, Albanese went out of his way to avoid differentiating himself from Morrison, endorsing the Liberals’ racist “turn back the boats” policy on refugees and criticising Morrison from the right for not being warlike enough towards China over the Solomons.

The only reason Labor is ahead in the polls is because the government is reviled and Morrison is so contemptible. Added to that, the Liberals are divided, especially in New South Wales, where influential party members regularly leak against Morrison.

Unsurprisingly, the media coverage of the campaign has been both banal and right wing. The media have depoliticised the election by focusing on inane trivialities and tiresome “gotcha” questions.

Meanwhile, Albanese continues his march to the right. After taking over as leader from Bill Shorten, he banned the use of terms like “the top end of town”. Such rhetoric only “alienated” the wealthy parasites that it was so important for Labor to cuddle up to.

“There is no point gilding the lily”, Albanese said in 2019. “I want to appeal to people who are successful ... Labor will be seen as pro-business as well as pro-worker.”

That’s why Albanese waved through the Liberals’ $95 billion tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the richest taxpayers—money that could have been used to fund hospitals, education, public housing and public transport.

It’s not just on tax cuts that Labor has moved to the right under Albanese. Labor embraced the Liberals’ mantra of “aspiration”. Shadow treasurer Jim Chalmers proclaimed in 2019 that Labor wanted to reclaim its “rightful place as the party of aspiration and the suburbs”. “If you’re on a good wicket ... we say ‘good on you’”, he said.

The corporate boardrooms are entirely relaxed at the prospect of an Albanese victory. Immediately the election was called, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry declared they could work with whoever formed government.

The bosses and their hangers-on will continue to vote Liberal—the open party of corporate power—but they know full well that their investments and their luxury lifestyles will also be well protected under a Labor government.

Labor won’t seize their luxury yachts or corporate jets, house the homeless in their mansions or install grubby workers in the corporate boardrooms. Labor won’t even raise the miserable pittance that is the Newstart allowance.

Channelling former Labor Prime Minister Bob Hawke, Albanese called for a “spirit of consensus”. Albanese praised Hawke for bringing together “governments, trade unions, businesses and civil society around their shared aims of growth and job creation”.

But under Hawke, the market was allowed to let rip with a wave of privatisations. It was a bonanza for capitalist rip-off merchants as vital public services were gutted. With Labor and the union officials in bed with the bosses, the profit share of national income surged. Union officials acted as a police force against strikes.

Throughout its 130-year history, Labor has never reliably advocated for workers’ rights, let alone seriously challenged the establishment.

At best, it delivered a few minimal reforms to make life a little bit more bearable. But in times of capitalist crisis, like the Great Depression and both world wars, when the bosses demanded major sacrifices from workers, the Labor governments of Fisher, Scullin and Curtin readily obliged with draconian attacks on their supporters.

This time around, Albanese is running on a platform which is well to the right of what Shorten campaigned on in 2019. The Liberals and the Murdoch press denounced Shorten’s mild reforms and the taxes to fund them as “class war”. But the real class war has been the decades-long attack by big businesses and their governments on workers’ rights, which has led to a massive accumulation of wealth in the hands of a tiny cohort of billionaires like Gina Reinhart, Twiggy Forrest, Richard Pratt and Mike Cannon-Brookes.

Under Albanese, gone are any promises to tax the super-rich. To placate the coal barons, Albanese has backed away from action on climate change. He is offering nothing serious to deal with falling real wages, the parlous state of the health system or the racist treatment of refugees.

It is not just the Labor MPs that have dismally failed to champion working-class interests. The union leaders have been just as culpable.

When Sally McManus was elected ACTU secretary in 2017, she sparked outrage because she supported the right of workers to break the reactionary industrial relations laws.

But this proved to be nothing more than rhetoric. Five years down the track, she has done absolutely nothing to put her words into practice. There has been no campaign of defiance. Year after year, wages have fallen or at best stagnated while the billionaire class has gorged itself.

The lack of union mobilisation is not some recent phenomenon. The union leaders refused to mobilise the angry sentiment against John Howard’s savage anti-worker laws—WorkChoices. Instead, they threw all their efforts into electing Labor.

But once in office in 2007, the Rudd/Gillard Labor governments refused to abolish the anti-worker laws. The current laws that make virtually any strike illegal are Labor’s laws.

Why aren’t the union leaders prepared to lead a fight? Because a serious fight to defend living standards would mean outright defiance of the bosses’ courts and tearing up the bosses’ rigged rule book. This is something that the union leaders refuse even to contemplate.

Instead, the ACTU has turned into a cringe-worthy appendage of the ALP, concerned only with mobilising a vote for Labor. The ACTU doesn’t even demand significant reforms in return for support.

We desperately need an alternative. We need a party that stands up for the rights of workers and all the oppressed, a party that understands that the bosses are our enemy.

We need a working-class socialist party that consistently opposes war and racism. That fights for decisive action on climate change. That champions the cause of Aboriginal people.

The Greens don’t fit the bill. On some issues they have better policies than Labor, but, just like Labor, they are not serious about taking on the bosses. The Greens remain thoroughly committed to the capitalist system and to upholding the core institutions of the Australian state—parliament, the courts, the police, the military, the rigged industrial relations system.

They don’t stand for a society in which workers and the oppressed are in control. The Greens want to get a few changes introduced via parliament without fundamentally challenging capitalism.

But the horrors we face today are the product of capitalism’s unbridled pursuit of profit. Outrageous wealth inequality, catastrophic climate change, police murders of Aboriginal people, the threat of nuclear war, repeated health disasters—all of these—are not going to be resolved by passing motions in parliament. Without challenging this oppressive system, there is no viable road forward for humanity.

We need a party that campaigns for a democratic working-class alternative to capitalism. That’s why Socialist Alternative is vigorously campaigning for the Victorian Socialists in this election, and we urge Red Flag readers to get actively involved in the campaign.

Millions of working-class people are fed up with the pathetic choice on offer between Labor and the Liberals. This is reflected in the long-term erosion of the Labor vote, the collapse of worker membership of the ALP and the cynicism about politicians of all stripes.

We need to get the word out that we don’t have to go on putting up with all the crap from the pro-capitalist parties. We need to start putting socialism back on the map as a living and breathing movement that fights for fundamental change, not applying a few bandaids to try to hold together the rotting mess that is capitalism.

The Victorian Socialist election campaign is a small but important step in that direction.

A danger is that an Albanese government that fails to deliver anything for workers, that allows the super-rich to go on getting richer and richer, will compound the widespread disillusionment that already exists about politics.

That in turn can open up the space for far-right forces to exploit the situation, as they have done with the likes of Trump in the US and across much of Europe. In France, the presidential election is an appalling run-off between hard right neo-liberal Emmanuel Macron and the fascist Marine Le Pen.

That terrible prospect underlines the vital importance of building a strong fighting left alternative that offers hope of a better world and inspires workers and the oppressed to collectively challenge the existing order.

Far and away the best thing that has happened in this election campaign is the strong vote by aged-care workers nationally for strike action to improve their poverty wages. Workers everywhere should support these workers and take inspiration from them to take up the fight in their own workplaces.

On election night, it would be fantastic to see a thoroughly humiliated Morrison break down live on national television. The icing on the cake would be seeing a swag of Liberal ministers like Dutton and Frydenberg lose their seats.

But if we wake up the next morning under a Labor government, the reality is that nothing fundamental will have changed. The billionaires will still be ruling the roost. Capitalism will still be grinding on, delivering us more wage cuts, more wars, more racism, more destructive climate change.

A Labor government will do nothing to challenge that reality. We will still have an incredible fight on our hands, if we are to get anywhere.

We need more than tinkering with this decrepit capitalist system. We need to get rid of it.

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