Towards an independent working-class Agenda
There is an alternative
The way we live now is not the best of which our species is capable.
Inequalities mount to feed corporate wealth and power. For many, misery is added to poverty. We are pushed to do more in less time. The lack of good sleep is unhealthy and threatens caring relationships. No one is left untouched when our lives are organised to benefit global corporations.
Corporations are forever intensifying their plunder of nature to shovel the wealth to a few. In the process, they foul our nest with garbage.
We don’t have to turn on the ‘news’ to hear of wars and rumours of wars. War and ‘free trade’ are sides of the same corporate coin. Surveillance by governments and corporations weakens our ability to fight back on every issue.
Every one of us has some awareness of these facts. After all, we suffer their effects everyday.
To move forward, we need to think from scratch about how the vast majority of us live. What issues do we grapple with everyday? .
The answers can be found by re-connecting with those needs. Our daily needs are not signs of selfishness. But our needs are distorted by billions of dollars in mass marketing. Corporate capitals have to over-produce to maintain profits. That is driving the destruction of nature.
Build a broad-based Social Movement:
Focus on Work, Housing, Transport, Health, and Education.
To engage with concerns of our daily lives demonstrates our care for the needs of the vast majority. Struggles for social justice, whether Aborigines, refugees and gay marriage, do not have an hourly impact on how most of us cope with our responsibilities. The same gap is true for the Middle East, trade treaties or US bases. To get people involved on those issues, socialists must show in action that we care about their pressing problems.
The environment is different because it affects the air we breathe. So are civil liberties because they affect our ability to act on every question.
What is vital to us all?
Housing, Transport, Work, Health and Education impact on us all every day and every night.
Work, we know, is no longer arranged by set hours, five days a week. Even for permanent employees, schedules are casual, begin at all hours and continue over weekends. Overtime, paid or unpaid, is the order of the day. Time-poverty rules when flexible hours suit the boss.
Getting from one place to another is one more pressure on time. For example, there is the distance between where we live (housing), and where we work (employment). We try to bridge the two (transport).
Then there is the problem of how to get to places of education? We know the rush of drop-off and pick-up of kids from school, to and from sport and for arts practice, or from their part-time jobs. Some of us try to do the lot within the limits imposed by public transport – a truly mighty task. It is no a surprise that running two-cars is essential for many families.
Mining companies have a devastating impact on our communities, They employ workers only on condition that they fly in and out. That policy blocks the building of relationships and friendships. Isolation undermines collective action in unions.
Laying some foundations
Our personal experiences let us see that the bits do fit together - somehow.
Less widespread is an understanding how they control our lives.
Our sense of the social and the personal provide a foundation on which to develop an agenda for action.
Three tasks face social activists:
First, we must engage with people to frame policies that deal with the nitty-gritty. We need to speak about interest-rates and cycle paths, bulk-billing and school lunches.
Secondly, we must present the hourly grind within the larger questions of pollution and corporate clout.
Thirdly, our activities and thinking must show how changes in everyday doings can lead towards a different way of life, one which enriches our humanity.
The political responses are threefold:
1. Bring the local and the global together;
2. Link awareness of these issues as a step towards action;
3. Understand how and why and how the entire political and economic system should and can be replaced.
An agenda ‘independent’ from what?
One fact of life is the unbridgeable conflict between our need for a fulfilling life and the demand that we sacrifice our happiness for the needs of corporate capital.
To survive, we need an agenda that is independent of the Business Council of Australia. Corporations and their lobbyists buy access to ‘their’ governments. They do not need to vote.
We need an agenda which does not trail behind the ALP or the ACTU.
To put pressure on the ALP and ACTU, we’ll have to revive policies and practices that they have sidelined, for instance, a peoples’ bank.
Bread-and-marge issues have to become ways to challenge the power of capital.
Offence is our only defence
We cannot win on any particular issue if we do no more than react to the next assault.
The current battles over health care have to advance to calling for the provision of wellness. It’s time to kill off a system which enriches the drug peddlers who thrive on sickness.
In the case of Medicare, we must not get cornered into defending a flat-rate tax/levy that has never offered a national health service like the one in the UK or Cuba. While we campaign to stop the co-payment, we must end the class bias of the health industry.
In 2014, we are so far from this agenda that its development will take a year or more to get airborne. The train-wreck has been decades in the making. We can’t leap over the hard slog of research, re-thinking and testing in practice.
An agenda around Five Pillars does not exist as a blueprint waiting to be written out. Still less is there anything ready to be put into practice.
An alternative can emerge only through our efforts to know the present by changing it. We have to learn how to move ahead through taking action around where the shoe pinches, here and now.