The Socialist Party has produced this ‘What We Stand For’ pamphlet as the outline of the basic ideas and programme of genuine democratic socialism.
Workers and youth in Australia and internationally have good reason to be questioning the merits of the capitalist system, a system which is forcing them into a life of low pay, casualisation, out of reach healthcare, education and housing.
But what’s the alternative many would ask. “Hasn’t socialism been tried and failed?”
As this pamphlet explains, there is a vast gulf of difference between the ideas of genuine socialism and the grotesque caricatures of socialism that previously existed in the former Stalinist states of the USSR and Eastern Europe.
It is towards the ideas of workers’ democracy and genuine socialism that many of today’s youth and workers will be drawn in their search for answers. The Socialist Party’s programme provides a guide for those seeking to transform society.
A WORLD RIPE FOR SOCIALISM
THIRD WORLD MISERIES
The world economic upswing of the 1980s coupled with the collapse of the Stalinist regimes of Eastern Europe saw capitalists internationally euphorically praising the victory of their market system over socialism. More disgusting however was the sight of many of the politically bankrupt labour movement leaders joining the chorus.
But what has been discredited in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union is not socialism or the idea of the democratic, socialist planning of the means of production, but the utterly rotten Stalinist one-party totalitarian regimes. The Stalinist system has mangled, distorted and wasted the advantages of the planned economy.
The supporters of capitalism however seized on this in an attempt to reinforce the myth that their system is the fairest, most efficient and practical in satisfying the needs of humankind. Yet in capitalist Mexico City, three million los escrombos (the throwaways) live amongst the garbage, on the streets and in the gutter. In San Paulo, in capitalist Brazil, there are over four million children on the street. The world health organisation has reported that the western pharmaceutical industry makes over $2 billion profit from sales of positively harmful anti-diarrhoea drugs to poor countries which cause the deaths of over four million children a year! It is also estimated that over 40,000 children die daily around the world from curable diseases.
Over two decades ago, even that great capitalist institution, the World Bank, reported that 800 million of the people living in Asia, Africa and Latin America exist in a condition of life so characterised by malnutrition, illiteracy, disease squalid surroundings an, high infant mortality and low life expectancy as to be beneath any reasonable definition of human decency. But of course that was in 1980. By 1991, in Latin America alone, 50 million more people became poor, taking the total living in poverty there to a staggering 44% of the population. The situation today is much worse.
The price of raw materials and food which are the major exports of the so-called Third world countries, have fallen dramatically, relative to the manufactured goods of the richer capitalist nations. According to a UN report all this “Costs the developing countries US$5OO billion a year: 10 times what they receive in foreign assistance”.
Throughout the poorer nations thousands starve to death each day, whilst in the richer nations, ‘excess’ food rots, animals are shot in some cases, farmers are actually paid not to grow crops, all in an effort to maintain ‘market stability’. Profits, not need, is the order of the day. Many of the under-developed nations were once at least self-sufficient in food production. Now they are forced to substitute food crops with ‘cash crops’, such as tobacco, coffee and cocoa, to sell on the world market in order to meet their dept repayments to the rich bankers of the western world.
A socialist society would nationalise the banks and write off the poor nations’ debts. By mobilising today’s technology and human genius, it would be possible to win the war against human poverty, starvation and economic backwardness. By irrigating the deserts, taking measures to overcome soil erosion, building new roads and railways and generating new industry, this war could be won in ten years at most.
ADVANCED CAPITALIST STATES
But whilst the unnecessary misery inflicted upon the masses of the ‘underdeveloped’ nations is proof enough of the failure of capitalism as a world system, even in the most advanced nations, the evidence is damning.
The cyclical boom/slump nature of capitalism causes periodic and sometimes devastating slumps in production, thereby slashing workers incomes, throwing them out of jobs and condemning millions to poverty and even death. Put simply, the cause of these slumps is that workers can never afford to buy back all that they have produced. This is because their wages represent only a portion of the wealth created by their labour. The surplus goes to the bosses’ profits and how much the workers’ wages is the key factor in what Marx termed the ‘class struggle’.
Capitalism is the only system that actually goes into crisis when it has produced too much. As production increases, markets become saturated and so the increased goods produced cannot be sold at a big enough profit for the capitalists. Production is therefore cut back. Over a hundred years ago, Karl Marx’s colleague, Frederick Engels, brilliantly described the processes at work when he wrote,
“Trade comes to a standstill, markets are glutted, products lie around in piles as massive as they are unsaleable, working masses lack the means of subsistence because they have produced too much of them, bankruptcy follows upon bankruptcy, forced sale upon forced sale. The stagnation lasts for years, and both productive forces and products are squandered and destroyed wholesale, until the accumulated masses of commodities are finally run down at a more or less considerable depreciation and until production and exchange gradually begin to move again. By degrees the pace quickens , it becomes a trot, the industrial trot passes into a gallop, and the gallop in turn passes into the unbridled onrush of a complete industrial, commercial credit and speculative steeplechase, only to end up again, after the most breakneck jumps – in the ditch of a crash. And so on over and over again.”
Today, ‘over-production’ is expressed more through ‘excess’ capacity of machinery, factories etc, which are not used.
Even during booms, production can run on average 20% below capacity throughout the capitalist world. The current ‘boom’ is based on the extremely shaky foundations of massively increased debt. Now most economists agree that this can not be maintained. When things go pear shaped who do you think will pay the price? It will of course be the working class.
Millions of workers have been thrown out of work as production has been cut back. In the United States, the most powerful capitalist country in the world, thousands of jobs have been wiped out as manufacturing moves of shore. Social conditions there reflect the inability of capitalism to provide decent lifestyles for large sections of the working class. One in every five American school students admits to carrying some kind of weapon, usually a gun. In Los Angeles the most common cause of child death is no longer disease it is gun shot wounds.
Even in the ‘economic miracle’ of Japan, it is the working class who have footed the bill for the massive profits of big business. On top of already long working weeks and short holidays, many are forced to take on extra work just to meet the exorbitant costs of rent, food etc. Again the extremes of wealth and poverty can be seen existing side by side in most Japanese cities, just as it can in throughout all the cities of the advanced capitalist world.
Scenes reminiscent of the depression years are beginning to emerge in many of these countries. Tent cities have again sprung up across America, often frequented by what is now termed ‘working poor’, those whose income, despite still holding a job, simply cannot meet the cost of rent as well as general living expenses for a family.
In London, thousands of people are currently living on the streets. It is estimated that 45% of these people are estimated to have been out in the cold for over a year. Here in Australia, charity organisations report they are over run with requests for aid from the working poor. Soup kitchens everywhere are finding it difficult to cope with the increased in demand and record numbers of people are requesting food vouchers.
We often see the capitalist system thrown into crisis. We currently have many building workers unemployed while millions of homeless cry for help. Car workers are thrown out of work as plants close down and cars are left in lots to rust while workers everywhere dream of owning a decent car. The list goes on.
This is all due to the wonderful ‘market’ system – what a triumph!
Genuine socialism would put an end to this anarchy. The commanding heights of the economy would be taken into public ownership, so that production could be planned to meet society’s needs. Workers would democratically control and run society. Thus unleashing their talents and initiative little called upon under capitalism.
By taking away the profit motive, productive capacity could be used to its full potential and unimaginable progress would occur in science and technology.
The unemployment, poverty and waste of capitalism would become just another page in history to be gasped in disbelief at by school children everywhere.
As a smokescreen for the failings of their own system of profit, greed, mass unemployment and poverty, capitalists have sought to portray the corruption, inefficiency and lack of democracy which previously existed in the Eastern bloc countries as ‘socialist’.
But the regimes of Eastern Europe, China etc, have never been socialist. From the start they were monstrous caricatures of socialism, based upon the model of the Stalinist bureaucratic regime of the Soviet Union.
In 1917 the Russian working class, led by Lenin and Trotsky, overthrew capitalism and landlordism, creating the world’s first workers state.
At the time Russia was a backward, poverty-ridden society along the lines of India. It looked to the workers of the more advanced capitalist countries, to provide technical assistance following their own revolutions.
Unfortunately the workers’ movements that took place internationally in the following years, including the Hungarian and German revolutions, ended in defeat and so the USSR was left isolated in a sea of hostile capitalism.
The Russian working class had been severely weakened by the years of world war followed by civil war and the accompanying economic collapse and wide spread starvation. Many of the most politically conscious workers lost their lives defending the revolution from the 21 armies of imperialism that intervened to put it down.
Skilled technicians and administrators who supported the revolution were few and far between. By abusing its monopoly of skills and administrative know how, a bureaucracy began to coalesce. By degrees it wrested the control of the state from the remaining revolutionary workers. Joseph Stalin emerged as the leader of this bureaucracy which steadily consolidated its powers and privilege with the eventual elimination of all workers democracy from the state and party.
However not all the gains of the revolution were lost. The economy remained nationalised, which allowed production to be planned. In the decades that followed, the pace of the Soviet Union’s economic growth was unequalled anywhere. From a position of mass illiteracy, the CIS had one of the most highly educated working class in the world.
Since the emergence of Stalinism in Russia, other regimes came to power using Stalinism as their model. But genuine socialism requires workers’ democracy just as the human body needs oxygen. Without democracy, the pores of society eventually become blocked and the body begins to disintegrate. Bureaucratic rule stifled workers’ initiative and creative thought and so also the full potential development of the economy. Bottlenecks, wastage and incompetence became the norm.
The early 1990s saw one after another of the East European Stalinist regimes disintegrate and be swept away as the workers and youth fight for change. Tragically sections of the bureaucracy and intelligentsia were able, largely due to the continuation of the world boom at that time, and the lack of any clear Marxist alternative, to foster the illusion that capitalism offers a viable way forward. In the USSR as well, the bureaucracy, realising the mounting anger of the workers at economic stagnation, were quick to throw their lot in with capitalism. They saw this as the only possible way to maintain their privileged lifestyles.
Yet already, the first moves back to capitalism have just brought more pain and suffering, through skyrocketing unemployment and prices throughout these regions. National antagonisms, fostered by decades of first imperialist, then Stalinist, oppression of the national minorities, have flooded the surface in many areas. Capitalist restoration has only served to heighten these antagonisms as competition for decreasing jobs and national markets for goods grows.
Illusions in capitalism being able to show a way forward will be further shattered in the years to come. Neither capitalism, nor Stalinism will become the cry as millions turn to re-examine the real ideas of socialism. In ever-increasing numbers, workers and youth will come to see where the real fight lays for a society where industry remains publicly owned, but with democratic control and management by the working class themselves; where no official receives more than the average wage of a skilled worker; where the right to assemble and organise is guaranteed; and where the rights of all minorities is respected, including the right to self determination.
As was witnessed by the domino-style collapse of the Stalinist regimes in the early 1990s, a successful socialist revolution in any one country of the world today would light the fuse for the international socialist revolution. This would signal an end to the pre-history of mankind and allow the real history to begin.
In China the 1949 Revolution led to the smashing of capitalism and landlordism. On the basis of state ownership, a basic economic plan was introduced to boost health and education and develop industry. This dragged one billion people out of dire poverty and created a much strong economy.
However the revolution had not been led by democratic working class organisations but rather by the peasant-based Red Army. The new heads of that body were now in control. Without a check on their decisions from the masses, the leaders zigzagged in different directions aiming to find solutions. Disasters like the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution left the economy weakened and demoralised the population.
In the 1970s the bureaucracy at the top of the Communist Party government made a new shift towards the re-introduction of capitalist economic relations – but insisting they kept total political control. Attempts by students and workers to demonstrate against the inflationary effects of the new capitalist road met with stiff repression, such as the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre.
The capitalist economic changes have led to a huge increase in foreign investment and a US$2 trillion economy. But massive wealth has been distributed extremely unequally leading to growing protests against the central and local governments and employers.
The strange contradiction of a Communist Party elite presiding over an economy with capitalist relations in many areas cannot go on forever. The CP control over the economy restrains capitalism (the CP fear that full capitalism as in Eastern Europe would lead to their overthrow), while the masses are growing increasingly restless at paying the price for economic growth through low pay, horrendous health and safety at work and the smashing of the ‘Iron Rice Bowl’ that in the past guaranteed free health and education for all.
The Socialist Party supports the organisation of Chinese workers and young people into independent trade unions and a new socialist party to take power. We support full democratic rights for all and the replacement of Stalinism and Capitalism with democratic socialism where elected committees, linked regionally and nationally, control the economy and society. Only in this way can the wealth be distributed to the benefit of all.
Whilst at the moment it seems as if the Australian economy is travelling along ok, once you scratch the surface it tells a different story. The current Australian economic boom is based on three main props. Low interest rates leading to massive levels of personal debt, a rise in the exploitation of workers through casualisation and longer hours and massive exports of natural resources to China. Unfortunately the union leaders have been unwilling to take advantage of this upturn to boost wages and improve conditions.
Casualisation and low paid jobs are on the rise. Currently Australia has the second highest level of casualised jobs in the advanced capitalist world at 27% coming in second only to Spain.
This situation has provided boost to bosses’ profits relative to wages. The highest recorded value of the wages share of total factor income was 62.6% in 1974-75. In more recent times, the wages share has trended down since 1996-97 to 54.0% in 2004-05.
Generally speaking there are three layers in Australia society. The super rich – bosses landlords etc, the super poor – the four million Australians who live below the poverty line and a middle layer of organised/skilled workers who on the basis of overtime, debt, and both partners working, are managing to scrap by and maintain their living conditions.
The Australian economy whilst looking healthy on the outside has two major problems. Firstly there is a crisis in the Australian manufacturing sector. 15% of all Australian manufacturing activity is now sourced from overseas this will rise to 25% over the next three years. It is estimated that up to 30,000 jobs could be lost over the next 12 months alone.
The other problem is the rise in the Australia dollar due to the resources boom. This will lead to manufacturers experiencing a reduced export demand as the higher currency pushed up the price of Australian-produced goods for overseas buyers.
An economic downturn is inevitable at some stage. Most economists agree on this and the arguments are more so centred on how long before it hits and how hard it will be. It is clear that many things could trigger a downturn including international events. Increases in interest rates and petrol prices are already hurting working people. When a down turn does hit you can bet your bottom dollar the bosses won’t be putting their hands up for cuts to their profit margins. They will, as they always do, expect workers to bear the brunt.
There are no sections of society which suffer more under capitalism, nor stand to gain more from socialism, than women and youth, and particularly Aboriginal and migrant women and youth.
Even during this ‘boom’ youth unemployment stands at over 17% nationally and up to 50% in many working class areas. With little hope of getting jobs, many school leavers and unemployed have opted for further education, but inadequate education funding has meant that over 50,000 would be students consistently miss out on university places every year.
Despite these facts, youth continue to be discriminated against by Social Security policy. Even those lucky enough to find jobs, are usually then faced with casual hours and poverty wages due to junior rates of pay. But food, clothes and rent are yet to be found carrying ‘junior rates’ price tags. Is it any wonder youth crime is on the up?
With its fresh enthusiasm and aggressive spirit, it is the youth who are to the fore in all great movements for social change. From South America, Europe and Asia to the movements which toppled the tyrants in Eastern Europe, it was the youth who were in the vanguard.
Australia will be no different. Used as cheap labour, denied proper education, stultified in their hopes for a brighter future, the youth of Australia will inevitably revolt against capitalism. Rather than encouraging the youth, the labour movement officialdom continues to do the bidding of big business.
The Socialist Party believes that the youth, free from responsibility for the past, are the key to the future regeneration of the working class in the struggle for a socialist future. It is this section of the class that will rise to cleanse the workers’ organisations of the class traitors that currently head it. All our policies strive to inspire the youth with a belief in its own strength and that of the working class as a whole.
No less vital is the task of mobilising, organising and drawing more into the labour movement, working class women. Although Australia has one of the highest percentage of working women organised in unions of any of the OECD countries, it can still be vastly improved.
Over the past three decades many more women have been drawn into the workforce. However statistics show they continue to be segregated into mainly low paid and casual jobs. Figures show that Australia has one of the most gender-segregated workforces in the OECD. Nearly two-thirds of women are in jobs which are mainly an extension of their traditional roles at home – as nurses, teachers, community workers, clerical workers and sales assistants.
Despite the fact that women workers ‘won’ equal pay in 1969, 1972 and again in 1974, their average weekly wage was still only 78.8% that of males by the end of 1990. This wage discrimination fills the pockets of the bosses who save millions of dollars a year at the expense of women workers. At the same time women are more than three times more likely to be unemployed than the labour force as a whole.
Sexual harassment – an obstacle to genuine class unity – continues to be a reality for many working women, with reports showing around 25% of women surveyed had suffered sexual harassment at work and 18% had subsequently left their jobs. The lack of decent, affordable childcare remains an added obstacle for many women attempting to pursue a job, education or training.
Working class women have by and large long since rejected the antediluvian notion that ‘a women’s place is in the home’ as an unpaid ‘home-maker’ and child-carer. In most working class households, the female wage, far from being mere ‘pin money’ as was often made out in the past, is vital. This is reflected by the central role that many women have played and will increasingly play, in the struggle against redundancies. Worst affected are the one parent families, many trapped on low incomes and in inadequate housing in remote suburbs which offer little in the way of decent transport and facilities.
Only a democratic socialist plan of production can harness the full productive potential of society which is the only way to really liberate working class women. Then equal pay for work of equal value, full child-care facilities, cutting the working week and building schools, homes and health facilities could all become reality.
ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDERS
The approximate 257,000 Aboriginal population (about 1% of the total Australian population) are treated with contempt in their own country. Many still to this day are forced to live in conditions equivalent to any ‘third world’ country, have an average life expectancy age 20 years less than the rest of the country and suffer from diseases long ago eradicated in the rest of the western world. Newborn Aboriginal babies suffer a mortality rate 2.5 times higher than that for other Australian newborns.
The campaign to divide black and white people in Australia began with the arrival of British capitalism and it hasn’t stopped since. Aboriginal land relations which had no fences and no division into private property were not recognised by capitalism which proceeded to steal both the lives and lands of the indigenous people.
Aboriginal people daily face discrimination in all walks of life. Ongoing Aboriginal deaths in custody merely serve to highlight the level of police harassment so many black Australians face everyday. Not surprisingly, often no disciplinary action is taken against police officers involved in many of the deaths.
Aboriginal imprisonments continue to increase. Arrests for petty offences such as drunkenness and obscene language, which for most other sections of the populations would not result in arrest, continue unabated. In recent years there has been a massive increase in the number of Aboriginals imprisoned. Violent police raids on Aboriginals’ homes on the flimsiest of excuses are common.
Today the struggle for land rights and an end to police harassment reflects the struggle by Aboriginal people for the right to control their own lives. The Australian labour movement unfortunately does not have a very proud history, (apart from a few notable exceptions), of seriously taking up the fight for the rights of the indigenous peoples of this country. Aboriginal unemployment rates are the highest for any section of society. But the fight for jobs, decent wages and conditions is common to all workers – black and white. The Aboriginal people must have their own land, with a full right of veto over any mining or other activities. Health and education programmes are vitally needed now.
Education programmes, however, go both ways. Workers need the real facts and issues on land rights etc, put to them and Aboriginal people need a united workers’ struggle against the bosses to once and for all get rid of their common oppressors.
Under a socialist system the appalling health and living conditions so many Aboriginal people suffer, could be quickly brought up to the rest of the country’s standard and indeed vastly improve from there.
Marx once said the English workers would never win socialism as long as they allowed British Imperialism to oppress the Irish masses. Today it could be said that the Australian workers will never see socialism as long as Aboriginal people are forced to live in barbaric conditions in their own country.
The ranks of the labour movement must take on the demands of the Aboriginal population as their own. Likewise the Aboriginal struggle for control over their own lives will only be successful if linked to the broader struggle for the genuinely socialist transformation of society in general.
LABOUR MOVEMENT LEADERS SHOW NO WAY FORWARD
The current crop of trade union leaders long ago wrote of any possible socialist alternative to capitalism. It is from this basic political bankruptcy that their pro-big business policies flow. This is the case not only with the right-wing leaders, but also unfortunately with most of the Left. Having no alternative to capitalism, they see no option but to prop it up, hoping to make it as ‘worker-friendly’ as possible. But of course this has not been possible, as the capitalists have demanded greater inroads into the living standards of the working class.
We have therefore seen Labor governments unable to carry out the most basic reforms, and instead initiating counter-reforms at the demand of big business. The current trade union leaders fail to see how capitalism works. For despite all the arguments of the supporters of capitalism, profit comes only from the unpaid labour of the working class. In the final analysis, the only way to boost profits is by cutting the share of the working class in the wealth they produce. This can be achieved by holding down wages while prices go up, privatising public services or making cuts to health, education, social services, etc.
Anger is slowly mounting amongst increasing layers of workers at the refusal of their union leaderships to stand up to these kinds of attacks. This mounting pressure on the leaders of the union movement will see workers increasingly demanding solutions, but what are they? Anything any party offers workers under capitalism amounts to no more than mere tinkering at the frayed edges of a worn out economy.
How can the leaders of the labour movement solve the economic and social problems that now confront working class so long as they are not prepared to go beyond the limits of the system which puts profits before the interests of the population?
Some totally agree with the idea that we have to make the most of a bad situation. Others claim to be ‘reformists’ without the ability in the modern epoch to carry through reforms that is a transformation in the living standards of working people. By carrying out the bidding of the monopolies and continuing the attacks on workers’ living standards, they are paving the way for a more attacks from both state and federal governments.
Only the Socialist Party now fights within the labour movement for a complete and utter break with the policies of big business. In the past, the reformist Left demanded serious reforms to improve the living standards of working people. Today the Left’s lack of theoretical cohesion and clarity, compounded by the collapse of Stalinism, has left them incapable of developing any kind of political perspective or real alternatives to the policies of the Right.
35 HOUR WEEK
Take for instance the demand for a 35 hour week. This could become an increasingly popular demand as workers seek refuge and relief from unemployment and underemployment, the inhuman demands of on going productivity increases and the undermining of workers rights in the workplace. The shorter working week with no loss in pay is something the bosses will resist ferociously. Even if forced to concede it under the weight of a big industrial movement, they will attempt to claw it back in other ways – through cuts to holidays, breaks etc.
What the capitalists give with the left hand they seek to take back with the right. Thus we see now, their attempts to turn back the clock on so many conditions fought hard for and won in the past.
Nevertheless, whilst realising the temporary nature of reforms won on a capitalist basis, we energetically support the fight for a 35 hour week which would help to share out the available work. We support even a cent on the pay, or a minute off the working day, or indeed any such reforms. At the same time we realise that only by taking production out of the hands of the bosses can we ensure such reforms are lasting.
Some sections of the labour movement put forward the increased use of import controls as a solution to economic crisis. In recent years, however, there has been an about face as the idea of ‘free trade’ and ‘level playing fields’ has been embraced. Marxists have never supported import controls and tariffs per se. It is an indication of the weakness of local capitalism that it has needed the high tariffs of the past just to get where it is now.
Tariffs lead to reduced competition for local industry, allowing it to pump up the price of its goods. Realising they could never compete with imperialist giants of Japan, USA, and Germany, rather than reinvesting their profits and creating more jobs, Australian industry bosses over the years merely pocketed and squandered the profits they were able to reap.
To increase or introduce new tariffs now, would inevitably mean workers bearing the cost through increased prices for goods, and attempting to export unemployment to overseas workers. Inevitably, such a course would eventually also result in retaliatory tactics from other countries, thus hitting the jobs of those Australians currently involved in production for export.
Nevertheless further cutting tariffs and introducing ‘free trade’ is equally no solution. Thousands of jobs in the clothing, textile and manufacturing industries have been lost as a result of tariff cuts. The Socialist Party calls for the inspection by the workers and their unions of the financial accounts of those companies seeking to cut jobs due to tariff reductions. How did they waste the high profits of the last decade?
Neither import controls nor ‘free trade’ can solve the problems of the Australian economy or the working class. The nationalisation of the banks, finance houses and insurance companies, and the establishment of a state monopoly of foreign trade, as part of a programme for taking over the commanding heights of the economy, is the Marxist answer to the capitalist’ alternatives of ‘free trade’ or import controls.
Another idea which has been put forward at various times and could re-surface in the years ahead, is that of workers’ co-operatives or collectives. In reality, those who advance such ideas are clasping at straws – looking for anything short of nationalisation.
Unfortunately, the experience of workers’ co-operatives is a bleak one. In many countries they have been tried. Often the life savings and redundancy payments of workers have been invested but almost without exception, hopes were shattered as co-operatives collapsed, crushed by the big monopolies showing the impossibility of building ‘islands of socialism’ in a sea of capitalism.
And again, calls are now increasingly going up from some union leaders and ‘Lefts’ for big increases in government spending to ‘get the economy going again’ and help mop up the capitalist mess. The Socialist Party also calls for increases in spending. However the paltry sums settled for by the unions and the ‘incentives’ to business, are a far cry from the type of spending actually needed. We support a massive programme of useful public works, funded and owned by the government. Hospitals, schools, and infrastructure works of all kinds are badly needed, as has been pointed out.
“Sure, but there isn’t enough money and we can’t run up the foreign debt anymore” is the common retort. So just where is the money to come from? This is the question that the Left reformist union leaders most often baulk from.
Under the capitalist system, public expenditure can come from two sources. It can come in the form of increased taxes from the capitalists, such as a wealth tax. But if real inroads are mad into the profits of the capitalists, they would undoubtedly undertake a strike of capital, thus cancelling out the benefits of increased government revenue by a suspension of private investment.
At the same time, if increased state expenditure was to come from further taxes on the working class, this would have the effect of decreasing workers’ purchasing power for consumer goods, and so cut the market. Workers’ tax cuts on the other hand, if not matched by increases at the upper end of the scale, simply decrease government revenue, inevitably leading to cuts in public services and capital works, and the attempt to sell of public assets to make up shortfalls in revenue.
Privatisation, whilst initially boosting government funds, in the long run costs far more, as profits from previously public enterprises are diverted into private pockets at the expense of jobs and service standards. All the industrial might of the workers’ movement should therefore go into preventing moves to privatisation.
Were the government to instead resort to the printing presses to produce more money which was not backed up by increased goods and services, it would only fuel the fires of inflation. This in turn would mean the gains for the working class on the basis of increased public spending would again be cancelled out.
At the end of the day, the position is clear. Capitalism is no longer in a position to grant lasting reforms. On the contrary, further savage cuts in the living standards of working people are demanded. Merely to defend the gains of the past, never mind improving living standards, raises the question of the need for the complete re-organisation of society on socialist lines.
To attempt to nationalise merely the top few companies one at a time, and implement some form of government control and regulations over the rest, is to play with fire. As the old saying goes, ‘you can’t kill a tiger by pulling out one claw at a time’. If allowed, the tiger will fight back will all the might it can muster.
In Chile, the Popular Unity government of 1970 – 1973 nationalised approximately 35% of industry, but the main levers of economic and therefore political power remained firmly in the hands of the capitalists. They were able to play cat and mouse with the Allende government before destroying it. Reformism is incapable of satisfying the demands of the working class, but succeeds in irritating the capitalists and provides them with an opportunity to crush the labour movement.
A PLANNED ECONOMY
It is for this reason the Socialist Party has put forward the demand for the democratic nationalisation of all the monopolies which control the economy, including the banks and insurance companies, with compensation only for small shareholders who are in need.
In the past, this demand has often been denounced by reformists and capitalists alike. Since the collapse of planned economies in Eastern Europe and the USSR, it is greeted with outright derision. Who can now dispute that it is the market which is the best mechanism for distributing goods and services?
Planned production is impossible argue the oracles of big business. Their favourite argument is the one that says the number of decisions (numbering millions) made by consumers to buy and sell commodities is so great that they cannot be calculated and identified in advance. But with the aid of modern computers, it is possible to work out all the consumer choices, however many there are and match this with the available resources.
Firstly, this is what the capitalists themselves do within the factories and particularly within the huge firms which constitute world-wide monopolies. For instance, the motor car giants will manufacture engines in one country, vehicle bodies in another, assemble the car in a third country and use another country for spare parts. These goods are not sold on the market to each subsidiary. Production is planned and directly allocated across national boundaries to meet the planned target for each vehicle.
Secondly, the majority of consumer decisions hardly vary from day to day, being concerned with basic wants – food, shelter, power, transport, education, health, etc. These can easily be calculated and planned for. This is what capitalist ‘market research’ does at the moment. The kind of consumer goods, their colour, etc, can also be anticipated. Indeed, this aspect of planning will receive a much greater and broader scope under socialist planning with involvement of consumers and producers in controlling and managing the planning process in society as a whole.
‘But where there is a scarcity of goods and resources, only the market, the pricing mechanism, can adequately distribute them’, argue our capitalist opponents. In the modern epoch, scarcity arises from capitalism itself.
Private ownership and the limits of the nation state waste the huge potential of the productive forces as we have seen. Liberate them from the stranglehold of capitalism on the one hand and Stalinism on the other and want and privatisation could be abolished from the planet. Of course, in the first period of socialist planning, resources would be inadequate to satisfy every human need. This is only possible on the basis of super-abundance which in turn comes at what Marx described as the highest stage of socialism. In the transition to this, resources must be allocated in the fairest possible manner.
Under capitalism, resources are wasted on obscene luxury items for the rich while millions perish through lack of food and health care. The first thing which socialist planning would mean is to satisfy the basic needs of people in Australia and the world. This would not mean a society of grey uniformity or a bureaucratic nightmare as in Eastern Europe and Russia. Democratic workers’ control and management would prevent the growth of a bureaucratic elite.
At the same time, of course Australia would be made a socialist republic. The monarchy has been maintained not just for decorative purposes, but for future use against a socialist government should it threaten the rights of capital to rule however it sees fit. This was made clear in 1975 when the Governor General, the Queen’s representative in Australia, acted to dismiss the â€˜left wingâ€™ Whitlam government. There would be little hesitation to act against a socialist government.
Capitalism is an extremely wasteful system. A permanent feature of modern capitalism is that factories and offices often run idle whilst thousands of workers are either unemployed or underemployed. This happens even during so called ‘boom times’. Under socialism this would be rapidly eliminated. If all the resources of capitalism were used to the full, billions of dollars worth of goods would be created.
By scrapping the wastage of capitalism on weapons, on wars, on advertising, on making goods designed to fall apart, and by giving work to the millions made idle by this system, it would be possible to eliminate want and begin to give every human being a decent standard of living. It would also be possible to drastically cut the working week, and still produce enough to satisfy human needs.
A cut in hours would give the working class the essential ingredient of time to take part in the running of society. For the first time since the break up of the earliest human societies, the majority of the people, not an elite, would be able to democratically shape their own destiny.
If all the resources of capitalism were used to the full billions of dollars worth of goods would be created. In addition, billions of dollars more would be saved by eliminating the unemployed.
With the abolishing of capitalism and replacing it with democratic socialism an abundance of assistance could be brought not only to Australia but to the workers and poor people of the under developed world.
SOCIALISM & TECHNOLOGY
Capitalism has already given a glimpse of the enormous possibilities which exist through the use of modern technology, particularly in the information technology sector. The last 70 years have seen greater technical advances than in the whole of the previous human history.
Yet even this will be eclipsed by the leaps forward which will take place once production is taken out of the stranglehold of private ownership and linked and planned on an international basis.
Medical research is but one example of this. Over one million adults and half a million children are currently suffering from AIDS worldwide. The number of people HIV infected is estimated to be a staggering 10 million at least. One in every three pregnant women in Zimbabwe is now thought to be HIV infected.
Anti HIV drugs which can slow the development of AIDS, are sold at an exorbitant price. The production costs of this drug represents only a small fraction of its selling price, yet the wonders of the ‘market’ and monopoly production allow it to be priced out of the reach of many sufferers.
The privately owned drug companies jealously guard the findings of their research teams in the hope of being first past the post with cures to deadly diseases. The Socialist Party calls for the nationalisation of, and democratic control over, the pharmaceutical industry. This would ensure drug production was based on society’s needs for safe and effective remedies, with the emphasis on preventative health measures rather than on the race for profits.
By freeing the industry from the constraints of private ownership and competition, it would be possible to quickly pool all the expertise, experience and findings of the currently separate teams. This would greatly enhance and speed the possibilities of finding cures to not only AIDS, but all the debilitating illnesses from which so many in society now suffer.
But this doesn’t apply only to the pharmaceutical industry. The same goes for all types of research. Imagine the impact if the major companies responsible for technology research and development were to be taken into public ownership. There would be no more need for the elaborate security measures currently employed to prevent ‘industrial espionage’. Information would be freely passed between R&D teams once the deadweight of private ownership was lifted.
Today, under capitalism, it’s impossible for all the new technology already invented to be employed on a massive scale. Were it to be, the majority of the population would be made unemployed. This would produce such social convulsions as would immediately threaten the existence of capitalism.
Science and technology, once unleashed from the constraints of capitalism, could advance at undreamt of speed. The breakthroughs would be used to free workers from the boring, monotonous, soul-destroying jobs necessary under capitalism. Rather than being used to slash jobs, technology would be implemented to the benefit of workers, and the working week would be dramatically reduced.
A shorter working week would allow for the drawing up and implementation of a democratic plan of production through committees made up of trade unions, delegates committees, the unwaged and small business men and women. Elected workplace committees would organise production and distribution in consultation with wider regional and national workers committees. Under the check of workers and consumers criticism, quality and production levels would be constantly improved and fine tuned. Such planning would open the flood gates of production, leading eventually to previously undreamt of plenty.
Many labour movement ‘leaders’ laughingly dismiss our socialist ideas as ‘utopian’ and ‘unrealistic’. Yet these same leaders seek to portray their hopes for a ‘caring’ and ‘fair’ capitalist system as some kind of realism! These people far from being realistic have failed to learn anything from history, let alone basic economics. No doubt there were many people around a few centuries ago who ridiculed the idea that feudalism could be overthrown by capitalism.
However the more serious bourgeois critics of socialism fully realise the danger such ideas pose to their decrepit and ailing system. For this reason they continue to use all the many resources at their disposal (not least the press and media) to denounce and distort these ideas. Socialism, they claim in attempts to muddy the waters, can only be realised and maintained by the use of violence and the abolition of ‘democracy’.
The Socialist Party defends all the democratic conquests of the working class and calls for their extension. We staunchly defend the right to strike, right to vote, freedom of assembly, a free press, etc. We go further than this. Is it ‘democratic’ for the press and media in this country in the main to be controlled by a few multi-millionaires whose papers continually spew out their poison against workers whenever they enter into struggle to defend their jobs, wages and conditions.
The Socialist Party proposes the nationalisation of all printing press, radio and television facilities under workers control and management, with the right of access to all parties according to their support in the population as shown in elections. This goes for all parties, apart from the fascists. Even the Liberal and National parties would have the right to exist in a socialist Australia, though their support would no doubt be small. After all what advantages would there be for the mass of the population in a return to the mass unemployment, poverty and suffering under capitalism? Compared to the shining future which opens up on the basis of democratic socialism, the return to capitalism would be seen as little short of a return to mass unemployment and poverty.
The claim that socialism would be established only through the use of violence and oppression is a red herring. Firstly, it is the capitalists not the working class or the Marxists who have always attempted by violence to overturn the results of elections that threatened their position. Is this not the lesson of Chile? Through a bloody coup in 1973, the democratically elected Popular Front government was crushed, not in elections but by the iron heel of military dictatorship. The role of the American CIA has been seen in bloody power struggles across the globe, helping capitalism to put down opponents.
There is no doubt also that had the Whitlam government in Australia been carrying out anti-capitalist policies, attempts would have been made to deal it a far heavier hand. As it was, it is now clear that the CIA played an important secondary role in helping the local ruling class undermine and eventually sack this democratically elected Labor government. A ‘constitutional’, bloodless coup but a coup nevertheless.
But all the scheming and conspiracies of the capitalists can come to nothing on the basis of a bold socialist policy backed by the mass mobilisation of the labour movement. An entirely peaceful transformation of society is possible in Australia, but only on condition that the full power of the labour movement is boldly used to effect this change.
Prevarication, half measures, tinkering, will play right into the hands of the capitalists. In Chile, the measures of the Allende government did not satisfy the working class but allowed the capitalists the time to mobilise support amongst the middle class to crush the government when the time was ripe.
Any attempts to use the army against workers would be paralysed by a class appeal to the ordinary soldiers, most of whom are from the working class. Many revolutions have clearly shown that the army can be at least neutralised, or won over to the side of the workers.
Opponents warn against incurring the wrath of international capitalism because of the possibility of an economic blockade or even military intervention. But socialism is international or nothing. This resistance can be cancelled out by mobilising not just the power of Australian workers, but the support for our steps that would exist in the working class internationally. Mass movements don’t recognise national boundaries. A revolution in Australia would spark events throughout the region and internationally.
But the plots and schemes of the capitalists to crush the labour movement which are inevitable on the background of diseased and decaying Australian capitalism, can only be prevented if the labour movement arms itself with a clear Marxist programme.
POWER TO CHANGE SOCIETY
The labour movement is the strongest social force in Australian society. The task at hand is to imbue this mighty force with the consciousness of their own power. Only Marxism is capable of doing this. Marxism makes conscious the unconscious struggle of the working class to change society.
Experience will teach the working class in the period that is opening up that only by the transformation of society can all their aspirations for jobs, decent school, housing and social services, be satisfied.
Capitalism and its apologists in the labour movement offer a future of unrelieved misery. The economic and social problems that presently exist will be put in the shade by the calamity that looms in the next decade or two if Australian capitalism is not replaced by a democratic plan of production. Marxism, under the banner of the Socialist Party, offers a future of undreamed of plenty and the full utilisation of all the colossal resources and talents of working people. It is for this reason, and despite the inevitable attacks of our opponents, that the Socialist Party will go from strength to strength in the stormy period opening up. Help build that future – Join with us and build the forces of genuine Marxism.
WHAT WE STAND FOR
Aboriginals and Torres Strait Islanders
* Full support for full land rights.
* We recognise that all land was stolen from the indigenous peoples.
* Aboriginal title to take precedence over mining and grazing on land of historical Aboriginal value.
* Labour movement action to support a campaign to launch an offensive against black deaths in custody.
* Increase funding for remote area health, educational, housing and community services.
* Unity between Aboriginal and non-aboriginal working class people in a struggle for the genuinely socialist transformation of society as the only real way to put an end to exploitation, racism and discrimination and ensure the right to self-determination.
* No support for anti-democratic regimes. Opposition to Australian military involvement in the region – it’s a tool to expand Australian imperialist domination of the area, with New Zealand as a junior partner.
* For cuts to arms expenditure and an end to uranium mining. Transfer the resources to socially useful production with no loss of jobs.
* No to US military bases. For a nuclear-free Australia, but with the recognition that only a socialist change of society in Australia and internationally can eliminate the danger of a nuclear holocaust.
* Free education for everyone, for the whole of your life – abolish HECS, up-front fees and all other course-related fees.
* Adequate government funding of public education.
* No government subsidies to private institutions.
* Stop the privatisation of schools.
* Free uniforms and text books and other educational materials.
* Smaller class sizes and more resources to facilitate quality education.
* Provide TAFE and University places for all who want them – increase funding and end overcrowding.
* Ensure access to further education for adult students.
* No to student loans – increase Austudy to $380.00 (net) per week for all full-time students over the age of 16.
* Free, high-quality child care facilities at all TAFEs and Universities.
* School curriculum to be worked out by democratically-elected committees of students, teachers and the wider communities. Subjects like Aboriginal studies and international labour movement history to be available to all students.
* The right for students to organise and manage their own organisations/student unions and funds collected for these bodies. No anti-student unionism legislation (Voluntary Student Unionism).
* For an end to the destruction of the world environment by big business.
* For safe and humane food production under workers’ and consumers’ control.
* Development of more efficient and environmentally-friendly farming methods.
* For immediate steps to halt and reverse global warming, including a worldwide ban of CFCs, more harmonious use of fossil fuels, massive investment into the development of renewable energy, e.g. solar, hydro and wind.
Building legislation to provide for energy saving and greater recycling capacity in houses, factories, offices, etc. Recycle of waste and ending the dumping of dangerous wastes on land or in the sea.
* Nationalisation of the timber and mining (especially uranium) industries.
* Alternative jobs to be provided for all workers whose jobs are lost due to environmental measures.
No to short term profits at the expense of the environment: a long term plan for the industry to be drawn up by timber workers and their unions, conservationists, government and local authorities. While supporting steps to halt the decline of the environmental standards and improve the quality of the environment, we recognise that preventing the destruction of the global environment is only possible through an integrated plan for all the worldâ€™s resources. Only in this way can we assure the needs of this and future societies will be met.
* Free, high-quality health care for all, including dental and optical care. Defend and extend Medicare. Opposition to any cuts to PBS
* Unions and the Community to conduct mass campaigns, to reverse all cuts to and closures of hospital and health services. Put an end to the privatisation of hospitals.
* A massive increase in government health expenditure to expand the public hospital system and end the long waiting lists for operations.
* For government-funded community-managed health centres.
* Nationalise the private health insurance funds.
* Free prescriptions and immunisations for those who need them.
Increase resources for medical research with the emphasis on preventative health care.
* Fight the spread of HIV and AIDS. Increase public funds for research, treatment and care of people with HIV/AIDS.
* Increase facilities for drug users, e.g. needle exchange programs, rehabilitation treatments, safe injecting facilites, and heroin trials. End police harassment of users.
* Improved sex, drug and AIDS education programs in the schools and wider community.
* Nationalise the pharmaceutical companies so that research is co-ordinated and geared to health needs, not profits.
* We support solidarity amongst the labour movement throughout the world to fight the agenda of global capitalism. We actively support the struggles of the workers and peasants throughout the world. We support the right of all nations to self-determination. We are affiliated to the Committee for a Workers’ International which links over 35 revolutionary groups throughout the world. We support the regroupment of international socialist organisations on a principled basis.
* Create a socialist world where hunger, poverty, tyranny, environmental destruction and war can be finally abolished.
Jobs and conditions
* Jobs for all who want them. Immediate introduction of a 35-hour working week without loss of pay.
* Permanent full time jobs for all who want them – put an end to the slide into casualisation of the workforce.
* A minimum hourly rate of $20 an hour, including pensioners, unemployed, students, people with disabilities and illnesses. This would be indexed in line with rises in the cost of living.
* Equal pay for equal work: for women, youth, disabled, etc.
* Part-time jobs with maximum and minimum hours and pro-rata conditions (e.g. holidays and sick pay)
* No to ‘Work for the dole’.
* An end to low paid, ‘no future’ and dodgy traineeships. All traineeships to be worked out and overseen by a democratically-elected committee of trade unions, community and unemployed workers’ representatives.
* Ensure full time jobs are guaranteed on completion of traineeships.
* No to in-house apprenticeships.
* Resist every redundancy with industrial action. Take plants facing closure into public ownership and allow workers to run them
* Open company accounts so the public can see how the wealth has been squandered.
* The right for all workers to organise in unions in the workplace free of discrimination and harassment from the bosses – i.e. fight for collective bargaining.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, (Queer) Rights
* Opposition to all forms of discrimination on the basis of sexual preference.
* Equal ages of consent – nationally.
* The question of the age of consent to be worked out by a national committee comprising youth, youth service professionals and community leaders.
* Repeal of all anti-homosexual laws.
* For union and community education and action to stop ‘gay bashing’. For the unions, community groups and progressive parties to work actively with the lesbian, gay and queer communities to educate and act against homophobia.
* Total opposition to the monopolisation of the capitalist media which attacks workers in struggle for daring to defend their jobs, wages or conditions. The media, printing plant facilities, radio and TV should be nationalised and run by democratically-accountable boards, comprising trade union and community representatives. Access to facilities should be given to political parties in proportion to their support at elections.
* Government funding for the publication of political information for all political organisations with over 500 members.
Migration and Refugees
* Oppose all discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality or nationality. Equal rights for all people living in Australia. We oppose all cuts to immigration and support the lifting of barriers on immigration.
* For an increase in immigration to boost the economy. Close all detention centres – jobs not jail for refugees and all workers.
* Increase funding for free and improved English studies for all migrants from non-English speaking backgrounds.
* International freedom of movement for all nationalities.
* Equal access to public health care and social welfare for all newly arrived migrants.
* Government funding to assist in maintaining the cultural heritage of all races and ethnic groups.
* We support Australia becoming a socialist republic.
* Re-nationalisation of privatised state and federal industries.
No to privatisation. For the democratic nationalisation of the monopolies that control the economy, including the banks and insurance companies, with compensation only to small shareholders who are in need.
* For the formation of cooperatives of small or owner-operator businesses.
* This would allow a socialist plan of production to be drawn up and implemented by committees involving trade unions, workplace delegates, unwaged and small business men and women. This would end the waste and duplication of the capitalist system and allow the savings and benefits to be ploughed back into the economy, paying for all of the above.
* Disband elite military police units.
* End police violence and harassment.
* Community control over the police, through democratically-elected local authority police committees. These committees to have control over the distribution of weapons, with distribution based on proven need.
* For genuinely independent police complaints procedures.
* No police presence at rallies, demonstrations, picket lines and occupations. Trade unions and community groups to organise progressive crowd control and protection – in conjunction with the police – on demonstrations and strikes, etc.
* Decriminalisation of swearing and marijuana.
* Removal of racists from the police and judiciary.
* Abolition of the positions of Governor-General and Governors.
* Abolition of the Senate and state upper houses.
* A socialist Australia as part of a socialist world federation.
* Trade union democracy: rank and file groups to be built in every union.
* Form an unemployed workers’ union.
* All union officials and organisers to be regularly elected and subject to recall.
* All union officials to receive the average wage of the workers they represent, with genuine expenses only.
* Delegates or shop stewards to be elected by workers in every workplace.
* Hold regular mass delegates’ meetings.
* All major issues to go to mass meetings of union members to be voted on.
* No secret negotiations between union officials and bosses. Union officials to be accompanied by delegates or shop stewards in workplaces and in negotiations with bosses at all times.
* Make the use of scabs by employers illegal.
* Fight all anti-union laws with industrial action if necessary.
* Conduct a mass campaign to defend the right of all workers to organise, strike and picket without legal restrictions.
* Unions to be given immunity from common law action.
* Unions to pay any fines incurred by workers in industrial disputes.
* Internationalism – Australian unions to form links with and actively support, through solidarity boycotts and industrial action, workers in struggle internationally.
* Create a regional federation of trade unions to co-ordinate workers’ solidarity, lift wage levels for all workers, and prevent the bosses from shifting plants offshore.
* Opposition to discrimination on the basis of gender and opposition to all forms of sexual harassment. Equal pay for work of equal value.
* End the ‘sexual division of labour’: equal opportunities for women in the schools, workplaces, labour movement and home.
* Create a free, publicly-funded network of good-quality child care, combining workplace and community-based provision with places for all those who wish to use them.
* Increase child benefits to reflect the true cost of child-rearing.
* Free, safe contraception and abortion on demand.
* Increased funding for rape crisis centres, women’s refuges and assistance for victims of domestic violence. Conduct public campaigns, led by unions and the community, to heighten the awareness of psychological and physical domestic violence and the causes of these problems.
* Free, safe and clean public transport for all, 24 hours a day.
* Found a genuine mass workers’ party based on trade unions, community organisations and ordinary people who want real change.
* All representatives to be elected by the party rank and file and subject to immediate recall.
* Rotation of all offices at regular periods.
* All party representatives to receive no more than the average wage of a skilled worker (plus bona fide expenses, vetted by the rank and file) and any surplus to be given to workers’ struggles.
* Policies to be determined by mass meetings of the rank and file (from the bottom up).
* The party to be linked with the trade union movement.
* Actively and consistently fight for genuine Socialist policies on every issue the constituency faces.
* A guaranteed job or educational place for all youth.
* Repeal archaic juvenile crime legislation.
* An end to junior rates of pay, including junior social security payments.
* Equal pay for equal work and equal rates and access to full benefits for 16-20 year olds.
* The right for youth to organise in unions at school, college or at work.
* The right to vote at 16.