CURRENT POLITICS - Class Warfare Rhetoric

Class Warfare Rhetoric

As the parliamentary cretins tore the ALP apart, its sad and sorry losers huffed and puffed against ‘class-warfare rhetoric’. In truth, we haven’t heard even the rhetoric of class struggle. Treasury mouthpiece Swann let off a few farts about mining company rip-offs. Free-trade Emerson blessed the little cotton socks of the fabulously wealthy.

One of richest people in the world, US investor Warren Buffett, knows one big thing about class struggle. That something is what all shades of parliamentary cretins don’t want us to hear.  ‘There is a class war’, Buffett says, ‘and my class is winning.’

            If you want to hear the voice of class warfare try Rinehart’s two-dollars-a-day wage for size. Her dream is more than rhetoric. What she is after is the substance of class warfare.

What is that substance? The class struggle is much more than lockouts or picket lines.

 Indeed, the class struggle is waged every second of everyday. Its crux is the disciplining of labour-time. The weapons of capital include time-and-motion, speed-ups and unpaid overtime. Others are piece-rates and casualisation. Weak occupational health and safety helps the managers to keep profits flowing.

This regime became possible because the propertied classes used force and robbery to get their claws on the means of production. They did so with the backing of the state as legalised violence.

The outcome set labour ‘free’ in three senses. We are ‘freed’ from possessing all but one of the resources we need to sustain ourselves. That remaining resource is our capacity to add value. Secondly, we are ‘free’ to sell that resource to capital. Finally, we are free to starve when capital has no need for our labour-power. Look at the suicide rates in Greece and Spain.

The class struggle over wages and hours also dominates life outside our places of work. That battle decides how much leisure we have and the quality of our sleep. The substance of class warfare determines the quality of the food we put on our tables. It also determines the cost of housing, its availability and standard.  It decides our access to education. Does schooling contribute to the all-round development of our children as human beings? Or are they stunted to training for the boss class?

Under he rules of class war, the state organises capital and disorganises labour.

Often as not, the state tries to disorganise labour by re-organising it. That is what happened under the arbitration regime. Then, the 1969 O’Shea strike sidelined the penal powers. In response, Fraser turned to the Trade Practices Act. The Accords were the big de-form under Hawke-Keating to disorganise us. Today, the boss class is using tort laws to bankrupt unions as in the Grocon dispute.

In these assaults, capital is backed by its labour lieutenants from Rudd to Gillard. We feel their dirty work through un-FairWork Australia and her enforcement of the Building and Construction Commission.            

Wages and conditions are determined by the relative strengths of the contending classes. Those strengths combine the industrial, the economic, the political and the cultural. Even for defence, our class has to organise at all those levels.

Workers might not always call the class struggle for what it is. To score more wins, we don’t need the wind-baggery of a Swann.

One task for communists is to link wages, hours, conditions and OH&S with needs across the rest of life. We join demands for public transport, a healthy environment, a progressive culture and an end to war-mongering. These issues combine to confront capital and its state with needs they cannot meet. They are the substance of class warfare.

See also: Marxism

See also Work