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Political situation in Australia

The world crisis and the political situation in Australia

Political situation in Australia, satisfied 24%

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This document was written as part of Socialist Alternative's pre-conference discussion bulletin in October 2009.


At the centre of the Australian political situation today is the contradiction between the deep crisis in world capitalism on the one hand and the ongoing stability and political quiet in Australia on the other.




As Tom Bramble has outlined (Crisis and contradiction in the world economy), the world economic crisis is deep seated and systemic - easily the most serious economic turning point since the Great Depression. The economic consequences have been severe, particularly for workers. But the crisis has also caused deep political convulsions in the world system. This is what Mick Armstrong wrote on behalf of the National Executive in the pre-conference bulletin last year:


The whole ideological framework - free market economics - which has been dominant for the last 25 years has been severely discredited. This puts the ruling class and its ideological hangers on very much on the backfoot. It will take time for them to regroup and to come up with a new ideological framework to defend their system. This opens up a space for alternative world views. Socialist ideas ...  can potentially find a much greater resonance in the coming years.


However ... Marxists don't argue that recessions and cuts to living standards lead automatically to working class resistance. Mass sackings can make workers angry and embittered but they can also lead to demoralisation and a retreat into focusing on simply staying alive. But major crises rupture the pattern of everyday life and open up the potential for political turmoil and major struggles. The pattern will inevitably vary enormously from country to country but economic crises destabilise governments and commonly lead to sharp political polarisations both to the left and to the right.


In general terms, this outline stands. We were right to say that the crisis could cause political convulsions, but it was also important to point out that the way it flowed through could be contradictory, and differ widely from country to country. It is also important to note that we raised the potential space opening up for socialist ideas in terms of "the coming years" - we never talked about it in terms of what would happen in the first 12 months of the crisis.


We have covered many aspects of the political fallout in the magazine over the past year - the general strikes in France, Italy and Greece (there was another among public sector workers in Romania in October); the MPs perks scandal in Britain; the collapse of the social-democratic vote in the European elections in June; factory occupations in Ireland, South Korea and elsewhere; and intensified class struggle in China, South Africa and Latin America, among other things.


In recent months, one of the most significant developments has been the resurgence of the American right, which has been running an intense, vitriolic campaign against Obama, drawing on the long history of anti-communism and racism in the US to denounce him as a socialist enemy of America. This campaign is not, as it is often portrayed, simply a reflection of the anger of the grass-roots far right. It is being driven by a section of capital which is pursuing a policy of class warfare, determined to crush any idea that the "big government" can intervene on behalf of workers, and trying to turn around the battering. free-market ideology has received in the last 18 months.



Read more: SOCIALIST ALTERNATIVE (20 October 2009)

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