The most notable feature of the Labor Party’s two-day online “Special Platform Conference” this week was the frequency of references to the crisis and the war.
With the current Liberal-National coalition government visibly falling apart, the event ended in a rather anxious speech to the business elite by Labor leaders and their union partners posing as uniquely qualified to pursue its program in the face of geostrategic situations and social tensions.
In his opening speech, party leader Anthony Albanese claimed the mantle of the Labor governments of Prime Ministers Curtin and Chifley from 1941 to 1949. of military danger, then Ben Chifley led the reconstruction, ”Albanese said. “Their motto: victory in war and victory in peace. “
Likewise, Shadow Foreign Minister Penny Wong spoke of a “less stable and more dangerous world” in which conflicts had been accelerated by COVID-19. “We are facing the most difficult circumstances since World War II,” she said. “Only the Labor Party has the vision and the discipline to resolve these issues. She boasted that Labor forged the American alliance during the last world war.
Party Chairman Wayne Swan, who was the treasurer of the last Labor government from 2007 to 2013, said Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government was “falling apart”. Therefore, the “nation looks to us”, as it always has done in times of war and when economic “reform” was needed. Labor had “mobilized the country” in the face of “the invasion of World War II”. And he had restructured the economy in the 1980s and 1990s. It was then that the Labor governments of Hawke and Keating worked through deals with unions to destroy jobs and conditions for workers in order to satisfy the dictates of the markets. financial.
Even more than previous union conferences, this was an extraordinarily scripted and orchestrated event. Each handpicked speaker endorsed a political platform that urges a Labor government to exercise fiscal ‘prudence’ in the wake of the devastating global pandemic and increased commitment to the U.S. military alliance as the administration Biden escalates Washington’s confrontation with China.
Passed unanimously, the document promises that a Labor government “would be an effective and collaborative partner with the business community” and “promote Australia’s international competitiveness”, all with the help of greater “Workplace collaboration” between companies and unions. He pledges to strengthen the “American Alliance” because of “its vital importance to Australia’s national security demands.”
Albanese’s opening speech on Tuesday added a nationalist economic focus to the new corporate shift he led after being installed as Labor leader following the party’s election debacle in May 2019. In this election, held six months after the party’s last national conference, Labor’s primary vote fell to just 33.3%, the lowest in 85 years, with the biggest losses in working-class neighborhoods.
The Labor leader touted a plan he unveiled to the media that morning for a $ 15 billion “National Reconstruction Fund” to primarily subsidize big business projects in a “new era of national reconstruction”, supposedly like the one launched by the Chifley government after the world war. II.
Albanese said the pandemic had shown the economy’s supply chains and “sovereign capacities” to be vulnerable. “We shouldn’t have to depend on other countries when it comes to protecting and supporting our people,” he said. As the danger of a US-led war with China increases, the US and all of its allies seek to end their dependence on China for strategic goods.
The $ 15 billion package is also a slush fund – described as “a combination of loans, equity, co-investment and guarantees” – in an attempt to revive business investment, which remains at record levels. despite all the talk of the government and the media on the “recovery”. “
In addition to aligning with plans for war, Labor and union leaders are appealing to patriotism and protectionism to deflect working class discontent and attempt to reverse the collapse in support and membership. Demands for government procurement and other policies favoring ‘made in Australia’ products saturated debates.
Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union national secretary Steve Murphy said pledges to restore domestic manufacturing production through the Labor investment fund “would work well for our base.” But, revealingly, he warned that workers were “cautious” about such announcements, wary of Labor claims that secure, well-paying jobs would result.
In another honest and rare statement, the Party’s Deputy Secretary of State in Queensland, Zac Beers, said that “workers abandoned us en masse” in 2019 because they did not trust Labor and did not believe not on its promises.
Throughout the staged event, a handpicked parade of Labor officials and representatives of the supposedly “powerful” labor movement each had two minutes to declare that only a Labor government could and would protect workers from unemployment. mass, underemployment and the tearing of working conditions that have intensified throughout the pandemic.
A glimpse of reality came when Shadow Finance Minister Katie Gallagher spoke of the need to “give businesses the confidence to invest.” Essentially, it means working with unions to suppress workers’ struggles against cuts in wages and conditions, while cutting social spending. Gallagher attacked the Morrison government from the right, denouncing it for running eight straight budget deficits, driving up public debt levels.
The constantly repeated new slogan was Labor is “on your side”. Deliberately vague, he rejects the discredited electoral rhetoric of 2019 of a “fair go”. Precisely because of decades of bitter experiences with the pro-business Labor Party and its affiliated unions, this “fair go” slogan has failed to cut the ice with increasingly disgruntled working class voters.
Albanese leadership remains uncertain. He admitted he had been criticized for working too openly with the coalition government as it exploited the pandemic to hand over hundreds of billions of dollars to big business while deepening the assault on jobs and wages. In an effort to consolidate his position, at least for now, he closed the conference yesterday by saying “we are right at home for an election” and therefore had to “come together”.
Labor’s commitment to the Biden administration’s heightened offensive against China was most evident in the foreign policy session. Significantly, the platform project has been altered to welcome the US-led Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, which brings Australia, Japan, and India into a quasi-military alliance with Washington for to surround and prepare for war against China.
President Biden’s first-ever Quad Leaders’ Summit on March 12 brought to a new level the will of US governments to prevent China from economically or strategically challenging the global hegemony US imperialism asserted following its victories in of World War II.
Even more provocative, the labor conference unanimously adopted no less than six resolutions denouncing China, accusing it of territorial aggression in the South China Sea, threatening Taiwan, denying fundamental rights in Hong Kong and Tibet, and committing human rights violations against Uyghurs and other minorities. in Xinjiang province.
These accusations hypocritically exploit the repression of the police state of the Beijing regime – which is directed primarily against the working class – to justify the intervention of the United States and its allies. Of course, there have been no such condemnations of military invasions, occupations, coups d’état, massacres of civilians and war crimes perpetrated by these powers, including Australia, for decades, including in Afghanistan and Iraq.
To underscore Labor’s commitment to war preparations, Albanese used media interviews during the conference to support the Morrison government’s announcement of a $ 1 billion “sovereign guided arms enterprise” to craft missiles and other guided weapons. “This is a bipartisan issue,” Albanese told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s breakfast television show. “Australia needs to be more resilient when it comes to our defense.”