Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Dean Mighell and the Australian Labor Party

Dean Mighell is the Victorian State Secretary of the Electrical Trades Union. He was forced to quit the Labor Party by leader Kevin Rudd on May 30 following the disclosure to the capitalist media of private comments in which he had boasted of getting extra money off the bosses for his members.

Mighell’s comments had been secretly taped at a meeting of construction workers six months ago, probably by the Australian Building and Construction Commission, an organization created by the Howard Government to destroy construction unions and their militancy.

Mighell was referring to a 1993 victory in which he won extra gains for his members by engaging in “pattern bargaining” where claims are won across an entire industry by extracting concessions from weaker bosses and using them as a precedent against the stronger.

These tactics were perfectly legal in 1993, but both Liberal (the current Federal Government) and Labor (positioning itself to win office in the next federal election) have declared them illegal.

Speaking to an audience of adult workers, Mighell let the “fuck” word drop a few times in the course of his talk. For better or worse, any child can hear that word these days on television, on CDs and DVDs, but it became an issue for Mr “Sqeaky Clean”, Labor leader Kevin Rudd and his senior colleagues, Julia Gillard (Deputy Leader) and Wayne Swan (shadow Treasurer).

The temperate trio then remembered that Dean Mighell had said some nasty things about Australian Prime Monster John Howard a few weeks ago at the Labor Party Conference (“…Howard is a skidmark on the bedsheets of Australian politics”) and decided that he would have to be expelled from the Labor Party.

Rudd (and remember that his wife is a multimillionaire, one of whose companies had recently been found to have underpaid workers by 45 cents an hour) declared Mighell’s comments “obscene at every level”. Get the full flavour of his outrage here: http://www.alp.org.au/media/0507/tviloo300.php

Gillard accused Mighell of “going over the line”. Pleeease do yourself a favour and look at her radio interview on the subject here: http://www.alp.org.au/media/0507/ridlop310.php It’s the best belly laugh you’ll have in years.

Swan described Mighell’s views as “repugnant…he should his mouth out with soap”. Don’t believe it? It’s here: http://www.swanmp.org/swanmp/2007/05/transcript_pers.html

The irony of Mighell’s expulsion is that it came virtually five years to the day from his own walkout from the ALP on March 17, 2002 in protest against the State and Federal ALP’s adoption of economic rationalist policies and their “desertion” of the working class.

He joined the Greens for a while, but then rejoined the ALP.

His in-again-out-again history of ALP membership invites some comment on the nature of the ALP.

In his book “The Labor Party?”, E.F. (Ted) Hill noted that it had multiple origins.

On the one hand, “It arose in the particular historical conditions of Australia where the young colonies in which capitalism was developing had by no means established even nominal independence from England…Australian capitalists were seeking greater independence. The historic task to unify Australia fell upon the Australian Labor Party.”

On the other hand, “The Labor Party …bears the name ‘Labor’…because its origins go back to the birth and struggle for existence of the trade unions and because there is a good deal of interchangeability in the personnel of the leaders of the ALP and the trade unions (and it) presents itself as a workers’ party.”

These two features of its origins and development confused many in the working class movement. For a long time, the old Communist Party of Australia depicted the ALP as a “two class party”. Only with the formation of the Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) was a clear analysis made of the nature of the ALP, which was subsequently characterized by Hill as “…in fact a party of capitalism”.

Hill added: “Because of its Labor appearance, the bourgeoisie uses it to impose bourgeois policies on the workers in the name of Labor. This is based on the assessment (correct to a degree and in certain circumstances) that the workers will accept from a Labor government anti-popular actions which they will not accept from a party like the Liberal-Country Party.”

It should therefore come as no surprise that a multimillionaire husband can explain away his wife’s theft of money from her workers, yet describe as “obscene on every level” the words and actions of a trade union leader who has won extra gains for his members.

It should come as no surprise that the multimillionaire husband, whom media baron Rupert Murdoch has said “would make a pretty good Prime Minister”, should stay as leader of the Labor Party whilst the trade union boss (“a thug” according to Gillard) should be shown the door.

This is more than a factional clash, although the ALP is the party of factional clashes.

Hill’s October 1974 book, from which I have quoted, explains the turbulence and factional strife inherent in the ALP: “Instability is a characteristic of the Labor Party. Its instability is born of the instability of capitalism and its institutions and born of the conflict between the bourgeoisie whom it really serves and the working class whom it pretends to serve.”

As for Mighell, he has vowed to fight on for his members.

‘I make no apologies for fighting for my members. And it's what I'll continue to do, regardless of which political party is in Government.”

Only through a genuine party of the working class, a Marxist-Leninist party, can this genuine class attitude become not just a force for the good of this or that union and its members, but a force for the liberation of the entire working class and for the genuine anti-imperialist independence of the country, protected by a socialist state and government.

1 comment:

Stuart said...

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