Can Australia escape the spiral into a moral abyss?

July 19, 2013
Rudd has broken his promise and "lurched to the right" on refugees.

It is now depressingly clear for all to see that whether Liberal or Labor win the coming Australian federal election, we are going to end up with a government that is more right-wing than the last.

How did it come to this? And how can we escape the political spiral to a moral abyss?

The politicians in the ALP and in the Liberal-Nationals who have shaped this latest reactionary turn in the spiral — most notably around attacks on refugee rights and climate change — cannot be let off the hook.

Their personal culpability must not be forgotten and they should be brought to account for their crimes. But much bigger forces are at play.

To paraphrase Karl Marx: Individuals make their own history, but they do not make it as they please. They do not make it under circumstances they choose, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.

The circumstances that are pushing most governments around the world to exact ever more sacrifice from their citizens and make ever greater attacks on democratic and civil rights is the unprecedented concentration of wealth in the hands of a few.

On a global scale, the latest calculations show that just 8% of the world's population owns 82% of the world's wealth. The richest 2% own more than half, while the poorest 70% have to divide just 3% of the world's wealth between them. It is not just unconscionable but unsustainable.

It is unsustainable because this incredible concentration of wealth in the hands of a few has, in a sense, a mind of its own. It is a mass of capital that demands an insatiable return in the form of profits.

Military and class wars have been waged in the service of this demand, entire nations of people have been deprived of even the most basic livelihoods, displaced from their homes by the millions, and the human habitability of the planet has been put in jeopardy.

This system cannot continue. But the last thing Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition leader Tony Abbott want us to do is recognise this fact. Both are trying to sell us the idea that this profit-driven madness can and must go on.

More than that, they want us to believe that ordinary folk like us can win in this system. Just turn back the boats, send those refugees to Papua New Guinea or Nauru, work harder, longer and for less, and everything will be OK.

But this is a lie. There is no happy solution for everybody on the course Abbott and Rudd have charted. Not even for most of the white-skinned “boat people” who came to this country a little earlier than the latest boat arrivals.

The problem can only be fixed when the real problem is resolved. The unconscionable and unsustainable super-concentration of wealth in the hands of the few has to end.

Green Left Weekly is committed to building a movement to take the wealth and power out of the hands of the billionaires and their corporations and use them collectively and democratically in the common interest.

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