Why Dean Mighell is right


[The following is an excerpt from a statement issued by the Socialist Alliance in Melbourne on March 20.]

Dean Mighell is 100% correct to say that the ALP has turned its back on the working class.

One of the first acts of the Bracks government was to threaten Latrobe Valley power workers with $10,000 fines for fighting to protect jobs. Bracks has guaranteed tax cuts for business, but there's no money to solve the crisis in our public hospitals.

Federal Labor is no better. Its cowardice let Howard back in for a third term. Beazley promised no real changes and then fell in line while the Liberals whipped up racism against people fleeing persecution.

What does Crean stand for? He's scapegoating the unions for Labor's defeat by trying to cut union representation at ALP conference. He's hinted that Labor will support making it easier for bosses in small businesses to sack workers. He's run up the white flag on the GST. He's continuing to back the Liberals' hard line on refugees.

No wonder more and more unionists think it's time to debate how workers can get genuine political representation.

Disaffiliation from the ALP is on the agenda today. It's on the agenda at the AMWU's state conference next month. But voting to quit the ALP is just the first step.

The question is: what's the alternative? The Socialist Alliance believes it is vital that unions take political positions. Jobs, wages, health and safety, uniting the workforce against racism and sexism — it's all political.

The most effective fightback is through industrial action, on the job and on the streets, the way the ETU won the 36-hour week. Part of that is unions joining the May Day strike and rally on May 1, international workers' day. That's taking a stand against the whole agenda of corporate globalisation.

But workers also need representatives in parliament. Some still look to the ALP, others to the Greens. Others, like AMWU state secretary Craig Johnston, have joined the Socialist Alliance.

Now is the time for a wide-ranging debate on where the unions' political support should go.

Representatives of all the parties which claim to stand for workers' interests should be invited to mass meetings, job meetings, and state councils and committees of management to put their case.

The members should not only have their say on whether to pull out of the ALP, but on the political future of our movement.

From Green Left Weekly, March 27, 2002.
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