Oppose Howard/Latham’s Reactionary “Family Values”!

Single Mothers Hit By Capitalist Austerity, Bigotry

Unleash Union Power! For Free, 24-Hour Childcare! Permanency, Full Entitlements for Casual Workers!

Reprinted from Australasian Spartacist No. 188, Spring 2004.

SEPTEMBER 6—When the right-wing Howard government sought to head off just demands for paid maternity leave by introducing a “baby bonus” payment from July, the response from the Labor Party, conservative think tanks and the tabloid media was to promulgate putrid slurs that poor, single and young mothers would “misuse” the payment. As federal parliament discussed claims that the lump sum payment would be blown on gambling and alcohol, the ALP opposition leader, Mark Latham, argued that “the $3,000 is more likely to be spent on children than for some other purpose if it’s staggered over a period of time…” (Age, 27 June). Meanwhile, Northern Territory Labor chief minister, Clare Martin, reflected rampant racist prejudice when she complained that Aboriginal communities receiving the payments would “create issues with more people being able to buy alcohol…” (ABC Online, 25 June).

In reality the very meagre “baby bonus” pre-election bribe provides all too little relief for working-class women, who have been hardest hit by the massive redistribution in wealth over the last twenty years away from the poor. Under first the Hawke/Keating ALP federal governments and now Howard’s Liberals, trade unions and workers’ conditions have been attacked and social services slashed. Behind the fraud of relatively low official unemployment figures today is the reality that more single parents with dependent children are unemployed than have jobs. The number of sole parents—most of whom are women—increased by 53 percent between 1986 and 2001. Among them are the most poverty-stricken people in this society. Today, many working-class mothers don’t have enough to pay rent and utility bills or to send their kids on school excursions, let alone afford increasingly expensive childcare or have any cash spare for some decent, much-needed entertainment.

Increasingly, jobs that are available to the working class are poorly paid, tenuous part-time or casual ones as the bosses seek to increase the rate of exploitation by shedding full-time jobs where they have to pay for leave and other entitlements. The proportion of the workforce now employed as casuals has ballooned to 27 percent. Tens of thousands of mainly Vietnamese and Chinese women toil in the home as superexploited “outworkers” in the textile industry. Women are a disproportionately high percentage of the casual workforce such that for the period 1994-99 women’s earnings declined relative to men’s. As of May 2002, working women as a whole received only 66 percent of men’s pay and 42 percent of working mothers had no leave entitlements!

Such hardships faced by working-class parents have not stopped Latham from accusing them of not bringing up their kids properly. On 26 January, Latham announced a plan for “parental responsibility” court orders to “train” parents how to control “unruly” children. Latham moralised “Some people need help, and sometimes pressure, to be responsible parents.” This rightly infuriated many, especially working-class and single mothers who have angrily denounced Latham’s plans. When Latham was featured at a February ALP “community meeting,” in depressed Raymond Terrace, north of Newcastle, a youth worker and mother, Kerrie-Lea Menzies, denounced Latham: “You are putting the responsibility on parents but these parents are socially disadvantaged.” “These kids don’t have a future,” she later interjected. “You’re a silver spoon in a bloody suit. Go home and have your three-course dinner,” Menzies yelled, before storming out of the hall escorted by police.

Meanwhile, Latham’s ALP buddies running state governments throughout the country are making it near impossible for working-class parents to bring up their kids. State schools are being run down, public hospitals are decaying and public transport is being gutted and disorganised to such a degree that getting a child to school is an ordeal. Aboriginal, Asian, Arab, Islander and African youth face harassment from racist cops while their parents face insults and discrimination in their daily lives. Racist “war on terror” hysteria whipped up by the Liberals and ALP has spawned attacks on Muslim women, who have been spat upon, pelted with objects, or had their veils ripped off.

Latham’s plan for “parental responsibility” and the reactionary hype over the “baby bonus” typify the lead-up to the 9 October federal election. As the Liberals and Labor campaign to administer further austerity upon the working class on behalf of the capitalist exploiters, they dump on the poorest and the most oppressed in society. There is no party standing in the interests of working people in these elections! What is desperately needed is some determined class struggle, which combines a fight against union busting and casualisation with opposition to the all-sided attacks on women and racial minorities at home and the imperialist occupation of Iraq abroad.

Capitalism and the Family

The slurs aimed against single mothers occur in the context of a lead-up to federal elections where Howard and Latham battle over who can portray themselves as the best upholder of “family values.” The institution of the family is indeed an integral prop of the capitalist order. It is also the central source of women’s oppression. The origins of the patriarchal family go far back in history. Prior to the emergence of private property and with it the family, humans lived as subsistence hunter-gatherers in egalitarian communities. But with the development of agriculture and the concomitant accumulation of social surplus, society became divided into classes. In the words of Karl Marx’s collaborator, Friedrich Engels, this saw “the world historic defeat of the female sex.” The biological fact of child-bearing and child rearing meant women were increasingly excluded from social production and reduced to domestic servitude. As a means of consolidating wealth in the hands of a tiny minority, the monogamous (for women!) patriarchal family arose to ensure that a man’s property would be passed down to heirs who are indisputably his own children.

For most working people however inheritance is hardly a central issue! Rather the family as an institution is imposed on the working masses by the capitalist exploiting class. As an economic unit, it serves the bourgeoisie by ensuring that the labour involved in raising the next generation of workers and caring for the sick and aged is performed unpaid in the home largely by women. We fight for the liberation of women from the drudgery and oppression of domestic servitude through socialist revolution that would lay the basis for the replacement of the institution of the family with the provision of high-quality collective childcare, first-rate communal kitchens and laundries and socialised household cleaning.

Under capitalism, the family is an important means for the ruling class to instil in the next generation of workers habits of obedience and respect for authority as well as to transmit bourgeois values. The Australian rulers want a more pliant population to minimise opposition to their ever-growing list of military expeditions, from the U.S.-led adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan, to their marauding around this region including in East Timor and the Solomon Islands. And with the exploiting class on a drive to increase profits by slashing social services and extracting more productivity from the hides of working people, they are determined to increase all measures to suppress proletarian discontent. Like their counterparts throughout the capitalist world, from the U.S. to Germany to Japan, the Australian ruling class are strengthening their military and legal arsenal of state repression and increasing efforts to divert and confuse the masses with nationalism, racism and other reactionary ideologies.

Having the working masses atomised into individual family units makes them more prey to the bourgeoisie’s ideological influences: from the anti-union, racist jingoism of Murdoch newspapers and Packer TV to government “terror alerts.” Parents are expected to deputise for the state in preventing their children from engaging in social struggles—like last year’s student strikes against the Iraq war. Pressure to be “a good wife and mother” is meant to keep women at home in the kitchen rather than out after work discussing strike action or politics with fellow workers.

Yet many people choose to live outside the “white picket fence.” This, together with the fact that unemployment and the decline in decent-paying full-time jobs caused by capitalism actually forces families apart, only drives the bourgeoisie into a frenzy of “family values” reaction as it attempts to shore up its tottering institution. Those who fall outside the “ideal” family—based on a married heterosexual couple and headed by a “male role model” who is the principal breadwinner—are in the cross-hairs of the Liberal/ALP “family values” campaign. For single mothers, this means not only having their material conditions eroded but being stigmatised within society. This is especially so for those women for whom the profit-driven capitalist system has neither jobs nor affordable childcare places to enable them to work. Others who do not fit into the illusory “norm” of the monogamous, heterosexual family, like gays and lesbians, are also under attack. In August, federal laws were passed formally proscribing same-sex marriages (see page 6). The ALP helped Howard to ram this vicious anti-gay legislation through parliament, making Australia one of the only countries in the industrialised world to explicitly legislate against gay marriages.

Meanwhile, right-wing headkicker and health minister, Tony Abbott is spearheading a renewed offensive against women’s right to abortion. And youth sexuality and consensual sex between adults and teenagers have been the subject of cruel state repression and media hysteria. In August, well-known tennis coach Gavin Hopper was jailed for over three years for a four-year consensual relationship with a female student nearly 20 years ago—because she was 14 when the relationship began. We believe that effective consent should determine sexual relations—not the age, sex, number or degree of intimacy of the people involved. Given the tangle of race, sex and class in this bigoted society, even consensual relationships can often be emotionally exploitative and unequal—but to call them “crimes” is to bring in the government, which is the very enforcer of that bigotry and exploitation.

Now, teacher Karen Ellis faces court for a completely consensual affair with a then 15-year-old student. The boy later stated: “I found her attractive…so when you find someone attractive you go after them” (Age, 1 September). We say: State out of the bedroom! Down with the anti-sex witchhunt! Drop the charges against Karen Ellis and Gavin Hopper! Free Gavin Hopper! Down with reactionary “age of consent” laws!

Alongside “family values,” the bourgeoisie are fortifying that other pillar of capitalist society, the church, to help shore up ideological control of the exploited masses. Churches of all stripes from Pentecostal to Catholic have been receiving hugely increased government funding and patronage to take over formerly government-run (and unionised) social-welfare functions from job finding to caring for the homeless. In its recent budget the Beattie Queensland Labor government granted control of AIDS care to the Anglican Church! And while private and religious schools are being massively funded, state schools have been pauperised.

Despite this, many working-class and liberal-minded middle-class people want to defend the idea of secular, coeducational schooling. When “left”-Labor shadow minister for education, Jenny Macklin, addressed a NSW Teachers Federation conference in July, she was roundly heckled for Labor’s plan to increase funding for private Catholic schools. And students at Sydney University and their supporters, including Spartacus Youth Club and Spartacist activists, have engaged in militant demonstrations against the closure of the entire nursing faculty and the transferral of some government funding to a new nursing school run by the Catholic Notre Dame university. The Bachelor of Indigenous Nursing course is also under threat. Stop the closing of the nursing school at Sydney University! No to government funding of private and religious education—for the separation of church and state! For a massive boost in funds for public education; for free, secular, quality education for all!

It is in the working class’s interest to champion the democratic rights of all sections of the population, throwing off the tyrannies and prejudices that constrain them from fighting together against the bourgeoisie’s rule of exploitation. The full combative potential of women and minority workers must be unlocked. We Trotskyists of the Spartacist League (SL), section of the International Communist League (ICL), stand for free abortion on demand, free quality health care for all! Full citizenship rights for all immigrants! For the right of gay and lesbian marriage and divorce! Full democratic rights for homosexuals!

“Official” racism and anti-woman reaction has spawned violent attacks that must be decisively combated. In Melbourne, “Blackshirts,” a despicable group of “aggrieved fathers,” have been terrifying and threatening single mothers. Wearing black paramilitary uniforms and unmistakably fascist swastika-like insignia, the group carries out its goal “to bring back family values” by picking out divorced women for intimidation and harassment at their homes. The organised workers movement and left should defend the women targeted and drive these thugs off the streets.

Working Class Demands Maternity Leave, Childcare

By and large, the family “morality” that the government and church seek to impose on the population is at variance with what a lot of working people care about and certainly need. The mass of working people want quality health care, secure employment with decent wages and hours, and working parents want affordable and accessible childcare. A sizeable majority of the population supports women’s right to abortion.

An increasingly strongly felt demand of working and middle-class women and men, in the last few years, has been for paid maternity and paternity leave. A union campaign has enabled workers at some sites, like Sara Lee and Robert Bosch, to be granted such conditions. Strike action by Sydney University workers last year won staff 14 weeks fully paid maternity leave and a further 38 weeks leave at 60 percent pay. But Australia still stands, alongside the U.S., alone amongst the wealthy nations of the OECD with no universal paid maternity leave scheme.

Bosses’ organisations have desperately opposed any government-paid maternity leave and Howard’s reactionary Liberal Party minion, Nick Minchin, denounced proposals for such a scheme as “middle class welfare.” Seeking to appease its working-class base, for a period ALP leaders attacked Howard over his government’s failure to introduce a paid maternity leave scheme and promoted Labor as the party that would increase funding for childcare. But as elections neared, the ALP disappointed many of its supporters by announcing in March a policy excluding guaranteed paid maternity leave as it rushed to assure corporate heavies of its “family values” credentials and economic “responsibility.” Latham announced a paltry “baby-care” payment that would be means-tested on family income, effectively meaning that married mothers on low income would lose the payment if their husband’s income was high enough to push the combined income above the threshold.

Such economic discrimination against working women has been a feature of the conservative Howard regime, whose tax policies have been carefully designed to push women back into the home. For example, a sizeable tax deduction for parents with dependent children (The Family Tax Benefit—Part B) is effectively denied to couples if both partners work, even if they are on low incomes. Research by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling shows that as a result of the design of the tax system and the exorbitant cost of childcare, a married woman with three children who gets a 13-hour-a-week part-time job on the minimum wage will lose $1.08 for every $1 earned!

Despite all these constraints women’s participation rate in the workforce has increased since the 1980s albeit often in insecure casual jobs, with only a few hours per week. Increased participation in the workforce has seen a concomitant increase in the demand for childcare places. At the same time childcare has become more expensive and less accessible for working women. In 1996, the Howard government savagely cut subsidies to community-based childcare centres. Today, the unmet demand for childcare is estimated to be anything from 200,000 to one million places! Waiting times for privately-run childcare places can be up to two years. And while childcare workers are paid pathetic wages, the estimated cost of childcare has risen by 30 percent in the last two years and hovers at about $50 a day. Those who find these charges unpayable have to call on grandparents or other relatives and friends in a constant juggling act; or couples often work opposite shifts so that the kids will not be home alone.

It is in the class interests of the whole of the proletariat to actively fight for free and accessible childcare and champion the fight for women’s emancipation. From strikes and bans by nurses, hospital workers and teachers, to pickets at struck manufacturing plants, women have been at the centre of many union struggles that have occurred in the last few years. But the burdening of a woman with household drudgery saps her fighting energy and isolates her from her fellow workers. So do the threats from greedy employers to sack her if she takes time off work because of pregnancy or to care for a new baby or sick child. Meanwhile, the growth in terribly exploited casual labour, like the threat and reality of unemployment, is being used to drive down the conditions of all workers. There need to be some hard-fought strikes and some solid picket lines to fight to unionise as well as win permanency and full entitlements for casual workers; to organise the unorganised; for jobs for all through shortening the work week with no loss in pay, for fully paid maternity and paternity leave, for free 24-hour childcare.

But securing these demands comes smack up against the profit-based capitalist system and those who defend it. Unlike feminists who propose that all women should unite in the fight for women’s rights, we communists understand that the entire capitalist class—whether male or female—are enemies in the fight for jobs for all and free childcare as these would eat into their profits. The task of emancipating women is the task of the entire proletariat. The basis for their liberation requires workers revolutions internationally that will place the factories, mines, land and banks in the hands of the working people. As Russian revolutionary leader V.I. Lenin noted, “the abolition of private ownership of land and the factories...opens up the way towards a complete and actual emancipation of woman, her liberation from ‘household bondage’ through transition from petty individual housekeeping to large-scale domestic services” (V.I. Lenin, “International Working Women’s Day” [March 1921]). This would enable women to fully participate in the workforce and in the running of society and to have the leisure time for artistic and other pursuits. In the course of a few generations this would lead to the complete disappearance of backward social attitudes towards women. And freed from the economic and social compulsion which forces couples in capitalist society to remain together and sometimes causes them to split apart, human beings can finally engage, and disengage, in relationships and pleasures of whatever form they choose purely on the basis of mutual inclination.

Break With Laborism!

While socialism is in the objective interests of the exploited masses and all the oppressed, the present leaders of the Australian working class, the ALP parliamentary and union leaders, are thoroughly loyal to capitalism. The Laborite misleaders base themselves on a privileged section of better-paid workers, a labour aristocracy, who are conservatised by receiving crumbs from Australian imperialist exploitation in this region. Over the last 20 years, the pro-capitalist union bureaucrats in this country have allowed thousands of full-time, permanent jobs to be lost through factory closures and casualisation without serious class-struggle opposition. The Laborite tops act to subordinate struggles to the decisions of the bosses’ arbitration courts and sell them out with the lie that an ALP-run capitalist government will improve the lot of working people.

Today, while ACTU leaders have proclaimed their support for greater access to childcare, they have failed to mobilise any class-struggle action to fight for this. Instead they have channelled proletarian demands for childcare into parliamentary lobbying and calls for a cross-class “National Childcare Advisory Body.” Meanwhile, for all the ACTU’s talk about fighting for paid maternity leave, when Latham announced in March his policy that notably excluded such a scheme, ACTU president, Sharan Burrow nevertheless hailed the policy as a “fabulous foundation stone” for more family-friendly workplaces (Australian Financial Review, 1 April). And while there have been important union campaigns for paid maternity leave at individual worksites, the ACTU has primarily been derailing working-class demands on this question into a case in the Industrial Relations Commission (IRC) focused on the demand for unpaid maternity leave! Summarising the nature of the ACTU “strategy,” Burrow stated: “We don’t seek to impose additional burdens on business” (ABC-FM news bulletin, 1 September).

To shackle union power to the promise of “victory” in the IRC is a traitorous policy. The courts are not neutral “umpires” between the interests of workers and capital but are part of the capitalist state—at its core the cops, military, prisons and courts—which acts to enforce the rule of the bosses. To the extent concessions from the bosses are ever formalised in the courts it is not because of their “justice” but because the bosses have calculated that the balance of forces at a particular moment demands this in order to stave off what they really fear, the unleashing or continuation of union industrial action. The Arbitration system was in fact set up in the early 1900s as a racist pact between the “White Australia” Laborites and the capitalist rulers. It enshrined anti-woman chauvinism, providing the legal basis for paying women lower wages, declaring in 1912 that “a man was paid to support a family and a woman only to support herself.” In June of this year, the IRC provoked just outrage from unionised teachers when it ruled that Catholic school principals deserved more pay than their secular state school counterparts due to their “mission” for the “renewal of the church.”

What needs to be built in the unions is a class-struggle leadership, one that will fight for the complete political independence of the working class from the capitalist state. Such a leadership would be linked to a multiracial revolutionary workers party that would actively fight to champion the emancipation of women.

A communist party would include a section for work amongst women aimed at extending the influence of the party to layers of working-class and plebeian women whose participation in the revolutionary movement is vital. In fighting to build such a party, the SL looks to the example of Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks.

Women’s Liberation and Workers States

In 1917, the Bolsheviks led the Russian working class in the first successful workers revolution in history. Upon taking power, the revolutionary government acted promptly to make marriage a contract between free and equal partners that could be dissolved at the request of either partner and removed all laws against homosexuality as well as laws discriminating against “illegitimate” children. In 1921 (with Soviet Russia devastated from the Civil War against imperialist-backed counterrevolutionaries) the government issued a decree that if layoffs occur, then in cases where male and female workers were equally qualified they were to be given equal consideration in retaining their jobs, with the exception that single women with children under one year of age were to be given preference. A far cry from Howard and Latham indeed! In the early 1920s, the Bolshevik leadership sought to pioneer, to the extent the backward economic conditions allowed, socialist measures that would lay the basis for women’s emancipation from thousands of years of household enslavement by providing community-run childcare, dining and laundry facilities.

The defeats of revolutions abroad and the isolation and economic backwardness of the young Soviet workers state enabled a conservative, bureaucratic layer, headed by Joseph Stalin, to usurp political power in the mid-1920s. This bureaucracy subverted the revolutionary, internationalist ideals of the 1917 revolution and began promoting the family as a “fighting unit of socialism.” Yet despite the bureaucratic degeneration, until it was destroyed in capitalist counterrevolution in 1991-92, the Soviet Union continued to be based on collectivised property forms, which embodied real gains for the working class and women especially. This could be seen in the former German Democratic Republic (DDR), “East Germany,” a state built on the pattern of the Soviet degenerated workers state when the Red Army smashed Hitler’s Nazis at the end of World War II. Despite the heavy hand of the repressive Stalinist bureaucracy over both the economy and society, the collectivised property forms and centrally planned economy meant that women in the DDR were highly educated and skilled (over 90 percent employed and across all trades and professions) and had without doubt the best maternity and childcare benefits in the world (for example day-care centres attached to factories and a year’s maternity leave at full pay).

After the DDR was swallowed up in a capitalist reunification with West Germany in 1990, women of the former DDR were hit with mass layoffs and some found that they stood a better chance of getting a job in the Fourth Reich if they showed a certificate of sterilisation along with their resumé! The ICL fought tooth and nail against the capitalist counterrevolutions in the former USSR and DDR. In contrast other left groups, like the International Socialist Organisation (many of whose leaders at the time later formed the clique split from the ISO called Socialist Alternative), Democratic Socialist Party (DSP), Socialist Party (then called Militant) and Freedom Socialist Party (FSP), capitulated to the imperialists’ anti-communist Cold War. They supported the movements for counterrevolution from the Vatican-backed, anti-abortion Polish Solidarność to Yeltsin’s U.S.-backed Moscow barricades in 1991. Despite the formal claims of these fake-revolutionary groups to stand for women’s liberation, they lined up behind the counterrevolutions that have led to terrible unemployment, an historically unprecedented fall in life expectancy, the dismantling of once plentiful day care centres and in some cases loss of abortion rights.

Today the ICL fights for the unconditional military defence of the remaining deformed workers states—China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba—against imperialist attack and internal counterrevolution. The 1949 anti-capitalist revolution in China, while bureaucratically deformed from its inception, meant not only important gains for the workers and peasants but greatly uplifted women from centuries of oppression, symbolised by the barbaric practice of foot-binding. Today the pro-capitalist “market reforms” of the heirs of Mao have weakened the collectivised economy and undermined the position of women. Just as we did in the former USSR, we fight for workers political revolutions to oust the nationalist Stalinist bureaucracies in the remaining workers states in order to preserve and extend the gains of the social revolutions.

The Fight For Revolutionary Consciousness

The triumph of capitalist counterrevolution in the ex-USSR has not only been devastating for working people there but has emboldened the capitalist exploiters everywhere. The world has become a lot nastier and uglier for workers, minorities and women and this has been increasingly so since George W. Bush, backed by the likes of Howard and Tony Blair, seized on the criminal WTC bombing to declare a never ending “war on terror.” This country is certainly no exception. Commenting on the attacks on the position of women today, bourgeois feminist Anne Summers in a book published last year, The End of Equality noted: “It is salutary that it has become necessary so soon after the victories of just two decades ago to have to start the struggle again.”

The viciousness of recent outbursts by politicians against single mothers is a reflection of the profound anti-woman bigotry and hatred that infects this country. “Ocker” racism and sexism exist in all layers of society including the working class. A key task of a Leninist party in Australia is to root out these poisons from the workers movement. Such a party would fight to win the proletariat to the understanding that only by championing the cause of all the oppressed—Aborigines, women, immigrant minorities, gays—can the working class draw behind it the broader masses in the struggle against its own exploiters. This can be achieved most effectively in the course of intervention into hard-fought integrated class struggles, when the proletariat is most able to unite across racial, cultural and gender differences.

But any fight against backward ideas in the proletariat must involve a political struggle against the main transmission belt of such bourgeois ideologies into the working class—the Laborite misleaders. The upcoming federal elections present an opportunity to further this struggle. With the ALP standing on a platform of restricting civil liberties in the name of “war on terror,” support for the joint U.S./Australia Pine Gap spy base and reactionary “family values,” we forthrightly say there is no class basis for even the most critical support to the ALP: No vote to Labor!

But this is certainly not the case for the reformist left whose perspective has always been based on the illusion that mass pressure can force a Labor government to serve the interests of the oppressed. Take for example the “socialist-feminist” FSP, who are part of the Socialist Alliance electoral lash-up, which also includes the DSP, ISO and others. In an article on maternity leave and childcare in the Radical Women Supplement of their latest paper, the FSP assure their readers that a vote for Socialist Alliance will actually be a vote for Labor: “Australia’s preferential voting system ensures that a vote for SA will throw the current bums out and warn Labor that women and our allies mean business” (Freedom Socialist Bulletin, Winter/Spring). So for all their avowed militancy in advocating women’s rights, the FSP effectively say that Latham’s dumping of promised paid maternity leave (which they angrily noted in their article), vilification of single women with children and support for the ban on same-sex marriages is worthy only of a “warning,” as opposed to opposition. In this way, the FSP act to undercut opposition to the ALP’s racist, anti-worker, anti-woman program.

The Socialist Alternative group are even more blatant in calling for a vote to Labor (which they do at every federal election!): “Socialist Alternative says vote Labor or Green in the House of Representatives” (Socialist Alternative, July). They show that they are devoid of class principles by supporting the bourgeois Greens, even as they admit that, “the Greens are not a working class party. They want to work co-operatively with big business to change policies.”

Socialist Alternative attempt to decorate their support for Labor with the statement that: “Every student rally and occupation, every march for refugee rights, every protest against the occupation of Iraq and every strike both makes the election more political and makes it harder for Latham to back down on his promises” (Socialist Alternative, July). But it is precisely most of Latham’s “promises”—increased Australian (imperialist) intervention in the Asia-Pacific region, punitive “learn or earn” work for the dole schemes and “parental responsibility” court orders—that the working class must oppose. And to the extent the fake-socialist left are successful in prettifying the “promises” of the ALP, which is the central political obstacle to class struggle, they in fact undermine student actions, marches for refugee rights, protests against the occupation of Iraq.

After eight years of incessant right-wing reaction under Howard, there is pressure for working people to think that anyone else would be an improvement. But building workers who remember that it was an ALP government that smashed the militant BLF union, poor mothers who hate the insults Latham throws at them and determined advocates of refugee rights are all reluctant to vote Labor. We seek to strengthen opposition to Laborism among such elements and bring to them a consistent revolutionary alternative to bankrupt social democracy.

While the ALP rests on the most highly paid, whitest and most male-dominated sections of the working class, the revolutionary workers party that we are fighting to build will include all sections of the multiracial proletariat, especially its more poorly paid, women and immigrant components. Women will surely play a leading role in international socialist revolution. And in the classless, egalitarian society that will finally emerge, the full creative potential of all the formerly downtrodden will be unleashed. Then women will have a genuine opportunity to develop the scientific brilliance of a Marie Curie or the musical talents of a Jacqueline du Pré. And all of humanity will be the richer for this.

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