Economic Crisis

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Editorial: Morrison’s recovery plan means cuts and casualisation—it’s time to start the fightback

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 24/10/2020 - 6:59pm in

While Scott Morrison’s budget has handed tens of billions of dollars to business in tax breaks and wage subsidies, workers will be expected to sacrifice to deliver any economic recovery from the pandemic.

There are now almost one million unemployed, and another 200,000 who have stopped looking for work altogether. Yet JobSeeker payments have been slashed.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg says unemployment won’t fall below 6 per cent for at least another two years, but the Liberals are determined to maintain the status quo and protect profits. So aged care homes will left in private hands while the government refuses to provide the money needed for more staff and qualified nurses.

Despite spending gigantic sums, the Liberals have ignored the enormous social need in aged care, childcare, health and the transition to a carbon-neutral economy. The billions going to the bosses could have funded climate action and created hundreds of thousands of jobs to fund renewable energy, but Morrison is wedded to fossil fuels and his illusions of a “gas-led recovery”.

Childcare services were briefly made free, for those that needed them while the country was under lockdown. But the Liberals have been completely unwilling to extend this.

The JobKeeper wage subsidy is being wound back, disappearing altogether next March. JobSeeker payments have already been cut, and are set to be cut back to pre-COVID poverty levels of just $40 a day in December.

While Labor waved the government’s business handouts through parliament, Leader Anthony Albanese has re-positioned Labor in the wake of the Morrison’s budget. Albanese is promising to spend $6.2 billion expanding childcare subsidies, and to “investigate” funding 90 per cent of the costs for everyone.

However Labor, too, has been careful to appeal to business, stressing that its child-care proposal was a “substantial economic reform” that would “boost productivity” for the bosses.

Albanese also gestured towards action on climate change, saying Labor would fund an overhaul of the electricity grid to accommodate renewable energy. It is a small shift from Labor, but it is a far cry from the action that will be needed to drive a rapid transition to renewable energy, transport, buildings and land management.

Workers’ rights

Morrison is also preparing new workplace legislation to provide further “flexibility” for employers to drive down workers’ conditions and boost profits. His vision for economic recovery is based on the capitalist dream of forcing workers to accept lower pay and more casualisation.

Despite months of roundtable discussions between employers and the ACTU, the government is now determined to make its own decision on what will be include in the new workplace laws.

Morrison’s appalling attack on the MUA over its dispute with Patrick is an indication of what he is planning.

Although the MUA was in a bargaining period for a modest wage increase and defence of existing conditions, Morrison lied about ships being held at sea and accusing the union of, “engaging in a campaign of extortion… in the middle of a COVID-19 recession”.

University staff have been among the worst affected by the COVID recession. So far nearly 12,500 staff have been sacked, almost 10 per cent of the workforce. The cuts are still coming, but the union leadership has done little to fight the jobs massacre.

The push for the NSW NTEU post-budget rally on 13 October came from the rank and file. It was small, but it was a step forward—and won authorisation in the Supreme Court so police could not issue fines.

Student protests against cuts at Sydney University have defied the police, despite one activist being charged, and over $50,000 in COVID fines. There was widespread criticism of the police after they assaulted a law professor who was there as a legal observer.

Defiance and the push for the right to protest have won some concessions. NSW regulations now allow COVID-safe protests of up to 500. Students and unions will need to seize the opportunity to get back on the streets and organise even more significant protests.

Staff and student action can stop the cuts. At Macquarie Uni, plans to axe the Gender Studies major were reversed after an outcry and campus demonstrations. A number of history courses at Sydney Uni were saved following protests before the start of semester.

But it will take action on a much wider scale, involving larger numbers of students and staff, to reverse the campus cuts and force Morrison to deliver higher funding. This means planning for strike action in defiance of the law.

We need to fan every flame of resistance to Morrison and his corporate agenda. Larger protests of staff and students can build momentum and confidence and point to the kind of fightback that will be needed as the economy slumps deeper into recession.

The post Editorial: Morrison’s recovery plan means cuts and casualisation—it’s time to start the fightback appeared first on Solidarity Online.

The Toxic Business as usual Budget will be no elixer for rapid COVID-induced economic decline

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/10/2020 - 4:01pm in

This was always going to be an extraordinarily challenging budget to get right in very difficult times, as four decades of neoliberal globalisation sits on the edge of a precipice. Even after all the early releases and leaked policies in the run-up to the most significant Australian budget since the Second World War, one anticipated something suitably ground-breaking. There was nothing. Faced with the challenge of either taking the high road and looking to reconfigure Australian capitalism to address deep structural problems that go back decades at a time of fundamentally altered circumstances, or taking the business-as-usual and well-travelled low road, the government has firmly committed to the latter. The overarching imaginary is for an Economic Recovery Plan that would return the economy to where it was before the COVID-19 pandemic. The sloganeering rhetoric has seamlessly shifted from ‘budget repair’ to ‘economic repair’.

The Treasurer’s headline measures are all about promoting private—read: big—business as usual. Apart from its extraordinary scale, the budget includes a range of measures that this government has either already committed to or would have introduced anyway: income-tax cuts, business investment incentives and infrastructure spending. The government has baulked at a desperately needed and once-in-a-generation chance to structurally change the Australian economy to make it more sustainable, greener and fairer. This backward-looking business-as-usual approach is very risky and unlikely to deliver economic repair for several reasons.

First, providing significant tax relief to business assumes that there will be capital investment to enhance capacity, viability and productivity.

The architects of the budget strategy seem unaware of the shortcomings of Say’s Law, named after the French classical economist Jean-Baptise Say, who advocated, to simplify considerably, that ‘production is the source of demand’. The problem with Say’s Law is that while stimulating business might stimulate input supply chains, outputs still need to be sold here or abroad. A criticism of the Law is that it does not stop ‘a general glut’ if overall demand is deficient. Capitalist businesses will not invest unless they anticipate a profit. Given likely sluggish demand, many businesses will not invest despite the generous incentives.

And even if business capacity and supply increase, who are the customers? The budget’s lacklustre support for households, driven by the desire to keep labour disciplined and eager to take whatever precarious work is made available, will likely undermine the ability of domestic businesses to find a market for their goods and services.

Second, the budget includes a massive deployment of wage subsidies, a standard business-as-usual response in times of recession. This was last trialled in Australia in the early 1990s with the Keating government’s Jobstart program that had limited efficacy. It is estimated that the $60-billion JobMaker Plan will move 450,000 unemployed young people aged sixteen to thirty-five into part- and full-time employment. But the subsidy is limited to twelve months and the incentive to employers is only a maximum of $200 per week. I am reminded here of Elizabeth Anderson’s recent book Private Government, in which she argues that workplaces are increasingly becoming autocratic ‘private governments’ that totally empower the employer at the expense of the employee. The gap between private and public government is rapidly closing. Along these lines, a likely danger is that JobMaker will drive out current casual employees and replace them with taxpayer-subsidised workers—good for business, not so good for those who will inevitably join the JobSeeker queue. And if a position is only possible with government support, what will happen to the half a million subsidised workers at the end of the program? Without Morrison’s anticipated ‘snapback’—a term less commonly deployed by those in government today—it is likely that many in these positions will ‘churn’ back to unemployment.

Third, there is the very business-as-usual promised stage 2 tax relief, brought forward and provided to rich and not-so-rich income earners, assuming that additional income will be spent, with no questions asked about on what. Such confidence in behavioural neoliberalism is reminiscent of Peter Costello’s ‘baby bonus’ in 2002 and the appeal to Australians to ‘have one for the nation’. People happily received the baby bonus, but there was no sustained increase in fertility, hence the need in the last two decades for high rates of immigration to grow the economy. If people ‘save, save, save’ rather than ‘spend, spend, spend’ during these uncertain times, this high-risk strategy will be exposed at a time when the budget bottom line can least afford lower tax revenue. The same can be said for the exhortation to business to ‘invest, invest, invest’ at a time when business investment in manufacturing, agriculture, and retail and wholesale trade has been falling for decades; it is only in resource extraction that there has been an investment boom.

Finally, and most insidiously, this is business as usual in neglecting those in greatest need: the unemployed and the homeless and those facing deep structural impediments to obtaining formal employment. For a five-month period between April and September the unemployed on JobSeeker received a COVID supplement of $550 per fortnight and mutual obligation requirements were eased in the interest of social distancing. Now the supplement has been reduced to $250 a fortnight and mutual obligation is being reimposed. On 31 December 2020 the supplement will end abruptly, and the unemployed will once again be looking to survive in deep poverty on $40 a day. This is unconscionable on many grounds, including that the number of people on JobSeeker is likely to grow, among them older casual workers displaced by younger people on JobMaker. There are already reports that the two tranches of COVID supplement to date have made a real difference to recipients’ well-being, allowing them to live with some semblance of dignity. To eliminate this supplement is to condemn people not to hopeful but to hopeless futures, and to the associated physical and psychological harm. Its provision was clearly intended to pump-prime a faltering economy, not to assist those in greatest need.

What if in these times of unprecedented uncertainty people exercise caution in spending money, perhaps after an initial splurge on a meal out and a domestic holiday? What if the pandemic has made people accustomed to lower expenditure consider the environmental and resource-conservation benefits of de-consumption? And if people with discretionary cash spend up, who will benefit? Local or overseas manufacturers? Or, to put it more crudely, if input supply chains are all to China, such expenditure will not pump-prime the domestic economy as anticipated. What will happen to the balance of payments if overseas demand for Australian exports, including the mineral-commodities exports lifeline, stagnates or declines? We have already seen the gutting of our major COVID-19-affected services exports, inbound international tourism and the number of inbound students destined for tertiary education.

This budget will go down in history as a once-in-a-hundred-years missed opportunity to begin to reconfigure the Australian economy to differently engage with faltering neoliberal globalisation, the climate crisis, and the fault lines in our economy and society that the pandemic has so clearly exposed.

The government’s lack of vision to reconfigure the potential of a continent to provide a sustainable livelihood and equitable support for just 25 million people has been made palpably obvious by this budget. Prospects for a more just society have been frittered away. Where are the substantive investments in the under-resourced aged-care and childcare sectors? Where are the significant investments in social housing, in community infrastructure, in ameliorating the multiple threats of climate change, in addressing escalating environmental damage, in supporting the ‘food bowl’ regions and regenerative agriculture, in shifting to ‘super-power’ possibilities deploying renewable energy? Where is the support for universities, damaged by 2020 government neglect and COVID-induced overseas-student lockouts, and for the arts, so fundamental to the nation’s identity, creativity and spiritual well-being?

At a time of unprecedented crisis, the government and its leadership needed to be imaginative and bold, providing support for an Australian version of a ‘green new deal’ to address and own our climate crisis; for a more caring society; and for a more ecologically sustainable economy less dependent on rampant, never-ending consumption. Tragically, this ‘business-as-usual’ COVID budget fails to address any of these challenges. Our leaders have been derelict. The toxicity of the pandemic is matched by the toxicity of the government’s response, which will be no elixir for the enduring structural illnesses in our economy and society.

Handouts for business and the rich in budget that fails those hit by pandemic

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 08/10/2020 - 9:07am in

The Liberals will shovel billions in subsidies and handouts to business and the rich, in a budget that fails those worst hit by the pandemic.

There are now close to one million people unemployed. Their JobSeeker payments face a cut that will push them well below the poverty line, living on just $40 a day from the end of December. Yet high income earners have been handed big tax cuts.

Despite the crisis in aged care exposed in Victoria’s COVID-19 second wave, resulting in over 660 deaths, there is nothing to boost staff or training in aged care centres. Instead of making the massive investment in renewable energy and climate transition that we need, Morrison is handing money to prop up the Vales Point coal power station.

The largest tax cuts this year will go to those earning over $120,000. Treasurer Josh Frydenberg tried to claim that lower income earners get more back “as a proportion of tax payable”. But the size of the tax cuts for those earning $40,000 are just $580 a year extra compared to $2430 for anyone earning over $120,000. And the tax cuts for the rich are permanent, while those for low income earners expire after one year.

From 2024, when the next stage of the tax cuts kick in, the rich will rake it in. Anyone on $200,000 will get back  $11,500 a year—including our overpaid federal politicians. But those on $60,000 a year or less will get $375 a year at most.

Not only is this hopelessly unfair, it is not even an effective way to boost economic demand, as the rich are much more likely to add the extra money to their savings rather than spend it.

The budget contains handout after handout for business. It is another exercise in neo-liberal trickle down economics that will punish workers. It is based on unrealistic expectations of an economic recovery. The estimate of economic growth of 4.75 per cent  for the next financial year would mean the biggest economic growth this century and be even better than growth figures during the mining boom. Not likely. 

The biggest new program is $27 billion for investment incentives to allow businesses to buy new machinery and equipment. Instead of the government creating quality, well-paid jobs itself there will be a subsidy for businesses that employ new staff under the age of 35.

The government’s push for more “flexible” work laws means many of them will be casualised and low paid. It is preparing new attacks on workplace rights to bring to parliament before the end of the year.

This is all designed to boost business profits at the expense of workers. And both measures will be open to almost every business in the country, regardless of whether they have suffered any losses due to the pandemic.

Morrison wants to ensure bosses reap the benefits from any economic recovery. After years of record low wage growth, wages will actually go backwards in real terms over the next two years.

Faced with the chance to borrow money at record low interest rates, the Liberals’ are simply handing money to employers. The increase in spending on infrastructure projects is modest, at an average of around $2.5 billion a year, mainly on building roads.

They have refused to fund the kind of investment that could have delivered a climate recovery, through projects like high speed rail between cities, retrofitting buildings, and renewable energy. Beyond Zero Emissions has produced detailed plans showing how this could create up to one million jobs. But this has been ignored.

The budget delivered nothing to fund social housing, despite widespread appeals from charities and economists alike. The Everybody’s Home campaign estimates that building 30,000 new social housing units could also create 18,000 jobs. There is already a major shortfall of over 430,000 in public housing and affordable homes. This is set to get worse with a higher level of unemployment.

Hidden in the budget papers there are also some nasty cuts including $41.3 million from homelessness services from next year, a cut of 5000 from the annual refugee intake, and ongoing cuts to the ABC.

Scott Morrison and Josh Frydenberg have failed to produce a budget that either delivers on jobs, supports workers living standards or keeps the unemployed out of poverty. As jobs keep disappearing with the end of the JobKeeper wage subsidy, unions and the left are going to have to fight for the measures we need to protect workers from the worst recession since the 1930s.

By James Supple

The post Handouts for business and the rich in budget that fails those hit by pandemic appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Unemployment crisis just beginning as economy slumps

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 26/09/2020 - 10:57am in

Australia is in our worst economic crisis since the 1930s.

The lockdowns and restrictions imposed in the face of the pandemic saw 1.3 million people stood down or lose their jobs. Even with the economy beginning to open up again, at least 400,000 of those jobs have still not come back. Sixty per cent of those that did were only part-time. Then Melbourne’s second wave hit.

Figures for the first quarter fully affected by the pandemic show that the economy shrank by 7 per cent in the three months to 30 June, the largest drop on record.

But the situation is set to get worse. Although August’s official unemployment figures showed a rebound in jobs, this was largely due to an increase in gig economy work. Hours worked barely grew, suggesting many of those taking up these jobs are hardly working. And unofficial unemployment, including those who have given up looking for work, was almost 9 per cent.

Unemployment is expected to keep rising, hitting an official rate of 10 per cent by December. And that’s if there are no further outbreaks of the virus.

Young, low paid workers in retail, food services and the arts have been the worst hit. Women have also lost work disproportionately.

Scott Morrison is set to make this worse. Even as unemployment is still rising, he is cutting JobSeeker payments by $300 a fortnight from 24 September. JobKeeper payments will also be cut in two stages, to $1200 after September, and $1000 from next year.

JobSeeker payments are set to drop back to pre-COVID levels of $40 a day, below the poverty line, at the start of next year.

Tax cuts for the rich

Instead of helping those hit hardest by the crisis, the Liberals plan to bring forward the next stage of their tax cuts. This would cost a colossal $28 billion over the first three years. But the benefits of it would go to the rich.

The top 20 per cent of taxpayers would get 91 per cent of the benefits. The bottom 50 per cent of taxpayers would receive just 4 per cent, the Australia Institute found. Those out of work would miss out altogether.

Tax cuts would do nothing to create jobs or tackle the unemployment crisis the pandemic has brought us. Nor would they be very effective economic stimulus, as many economists have pointed out, with the rich more likely to simply save the cash windfall, particularly when the pandemic has made eating out and entertainment more difficult.

Those most likely to spend are the unemployed and low income earners, who otherwise have to forgo the basics.

COVID-19 has triggered an economic crisis like no other. There is still no way of knowing when industries like retail, restaurants, tourism and entertainment will be back to normal. We could be waiting six months, or even a year, until there is an effective vaccine.

The state of other economies around the world will also impact Australia through reduced trade. The US and Europe have all suffered twice the economic damage as here, according to the IMF. The flow on effect is sure to hit China too, which has recovered faster so far.

The high levels of population growth that have underpinned economic growth in Australia, fuelled by migration, are on indefinite pause.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg will bring down the budget on 6 October, outlining the government’s plans for future spending.

We will need far more government support to tackle the jobs crisis. Morrison’s plans for tax cuts, attacks on workers’ rights, and investment incentives for companies show that he remains committed to the same old neo-liberal policies.

The renewed outbreak of the virus in Victoria may have forced a delay in their plans, but the intention is still to force a “snap back” to business as usual as soon as possible.

Their haste to wind back spending on JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments is a further sign of the Coalition’s addiction to reducing debt and limiting government spending.

There is also talk of new spending on infrastructure in the budget.  But the government should be stepping in to create jobs in the public sector, through addressing the failures exposed by the pandemic. We need an end to insecure, casualised work and far more staff in our aged care and health systems.

And instead of locking in further carbon emissions through putting government money into expanding fossil fuels through new gas projects, the government could begin the rapid shift to renewable energy and a zero carbon economy that we need.

The government has spent some $100 billion so far on emergency measures to avoid economic collapse. Some hoped the scale of the crisis would force governments to abandon the neo-liberal policies of recent decades.

But it’s clear from Scott Morrison’s plans that it will take a serious fight to force the spending needed to create jobs, as well as address the other crises in health and climate change that the world faces.

By James Supple

The post Unemployment crisis just beginning as economy slumps appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Homelessness in canada could rise due to recession

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 26/09/2020 - 2:50am in

I am currently writing a report for Employment and Social Development Canada looking at the long-term impact of the current recession on homelessness. It should be ready by early November.

In the meantime, a teaser blog post I’ve just written on the same topic is available here.

Homelessness in canada could rise due to recession

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 26/09/2020 - 2:50am in

I am currently writing a report for Employment and Social Development Canada looking at the long-term impact of the current recession on homelessness. It should be ready by early November.

In the meantime, a teaser blog post I’ve just written on the same topic is available here.

The 1930s New Deal—lessons for today

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 25/09/2020 - 5:39pm in

Calls for a Green New Deal have become more urgent with the pandemic-induced recession. But class struggle was key to forcing Roosevelt’s New Deal, writes Lachlan Marshall

In the face of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, the example of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal is being touted as a possible solution.

The New Deal was a series of policies designed to revive US capitalism through reform of the finance sector, public works programs, unemployment relief, and support to business.

Progressive Democrats like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders have called for a Green New Deal, as have the Australian Greens, to tackle both the climate and inequality crises. In the UK even Boris Johnson has described his promise of increased spending on infrastructure as a “New Deal”.

Government spending to create jobs will be needed on a large scale to address the economic crisis triggered by COVID-19.

But there are a lot of myths about the New Deal that miss some important lessons. The scale of the economic devastation alone didn’t prompt Roosevelt to introduce programs to benefit working class Americans.

It was just as much a response to an explosion in class struggle, offering reforms in order to “obviate revolution”, as Roosevelt (FDR) put it.

Depression

Prior to his election in 1932 FDR showed little sign of wanting to bring serious change. He was a fiscal conservative.

In the election campaign Roosevelt sent mixed messages, at times condemning the rich and calling for a reduction in poverty, at others criticising President Hoover for spending too extravagantly.

Roosevelt’s actual policies differed little from Hoover’s. He won because Hoover had presided over the beginning of the Depression and was seen as ruling for the rich. Hoover opposed unemployment relief for the poor, but spent millions bailing out business.

Hoover’s fate was sealed when he ordered the army to violently clear out unemployed First World War veterans protesting for bonus payments in Washington.

When Roosevelt took office in 1933 one of his first acts was introducing the Economy Bill, an austerity program which slashed public sector pay and veterans’ benefits.

During the Depression the US economy shrank by a third, wages dropped by 60 per cent and 13 million were unemployed. Hundreds of thousands of homes were repossessed, rendering millions homeless. Thousands in the richest country on earth starved to death.

Bitterness and anger began to explode. Unemployed workers led by the Communist Party defended tenants against eviction across the country. There were strikes and food riots that led to deadly clashes with state and private police.

Roosevelt was forced to acknowledge that unless the government acted to relieve workers’ desperation, capitalism was at serious risk.

In May 1933 Roosevelt established the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, to put millions to work building roads, bridges, sewage systems, hospitals and schools, as well as funding arts and cultural programs. FDR also introduced unemployment payments.

A key piece of New Deal legislation was the National Industrial Recovery Act, introduced in June 1933. It facilitated the creation of enormous cartels, exempt from anti-trust legislation, with the aim of boosting corporate profits.

But one part of it—Section 7a—gave an enormous boost to the working class. It said simply, “employees shall have the right to organise and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing.”

This was only intended to be a token concession (and Roosevelt opposed its inclusion). But, as the American Federation of Labor reported, it sparked, “a virtual uprising of workers for union membership.” Many believed that their right to join a union had been guaranteed.

Union fightback

The United States had been a deeply hostile environment for unionists. Workers faced the combined might of police, military and private company police hired to spy on and in some cases murder labour activists.

This resulted in union membership dropping to 9.3 per cent in 1929. The “open shop”, or non-union workplace, seemed unassailable.

The national union federation, the American Federation of Labour (AFL), refused to organise unskilled workers and supported racial segregation. It proved incapable of using the surge towards the unions to extend union influence.

But in 1934 three explosive strikes, all led by the radical left, turned the tide for the working class.

The Auto-Lite strike in Toledo won union recognition and wage rises following thousands-strong pickets and pitched battles with the National Guard. AFL leaders advised strikers to put their trust in the government. But with support from the American Workers’ Party, militancy and organisation won the dispute.

Minneapolis was a notorious open shop city. A group of truck drivers (“teamsters”) set out to unionise the industry, led by a small Trotskyist group.

Teamsters’ leader Daniel Tobin opposed the strike, and the governor, supposedly a friend of labour, declared martial law.

During their strike truck drivers had to form militias to defend themselves in pitched battles with company thugs and police—and won.

In San Francisco former Wobblies, supported by the Communist Party, began organising and led a strike on the docks. Solidarity strikes by truck drivers escalated into action that forced union officials to support a general strike. The settlement saw dockers win union control of the waterfront.

There were key lessons from these strikes. Workers who listened to their union leaders and trusted Roosevelt to deliver for them were bitterly disappointed. Without a sustained fightback, employers ignored the new laws with impunity.

Success only came through rank and file organisation and taking action independent of union officials.

The wave of struggle produced a split in the union bureaucracy, with the formation of the Congress of Industrial Organisations (CIO), committed to using militancy to extend union organisation, but under the control of union officials.

Second New Deal

With his eyes on re-election in 1936, Roosevelt turned to the left and embarked on more far-reaching reform, in what became known as the “Second New Deal”.

The welfare measures introduced by FDR compared poorly with those in Europe. They excluded vast swathes of workers, especially black workers. And the legacy of his administration’s decision not to introduce health insurance echoes on today.

These measures gained Roosevelt massive support from workers and unions, while the majority of the ruling class condemned him.

In a 1936 speech Roosevelt famously said that the rich were, “unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.”

But Roosevelt resented the fact that the ruling class couldn’t recognise that he was trying to protect them. He defended his policies as being necessary for the survival of capitalism, describing himself as, “the best friend the profit system ever had.”

He warned that without reforms the US would face a growing wave of class struggle, like the factory occupations in France in May-June 1936.

In the 1936 election Roosevelt won 61 per cent of the vote, higher than in 1932.

Again, it took an escalation in class struggle to gain the benefits.

In 1936 workers in the Ohio rubber industry pioneered a new tactic: occupying workplaces through the sit-down strike.

A key event in the sit-down movement was the victorious strike at General Motors in Flint, Michigan. GM was the biggest corporation in the world at the time, and had successfully resisted unionisation through a regime of terror by company spies and guards.

Police and company guards laid siege to the plant, but workers had prepared the factories like fortresses with metal sheets boarding up windows, and used firehoses and other objects to repel the police. Mass pickets and provision of food for the strikers kept up morale inside the plant.

According to a Michigan Communist Party leader, the strike won through a, “combination of an inside strike with an outside mass mobilisation.”

The victory at GM inspired other workers to use the new tactic.

Sit-down strikes mushroomed across the country. Workers in workplaces as diverse as restaurants, hotels, tobacco, transport, Woolworths and cinemas deployed the sit-down strike in early 1937.

Roosevelt didn’t support the strikes, preferring that workers leave the determination of their conditions to the government.

When 18 workers fighting to organise the steel industry were massacred by police and vigilantes in 1937 Roosevelt declared “a plague on both your houses”.

With the election out of the way and Roosevelt confident that the economy was on a path to recovery, he saw it as the right time to balance the budget. Cuts to government spending triggered another sharp recession.

Mass layoffs ensued and after years of advance the American working class was forced onto the back foot.

The administration reintroduced some social programs and other spending, but unemployment remained at 17 per cent in 1939.

Lessons for today

Public spending on the scale of Roosevelt’s New Deal could start to address the combined crises of unemployment and climate change we face today. We need the government to create jobs in renewable energy and reverse privatisation to guarantee affordable electricity.

But would a modern-day New Deal return the economy to health? Government spending during recession does cushion the blow of economic crises.

However, the US economy only returned to health when the demands of the Second World War created a new boom.

To build a society that provides for human and environmental need we need to break from the logic of capitalism.

The New Deal reinvented the Democrats as a home for progressives.

Bernie Sanders is predicting that Joe Biden will be “the most progressive president since FDR”. But in the 1930s workers couldn’t rely on Roosevelt. Today workers and anti-racists can’t rely on Biden or Kamala Harris.

A key lesson of the period is that progressive change and improvements to workers’ lives only come about as a result of mass grassroots resistance, above all strike action.

It’s these movements that offer hope for an exit from the converging crises of climate change, pandemic and economic collapse.

The post The 1930s New Deal—lessons for today appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Inspired by Thatcher, Liberals want workers to pay for the COVID crisis

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 29/07/2020 - 11:46am in

The Liberals want workers to pay for economic recovery through attacks on workplace rights and poverty level payments for the unemployed.

That’s the message from Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s economic statement on 23 July.

The government is cutting back both JobKeeper and JobSeeker payments after September, despite the renewed lockdown in Melbourne showing the COVID-19 crisis is far from over.

Both payments will continue for another six months with a cut of $300 each. JobKeeper will drop below the minimum wage to $1200 a fortnight.

The payment has flowed to elite private schools and hundreds of priests across the major churches, despite their millions in assets. Yet the government still refuses to allow university staff, casual workers and anyone on a migrant work visa to access it, imposing thousands of job losses.

JobSeeker will be cut to $815 a fortnight, despite Treasurer Josh Frydenberg’s admission that unemployment is set to rise further to 9.25 per cent by December. The Australia Institute estimates this will throw 370,000 people into poverty.

Workers’ rights are facing attack in order to deliver more “flexibility” to employers. Temporary industrial relations changes since April have allowed companies relying on JobKeeper payments to cut workers’ hours and change their duties.

Now Josh Frydenberg has announced that he wants these changes to continue after September—even if a company no longer needs JobKeeper.

Labor and the unions have opposed the move, with ACTU president Michele O’Neil saying, “there is no justification whatsoever for changing workers’ rights for business that are no longer struggling”.

Bosses want workers even more casualised and disposable, so they can cut shifts and move workers around their business in order to maximise profits.

Already there are calls from employer groups such as the National Retail Association to extend the powers to all employers. This all has to be stopped.

Further attacks on workplace rights are coming. Frydenberg has declared that, “for the [industrial relations] system to deliver more jobs, it will need to evolve”.

Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter’s five working groups examining changes to workplace laws are due to wrap up in September. While the ACTU is involved in the process, the government has made it clear that it will press ahead with changes anyway if the unions don’t agree.

Funding for jobs

There is no reason that reviving the economy has to come at the expense of wages, conditions, and workers’ rights.

Record low interest rates mean the government could borrow money on a much larger scale to fund jobs. The government has already committed to $289 billion of measures.

But Josh Frydenberg is still clinging to the neo-liberal dogma against budget deficits, declaring he was inspired by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan and that the debt was already “eye-watering”.

But the scale of the economic slump is also the biggest since the 1930s, with the economic decline this year estimated at 60 times that of the 2007-8 crisis globally.

Even Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe has argued that, “debt across all levels of government in Australia, relative to the size of the economy, is much lower than in many other countries”.

There could be a big increase immediately in the aged care workforce to ensure those most of risk from the coronavirus are protected. Ending casualisation and understaffing would allow any worker with the slightest symptoms to stay home, reducing the risk of the virus getting into aged care homes. In Victoria, the AMA is warning that aged care is already on the brink of collapse with so many workers infected with the virus or required to self-isolate.

And there are hundreds of thousands of jobs that could be created in tackling climate change, from building renewable energy generation to retrofitting buildings, switching to public transport and improving land management.

Making sure workers do not pay for this crisis will require a fight. Workers at Woolworths’ distribution centre in Wyong in NSW are showing the way, striking for 24 hours to demand wage parity with other Woolworths’ centres, only to be faced with a three day lockout from the company.

The CFMEU is NSW is also pushing for a 5 per cent pay increase, after securing pay increases, albeit lower than in the previous years, in Victoria.

Students and staff are also fighting fee increases and job cuts at universities, including government imposed funding cuts.

It is crucial we don’t accept the way coronavirus restrictions are being used to shut down protests.

The continued Black Lives Matter rallies against deaths in custody have shown that large numbers can still be mobilised on the streets.

We have to organise, demonstrate and strike to demand that the government, the bosses and the rich pay for the crisis.

The post Inspired by Thatcher, Liberals want workers to pay for the COVID crisis appeared first on Solidarity Online.

Resist Evictions and Foreclosures

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 23/06/2020 - 11:34pm in

How to Stop Eviction — End Eviction

            COVID-19 has created the ideal medium for a summer of continuous protest.

Political protest demonstrations used to be weekend affairs in which angry leftists shouted at empty government offices before shuffling home Sunday afternoon to gear up for the workweek. With one out of four workers having filed for unemployment and many more working from home, tens of millions of Americans have free time to march in the streets. Sporting events, movie theaters, retail stores and even houses of worship are closed due to the coronavirus lockdown.

The usual distractions of a leap year are absent; the summer Olympics are canceled and presidential campaigning is so close to nonexistent as to be irrelevant. Politics is no longer about the politicians. Politics is in the street, where there’s nothing to do but gather, chant and dodge teargas cannisters.

            The vacuum created by the lockdown and the impotence of a political class that no longer pretends to lead during a staggering medico-economic crisis has been filled by Black Lives Matter following the murder of George Floyd. BLM has won important symbolic victories like the toppling of Confederate statues and a renewed push to remove the Stars and Bars from the Mississippi state flag. As the movement against police brutality and institutional racism continues, look for more substantive systemic reforms in policing.

            What comes next? The eviction and foreclosure resistance movement.

Thanks to Congress’ reluctance to pass another big stimulus package, protests in general will continue into the foreseeable future. But they won’t all be against evil cops. A looming eviction and foreclosure crisis could broaden the struggle from one centered around racial grievances into a class-based fight for economic justice.

            Courts are about to get flooded by eviction hearings. 30% of Americans missed their June housing payment. Supplemental $600-per-week unemployment checks expire July 31st.

“I think we will enter into a severe renter crisis and very quickly,” Columbia Law professor Emily Benfer, a housing expert who tracks eviction policies, told The New York Times May 30th. Without government action, she warned, “we will have an avalanche of evictions across the country.”

            There is no sign that the government will lift a finger to help people who lost their jobs and will soon face homelessness. Even Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, the most progressive members of the U.S. Senate, refuse to consider a rent or mortgage payment holiday. They support a tepid “moratorium,” not a rent freeze. Under a moratorium back rent would pile up and all come due at once later on. Millions of people would be kicked outside this winter during a possible “second wave” of COVID-19. That’s the best scenario. Odds are, there won’t even be a moratorium. Congress will do little to nothing to help struggling tenants and homeowners.

            Millions of homeowners and renters displaced from their homes during the 2008-09 subprime mortgage meltdown received zero assistance from the government. There were no protests worth mentioning. This time will be different.

            First, there’s safety in numbers. The scale of this eviction crisis is much bigger. Three times more people have lost their jobs than during the Great Recession, during a much shorter period of time. Members of an eviction resistance movement can help one another block county sheriffs from kicking them out. Among those who are still working, the tenuous nature of the labor market has everyone in there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I mode. We are in this together.

            Second, this economic cataclysm wasn’t some act of God. People were ordered to shelter in place by the government. That’s why they lost their jobs, not a seemingly random stock market fluctuation. Targets of eviction and foreclosure won’t internalize any shame. They know they haven’t done anything wrong. They social distanced as asked; why should they sleep on the streets now because public health officials required them to go without income?

            Third, Black Lives Matter has demonstrated the efficacy of street protests and of grassroots solidarity. Cops are currently about as popular as an STD. How enthusiastically will police respond to a landlord’s request to fight their way through an angry crowd to throw a family onto the street? It depends on the municipality. Things will quickly turn ugly.

            Finally, memories of how the big banks squandered their Bush-Obama bailouts on exorbitant CEO salaries and renovating luxurious executive washrooms are still fresh. Even on the right, it will be tough to garner political support for banks trying to remove homeowners whose only crime was following stay-at-home orders.

            There is a long but now largely forgotten history of tenant resistance movements in this country, mostly led by the communist Left. Each 1st of the month between now and this fall brings us closer to a new radical struggle between people who ask nothing more than to keep a roof over their heads and a system that prioritizes the right to own and control property over the most basic of human needs.

            That movement will bring us closer to revolution.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, is the author of “Political Suicide: The Fight for the Soul of the Democratic Party.” You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.