On 10th May the Federal Treasury Wayne Swan presented the government’s budget for 2011-12. Simply put the budget is how the Federal Government plans to spend its revenue over the next financial year. It does this through a reading of the general economic situation and attempts to create policy which it believes will help that economic situation. As such the presentation of the budget is normally a main event in the circus of Australian politics and is the target of a whole flurry of commentary, speculation and critique. Most often the discussion focuses on what kind of underlying ideology the budget is based on (does it confirm to neo-classical or post-Keynesian economic thought etc.?), how much money is going to who and the voracity of the economic modelling that it is uses. Since the budget details where the government is spending its money it has a direct relevance to many peoples’ lives: how much funding goes where, if the state is in surplus or deficit. This translates into levels of funding for health, education and infrastructure; grants to NGOs etc.; pay and conditions for public servants; money for public private partnerships. Now this all comes down to daily bread and butter issues for many people, as well as the broader issue about how the government is attempting to steer the ship of state.
However these debates, even the Left ones, are largely debates within capitalism. They are debates about what kind of capitalist society we should have seen through the prism of the roles we have under capitalism. As someone working in a university the amount of funding education gets is important, important as it affects my ability to function as a worker within a certain division of labour. But the struggle against capitalism emerges out of and against the conditions we are reduced to under capitalism – the revolt of the workers is the revolt against being reduced to workers. When I care about university funding what I care about, at some level, are the conditions of my exploitation. Now this all matters but the struggle for emancipation is a struggle that hopes to transform the basic coordinates of society not just rearrange them. Thus we should not just read the budget to argue over who gets what, but rather more critically, to understand what the budget says about the current conditions of Australian capitalism, and how the state understands the challenges and antagonisms in society.
Working for the Class:
The Praxis of the Wollongong Out of Workers’ Union
Class Struggle and Crisis
Don’t be told what you want
Don’t be told what you need
There’s no future
There’s no future
There’s no future for you.
(‘God Save the Queen’, Sex Pistols, 1977)
My intention is to understand how the Wollongong Out of Workers’ Union (WOW), the union and its members, sought individually and collectively to refuse and challenge commodified labour, while simultaneously fighting for the right to work. I was a founding member and one of the convenors of WOW during most of its existence. As well as using WOW’s own publications and documents, this work draws on a number of other sources including newspaper and magazine articles, television and radio programs and films about WOW and about the broader social contexts in which WOW existed. In order to give former WOW members a voice, make use of their collective knowledge and intellect and in the hope of extending conversations about the areas studied, I have used semi-structured interviews with nine people who were active in the Union. Continue reading