The Guardian 14 September, 2005
Let’s build unity
Yet another raft of draconian laws is being pushed by the Howard government under cover of anti-terrorism. These latest attacks on our democratic freedoms include giving the Federal Police the power to keep people in custody for two weeks without charge and to electronically tag and track suspects for 12 months. When added to the laws that already have been introduced, they reflect the emergence of an authoritarian rule.
There is growing criticism of these laws as their police-state authoritarian nature becomes more apparent. This opposition is not only coming from the political left and other organisations that recognise the threat, such as the Muslim community. Academics and individuals — some who would usually be supporters of the government — have come out against the government’s agenda.
Unity is paramount, for only the widest possible range of social forces united in action can beat back the anti-democratic onslaught. Unity cannot remain on a to-do list of the left, of the organised working class — which is under unprecedented attack — and of the broader, democratic forces which would make up a people’s unity.
Re-uniting the left is a vital element in uniting the democratic forces. Personal impatience, opportunism and subjectivity have all played a part in the divisions which have occurred as have differences over questions of tactics, ideology and strategy.
Rebuilding the left can best start with agreement on issues and joint actions in support of policies held in common. Where agreement is not reached on an issue, that issue must be put aside with each organisation free to express its view on the question. Ideological differences should not stand in the way of co-operation on issues held in common.
The left political parties have a responsibility to strengthen their cooperation, develop effective programs which reflect the interests of the working people and propose a strategy and tactics to achieve such a program.
Left unity does not stand on its own, isolated from other forms of unity. Wage and salary earners make up the great majority of all those who take part in production and provide community services. This is an enormous social base for the development of working class unity.
A united working class means the establishment of unity in action by all sections of the working class in support of their economic and political interests.
Building a united front of workers means advocating policies and demands which workers will take up because they reflect and advance their interests. It means seeking the widest support and involvement of workers. It means being prepared to work with other political organisations and individuals willing to advance the cause of the working people.
Workers are not alone in attempting to achieve a better society. All progressive and democratic sections of society take up campaigns against the effects of capitalism’s social and economic crisis, the drive to war, the betrayal of Australia’s independence and sovereignty.
A range of progressive movements exist which involve workers, intellectuals, farmers, professionals and others. They provide a realistic basis on which to build a broad and active people’s unity in support of progressive issues and to defend democratic rights.
In many of these mass movements, workers and working class organisations play a part. However, their participation is often limited and does not fulfil the need for the working class to play the leading role which their size, experience and organisation calls for. Working class unity is the basis for the development and success of the broader people’s unity
Left unity, the unity in action of the working class, and the unity in common struggle of the working class and the other progressive and democratic social forces in society are interdependent processes.
Unity and co-operation between the different progressive social forces is a powerful force for change. Unity at all levels is the key to repelling the offensive of capital against the rights, and indeed the lives, of Australia’s working people.
The people united can never be defeated.