The Guardian 7 December, 2005


Happy Xmas John, but for how long?

It will, indeed, be a happy Christmas and New Year for John Howard. He has pushed through his IR legislation, the so-called "Terror Laws" and the Welfare to Work legislation within the space of a couple of weeks — and with only a few minor amendments to placate those from within his own ranks.

The only issue on which the Labor Party kicked up a fuss was the industrial relations legislation, with Beazley no doubt hoping to win back the votes of "Howard’s Battlers" at the next election. Beazely announced the ALP’s support for Howard’s anti-democratic terror laws even without amendments.

At the same time the NSW Labor Government was rushing through its own legislation to complement that of the Howard Government. The NSW laws are just as anti-democratic as Howard’s, and little time was given for Parliament to debate or amend them. A group of left-wing NSW ALP parliamentarians declared their opposition to them — but then proceeded to vote for them just the same.

Is there any wonder that the two major parties are held in such contempt?

The Federal Government refused to bow to the widespread opposition to the sedition laws in particular. They were labelled as an attack on free speech by the media, by the Law Council of Australia and in a unanimous report by the Senate Legal and Constitutional committee. But none of this cut any ice with Howard or Ruddock.

Why the haste? The government knows it must act quickly in order to preserve themselves and their class from the inevitable backlash that will sooner or later arise. Such a backlash to its extreme right-wing, neo-fascist economic and social agenda is inevitable. As the IR legislation starts to bite and seriously erodes living standards the backlash from the working class will come. There will be a further backlash from the genuine democrats in society, a number of whom have revealed themselves within the ranks of the Liberal Party — perhaps even more so than in the Labor Party.

Now the laws to repress such a backlash are in place. While existing concentration camps in remote places have been largely emptied of refugees still new ones are being built.

Then there is the international dimension: Bush’s international war of conquest has become bogged down in Iraq, so his wider strategy for the DPRK (North Korea), Iran and Syria is not moving forward as planned. Strong revolutionary movements are on the upsurge in Bush’s backyard in South America. Cuba has survived and grows stronger as her earlier economic problems are overcome. Her political isolation has not been achieved despite all the efforts of US leaders. There is widespread international resentment towards the US because of the stand-over tactics it is using including the threats to the independence and sovereignty of countries which do not bend to its will. A close relationship is gradually emerging between the powerful Asian countries, which can be seen as a counter-weight to US hegemony.

None of these developments has escaped the consideration of the extremely class-conscious ruling circles — of the US, Britain and Australia in particular. Imperialism is running into serious trouble and the popularity of the leaders of this corporate offensive are on a slippery slope — Bush, Blair and Howard have all seen a serious slide in their popular support.

The ruling class never gives up without a tenacious struggle. The three pieces of inter-related legislation referred to above (and there will be more to come in the New Year), can be seen as an effort to circle the wagons and prepare for battle.

They will not shuffle off the stage of their own free will, shamed by their obvious immorality and total lack of humanity despite their lying and other propaganda tricks. They regard themselves as "born to rule" and rule they will until actively expelled by millions organised in massive movements — a movement of the poor, the exploited, the repressed, the alienated and those discriminated against.

While vigorously participating in the struggle against the IR legislation (as the ACTU motif says: "Your rights at work — worth fighting for!") and struggling against every attack on democratic rights and threats to peace, it is as well to remember the many reasons for the stubbornness of Howard and Co — the survival of their system is on the line.

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