The Australian Labour Leaders

Whom do they Serve?
In analysing political activities, one cannot place the critical finger on every economic detail underlying the legislative enactments of the various political parties. To those who recognise the connection between economic interests and political parties there is, however, sufficient general data available to allow of the tracing back, over a period of time, of the interests served.

As the accumulation of this data is not always possible until the political scene is almost completely changed, the analysis must, to a certain extent, lag behind the main events. But once having discovered the source of action, we can follow its flow through the medium of statistics, Parliamentary reports, and Press statements concern ing the matters under review.

Due to the inherent contradictions of capitalism, the position in Australia, as in most countries of the world, became acute in 1929. The national income fell from £650 millions in 1928 to £564 millions in 1929. While the total revenue from taxation for the Commonwealth and the various States amounted to £88¾ millions, the interest on the National debt runs into £55 millions per annum and all other expenditure, excluding Railways and Tramways, amounts to £42 millions. Every State Government and the Federal Government shows a deficit. Loans were maturing and with falling prices, due to “over-production,” the prospect was not pleasing to the capitalists of this country. Each section was fighting frantically to save itself by political wire-pulling. But taxes had to be found and the Bruce-Page Nationalist Government decided to place the burden on the moving picture interests. The latter had sufficient support among the Nationalists to bring about the defeat of the Government.

A “Labour” Government Returned
Using “the preservation of Arbitration” and the protection of the living standard as a catch-cry, the Scullin Labour crowd were successful in gaining the confidence of the workers. They began grappling with the problems. It is here we get an insight into the real nature of the “Labour” Party. Under the slogan of “Build up Australian Industries,” benefits were gratuitously bestowed upon the Australian manufacturers, and the workers were callouslly disregarded.

The tariffs were revised, and more than 150 items were adjusted in the interests of the sections of the capitalist class represented by the “Labour” Party. Here are a few of the most glaring examples of the safeguarding of markets for the local manufacturers : —


Item 1928-9 1930-31
Goods Quantity Value Quantity Value
Confectionery 1,794,277 lb. £137,524 117,025 £9,482
Dried Fruits 1,844,985 lb. £45,914 39,704 £1,332
Cornflower 1,032,463 lb. £10,000 10 lb. £1
Meats (presvd.) 1,539,993 lb. £78,212 127,744 lb. £7,456
Soap and Soap Substitutes 1,096,946 lb. £116,050 435,911 lb. £13,288
Tobacco (mnfd.) 1,070,251 lb. £158,788 330,552 lb. £44,857
Cigars, Cigarettes 1, 128,206 lb. £628,276 207,684 lb. £106,313
Matches gross boxes 1,033,014 lb. £159,304 8,772 lb. £1,615
Portable spirits gallons 1,510,558 lb. £1,599,600 425,835 lb. £475,116

Here we see the enormous market thrown open to the interests served by the Labour Party. But the services did not end here. During the last year of its regime the “Premier’s Plan” was introduced. Under this plan, on the plea of reducing government expense, the wages of public servants were ruthlessly reduced. Pensions of ex-soldiers and old people were chopped by 12½ per cent., and the maternity allowance was cut down similarly.

The wages of all workers governed by Arbitration Court Awards were reduced by 10 per cent. In some of the State concerns pay was cut down by 22½ per cent. In addition, rationing was introduced in almost every Government and private concern, and unemployment increased rapidly. Although many Trade Union officials had backed the new tariffs, no protection by legislation was given to their members, and many of the industries served by the Government’s policy took advantage of the depression by further fleecing their workers. The Arbitration Court, which Scullin said would protect the living standards, was used as a means to brazenly filch gains bitterly fought for in the past.

The Position Grows Worse
With hopes of strengthening the position of the Government financially, Mr. Theodore had made several attempts to introduce his monetary schemes. An attempt to establish a Central Reserve Bank was frustrated by the Private Banks through the Nationalist Party. A twenty million pounds fiduciary note issue was also blocked. In the mean time, Lang, in N.S.W., was endeavouring to serve the local manufacturers by the introduction of the “Lang Plan.” Anticipating constitutional difficulties, he managed to get two new Judges on the High Court bench, from whom he expected return favours. Striving for power in the Federal arena, the Lang Labour Party ousted the Scullin-Theodore Federal Government. Challenging the latter on the distribution of unemployment relief in the Theodore electorate, they moved on the matter in the House, and with the support of the Nationalists the Scullin crowd were defeated. At the ensuing election, the Nationalists, under their latest nom-de-politics, the United Australia Party, were returned by an overwhelming majority. The U.A.P. is composed of all sorts of political junk, including Labour rats, such as Lyons and Fenton, and Wm. Morris Hughes is back in the fold.

The U.A.P. immediately began to serve their capitalist backers by undoing the legislation introduced by the Labour Party in the interests of the rival capitalist interests which back them.

Following on the wage reducing policy of the Labour Party, the U.A.P. has introduced the “Experts’ Plan,” which goes much further than the “Premier’s Plan.” And the game goes on. In Victoria the Labour Party, after an ignominious period of office, split, went to the polls, and was defeated. In N.S.W. the Lang Party, rather than withdraw a circular which was no longer necessary once the Mortgage Bill was through, gave the State Governor the excuse for dismissing the Government. Here also the State Labour Party was defeated by the combined forces of the Federal Labour Party and the U.A.P. In Queensland the Labour Party managed to scramble back in spite of a redistribution of seats brought about by the Nationalist Party.

Where Do The Workers Come In ?
Through all the political shuffling the conditions of the workers have become terrible indeed. 400,000 unemployed eking out their existence on a dole from 5s. per week for single men to 21s. per week for families of ten !

And yet the workers return parties pledged to maintain this sorry state of affairs. If we look for the reason it is not hard to find. Members of the Labour Party and of the Communist Party claim that the blame rests with the “leaders,” who have betrayed the masses. This is simply another way of stating the actual fact, viz., that the workers willingly placed their trust in men instead of principles. Did the workers understand their class position and act accordingly, all the leaders in the world would make no difference, because the workers would not blindly follow as they do now. When the workers understand that their slave condition is inseparable from capitalism they will know what to do with both capitalism and “leaders.” That understanding can come only through a knowledge of Socialism, and until they are organised in a Socialist Party in sufficient numbers to institute a change, poverty will prevail, the conditions of the working class will become worse, Labour Parties will continue to represent capitalist interests and anti-working class parties will have the power with which to keep in subjection the working class. Workers, what are you doing about it ?

Socialist Party of Australia.

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