Extreme inequality boosts the case for socialist change
Australia’s 33 billionaires increased their wealth by more than $38 billion dollars last year — or more than $1 billion each. That is more than $3 million each a day!
At the other end of the spectrum, Credit Suisse data cited in the Sydney Morning Herald showed the wealth of the bottom half of Australians declined in the same period alongside stagnating wage growth.
People often say that “the rich get richer and the poor get poorer”. The figures show that this is not an idle lament but an accurate description of capitalist society.
In the face of this extreme and growing inequality, the government is helping the billionaires and the top 1% do even better.
Turnbull has a plan to introduce tax cuts, which will likely help the wealthy more than the poorest. This is virtually guaranteed even if there are “sweeteners” for “middle income earners” since a major plank of the proposal is to reduce the company tax rate to 25%. This is a much lower rate than ordinary workers pay.
Nobody is talking about reducing the GST, which is a tax burden that falls most heavily on the poorest. They like to spread the myth that capitalism is based on a “free market” where the wealth “trickles down”.
While we all get a chance to elect the government, the government does not represent us.
One of the clearest recent examples of this is the move by the trade minister Steven Ciobo to push government agencies like the Export Finance and Investment Corporation to provide government funding for the Adani coalmine.
One of the few things less popular than the proposed Adani coalmine is the idea that Australian taxpayers should be funding it. A huge popular movement forced Adani supporter and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk to veto a federal government loan during the Queensland election campaign last year.
That, combined with the commercial decisions by a growing number of banks to refuse funding to Adani, has resulted in the federal government actively working on alternative ways to give corporate welfare to an exploitative billionaire.
In the face of an escalating climate crisis (including 2017 being the hottest non-El Nino year on record), most people would prefer the government actively look at ways to fund renewable energy instead.
Why is the government on the side of the corporate bloodsuckers and not the ordinary people? The capitalist system is actively set up that way.
Corporate money corrupts every single aspect of the electoral and governmental system. The only antidote is organised people’s power.
When we campaign for our interests and our rights — such as the #StopAdani movement or in the unions — we can win improvements.
However, our campaigns are much stronger when we put forward a positive alternative instead of just protesting injustice. Socialism is the only practical alternative to the capitalist system. The popular response to socialist figures internationally, such as Jeremy Corbyn in Britain and Bernie Sanders in the United States, proves that socialism can win a mass hearing.
Australia desperately needs a stronger, non-sectarian, anti-capitalist formation that can argue the case for socialist change and build campaigns to win victories along the way.
At a time when the Greens under Richard di Natale are being consciously led in a more and more pragmatic direction, the case for building an explicitly anti-capitalist formation is stronger again.
The Socialist Alliance has a strong record as an inclusive and effective socialist organisation. Our members have won respect and leadership positions in trade unions and social movements in branches throughout the country.
Right now we are launching a new campaign to encourage more people to take the step of becoming actively involved with the Alliance. It is much better to be working with other people to help make the world a better place than to sit at home swearing at the TV.
Further, a socialist education helps make individuals into more effective activists, while a stronger socialist formation would help make our unions and social movement campaigns stronger.
[Alex Bainbridge is a national co-convenor of Socialist Alliance.]