Lessons of the Hawke legacy

17 may 2019

Tributes are flowing for former Prime Minister Bob Hawke who passed away yesterday. Hawke was an electoral draw card who had a marketable “common touch” and it may appear bad form to take the occasion to draw attention to his negative legacy. But it is important to draw attention to the disastrous consequences of the global capitalist agenda imposed during his terms as PM so the correct lessons are learned by working people. Bob Hawke headed up a government that ushered in changes that set back working people’s interests profoundly. The Prices and Incomes Accord crowned an ideological defeat for the working class of this country. It suggested workers and bosses have common interests where no such possibility exists.

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Unions became less relevant, withdrew from the workplace and it laid the foundation for the current circumstances in which their legitimate activities are criminalised. The workers share of socially produced wealth has shrunk, as was intended by the architects of global capitalism. The “opening up” and deregulating of the economy locked the country in to the plans for the capitalist globalisation of the world economy. Societies like Australia would suffer de-industrialisation and the creation of the gig economy. The “Australian dream” of home ownership or, at least, somewhat secure accommodation was stripped from us. Banks and other transnationals would have unprecedented control of the economy and the first waves of privatisation were completed with little opposition. Even Medicare, no doubt a better system than the US model of “Kentucky Fried medicine”, is far from optimal. People still suffer from lack of access to much needed treatment. It is not a national health scheme. It is a national health insurance scheme out of which huge private fortunes have been made in the health “industry” at public expense. Hawke was a loyal supporter of US imperialism and Israeli government brutality. He led us into Gulf War 1 and neutralised critics in the media and elsewhere. He may have appeared a knock-about “larrikin” but he was a serious, committed supporter of an agenda opposed to workers’ interests including the need to have more control over their own lives.This, unfortunately was his legacy. Workers should learn the lessons of history and see beyond the limited “choices” he and other representatives of global capital continue to present at election time. They are not offering fundamentally different alternatives. The alternative for workers is the revolutionary transformation of their societies to socialism, a system where their power is enshrined.