From fury to understanding, it’s time for fundamental change.
Written by: Louisa L., based on discussions with women. on 15 March 2023
Last year’s big electoral defeat showed people’s fury with a Coalition that considered itself untouchable, no matter what cruelty, arrogant refusal to answer or accept blame when it was exposed.
Like when it shifted Dyson Heydon, from attacking militant construction workers as head of the Australian Building and Construction Commission, to the High Court. The Coalition exposed young working women to a known sexual predator.
Let alone the allegations about its male politicians and top minders in Parliament House itself.
No wonder there where huge protests! Women demanded change.
Some welcome changes
Labor released a draft bill on February 27 to transform the lives of women and children in custody battles and ongoing settlements.
Based on a sidelined 2019 Australian Law Commission Report, it reverses Coalition-supported legislative changes initiated by Pauline Hanson. In putting shared custody above the needs of the child, Hanson claimed denial of custody caused men’s violence against women, who – she alleged – routinely lied in court.
In many break-ups, parents put children first. But some involve ugly custody and property battles.
Capitalism creates the worst in us all, including in some women, but when children are used as weapons, it’s overwhelmingly by richer and more powerful and sometimes violent men. While both parents can become entrapped and impoverished in legal battles, women are mostly the losers, disempowered by significantly less income.
The Hanson-Coalition legislation meant medical records of mothers pushed to the limit have been accessed to trash their reputations in court. Some are dragged there for alleged custody breaches, which they can’t afford to contest. Nor can they afford to take their partners to court for breaching custody conditions, despite justification. And shared custody means smaller maintenance payments to women.
Labor’s new legislation will limit these patriarchal abuses.
No surprise, Labor is not the same as the Coalition.
Labor usually wins office when the ruling class wants to cool rising struggles, including by the women’s movement, or during crises like recessions and wars.
Clive Palmer excepted, Labor governments rarely threaten corporations, even when they destroy First People’s lands and the environment, or when corporations cruelly raise prices on everything except labour power.
Illawarra Women’s Health Centre’s Kim Sattler works with many migrants and refugees. She told Spirit of Eureka the Immigration Department alone is short 500 public servants, after the Coalition gutted it and other departments. Many department heads resigned on mass, others were sacked and political appointments made.
“Labor found 25,000 unprocessed passport applications. They’re now completed.” she says.
19,000 protection visas have also been granted, after years of struggle.
Ms Sattler states she’s “never experienced such consultation or listening. Before we were just told”.
Double dose of the big squeeze
Marx identified two ways of increasing surplus value from which profits are derived – increasing hours of work or its intensity.
Right now, workers and others are being squeezed, though in NSW, Labor has promised cuts to workloads and mostly below inflation pay rises, particularly in female dominated public sector workforces. It will moderate capitalism to cool growing struggles. But workloads will likely remain far more intense than they were a decade back.
Women workers too often face unrelenting work at home as well.
These days fewer men sit in front of TVs with everything they want brought to them by women who may also work full time. Rebellion brought greater sharing of home work, but one young woman we spoke to still had to explain to her husband that he wasn’t “baby-sitting” for her, he was simply being a father.
Another friend’s daughter with two pre-school children works part time as a teacher, but carries the biggest load at home. She says she’s “not doing either job properly” and consequently communication at home has become difficult.
“Who’s doing the extra work? she asks.
Several older women told us caring duties fall on their shoulders, that they “are restless until things are okay”. This often includes highly emotional situations involving adult children, grandchildren and elderly parents, relatives and friends. If marriage breaks down, adult children and grandchildren often move to their parents’ home. Where else is there unless they are independently wealthy?
Then there’s disability assistance. Getting NDIS support almost requires a degree in form-filling and self-advocacy, even for simple things like cleaning. The for-profit providers still get paid, even for zero or irrelevant support. Blind people have to get regular medical reports to say, “Yes, they’re still blind.” Older women and sisters are often the ones who step in to demand change.
One young friend with complex trauma, no family, plus physical health needs, spends much of her time fighting for NDIS support. Carers are so poorly paid they don’t last long, so this cycle of intense effort is ongoing.
Kim Sattler says “People are just hurting, and women are sinking under the weight.”
She’s is hopeful the Federal Government will continue to make improvements to the NDIS and get rid of the worst providers.
She acknowledges the scheme was introduced by the ALP. It removed public sector disability support, and like the ALP’s previous attacks on TAFE, replaced it with a for-profit race to the bottom for those requiring support.
Answering big questions on the front lines
A Marxist friend said, “Resistance is reactive. People don’t know who the enemy is.” She’s spot on.
For 60 years our party has pointed out that parliament exists to manage capitalism and that the ALP is a capitalist party. These fundamentals don’t change. Though struggle for reforms occur within them, overwhelmingly they reflect the strength of people’s movements outside. People’s movements are the key.
In the past, Vanguard often called the Coalition and ALP ‘Tweedledum and Tweedledee’, the unpleasant idiot twins from Alice in Wonderland, because they both knowingly support capitalism for corporations. But we always knew they’re not the same and neither are stupid.
More widely, people are cynical about politics and politicians and see no alternative to parliament. Yet, unless capitalism is challenged and overthrown, the whole dirty mess will continue.
Just as it uses racism to divide people, so capitalism uses sexism and damaging patriarchal structures, actions and thinking. Its profits rely on women’s unpaid labour at home to help create new generations of workers.
We need to help in everyday struggles of women and of all peoples, to listen, to draw conclusions and test them in action alongside them.
Why do we have to keep fighting battles we thought already won?
Who are our main enemies?
Which class is the strongest, most united and most disciplined against it?
Who are its allies and how to we mobilise them?
How can we step by step build forces capable of asserting the fundamental needs of the people?
Little left groups like us don’t make history. The masses do. Only if we are alongside them with respect, making their battles our own, can we help them answer these questions, and provide a class analysis that explains their own experiences and shows a way forward.
Moving beyond symptoms to understand their cause, that’s power in the hands of the people. That’s the beginning of real change. From that comes the solution, the cure.
Imagine it, capitalism crushed forever. How different it would be. Without it, what future will our children face? Worth thinking about. Worth fighting for.
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