the australian constitutional thingy

rc-am rcollins at
Mon Nov 8 17:16:57 PST 1999

catherine wrote:

> not straightforwardly though

yes. nothing is straightforward.

> which would be to say there wasn't an expressed working-class position on
> the referendum, is that what you mean
> i think i'm saying i think there were quite strong claims to identity in
> voting no... which is why such a huge percentage of the working class did
> vote no
> because they did identify precisely interests in common
> even though those were defined entirely negatively (our interests are
> whatever their's are not)

yes! the working class existed only as negation. and i don't think this is at all a bad thing. i think it is a question of institution. and here, there was no institutional basis for working class identity.

and i think the referendum has to be seen in this light. given there was no constitutional or legal reason to have the referendum, its effects were always intended to provide a kind of ideological closure: to either attend to what was perceived as the unfinished business of the 20th C (the democratic imperative, the republican impulse) or to simply assert a national identity befitting the framework of the new world order. this was supposed to be the means by which the working class was delivered an identity pre-packaged to re-connect 'the masses' to 'the elites' post-One Nation, the desertion of the 'ALP heartlands', etc. and it was a dismal failure.

the question is whether or not the working class is tempted by a promise to remove/deflect the antagonisms of capitalism by going for eachother. i thought peter's comments (below) on border controls and work time were right on the mark: to assert an internationalist working class emphasising the division between necessary labour and surplus value. sections of the euro left seem to have focussed themselves on this in a way we haven't here. work time has become more important with the change in leadership of the ACTU; but borders, well... a long way to go with that one.

Angela _________

> On Mon, 8 Nov 1999, Doug Henwood wrote:
> > Mr P.A. Van Heusden wrote:
> >
> > >What does an anti-capitalist politics in a society where most people
> > >a car, a job and a fucking big TV look like? I've got some ideas, but
> > >look almost as little like 'traditional working class politics' as
> > >look like a page out of Baudrillard.
> >
> > Do tell...
> I wish I could with more precision than I can - the answer, as always, is
> a question resolved in practice.
> At the moment I've got little more than a set of instinctual feelings,
> based on my experience of organising a group of computer-workers not
> around pay issues, but rather around the way the structuring of work
> (with high-skilled being done by consultants) was making their jobs less
> secure. My brother-in-law is organising at his workplace around
> culture' issues as well.
> As I said, nothing much more than an instinct, but my feeling is that
> issues such as the structuring of time and work - when exposed as being a
> result of capitalism - allow for a starting point. Focussing on the
> of work itself is hardly anything new, of course.
> Another angle which I think is important in the UK is that of an attack
> 'British'-ness. The current 'beef war' is not, I think, entirely a
> seperate issue from the insistence that Britain is a one-language,
> one-culture society, and the idea that it is Britain's place to
> the rest of the world (however many bombs that would take). Such an
> would have to mean practical solidarity over borders - raising the issue
> of what 'restructuring' means in Eastern Europe, for instance. Also, very
> importantly, attacking the immigration system (particularly in practice -
> such as organising against the seperation of immigrants into barracks,
> etc).
> It's not that I have a lot of theories of where to go - I'm mostly just
> discontent with the current theories of 'where to go' that are on offer.
> Peter

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