It is curious to observe why Kevin Rudd is receiving such hostility from conservative journalists combined with the promotion of Julia Gillard as an alternative leader. After all Julia Gillard is perhaps an archetypal example of the modern Labor Party (what I call the third Labor party after the first populist and utopian party of the 1890s and then the second labourist party that endured until the 1980s). The modern Labor Party retains a role for trade unions but in a much more dependent position than the second Labor Party. Union affiliation to the ALP is like the National Party it seems anomalous but has survived demonstrating the power of institutions and culture to mould political behaviour. A former student politician, parliamentary Labor staffer, labour lawyer and an MP for an electorate with a high portion of manufacturing workers and citizens from a non-English speaking background she incarnates the modern ALP . If we are to believe former Liberal staffer Peter van Onselen the union-friendly parts of Fair Work Australia largely reflected Gillard’s influence and when FWA was implemented it was the object of a sustained campaign by The Australian. Perhaps Rudd was a floating signifier into which different groups read different meanings. For the soft left he was the anti-Howard messiah who would end the nightmare of the Howard government. Perhaps for some on the right he was the imagined messiah who would transform the ALP into something entirely different an imagined equivalent of the Liberals. the favoured symbol of this has always been trade union affiliation to the ALP but media reports suggest if anybody in the ALP would be sympathetic to such a reform it wouldn’t be Gillard. It is curious to note how obsessed The Australian is with the spectre of ‘redistribution’:
But in a sophisticated electorate in which workers own a direct stake in the means of production or depend on mining directly, class warfare is an anachronism. ..an abandonment of the loaded, counter-productive rhetoric of redistribution.
If ‘class war’ is anachronism why does it constantly reappear? It’s oddly similar to those on the left who see a dark spectre of racism as an omnipresent force in public debate.
On a related theme recently read John Gunn’s history of TAA and Australian Airlines Contested Skies. It is very much an aviation expert’s history I would have liked more tables, analysis of management structure and information on cabin staff. What were the cultural meanings attached to working in a public enterprise? How did these change as the socialist spectre ebbed? However noteworthy that the push for deregulation was meet by strong opposition in the private sector who regularly counterpoised their practical wisdom to economic theory.