Based in Brisbane, Australia, The Cloudland Collective is an activist group committed to supporting workers, First Nations people and grassroots communities in their struggles against the abuses of capitalism. We argue that a truly democratic, just and ecologically sustainable society is possible only if workers and oppressed people unite to replace capitalism in all its forms. In 2014 , in the aftermath of the Brisbane meeting of the G20 club of rich nations and faced with the possible re-election of the reactionary Newman government in Queensland, The Cloudland Collective published a Declaration for a Just Society, outlining immediate demands around which a grassroots movement for radical social transformation could organise. The demands and the vision of economic and social justice presented in this declaration remain cornerstones of the group’s activism.
Declaration for a Just Society
Why a declaration?
Many believe that this election now gives us the opportunity to have our say about the Newman government. However, the truth is that ever since the Newman government launched its assault on the public sector, we have always had the opportunity influence politics in Queensland.
It is time to move well beyond an understanding of politics that only consists of a three year electoral cycle. This election matters enormously but we need more profound social change than is possible through parliament.
Parliamentary democracy in Queensland is fatally damaged by mining companies and business interests that routinely exercise a corrupting influence on government processes. It is possible in Queensland for the corporate elite to purchase policy outcomes. As mere voters we cannot effectively oppose corporate power. Collectively however, on the streets, in workplaces, in communities we have considerable power to shape political and economic decision making. This declaration has been written to help rebuild mass democratic politics in Queensland.
1. Land rights. The creation of the modern world economy, a system that has generated poverty and grotesque inequality, required the dispossession of indigenous land. This has especially been the case in Queensland. Dispossession was and remains an act of deception and violence. Before the arrival of fences, mines and grazing animals, the land was at the heart of successful Indigenous communities. Indigenous people should remain custodians of their land.
2. Freedom of speech and the right to assemble. Residents of the city have had to fight for space to assemble and debate important issues. It often seems like every square inch of the city belongs to a corporation or a government body committed to protecting corporate interests. Year by year civil rights are eroded as more glittering malls are built. The battle for free speech and the right to demonstrate must be won.
3. The public sector and neo-liberalism. The rise of neo-liberal economic and social policies seriously threatens the public sector. Politicians such as Thatcher, Reagan, Blair, Keating and Howard have argued that the market is the best vehicle for allocating resources and instilling each citizen with sense of responsibility. Poverty is depicted as something that people bring upon themselves by making the “wrong choices” rather than being the result of deep seated economic problems. This rhetoric has been accompanied by the transfer of resources from social services to projects that exclusively benefit the corporate sector. The transfer has been achieved through outsourcing, competition and corporatisation.
a) We will not allow the public health and education to become thoroughly marginal, cash starved relics only for the truly poor. Public hospitals and schools are far better at educating citizens and keeping them healthy than the private alternatives.
b) Scientific research is best conducted by the public sector. Organisations such as CSIRO are well placed to concentrate the best scientific minds on a project and curb the impact of corporate interests on the direction and perceived value of the research. Funding to CSIRO should be immediately restored.
c) The public service should be strengthened so that it can effectively deliver social infrastructure programs. Public servants should be respected by government and “frank and fearless” advice should be highly valued.
d) Corporate taxes should be massively increased in order to fund public services.
4. Workers’ rights. The riches we see in the world today have been created by working people. Even though we work incredibly hard and possess a deep understanding of how to do things better we are paid only a fraction of what we are worth and our creative input is not valued.
a) We demand that the minimum wage be significantly increased so that all workers experience a standard of living well above the poverty line.
b) Every worker should have right to join a union and take strike action to improve their wages and conditions.
c) Every worker should have the ability to engage in solidarity action to support other workers without fear of prosecution. Employers have at their disposal the immense powers of the police and the courts to help them protect their interests. We have solidarity to defend ours.
5. Women. There is still a long way to go to achieve women’s liberation. Every victory has been hard fought for and these gains need to be defended each day. The neo liberal assault on employment and services disproportionately affects women. Accompanying women’s precarious position in the economy are the deeply shocking levels of domestic violence experienced by women.
a) Access to legal and free abortion on demand.
b) Women must receive shelter and support when they leave a violent and abusive partner and not face homelessness.
c) Women should receive equal pay.
d) Women must be supported to participate and play leading roles in civil society. Men will do the ironing.
6. Welfare. The true measure of a compassionate society is the quality of support it offers those citizens who struggle to obtain a decent standard of living.
a) People with disabilities should be generously supported by the government and presented with opportunities to engage in meaningful work for which they would receive a just wage. They should not be subjected to humiliating “reviews” of their disability.
b) Economic turmoil frequently locks millions out of work. When people experience unemployment they should be adequately supported by the government.
7. Climate justice. We are rapidly approaching dangerous tipping points which may very well result in the release of vast quantities of devastating emissions from the arctic tundra and the ocean floor. To prevent global catastrophe a number of measures need to be implemented.
a) Governments should back and invest in renewable energy. This would create millions of green jobs.
b) Public transport systems should be extended and made free to encourage commuters to leave their cars at home.
c) Government should stop subsidizing carbon polluters. Big polluters and carbon extractors should be made responsible for all damage, waste, and other by-products and effects of their extraction, consumption and production.
8. No borders. One of the truly remarkable things about a globalised world is the existence of culturally diverse communities. People flee economic turmoil and war to start a new life in vibrant multi-ethnic communities. Political leaders divert attention away from the hardship many experience and the profound challenges facing our planet by directing anger towards refugees and migrants.
a) We defend the right of all people across the world to cross borders to seek a better life.
b) We demand that all people being held in detention, both on the Australian mainland and in the Pacific, be immediately released into communities here.
c) We condemn those politicians and media outlets who demonise some of the most desperate and vulnerable people in the world.
9. Housing. Every citizen should have affordable housing. Government policy encourages speculation in property inflating property values and driving up rent. This has created a housing crisis. In 1985 a home cost 3.2 times the average income whereas today it costs 6.5 times the average income. Workers are nearing retirement still owing money on a mortgage.
a) The government must significantly boost spending on social housing. Rent should not exceed 10% of a tenant’s income.
b) Quality emergency housing needs to be instantly available.
10. Democracy. Parliamentary democracy and the vote are the result of a significant historic compromise. Around the world citizens fought for genuine participation in politics. Their rulers felt threatened by these aspirations and so aimed to democracy. The result of this contest has often been parliamentary democracy.
a) It is vital to defend parliamentary democracy even though it is limited. For the majority it is the most important site of politics. Candidates who campaign around human rights and strong redistributive measures should be supported. If such candidates can be elected they can help use their position to help legitimatise democratic demands.
b) Genuine democracy goes beyond the parliamentary democracy framework. Genuine democracy involves citizens participating in democratic decision making. Broad mass meetings can be convened to resolve political and economic issues. Delegates can be elected to represent that meeting at central meetings. Crucially local forums have the capacity to recall their delegates at any time.
c) Democracy is not real if economic matters are not subject to democratic processes. Decisions about how resources are allocated and what services and goods should be produced should be made by the workers involved in their production with the citizens who the products affect.