Labor and its imaginary friends

by John Quiggin on June 13, 2021

As with the centre-left in other countries, there’s lots of concern in the Australian Labor part about the perceived loss of its traditional working class base. I’ve written a piece in Crikey,reproduced over the fold, arguing that this is mostly misconceived. Lots of Oz-specific stuff, but I think most readers should be able to follow the thread. Interested in comparisons with similar debates in other countries.

Labor’s poor performance in the by-election seat of Upper Hunter, held by the National Party since 1931 has provoked a new round of soul-searching about the party’s failure to maintain the support of its traditional ‘base’. Implicitly or explicitly, the ‘base’ is assumed to be typified by male manual workers, particularly those in rural and regional areas like Upper Hunter, or in industrial cities like Whyalla.

In historical terms, this makes sense. The Labor party was founded after the defeat of the shearer’s strike in 1891, and the party long drew much of its support from workers like shearers, canecutters and miners, as well as from urban factory workers, railway workers and so on. There is plenty of nostalgic appeal in recalling the struggles through the 19th and 20th centuries from which today’s Labor party emerged.

But nostalgia is not a reliable basis for political strategy, particularly not for progressive political strategy. Radical changes in the structure of the labour force, which were accelerated by the reforms of the Hawke-Keating era mean that it is no longer possible to win elections with a program appealing primarily to blue collar wage workers.

Many of the occupations and industries that formerly supplied Labor’s core support have disappeared, or been largely eliminated through automation. Canecutters are a distant memory. Wool remains an important industry, but a recent report found a total of 2874 shearers in the entire country. https://www.nswfarmers.org.au/NSWFA/Posts/The_Farmer/Business/Wool_prices_are_booming_so_why_is_there_a_shortage_of_shearers.aspx

The mining industry has grown strongly, but mining as an occupation has not. The Australian governments Job Outlook reports that there are currently 58400 people employed as drillers, shot firers and miners, about 0.5 per cent of the workforce. https://joboutlook.gov.au/occupations/shot-firers?occupationCode=712213 The mining sector employs many more people, directly and indirectly (perhaps as much as 5 per cent of the workforce), but this number includes lots of white collar workers, as well as transport workers and construction trades.

The end of industry protection eliminated the huge factories, employing thousands of workers, that most closely approximated our standard conception of the working class. A recent list of the top 100 manufacturers in Australia found only a handful with more than 10000 employees, and most of these were global companies reporting their entire workforce. No more than 20 manufacturing companies have more employees than the 7000 at the University of Queensland, where I work. https://www.aumanufacturing.com.au/ibisworld-releases-list-of-australias-top-100-manufacturers-by-revenue

Labour market reforms have also replaced wage employment with (notionally) independent contracting. This has further reduced the number of blue collar workers. The results can be seen in ABS statistics (6333.0, Form of employment by industry, occupation and educational qualification). Employees in the traditional blue collar occupations (technicians and trades workers, labourers, machinery operators and drivers) now account for about 23 per cent of all workers. That compares to 28 per cent for service workers, 22 per cent for professionals and 9 per cent for managers. Contractors and owners-operators (16 per cent) make up the rest. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/earnings-and-work-hours/working-arrangements/latest-release

These national trends are mirrored at the local level, represented by electorates like Grey in SA, centred on Whyalla. As a recent article by David Crowe in the Nine papers observed, Grey was held by Labor for decades, but is now safely in the hands of the conservative party. https://www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/albanese-s-challenge-putting-the-labour-back-in-labor-20210528-p57vxv.html But this is not (primarily, at least) because Labor lost the working class voters of Whyalla. In fact, on a two-party preferred basis Labor won nearly every booth in Whyalla https://results.aec.gov.au/24310/Website/HouseDivisionPage-24310-183.htm.

The problem is that the closure of the Whyalla shipyards and the shrinking of the steel industry produced a sharp reduction in Whyalla’s population. As a result, the electorate of Grey has been expanded steadily, taking in more and more rural voters, and producing a safely conservative seat.

Not only does the call for a return to the blue collar base ignore the demographic realities, it focuses attention on the subset of blue collar workers least likely to support progressive politics. In Australia and elsewhere, support for the left is stronger among women than men, among young people than among the old, among employees than among contractors and business owners and among urban rather than rural voters. (The Australian Election Study is a useful starting point https://australianelectionstudy.org/)

The relationship with education and income is trickier, because education is correlated with income. Holding education constant, higher income voters are more likely to be conservative, while holding income constant, higher education is associated with stronger support for the left. Mostly these effects work in opposite directions, with income predominating (at least until recently). But where they work together, the effects are strong. Voters with low education and high income (many small business owners, for example) are strongly conservative. By contrast, workers in professional occupations with relatively low pay and status support the left.

What does this say about the ‘aspirational’ blue-collar workers represented as the Labor base by Joel Fitzgibbon and others? They are implicitly cast as male breadwinners, typically of middle age and older, and in regional areas rather than the much-denounced ‘inner city’. They are either self-employed or work in the private sector. The word ‘aspirational’ is code for high incomes and a focus on less progressive taxes. In every respect, these characteristics are those associated with the conservative parties. Perhaps some of these voters retain a sentimental attachment to Labor, but making them the focus of electoral strategy is a fools errand.

Turning the question around, what kind of worker would represent the archetypal member of the Labor base? The analysis above suggests a young woman, in a stereotypically female public sector occupation, requiring post-school education, but with an income well below the average for full-time workers. The archetypal Labor voter, if a concrete example is needed, would be a Gen Z Enrolled Nurse working in a major city hospital.

This is not to suggest that Labor should abandon Fitzgibbon’s blue collar identity politics in favor of some other form of micro-targeting. Labor’s traditional policies of progressive income redistribution, and better public service provision, along with protection of the environment, have been highly successful in attracting support at the state level, and have come close to winning federally in the last two elections. There is no point in dumping them in pursuit of a non-existent ‘base’.

{ 49 comments }

1

nastywoman 06.13.21 at 5:43 am

what you have described is the transformation of a country into a ‘Predominant Consuming’ and ‘Service Orientated Economy’ – and it’s no wonder that in such an economy ‘Parties’ who traditionally have supported workers in manufacturing – lose…

BUT it is a completely different picture in the – ‘Predominant Producing Countries’ where ‘blue collared workers’ STILL produce – directly or indirectly the majority of the wealth.

There the Parties – who support ‘Blue Collared Workers’ – WIN – even if they aren’t called ‘Labour’ or ‘Social Democrats’ anymore – and just ‘a GREEN ‘Kretschmann’ who is one of the strongest supporters of the blue collared workers of Mercedes Benz – Porsche or the whole German ‘Feinmechanik’ Industry.

2

Gorgonzola Petrovna 06.13.21 at 9:53 am

@nastywoman,
I don’t think there are permanent ‘producing countries’ anymore. It’s global finance, not any national government, who decides where the next factory is going to be built. National governments can wish to be chosen, they can compete (by lowering the corporate tax, the cost of labor and so on), but they don’t decide. Well, okay, apart from the ‘defense’, war industry.

Consequently, if a country happens to be ‘producing country’ at the moment, and it has a successful Labor (traditional sense) Party, meaning that the cost of labor is rising, then there’s a good a chance it will soon stop being ‘producing country’. But we already discussed this, didn’t we?

3

Lee Arnold 06.13.21 at 11:06 am

JQ: “Interested in comparisons…”

Justin Gest, The New Minority: White Working Class Politics in an Age of Immigration and Inequality (Oxford 2016). Ethnographic interviews from Youngstown, Ohio and Barking and Dagenham, East London, combined with current research and theory. Good biblio.

Roger Eatwell & Matthew Goodwin, National Populism: the Revolt Against Liberal Democracy (Penguin 2018). Pop-style book uses a lot of serious research to compare EU, Britain and US. Good notes incorporating biblio.

Both books focus on working class and pay a lot of attention to class, race, morality, ethnicity, and proximity.

4

Tim Worstall 06.13.21 at 11:29 am

Much of which – altered for country specifics – could be used to explain the British Labour Party’s problems.

” They are implicitly cast as male breadwinners, typically of middle age and older, and in regional areas rather than the much-denounced ‘inner city’. They are either self-employed or work in the private sector. The word ‘aspirational’ is code for high incomes and a focus on less progressive taxes. In every respect, these characteristics are those associated with the conservative parties. Perhaps some of these voters retain a sentimental attachment to Labor, but making them the focus of electoral strategy is a fools errand.”

Yes, the old Labour Party base in the industrial towns.

” The archetypal Labor voter, if a concrete example is needed, would be a Gen Z Enrolled Nurse working in a major city hospital.”

(Just to translate a bit, an enrolled nurse is, in Oz, akin to a Licenced nurse in the US, to a – possibly – health care assistant in the UK, not to a registered nurse in either which is the level above)

That newer base, or perhaps this is better:

“By contrast, workers in professional occupations with relatively low pay and status support the left.”

Yes, very much so.

British Labour’s problem is that the old industrial base has been rather taken for granted these recent decades while much policy has been aimed at attracting those newer. Which is fair enough, it’s just that the divergence seems to have gone a bit too far between the perceived self interest of the different voting groups. Thus the increasing loss of those old northern and industrial seats.

5

nastywoman 06.13.21 at 11:32 am

@
‘I don’t think there are permanent ‘producing countries’ anymore’.

So you never heard about: ‘Made in Germany’? –
And how well ‘blue collared workers in Germany are paid?
And that ALL of the expensive stuff my American family owns is ‘Made in Germany’
(and Italy) – while ALL of the cheap stuff is ‘Made in China’
And when we once filmed the game: Show me YOUR stuff -(in my homeland the US)
we really found out that:
ALL of the expensive stuff my American family owns is –
‘Made in Germany’
(and Italy – and a little bit ‘Made in France’) –
While ALL of the cheap stuff they own is ‘Made in China’

But we already discussed this, didn’t we?

6

Tim H. 06.13.21 at 2:29 pm

An interesting side effect of “Big Money’s” punishment of labor is the absence of industry that can be converted to produce whatever the armed forces need in the event the politicians fk up the diplomacy. “Fk it, we’ll just nuke ’em.” is unlikely to be the correct tactic either. This may have a moderating effect on sensible politicians, but we can’t count on a fox-poisoned electorate voting for sensible people. This is maybe a bit of a digression from the essay, but there may be some entertainment in watching conservatives attempt to simultaneously embrace nationalism and satisfy the Mammonites.

7

Gorgonzola Petrovna 06.13.21 at 7:48 pm

@nastywoman,
what I hear about Germany is this:
“…The competitiveness of this [manufacturing] sector increased because firms increasingly relied on domestic suppliers, whose workers’ real wages started to fall in the mid-1990s. That decline in real wages was a direct result of the concessions that workers made to companies in response to the new competitive challenges at the time.”
https://hbr.org/2017/03/the-real-reason-the-german-labor-market-is-booming
…which is a random link, the top link on my google search page.

Real wages fall — this is how Germany manages (so far) to keep its manufacturing.

Which is fair enough: they do what needs to be done. It’s just that convincing workers to make concessions to companies is not what Labor parties normally do. I don’t know much about German politics, but it sounds like something Christian Democrats do.

8

Howard F. 06.13.21 at 9:06 pm

You fooled me here:

“…a young woman, in a stereotypically female public sector occupation, requiring post-school education, but with an income well below the average for full-time workers.” There’s one obvious answer to this riddle: schoolteacher. (Even more so in the US, of course, as health care is not generally thought of as the public sector.)

Why is it “labour markets” but “Labor Party”? (I’m referring to the spelling.)

9

Mr Spoon 06.13.21 at 9:43 pm

Is there any way to gauge the effect of the ‘tribal identity’ (for want of a better descriptor) halo around this group of voters? I mean the families and communities of blue collar people who were Labor, and are now ‘aspirational’, who also vote conservative because they are part of the aspirationals’ close associates.

10

Alex SL 06.14.21 at 1:02 am

All of this can be generalised across many countries, e.g. North America, Europe. I believe we are seeing a deep political re-alignment, as has happened before every several decades – there was a time, after all, before the labour movement.

For many decades it was a political block centered on petty bourgeoisie, land-owning farmers, and religious identities against another block centered on unionised blue-collar factory, farming, and mining workers, both held together mostly by their self-perceived economic interests. The new setup appears to be a block centered on reasonably well-off retirees, petty bourgeoisie, and rural populations against an alliance of young to middle-aged, educated but underpaid and casualised service, public service, and education/science workers, various minorities, and urban populations, both defined mostly around attitudes towards immigration, mobility, and tolerance.

The right seems to find it easier to adapt than the left. In some countries the major party of the right has quickly been captured by proponents of the new alignment (USA, UK), in others the major party has been replaced, but regardless of the details they seem to be ahead of the game. The main example that comes to my mind where the left has adapted relatively quickly are the USA – of course there is a plethora of media voices saying “the Democracts have to win aging, rural, white blue collar workers back by throwing all of their minority base under the bus”, but in actual practice Democratic politicians mostly seem to have understood the new situation.

In many other countries the major parties of the left still seem to struggle to find a strategy. British Labour self-sabotages because two wings are at war, one trying to reclaim their base of the 1970s from the conservatives, the other trying to mobilise the urban youth. Germany’s SPD never recovered from Schroder’s labour market reforms and is now fading out of existence as the Greens are becoming the new main party of the left. (And there are, of course, still countries where the re-alignment hasn’t progressed to the same degree.)

In all fairness, however, in any first-past-the-post style system (and I am including here arrangements like the US senate), the left faces a perennial disadvantage under this re-alignment because rural/nativist versus urban/minority comes auto-gerrymandered, with the supporters of the left concentrated in the cities. There is also, of course, a great incentive for right-wing media to define rural business owners and retirees as ‘working class’ and a teaching assistant with immigrant background on a six month contract as ‘elite’, which will have a psychological impact. I therefore understand how difficult it is for many centre-left strategists to accept that the old blue collar base is not a viable option anymore. But there is really no excuse for not facing realities at least in countries with sensible electoral systems.

Here in Australia, idiosyncratic issues also play a role. From what I understand, Labour seems to assume that they cannot win an election if they lose a certain small number of mining districts in Queensland. But to appeal to those voters they have to frustrate the much larger part of their support base who think there should have been decisive action on climate twenty years ago. Rock, hard place. Also, Murdoch media, although that problem is certainly not idiosyncratic.

11

John Quiggin 06.14.21 at 5:15 am

@8 Schoolteachers were my first thought, but they are better paid than nurses in Australia.

Labor/labour is an Australian oddity. English spelling “labour” is normal in Oz, but the Australian Labor Party adopted the US spelling 100 years ago, possibly under the influence of King O’Malley https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_O%27Malley

12

J-D 06.14.21 at 5:36 am

According to [Ross] McMullin [who wrote an official history of the Labor Party], “the way the spelling of ‘Labor Party’ was consolidated had more to do with the chap who ended up being in charge of printing the federal conference report than any other reason”.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Australian_Labor_Party#Name_and_spelling

13

nastywoman 06.14.21 at 6:12 am

@7
‘what I hear about Germany is this:’
– and then you try to change the subject from:
‘Europes Predominant Producing Country’
to
‘Real wages fall — this is how Germany manages (so far) to keep its manufacturing’?!

No – this isn’t how Germany manages (so far) to keep its manufacturing’ – as Germany is one of the Producing Countries of this World which STILL pays the highest wages for it’s workers – and you could have written that Germany is able to pay these highest wages in the World because it charges –
for the products it sells to the World –
the highest possible prices –
and somehow the world –
gladly –
pays these prices –
and about ‘Christ-Democratic’ politics –
You kind of got it – as in a world where supposedly ‘Christ-Democratic’ politics are effectively – more PRO ‘Blue Collared Labour’ than any so called ‘Labor Party’ in any so called ‘Anglo-Country’ –
it just tells US –
how ‘difficult interesting’ it has become – in comparisons with similar debates in other countries…

and then you I don’t know much about German politics, but it sounds like something Christian Democrats do.

14

nastywoman 06.14.21 at 6:25 am

and why did autocorrect change how ‘different interesting’ it has become – in comparisons with similar debates in other countries…
into:
‘how ‘difficult interesting’ it has become – in comparisons with similar debates in other countries…’

BE-cause Paul Krugman wrote in 1999
‘WHY GERMANY KANT KOMPETE’
and
‘Well, here’s my theory: The real divide between currently successful economies, like the U.S., and currently troubled ones, like Germany, is not political but philosophical; it’s not Karl Marx vs. Adam Smith, it’s Immanuel Kant’s categorical imperative vs. William James’ pragmatism. What the Germans really want is a clear set of principles: rules that specify the nature of truth, the basis of morality, when shops will be open, and what a Deutsche mark is worth. Americans, by contrast, are philosophically and personally sloppy: They go with whatever seems more or less to work. If people want to go shopping at 11 P.M., that’s okay; if a dollar is sometimes worth 80 yen, sometimes 150, that’s also okay.

Now, the American way doesn’t always work better. Even today, Detroit can’t or won’t make luxury cars to German standards; Amtrak can’t or won’t provide the precision scheduling that Germans take for granted. America remains remarkably bad at exporting; the sheer quality of some German products, the virtuosity of German engineering, have allowed the country to remain a powerful exporter despite having the world’s highest labor costs. And Germany did a better job of resisting the inflationary pressures of the ’70s and ’80s than we did.

But the world has changed in a way that seems to favor flexibility over discipline. With technology and markets in flux, not everything worth doing is worth doing well…’

AND that might be… the… problem?

As in the reality of the 21 Century – EVERYTHING worth doing – is worth doing well…’

15

nastywoman 06.14.21 at 8:10 am

AND
furthermore? –
when will our AngloEconomists finally understand how ‘The New World’ works?

And I just read this quote from John Glenn –
who once said:
‘As I hurtled though space one thought keep crossing my mind – every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder’

AND this type of thinking HAS to change in the ‘AngloWorld’ –
and US economists HAVE to understand – if they keep on… promoting such… ‘thinking’
or such a ‘philosophy’ – it is NO wonder that blue collared workers fall for complete INSANE Idiots like Trump –
who lie to them –
by promising to make them
WHOLE –
again!

16

derrida derider 06.14.21 at 9:13 am

nastywoman, the proportion of German workers in manufacturing peaked in the 1960s (somewhere around 50%). It is now less than 20% of German workers (see here. For all its prowess, German manufacturing is creating fewer and fewer jobs. And that is precisely because its productivity has soared relative to other sectors of the German economy (ie it needs fewer workers to produce its output). So German politics are subject to the same effects that John points to.

Shedding manufacturing jobs is what rich economies do – even China is past its manufacturing employment peak.

17

Gorgonzola Petrovna 06.14.21 at 11:40 am

@nastywoman,
“You kind of got it – as in a world where supposedly ‘Christ-Democratic’ politics are effectively – more PRO ‘Blue Collared Labour’ than any so called ‘Labor Party’ in any so called ‘Anglo-Country’ –
it just tells US –
how ‘difficult interesting’ it has become – in comparisons with similar debates in other countries…”

Yes, this sounds right, for as much as I can decipher it. What is labeled ‘right’ is good for domestic manufacturing, and what is labeled ‘left’ is bad for it. In all western countries, Anglo or not.

It is interesting to me that someone can simultaneously identify with the Greens and domestic manufacturing industries. It seems contradictory. For one thing, what I know (or what I hear anyway) about German Greens is that they are the foremost opponents of Nord Stream 2. If they manage to win in September and form a ruling coalition (seems less likely today than a couple of months ago), that, it seems to me, would be catastrophic for German manufacturing. I could be wrong, of course; hopefully we won’t have the chance to find out.

18

Alex SL 06.14.21 at 12:40 pm

I am confident that many countries that have “lost their manufacturing sector” are actually producing much more stuff than they did a few decades ago. The work is just much more automated, as in mining and, to the degree possible, farming, for that matter.

19

nastywoman 06.14.21 at 2:21 pm

@16
‘the proportion of German workers in manufacturing peaked in the 1960s (somewhere around 50%). It is now less than 20% of German workers.

And in my homeland the US it is around 11%?
Nearly half of it?!

And – Yes! – It’s true – that German ‘manufacturing’ -(like manufacturing everywhere) is creating fewer and fewer jobs – BE-cause ‘productivity has soared relative to other sectors of the German economy’ – and if you would look more closely at these ‘sectors’ and their relation to the manufacturing jobs – you might find – that in one of the richest areas in Germany – Baden-Württemberg -(and Stuttgart) – nearly EVERYBODY depends on these manufacturing jobs!
(Including – as already mentioned ALL of the hairdressers)
NOT unlike in an area like Detroit –
where the downfall of the Auto-Industry –
also killed all these GREAT hair salons.

and so – ‘German politics’ are NOT subject ‘to the same effects that John points to’ –
when he points out -‘the perceived loss of Labors traditional working class base’.

As didn’t I already post:
‘It’s a completely different picture in the ‘Predominant Producing Countries’ where ‘blue collared workers’ STILL produce – directly or indirectly the majority of the wealth.

There the Parties – who support ‘Blue Collared Workers’ – WIN – even if they aren’t called ‘Labour’ or ‘Social Democrats’ anymore – and just ‘a GREEN ‘Kretschmann’ -(the Miniterpresident of Baden Württemberg) – who know that he owes IT ALL to the manufacturing workers of hist state – and thusly is one of the strongest supporters of the blue collared workers of Mercedes Benz – Porsche or the whole German ‘Feinmechanik’ Industry.

20

William Timberman 06.14.21 at 7:13 pm

nastywoman @ 1, 5, etc.

With all due respect, I think you may be reading too much Friedrich Merz, and not enough Sascha Lobo. I remember in the 80s when the Japanese lectured Americans about their slipshod industrial practices. Flash forward, and we have Sony and Apple to compare. Who would you pick to be the arbiter of invidious comparison in the present context? The truth is that the intersection of industrial policy and cultural norms is a very tricky landscape to negotiate for political storytellers. They want to speak of intention, hoping that the audience won’t notice the extent to which luck and corruption are equal partners in the plot.

The story you’re telling about Germany is a myth —- a myth based at least in part on elements of the truth, to be sure, but a myth nevertheless. You want to talk about superior German engineering, Mitbestimmung, and high industrial wages. That’s fine, but surely you can understand why Herr Lobo might want to mention the politics of Germany’s abysmal telecommunications infrastructure, crumbling schools, shortage of care workers, and worship of the schwarze Null, or why Yanis Varoufakis is still hung up on the devastating effect German neo-mercantilism had on the people of Greece.

Everyone and their dog these days seems to have a story to tell about the correct approach to things like industrial policy, political sovereignty, global supply chains, and the possibility that our successes, rather than our failures, will turn out to be the burden that ultimately overwhelms the earth. Justice and mercy seem to be mentioned in most of these stories somewhere, but not very prominently, and always with the caveat that it isn’t realistic to concern ourselves with the why of the things before we settle on the how. Unless and until that changes, I’m pretty sure that none of this is going to end well.

21

John Quiggin 06.14.21 at 9:29 pm

Alex @18 That’s a little tricky because tech progress has been so uneven. If you treat both a 2021 Macbook and a 1984 128K book as “one computer produced”, you get a shrinking manufacturing sector at least relative to global product. If you treat the 2021 Mac as equivalent to 10 Cray supercomputers of 1980 vintage, you get a different answer.

Regardless, there aren’t many workers producing them, which is what matters in electoral terms

22

nastywoman 06.14.21 at 10:02 pm

@20
‘The story you’re telling about Germany is a myth —- a myth based at least in part on elements of the truth, to be sure, but a myth nevertheless’.

But it isn’t a ‘myth’ that all the expensive stuff my American family owns is ‘Made in Germany’ -(and Italy and a bit in France) – and all of the cheap stuff they own is ‘Made in China’ and if you understood me wrong – I actually just would like it – if they would own more stuff ‘Made in the US’ – as if they would own more stuff US Made – it would mean that blue collared US workers -(I have a certain and very personal attachment to) – would
be… may I say ‘happier’? – and thusly wouldn’t have to to vote for Right-Wing Racist Idiots anymore – who lie to them.

And about all these ‘Friedrich Merz’ and ‘Sascha Lobo’ and ‘the politics of Germany’s abysmal telecommunications infrastructure, crumbling schools, shortage of care workers, and worship of the schwarze Null, or why Yanis Varoufakis is still hung up on the devastating effect German neo-mercantilism had on the people of Greece’ – that’s… never about the very old-fashioned Greek -(or Italian? – or German?) idea – to just consume what you can produce yourself –
Or just produce what you consume yourself –
as it seems to prevent a country like German from becoming ‘THE predominant producer for High Quality Stuff in the World.
(and China ‘THE Producer for the cheap stuff)
and I think – we ALL don’t want that –

Right?

23

nastywoman 06.14.21 at 10:20 pm

and about the silly @17:
‘What is labeled ‘right’ is good for domestic manufacturing, and what is labeled ‘left’ is bad for it. In all western countries, Anglo or not’.

Good Lord?! –
Petrovna? –
Don’t you know –
that ‘THE Predominant Producing Country of High Quality Stuff in the World –
is –
THE
‘LEFT’!!!! –
Socialistic or nearly Communistic Country –
Germany?!
(at least according to Crazy Anglo Right-Wingers)

24

nastywoman 06.14.21 at 10:45 pm

AND it’s a bit…
weird?
(If I might say?) –
As each time this… this subject comes up –
I post and post –
(okay – perhaps in other words?) –
that y’all NEED to honour y’alls (blue collar wage) workers!! –
(Like they still do in a country like Germany)
OR in any ‘Predominant Producing Country in the World – in order NOT to lose the connection between ‘Labor Parties’ and ‘the workers’ –
and then… somebody like Petrovna jokes:

‘What is labeled ‘right’ is good for domestic manufacturing, and what is labeled ‘left’ is bad for it’?

25

nastywoman 06.14.21 at 10:54 pm

AND furthermore the @17
‘If they (the GREENS) manage to win in September and form a ruling coalition (seems less likely today than a couple of months ago), that, it seems to me, would be catastrophic for German manufacturing’.

The above statement is the perfect example of ‘trump’ –
(the worlds new word for: Utmost Stupidity) –

As – didn’t I post already –
over and over again – that THE German ‘Bundesland’ which nearly entirely depends on it’s manufacturing base – is run by the GREEN (Kretschmann) since years and years and years…

26

J-D 06.14.21 at 10:55 pm

With all due respect …

Harsh!

27

nastywoman 06.15.21 at 4:28 am

OR –
can’t we just agree that ‘once upon a time a bunch of delusional (Anglo) economists thought there was no money anymore in producing stuff – and it would be better to let some… some ‘low payed production slaves’ do all the manufacturing – and then these economists found out that they were completely wrong and that you STILL can make lots of dough with manufacturing –
And THE most important thing –
The ‘blue collar wage workers’ –
(who always could vote for some Right-Wing Racist Idiots)
are so much happier if they can produce something –
(instead of Germany or China)

28

Gorgonzola Petrovna 06.15.21 at 6:14 am

@18 “The work is just much more automated, as in mining and, to the degree possible, farming, for that matter.”

That’s the mantra, but I’m skeptical. The work may be more automated, but then a lot more is being produced. And things – TVs, phones, laptops, cars and their components – need to be assembled. You can find a video of fully automated plant, but that’s not really how things are done.

As for farming, I suspect that quite a bit of it (picking strawberries, for example) is done by invisible people, completely off the books. And some of that in manufacturing as well. We don’t really know what’s happening.

29

MFB 06.15.21 at 8:14 am

I don’t find it convincing that there is no proletariat any more and therefore social democrats have to focus their attention on the middle classes. There really aren’t enough nurses to elect a government. The problem as I understand it, is that there is no proletariat which thinks of itself as a proletariat, just a dispersed mass of underpaid people in the services sector, who, when they suffer as a result of social ills, blame those ills on whatever bogey the right wing serves up for them. This in turn is because of the collapse of political organisation among the proletariat — which, I suspect, is partly because the social democrats focussed their attention on the middle classes. In other words, organisations like Australian Labor have been working very hard to shoot themselves in both feet, with both barrels, by following the advice largely laid out in the post.

By the way, although I find nastywoman’s posts a pain to scroll through and her adoration for the US Democrats is atrocious, I think the points she makes here are probably the most accurate in the thread.

30

nastywoman 06.15.21 at 8:31 am

AND soooo –
we
ALL!! –
now hopefully have come to the conclusion
that –
‘Labor and its imaginary friends’
and
that’s ‘there’s lots of concern in the Australian Labor part about the perceived loss of its traditional working class base’ – is some kind of ‘imaginary problem’?
Just imagine (Aussie) ‘Labor’ coming up with some programs and policies which give Aussie blue collar wage workers the same power blue collar wage workers in Germany have -(from absolute secure jobs with ‘Mitbestimmung’ and at least six to seven weeks of vacations each year AND a very generous support for child care)

Now wouldn’t that turn even Aussie’s blue collar wage workers in ALL NEW FRIENDS –
with Labor?

31

Gorgonzola Petrovna 06.15.21 at 11:40 am

@nastywoman,
So, you have an attitude, but I already know that. Aside from that, I now have to research some politician of one of the German states? Fine. According to en.wikipedia, “Kretschmann belongs to the more Realpolitik-oriented, centrist wing of the Green Party, and has been characterised as holding economically liberal, pro-business views“. In coalition with the CDU. So, that’s your communist?

32

William Timberman 06.15.21 at 1:16 pm

nastywoman @ 20

If it’s fair to ask why there are no American (or Chinese) Mercedes, isn’t it also fair to ask why there are no German iPhones? This isn’t a nationalist argument. Apple’s design and engineering teams have never been composed exclusively of the native born and bred, neither are the iPhones assembled in Chinese factories exactly what you’d call cheap stuff.

This isn’t a comparative advantage argument either. In the short term, only mainland China and Taiwan can manage the precision manufacture of high-quality electronics at scale, but it seems very unlikely that this will be the case forever. The component parts are, in fact, sourced from all over the world, and integrated by very complex machinery, much of which is made in Germany or elsewhere in Europe. (Side note: we’re told that the acres of curved glass in Apple Park’s space ship were made by a specialty firm in Germany, the only company on earth capable of manufacturing it,)

I think that even Paul Krugman, who won his Nobel for being the first to call our attention to the fact how technological advances are made is dependent to a surprising degree on where they are made, would concede that the real goal of global economic integration is to make the expertise that originates in Wolfsburg or Cupertino or Shenzhen completely portable. Barring political rivalries that become wars, or catastrophic climate change arriving much sooner than we expect, that seems to me to be a very likely outcome, with consequences for labor politics that no one yet has fully calculated.

33

SamChevre 06.15.21 at 1:25 pm

I am confident that many countries that have “lost their manufacturing sector” are actually producing much more stuff than they did a few decades ago. The work is just much more automated, as in mining and, to the degree possible, farming, for that matter.

Comparing my wife’s grandparents household tools (mostly bought in the 1970’s) and “stuff” (cloth, clothes, lamps, etc) vs mine would indicate otherwise.

34

Tm 06.15.21 at 2:02 pm

MFB 29: “There really aren’t enough nurses to elect a government.”
Neither are there enough mine workers or … (substitute your preferred group of proletarians). Yet in certain countries (certainly in the US), mine workers are politically powerful and nurses are not. That is a question I would like addressed by the distinguished leftist thinkers in attendance…

Note, Google tells me there are 3.8 million nurses, 3.7 million teachers, 3.5 million truck drivers, 2.6 million farmers, 2.4 million farm workers, and 0.6 million mine workers in the US.

There are 11.9 manufacturing workers, 4.6 million retail sales workers, about 12 million restaurant workers.

AFL CIO offers the following statistics about workers in the “management, professional, and related occupations” group (as defined by the BLS, https://www.dpeaflcio.org/factsheets/the-professional-and-technical-workforce-by-the-numbers):
o Management occupations (18,263,000);
o Business and financial operations occupations (7,587,000);
o Computer and mathematical occupations (5,126,000);
o Architecture and engineering occupations (3,263,000);
o Life, physical, and social science occupations (1,529,000);
o Community and social service occupations (2,680,000);
o Legal occupations (1,891,000);
o Education, training, and library occupations (9,313,000);
o Arts, design, entertainment, sports, and media occupations (3,362,000); and
o Healthcare practitioner and technical occupations (9,420,000).

35

Tm 06.15.21 at 2:05 pm

Also MFB, opposing the nurses as “middle class” to the “dispersed mass of underpaid people in the services sector” is a bit weird. Nurses are (mostly) underpaid people in the services sector.

36

Tm 06.15.21 at 2:28 pm

Not directly related, but I think it’s important to remember that in the US context, almost all debate about the working class, traditional or not, implicitly excludes non-whites. A nice recent example:

“But what I want to note here is that Packer’s typology pretty much completely disappears the entire American non-white working class: the 75 million or so people who make the wheels go round in this country, and whose opinions are never sampled by journalists who have traveled to a diner in this still highly segregated part of (insert any major American city)”

https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/06/disappearing-the-non-white-working-class

37

John Quiggin 06.15.21 at 8:05 pm

What TM @35 said.

38

nastywoman 06.16.21 at 4:14 am

@31
‘So, that’s your communist?’

No –
that’s what American Right-Wingers believe is ‘a communist’ -(or socialist)
and you finally need to realise – if ‘according to en.wikipedia, “Kretschmann belongs to the more Realpolitik-oriented, centrist wing of the Green Party, and has been characterised as holding economically liberal, pro-business views’ – such so called ‘economically liberal, pro-business views’ IN Germany are ALWAYS based on such a HUUUGE ‘social net’ –
that Right Wing Americans -(like you?)
like to call it: ‘communism’.
(or ‘socialism’)

39

nastywoman 06.16.21 at 4:32 am

@20
‘If it’s fair to ask why there are no American (or Chinese) Mercedes, isn’t it also fair to ask why there are no German iPhones’?

It’s more than ‘fair’ –
as it is/was kind of my point – when I wrote that there was/is this ‘attitude’ in my homeland the US – to let some (fureign) ‘low payed production slaves’ do all the manufacturing – just because – the lowest bidder –
(wherever)
get’s the
(outsourced)
job!

And that’s how ‘Labor Parties’ lose any contact with their ‘friends’ -(blue collar wage workers)

40

nastywoman 06.16.21 at 4:47 am

AND about ‘the cheap stuff’ –

How true –
finding all ‘the cheap stuff’ in an American -(or even German) – Houshold to be ‘Made in China’ is already a thing of the past – as the Chinese are getting more and more into the production of ‘High Quality Stuff’ too – as they understood far faster than some delusional US economists – that in manufacturing of High Quality -(and ‘luxury’) stuff is the most amount of dough.
AND -(attention joke!) –
that thusly ‘the blue collar wage workers’ – who produce such stuff –
are the real HEROES of their economy! –
AND that they have to be honoured even more than the workers im ehemaligen Deutschen Bauern und Arbeiterstaat DDR!

41

nastywoman 06.16.21 at 4:55 am

and about ‘Paul Krugman’ –
he FIRST should learn how to exchange the brake-shoes of a Harley –
and
THEN –
philosophy about –
‘not everything worth doing is worth doing well…’
(just joking – just joking…!)

42

nastywoman 06.16.21 at 5:25 am

@34
‘Yet in certain countries (certainly in the US), mine workers are politically powerful and nurses are not. That is a question I would like addressed by the distinguished leftist thinkers in attendance…’

BE-cause –
as I wrote –
It all depends what ‘working heroes’ you like to worship –
and as the list you presented – is totally outdated –
(since the pandemic)
and most Americans are now ‘Bakers’ – besides always holding much more than just one job – there is NO more anybody called ‘Proletariat’ in America.

EVERYBODY –
in his or her job is a:
‘Independent Contractor’ –
(even a lot of the ‘nurses’)

43

Gorgonzola Petrovna 06.16.21 at 6:55 am

@nastywoman 38,
you seem to be arguing with someone inside your head. Do we agree that in the current global economic environment the CDU (“the right”) is likely to be better for the German manufacturing industry than the Greens – the actual Greens, not some CDU-like politician camouflaged as a Green – would’ve been?

44

J-D 06.16.21 at 9:36 am

Yesterday I chanced to hear part of a report on the radio about the decline of unions, and discussing the level of unionisation in Australia, who were mentioned as a group still with a high (and, I think even maybe, a rising) level of unionisation and a strong union, effective in gaining results desired by its members? Why, nurses!

45

Tim H. 06.16.21 at 10:45 am

nastywoman@41, Harleys haven’t had drum brakes in decades, a good thing, brake pads are much easier to change. Nitpick over.

46

Tm 06.16.21 at 5:39 pm

„that in manufacturing of High Quality -(and ‘luxury’) stuff is the most amount of dough.“

Hmmm are you sure? Ever heard of Google, Facebook and Amazon?

47

John Quiggin 06.17.21 at 11:42 am

J-D @44 Queensland Nurses Union is very good.

48

Tm 06.17.21 at 12:12 pm

Polls in the US show strong support for unions: https://www.vox.com/2021/6/16/22535274/poll-pro-act-unionization-majority-bipartisan

Why don’t more workers join? I know, the deck is stacked heavily against unions in the US. Still, why does public support seem to be so inconsequential?

Aside, any comments regarding the “industrial policy” bill passed by the US Senate? “It’s strange that such a significant measure can pass the divided Senate and yet elicit very little public attention…”, writes Robert farley at https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2021/06/new-industrial-policy

49

nastywoman 06.17.21 at 4:34 pm

@46
‘Hmmm are you sure? Ever heard of Google, Facebook and Amazon’?

Yes! – and wouldn’t it be GREAT if Google, Facebook and Amazon could be called ‘manufacturing’? –
That would improve the percentage share for ‘manufacturing’ in my homeland a lot –

and @45 – I only ride Harleys who have drum brakes and as the shoes are a bit difficult to change I thought that would be a nice ‘Aufgabe’ for my friend Paul –

and @Petrovna 43 –
NO – we don’t agree that in the current global economic environment the CDU (“the right”) is likely to be better for the German manufacturing industry than the Greens –
as the CDU lacks a lot of imagination -(comparing to the GREENS) – about how a climate friendly and sustainable ‘manufacturing’ in the future will – look like!

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