The primacy of politics: Stilwell, the accord and the critique of the state

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Challenging the Orthodoxy: Reflections on Frank Stilwell's Contribution to Political Economy, 2014, 9783642361210 pp. 173 - 180
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© 2014 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. All rights are reserved. This paper re-evaluates Frank Stilwell's still unmatched, detailed intellectual engagement with the Australian Labor Party and Australian Council of Trade Union's Accord. Stilwell's was an indispensible critique of the Accord's failure to fulfil expectations that it would provide a political-economic solution to both the economic crisis that ended the long boom, and the Left's resulting impasse. Stilwell's key contribution was to pose sharply the necessity of a political response to the crisis-of the economy, politics and the Left-when competing radical (including Marxist) analyses failed to respond to this challenge adequately. From this recognition, the analysis asks how we might extend Stilwell's work on the Accord from the vantage point of today's (post)-neoliberal era. It seeks to open up the question of the state in relation to the Accord, and to consider how progressive and working class movements related to it. The chapter proceeds from analysis that there was a protracted assimilation of the unions and labour into capitalist state imperatives via the Accord. Furthermore, that this incorporation into a hegemonic state project cannot be separated from the implementation of neoliberalism in Australia-a process ultimately counter to the interests of labour and which contributed to the political defeat of the working class movement.
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