When masses of people articulate their grievances by shutting down a city, social complaints can rapidly become political crises. Since the first issue of Red Flag went to print, several rebellions around the world have threatened to morph into such crises for those at the top of society.
In Brazil, more than one million have participated in protests against corruption, bus fare increases and a lack of services (see report p.16). The Greek prime minister attempted to shut down the national broadcaster, only to see it placed under workers’ control (see interview p.17). The government lost a coalition partner as a result and has been seriously weakened. The people of Turkey, whose small protests over neoliberal city planning were transformed into a mass anti-government movement, have continued to fight despite a brutal state crackdown. There have been plenty of other mass mobilisations in the last two weeks, from Bulgaria and Germany to Indonesia and Chile, which have amplified and given coherence to the individual concerns of workers, students and the poor.
The influence of corporate power on the political system, the feature article in this issue of Red Flag, is so great that there are few options open to people wanting change other than to take matters into their own hands. Politicians of all stripes are simply unresponsive to the concerns of the majority until they are forced to respond by the fury of the population.
Australia, like other countries, currently endures a governmental crisis. But it is of a different order from and has different roots than those overseas. The ALP is tearing itself apart because the majority of people have become so disengaged that we have stopped listening to what the party has to say. When we do listen, we believe scarcely a word.
Commentators write about the apathy of the population. But there is an abundance of concern – about the underfunding of health services and public housing, about the gross and widening inequality. There is outrage about public funding of rich private schools and the state of public transport infrastructure. We wonder why so much is squandered. We wonder how banks and mining companies get away with all that they do.
The country is awash with cynicism towards official politics because on one hand we care deeply about things that we feel powerless to change. On the other, we have no confidence that the current government or the alternative government has any intention of improving the situation for workers.
Red Flag doesn’t share concerns, expressed by one newspaper editor recently, about whether “the electorate on September 14 can make an intelligent judgment about who should be the government of Australia”. We fail to see what is so “intelligent” about differentiating and endorsing one pro-capitalist neoliberal political organisation over another.
Workers are smart enough to see that the looming federal election provides little choice. People can see that parliamentarians are either shit scared or fawning or both in the presence of corporate power. We see that MPs are more often drawn to the political circus by self-interest rather than any concern for betterment of the collective situation of the workiing class.
We all remain uninspired, not because we cannot understand what’s at stake, but because we understand all too well.
Red Flag hits the streets
On hearing about the launch of Red Flag, Melbourne’s Age newspaper wryly commented: “[B]lending socialism and newspapers is what marketing types would call going against trend”.
We think the trend is overrated. And evidently we are not alone in our desire for a radical alternative to the capitalist media: the first edition of Red Flag came close to selling out (we’re talking copies, not principles, here). A print run of 4000 might have been thought slightly ambitious. This publication is, after all, mostly sold on the streets, at protests and in workplaces by dedicated activists, rather than being stocked by newsagents and supermarkets. But, as the marketing types would say, we managed to “move units” without commercial distribution deals.
We already have 350 subscribers and the forms continue to arrive. Launches around the country also proved successful, with 175 people turning out at Glebe Town Hall in Sydney, 83 in Brisbane’s West End, 220 at the Australian Manufacturing Workers’ Union in Melbourne and 55 in Perth. It was standing room only at King O’Malley’s in Canberra.
In the coming weeks our website redflag.org.au will be up and running. It will publish much, but not all, of the contents of the paper – as well as extra articles and reports from campaigns and protests around the country. It will also provide a portal to Socialist Alternative’s social media content.
Red Flag would like to thank all those who have supported our project. We hope that in the coming months and years our blending of newspapers and socialism will prove ever more successful.