Everything about Australian electoral politics is grubby as hell. For the most part, politicians are either slavish defenders of the status quo (Labor and the Libs), mild-mannered reformers who doff their cap to power at every opportunity (the Greens), or self-promoting idiots (most of the micro parties) out to game the system for their own personal gain.
Victorian Socialists want a total overhaul of Australian politics. We stand for taking power from the bosses and putting it in the hands of the workers who make society function. We want a government that is beholden to the people, not to the rich. We want a new economic system, the abolition of class divisions, a radical reorganisation of society to deal with the climate emergency and end systemic racism.
We know that campaigning for socialist candidates in elections helps only a little in fighting for that. The truth is that the electoral sphere is only one battleground of politics. But elections in a system like we have in Australia do matter. If the socialist left can intervene on that terrain effectively, that will put us in a better position to pursue our goals more generally.
And if we can get one person, or even a few people, elected, they will have the opportunity to prove to people that we aren’t bullshitting when we say socialists are different to other politicians. A socialist in parliament will be a megaphone for every righteous struggle. They will be not just a voice for the voiceless, but provide a vehicle for anyone fighting for justice to be heard.
Imagine if we had had a socialist in the Victorian parliament this last year. We could have had a voice in the mainstream debate defending Dan Andrews from all the lunatic attacks from the “let COVID rip” right, but also challenging him on issues like hotel quarantine from the left. It could have totally changed the nature of the debate.
Imagine if we’d had a socialist in parliament at the end of 2019, when Andrews sent riot cops in to smash the heads of climate protesters at the IMARC blockade. They could have used their platform as an elected politician to be on the radio and TV denouncing police brutality and rallying support for the demonstrators; they could have used the parliament itself to demand accountability from the so-called “progressive” Labor government.
We are going to run a big campaign—more ambitious than those we ran in 2018 and 2019. We will be standing candidates in all ten of the seats in Melbourne’s northern and western suburbs, as well as for the Senate.
We have run three solid campaigns in the north since we set up in 2018—the 2018 state election, the 2019 federal election and the local council elections last year. In both the state and federal campaigns we won more than 4 percent of the vote where we stood. That’s still small, but it’s well ahead of any other Australian socialist electoral campaign in recent memory.
We feel we’ve started to establish a solid support base in Melbourne’s north. We’ve proved we can do well in the Greens-voting inner-suburbs. And we’ve shown we can also do well in the Labor strongholds in the outer suburbs. For example there were a number of booths in and around Broadmeadows where we got more than 10 percent of the vote in both 2018 and 2019.
So we want to build on that, but the results we got in the council elections last year also showed us we can do well in the western suburbs. In our first campaign there, we got 8 percent to 10 percent of the vote in the three Maribyrnong wards we contested, and managed to get one of our candidates, Jorge Jorquera, elected to the council. He’s now doing great work there, campaigning on every issue from recognising “Australia Day” as Invasion Day to opposing the current reactionary campaign against safe injecting facilities in the area.
We think that we have a real shot at getting a candidate in the west elected to the upper house of the state parliament in 2022. A good showing in the west in the federal election can lay the basis for that campaign.
But the federal election campaign matters in its own right, even though it’s unlikely we can get someone elected. The pandemic has raised big questions about the fundamentals of how our society is organised. It demonstrated that the “that’s just how things are, nothing could ever really be different” mentality that dominated politics for so long was rubbish. In an emergency, the state can throw aside all the mantras about how you can’t interfere with the free market and intervene decisively. For a while, we even had a Liberal government providing a living income to people without work, and free childcare for every parent!
The truth is though that we are still in an emergency—a climate emergency, an inequality emergency, a racial justice emergency—and that’s on top of the pandemic, which is still with us. But the government, and Labor is no better, wants to go back to business as normal: treating the unemployed like dirt, giving handouts to their corporate mates and deflecting demands for real climate action with meaningless platitudes.
In this election, we want to put forward a radical, transformative socialist agenda. We want to get out there arguing that if we can close the borders for two years to keep out the coronavirus, why can’t we do other big things?
For example, how about guaranteeing every person in this country a decent home to live in—paid for by the government, funded by tax hikes on the rich? We temporarily abolished homelessness in Victoria last year, as part of the public health response to the pandemic. But homelessness isn’t just a problem because it might lead to the spread of COVID-19. It’s a permanent emergency for the people living it, and a blight on our society. We need decisive government action to fix it. We know now that this can be done, the politicians just don’t care enough to do it.
There are plenty of other federal issues we want to talk about as well. Like saying no to war against China. The hysterics from the warmongers in the government and military over the last few weeks have been a wakeup call. We need to start organising to stop our government dragging us towards a totally unnecessary and potentially devastating war.
So if you live in Victoria, sign up to the Victorian Socialists and get involved in the campaign. We are having a conference on 17 July, when we will be selecting our candidates and putting our election campaign in motion. All members are encouraged to come and be a part of it.
And wherever you live, please donate to Victorian Socialists. The scale of the campaign we want to run is huge. The electorates we are contesting have a combined total of more than 1 million voters in them, so it will cost a lot of money to get our material and our message out. Unlike the big parties, we don’t get corporate donations—and we wouldn’t accept them even if they were offered. We rely on people who believe in what we are doing to get behind us whatever way they can.