When the Herald Sun broke the news this morning that a new political party – the Victorian Socialists – has been formed with the ambitious goal of winning an upper house seat in the Victorian elections later this year, some people may have been surprised to learn that Socialist Alternative is involved in the project.
After all, Socialist Alternative has had only fleeting associations with the socialist electoral projects of the last two decades.
This time, we are throwing ourselves in. Here’s why.
Visit the Victorian Socialists webpage: www.victoriansocialists.org.au
The need for a left alternative to Labor and the Greens in the electoral sphere has been obvious for many years. But the left has been too marginal to fill the space, and left parliamentary campaigns tended to be fruitless affairs offering virtually zero chance of winning.
This campaign is different. Yarra councillor Stephen Jolly is a well-known socialist activist and has a relatively high profile. He has a long history of leading community campaigns, most recently the successful fight to stop the East West Link. He is also the only socialist in Australia to get a consistently substantial vote in parliamentary elections. In the last three state elections, Steve has received between 8 and 10 percent of the primary vote in the state seat of Richmond.
While respectable, it was far from enough to win the seat, which has become a battle between Labor and the Greens. The five-member upper house Northern Metropolitan region, in which the Victorian Socialists are running Steve, is a different story.
Fiona Patten was elected to the seat in 2014 with 2.8 percent of the vote. She got over the line courtesy of complex preference deals that a socialist campaign couldn’t and wouldn’t want to benefit from. But the result indicates that a campaign which polls more than 5 or 6 percent of the vote would have a very good chance of winning the fifth seat.
This campaign has a fighting chance of winning that level of support. The combination of a well-known and respected candidate, the organisational weight of the main socialist groups in Melbourne and the peculiarities of the Legislative Council make this a realistic aim.
Unions and community groups have reacted positively to the prospect of a united socialist ticket. And a serious campaign to get a socialist into the Victorian parliament is something the whole left can get behind.
At the moment, the only parliamentary voices that are heard outside the Greens and the major parties are cranks or the lunatic right. Imagine the difference a socialist could make.
A socialist parliamentarian could champion union rights and workers’ struggles, and inject a left voice into every political debate.
They could call out the corruption and nepotism of the political establishment, while standing up for immigrants scapegoated by politicians and the press.
They could put forward the radical reforming socialist policies that are again starting to be taken seriously around the world, as indicated by the recent campaigns of Bernie Sanders in the United States and Jeremy Corbyn in Britain.
People familiar with Socialist Alternative’s politics will know that we don’t think winning parliamentary elections is the path to socialism. The social change we want is more radical and thoroughgoing than can be achieved by any parliament – let alone the Victorian upper house.
But that is no reason not to leap on an opportunity to get a socialist voice into the political debate.
This year, you will read a lot more about the campaign in the pages of Red Flag.
Right now, we are appealing to our readers and subscribers in Victoria to get online and join the Victorian Socialists. It’s free to join, and it only takes two minutes.
It is also crucial to the first stage of our campaign – getting the Victorian Socialists registered as a political party with the Victorian Electoral Commission. To do that, we need at least 500 registered members in Victoria.
So please sign up today. More than that – help spread the word and get other people involved. Getting a socialist in parliament is not only an exciting idea – it’s something we can do. But it will happen only if left wing people get behind the campaign.
To find out more, to join (it's free), volunteer or donate, visit the Victorian Socialists webpage: www.victoriansocialists.org.au
Corey Oakley is an editor of Red Flag and a member of Socialist Alternative’s national executive.