You don’t need to be a genius to see that politics in this country is seriously broken. The problem, though, is that while there are massive levels of discontent with the major parties and the broader political establishment, there has been little in the way of an alternative that can give hope to people who want to see something done about spiralling inequality, the squeeze on living standards and issues like climate change and social justice.
The Victorian Socialists are trying hard to change that. Our campaign to get a socialist elected to parliament at the state election on 24 November represents the most serious chance the radical left has had in decades to get a genuine socialist voice into the mainstream debate.
We came together at the start of this year because we saw a real opportunity to get Stephen Jolly elected to the last spot in the Northern Metropolitan region, the upper house seat covering Melbourne’s northern suburbs. On one level, aiming at just one spot is extremely modest. But we leapt on it because we know the impact just one or two parliamentarians can have on the political debate if they have a message that cuts through.
Pauline Hanson, in her own nefarious way, has been extremely effective at this. The recent vote in the Senate in which the Liberals voted for a motion supporting the Nazi slogan “It’s OK to be white” indicates just how much she has impacted politics in this country.
But while Hanson harnesses anger and disillusionment with the system to pursue a crusade of victim blaming and racism, a socialist would use the platform of parliament to expose those really responsible for the deplorable state of politics – the big corporations and their lackeys in the major political parties who continue to preside over a massive transfer of wealth from workers to the rich. A socialist in parliament would stand up to the scapegoating of young people of African descent, and point out that the real criminals and looters are those sitting in the boardrooms, not young people struggling to find a job and a future.
Most of the small parties that have been elected to parliaments around Australia over the last few years have gotten in on the basis of dodgy backroom preference deals that threw any political principles out the window in order to get over the line. For example, Fiona Patten, who has presented herself as a progressive on many issues, was elected to the Victorian parliament in 2014 only because she cut a deal with conservatives like the Shooters Party, which resulted in three right wing candidates being elected across regional Victoria on the back of her preferences.
The Victorian Socialists want nothing to do with this sordid approach to politics, which has not only used progressive votes to help elect right wingers to parliament, but also only adds to the legitimate cynicism with which people regard politics and political parties.
Because we won’t engage in the cynical game of preference swapping with the right, we have our work cut out to win a seat. The only way we will get elected is if we can get a primary vote that gets us far enough ahead of the other minor parties that they can’t leapfrog over us on the back of dodgy preference deals.
And while we are very grateful for the support we have won from various trade unions, the reality is that we will be outspent by most of our opponents in this campaign. The two things we have going for us, and which we are relying on to get across the line, are our message and our people.
Our message is simple. The major parties are in the pocket of big business. The Victorian Socialists will fight for better jobs, services and housing. We are against racism and welcome migrants. We want to reverse privatisation and put transport and energy back in public hands. We will stand up to major party politicians and corporate power. And we aren’t a party that just talks left to win votes. Our candidates are proven activists who will never bend to big business interests. That’s why, unlike any other party, all of our candidates are committed to rejecting the exorbitant salary given to MPs and will live on the average skilled workers’ wage.
We think that message can cut through. But only if people hear about it. That’s why our people – our members and volunteers – are crucial to this campaign.
Over the past few weeks, we have knocked on more than 35,000 doors across Melbourne’s north. Everywhere from the liberal inner city seats of Melbourne and Richmond, to the blue collar working class heartlands like Broadmeadows that are scandalously neglected by Labor, Victorian Socialists volunteers have been talking to people on their doorsteps about our campaign.
We have been campaigning at train stations across the electorate early each morning. We have been letterboxing even the most far-flung areas, and postering up and down every high street in the north. Over the past few weeks, we have distributed and installed hundreds of signs in front yards and on fences that our supporters have generously let us use to help get the message out.
We think we have started well. But the campaign is now heating up. The cashed-up major parties are starting to launch their TV advertising campaigns. If we are to avoid being swamped in the next few weeks, we need all of our supporters doing whatever they can to help our campaign.
So please. Come in to the Victorian Socialists office at Trades Hall, or get in touch with us via our website or Facebook. Make a donation on our website. Take a sign to put in your yard. Get some leaflets to stick in letterboxes or posters to put up. Help us with early morning train station leafleting. Share our posts on social media. Tell your friends about the campaign.
In particular, we need volunteers to help hand out how-to-vote cards on election day, Saturday, 24 November, and at pre-poll stations from 12 November. This will be crucial in making sure the people we have spoken to, or who have gotten one of our leaflets and like what we say, actually vote for us. We need 1,000 volunteers to staff properly all 176 booths in Northern Metropolitan on election day. You can sign up for this on our website or Facebook.
Over the next few weeks, we will be mounting a socialist election campaign the likes of which has not been seen in Australia for a very long time. It is an exciting opportunity to start to change the direction of politics in this state. Every single person who can offer their support, in whatever way, will make a difference to how successful we can be.