|Issue No 93||27 April 2001|
John Passant on the Socialist Alliance
There are two emotions many Australian workers feel about globalisation - fear and anger. The fear is bred of insecurity about jobs, living standards and overwork. The anger is born of seeming helplessness.
Ordinary working Australians stand like Canute before the waves of change thinking they can do nothing. As they sink they glimpse John and Kim, dry on the beach, worshipping the very waves that destroy all our economic certainties.
These powerful emotions may produce an electoral tsunami that destroys the Howard Government. Good.
But fear and anger can also be breeding grounds for despair. One Nation feeds on these emotions with its racist appeals and protectionist policies.
However there is hope. Australian society is moving, however slowly, to the Left. The election results in Western Australia and Queensland, and the possible defeat of the Howard Government, show a desire to reject the overt economic rationalism of the Coalition parties.
Radicals might suggest with a fair amount of truth that the ALP is hardly a hotbed of leftism and actually spearheaded the extension of the free market in Australia. But by
voting Labor many people think they are rejecting Tory economics. It is this perception that the Left wants to capitalise on.
The Labor victories in Queensland and Western Australia were built in part on an increase in the vote for the Greens.
But it would be a mistake to view the Greens as an anti-capitalist grouping. They are a mass of contradictions. The Greens have spawned the likes of, on the one hand, the pro-uranium NATO supporter and German Foreign Minister Joschke Fischer and, on the other, pro-working class presidential candidate Ralph Nader in the United States.
The Left has much in common with the radicals in the Green movement and wants to work with them. However it has to be understood that mainstream electoral formations like the Greens and parties like the ALP (and the Democrats, if one can consider them left-wing) accept the basic tenets of capitalism. This means they do not offer a long-term solution to the problems of society.
This truth and the electoral volatility we have seen over the last five years may open up an opportunity for the radical Left in Australia.
Eight very different revolutionary groups certainly think so. They recently formed Socialist Alliance to stand candidates in the forthcoming Federal elections. Around
300 enthusiastic supporters attended its Melbourne launch. In Sydney there were 250 supporters.
A number of things are driving the Left. First, the success of the S11 movement in Melbourne last year showed that there is a sizable minority of people who, even if not specifically anti-capitalist, are concerned about the directions of global capitalism. An alliance is one way of involving these people in debate, discussion and action.
Secondly, the continuing appeal of Pauline Hanson has shocked the revolutionary movement into attempting to coalesce an electoral alliance that can appeal on a
socialist basis to those dissatisfied with the impact of economic rationalism and the pro-globalisation policies of both major parties.
The Left are, and have been, the consistent opponents of capitalist globalisation. To allow Hanson, with her racist and reactionary policies, to go unchallenged would be a political crime.
Socialist Alliance has adopted policies Labor might have put forward before it was taken over by the economic rationalists.
The Alliance wants to abolish the GST. It will tax the rich. Its candidates will argue for the reversal of the privatisations undertaken by Labor and the Coalition. The group will support the public health system, not private health funds.
They will campaign for free higher education, the repeal of the Workplace Relations Act, increased funding for public transport, extending native title, freeing the refugees from their concentration camps and introducing a shorter working week, with no loss of pay.
The Alliance will make a simple point - the major beneficiaries of capitalist globalisation are the corporations whose dominant concern is profit, not people.
While the Alliance is putting forward concrete measures to benefit working people under capitalism, its members believe there can be no ultimate solution to the problems of humanity without a fundamental re-ordering of society. The Alliance will argue for socialism - the working class's democratic control of the factories, offices and mines so that production is organised to satisfy human need, not to make a profit.
The Alliance is not neutral about who it wants to form Government. It sees the Coalition as the enemy. For that reason preferences will go to the ALP before the Liberals and Nationals.
The Alliance wants to appeal to ALP members and supporters disaffected with the right-wing nature of the Party. That may not happen in the run up to this election. But there is no doubt that having Labor in power for three years will help expose the ALP for what it has become - the handmaiden of the rich.
Establishing a viable left-wing alternative now is a necessity to be able to capitalise on the disillusionment that will develop with Labor over the next three years. Otherwise the good people on the Left of the ALP and their supporters risk becoming cynical and being lost to politics completely.
The Alliance is realistic about its immediate electoral prospects. It knows that it is unlikely to win a large number of votes in the forthcoming elections. And it knows
that voting for socialist candidates, even electing them to Parliament, will not change the world. However the point of standing candidates is not to win seats. It is to give
the Left a stage from which to spread its ideas and build a stronger anti-capitalist movement.
The Alliance sees its immediate task as being to build the M1 movement. M1 is a coordinated series of demonstrations around the world on May 1 against corporate greed and globalisation. In doing that socialists hope to attract new people to the anti-globalisation movement and involve them in the discussions about the future for humanity.
The Left has a vision of a new and democratic world where all can live in freedom, prosperity and peace. Socialist Alliance is one way to spread this message of liberation.
Corporate: The Jobs Myth
Access Economics' Chris Richardson debunks employer claims that increased workers compensation premiums have a dramatic impact on jobs.
Interview: The Workers� Voice
When trade union stalwart Ian West took a seat in the NSW Upper House he was determined to be more than a bench-warmer. Then the Workers Comp legislation hit.
Unions: Postcard from the Pilbara
In the face of unprecedented pressure, BHP workers in the Pilbara are standing together and refusing to sign individual cotnracts.
Economics: Currency Unification: Dollarize or Die?
Dick Bryan asks what happens to an economy when it gives up its domestic currency.
History: Instant History
In his address to the Australian Labour History Conference, the SMH's Brad Norington asks whether there is still time for history.
International: The End of an Era?
The post-Cold War era is over. Something different is developing to take its place. John Passant writes.
Media: The Battle for Aunty
The CPSU's Graeme Thompson ouitlines the campaign to save the ABC and this week's emergency share-holders' meeting.
Review: Share-Holder Nation
A legacy of government-backed privatisations, demutualisations and stockmarket hype over the past decade is the creation of a nation of shareholders.
Satire: SOS: Save the Investment Banker!
Spare a thought for those less fortunate With redundancies at investment banks around the globe looming, now is the time for us to show the world just how much we care. It's just not right.
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