Socialism @ the 2010 Victorian state election

The Victorian state election is being held on November 27, 2010. Labor’s gonna win, with a reduced majority. So: business as usual. Mostly. Apart from Labor’s stranglehold on the inner-city being broken by the Greens.

In 2006, only a handful of socialists ran for office, and so too in 2010.

Undeterred by his loss at the recent Federal election, the Revolutionary Socialist Party’s Van Thanh Rudd will be contesting the seat of Derrimut. “In 2006, Jorge Jorquera stood in the same seat as a candidate for Direct Action, a socialist group that has since merged with the Revolutionary Socialist Party.” (Jorge got 295 votes or 0.98%.)

The Socialist Alliance is standing four hopefuls: Mitch Cherry in Bellarine, Trent Hawkins in Brunswick, Margarita Windisch in Footscray and Ron Guy in Melton.

It will be Margarita’s second tilt at Footscray: in 2006, she got 457 votes (1.46%). (In 2002, SA’s Justine Kamprad got 848 votes or 2.71%.) SA has also contested Brunswick in years past. In 2006, Vannessa Hearman received 645 votes (1.94%), while in 2002 Judy McVey received 573 votes (1.75%). Trent Hawkins stood in WA for a seat in the Australian Senate in 2007; in 2010, he campaigned in the Victorian seat of Wills, gaining 725 votes (0.86%).

The Socialist Party is standing Steve Jolly in Richmond.

Steve also contested the seat in 2006 and 2002. He received 1,805 votes (5.64%) in 2006 and 629 votes (1.99%) in 2002. Steve was elected to Yarra Council in 2004.

The Socialist Equality Party is also standing one candidate: Peter Byrne in Broadmeadows.

“Due to antidemocratic state electoral laws designed to prop up the two-party system, Byrne will appear on the state ballot without being identified as a candidate of the SEP.”

Peter had a crack at Calwell in the 2010 Federal election, and got 1,181 votes or 1.35% for his troubles. Along with another SEP member, Peter ran for a seat in the Australian Senate in 2007, but missed.

Of all the candidates, Jolly is likely to be the most popular, in a seat many expect will fall to the Greens, one of four inner-city seats vulnerable to Communist infiltration.

In other news, two local neo-Trotskyist parties, Socialist Alternative and Solidarity, have been flirting with one another over the question of whether or not to merge. Both groups have their origins in the iSt, although only Solidarity formally belongs to it. (Previous splinters have included the Socialist Action Group, International Socialist Organisation, International Socialists and Socialist Action.)

Note that October 30 is the 90th anniversary of the founding of the ‘Communist Party of Australia’. Its two principal descendants are the CPA (known as the ‘Socialist Party of Australia’ from its founding in 1971 through to 1996) and the CPA (ML).

[The Greens are] being infiltrated by many whose commitment to the environment is questionable, and who are more focused on turning the Greens into a left-wing, socialist-style party. Some people call these Greens “watermelons” – green on the outside, red on the inside.

[Lee] Rhiannon is one of those. In fact, if you look back at her 11 years on the comfortable red couches of the NSW Legislative Council, not much has been said by her on Green issues, but she has spent a lot of time talking about issues not dissimilar from those she campaigned for when she was an active member of the Stalinist Socialist Party [now better known as the Communist Party of Australia].

Rhiannon’s “watermelon” faction of the Greens is growing in strength. They are increasingly flexing their muscle through their base in the inner-city Green branches against the traditional “true” Greens such as [Bob] Brown.

Caveat emptor!

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2020 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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15 Responses to Socialism @ the 2010 Victorian state election

  1. who made this funny (slightly paranoid) statement about the Greens? 😉

  2. mikey says:

    inre Solidarity & SAlt merger, from my infos SAlt are more keen than Solidarity is.

  3. @ndy says:

    The unpalatable truth is that Socialist Alternative has a reputation on the left for its sectarianism and self-serving motivations in the movements. The group has even adopted political practices similar to the sectarian behaviour of the unlamented Socialist Labour League—denouncing all and sundry for their revolutionary failures, maintaining a highly orchestrated internal routine, disrupting the conversations and activities of other socialist groups.

    I think that the National Committee is largely correct in this assessment: SAlt has a poor reputation among the other micro-sects, leftists, and progressive activists generally on account of its ‘sectarianism’. This is both a strength and a weakness. Their organisational culture has both positive and negative consequences, in other words. On the one hand, SAlt has been able to secure — or to further secure — a social base among a portion of the student left, but on the other hand, in doing so, it has alienated non-party members. This would not necessarily be a problem if those accusing it of ‘sectarianism’ were only drawn from the ranks of rival organisations (such as Solidarity), but as far as I can tell, the criticism is fairly widespread, and reasonable.

    Otherwise, the disco must be placed in the context of the history of the two parties, and the relationships which formed between its leading cadre over this period.

    Mick:

    So let’s summarise the central tasks of a propaganda group. The first is political clarity: only by deepening their political understanding can Marxists lay a sound foundation for the future. Second, a propaganda group has to aim to grow in size and at the same time develop a layer of members – a cadre – that understands Marxist ideas and is able to apply those ideas in the specific circumstances of today. For a propaganda group putting those ideas into practice means identifying an audience for Marxism, establishing how to relate to that audience, and finally doing the detailed work – organising and carrying out routine propaganda work and not-so-routine interventions in the debates and struggles that break out – that is necessary to recruit new forces.

    Finally socialists cannot jump over the necessary stages of the development they have to go through. In the present situation in Australia, and given the length of experience of the majority of its members, Socialist Alternative cannot be anything like the Bolsheviks in 1917 or the Communist Party in the 1930s. They had been through decades of major political and social crises, not just a few years in a period of a low level of struggle. Those decades of mass struggle challenged them in a way that socialists in Australia today have not yet experienced. A revolutionary organisation is steeled in significant ideological debates and major struggles. We cannot conjure these up.

    Also:

    Conclusion

    Unfortunately there are no guarantees in politics. The task of building a revolutionary party is far from simple and straightforward. Plenty of small socialist groups have gone off the rails well before they have come anywhere near to establishing a revolutionary party. However, for socialists who are committed to fighting to change the world, there is no alternative but to organise the forces that do currently exist. And if there are only twenty of you, or two hundred, or even two thousand, that means recognising the fact that at this stage of your development you need to see yourself as a propaganda group. Facing up to what you are, not kidding yourself, not pretending you are something broader or more influential is the first step towards building on a sound basis. Being clear on what you are and on the tasks confronting a propaganda group opens up the possibility of genuine growth and at some point, when there are sharp shifts in the political climate, of a qualitative breakthrough which can lay the basis for a mass revolutionary party.

    This is not some dream or utopian schema. The experience of history is that time and time again small groups of revolutionaries armed with a burning commitment to Marxist politics and a fierce determination to build have been able to break through and establish parties that could play a leading role in struggles for workers’ rights and even lead a challenge for power. That is the lesson of Plekhanov’s pioneering work, of Poland at the start of the twentieth century, of the Chinese revolutionaries in the 1920s and of the Vietnamese Trotskyists in the 1930s and 1940s. In the last great radical upsurge in the 1960s and 1970s a similar pattern began to occur in country after country as tiny groups of largely student revolutionaries attempted with some limited success to break the hold of the Stalinist Communist parties over the most advanced sections of the working class.

    With the collapse of Stalinism, an obscene obstacle that blocked the path of genuine revolutionary Marxism for over fifty years has been removed. That provides both an opportunity and a challenge. We now have the responsibility of making Marxism relevant to a new generation of fighters and laying the basis for a movement that can fire the hopes and imagination of tens of millions of people appalled by the horrors of twenty-first century capitalism.

    Bonus! Louis Proyect debates Mick Armstrong on revolutionary organisation: On Mick Armstrong’s From little things big things grow (PDF).

  4. anonymous says:

    Personally I suspect that part of the reason Jolly has received such massive donations from the unions (see link below) is because he’s not allocating preferences, meaning that he will split the left vote and the Greens will be less likely to win.

    http://www.crikey.com.au/2010/10/04/socialist-sets-up-vic-election-battle-for-richmond/

  5. @ndy says:

    Massive for a non-Labor / non-Green candidate — yeah. But small potatoes when compared to the millions the ALP regularly milks from the unions. As for the decision being based on a decision to fuck over Maltzahn / the Greens… maybe, dunno. I dunno enough about the factional wrangling within the ALP to determine if Bill Oliver’s doing Richard Wynne a favour or what. If he was, I reckon he’d probably give the money straight to Dick though, surely.

    Where’s my copy of The Prince?

  6. @ndy says:

    Mr McFeely said he planned to challenge the status quo: “Being a working-class Glaswegian who owns a gay pub is something a little bit unorthodox for a Liberal candidate. What we’re about is individualism.”

    LOL. A working-class hero who owns a pub. That’s so unorthodox, it’s a contradiction.

  7. @ndy says:

    October 26, 2010. SAlt responds to Solidarity…

    Dear Comrades,

    We were disappointed by your negative response to our letter of 28 September
    proposing the opening up of discussions on the possibility of unity between
    our two organisations.

    Socialist Alternative has maintained a consistent position since we were
    formed in 1995 of supporting unity between the organisations in Australia
    that stood in the international socialist tradition. Throughout that period
    important differences existed and continue to exist between the various
    groups over questions of perspectives and around tactical and organisational
    issues. However we don’t believe that these differences are sufficient to
    rule out unity. Far from it. We see no reason why they can’t be discussed
    and resolved through practical activity within the framework of one united
    organisation.

    So our support for unity is not based on some reappraisal of our assessment
    of Solidarity as an organisation or on some change in our own political
    orientation. It is our long standing position.

    We took the initiative of sending our letter because of the statement in
    your open letter to Socialist Alternative in July that “We have been
    encouraged to hear that the leadership of Socialist Alternative now
    envisages the possibility of fusing with Solidarity at some time in the
    future.” We hoped that this might mean Solidarity was interested in taking
    practical steps in the direction of unity. Unfortunately you don’t explain
    in your latest letter why you have abandoned that more positive attitude to
    unity.

    You raise a number of issues, such as our orientation in the federal
    elections, our approach to the Labor government, whether we should run left
    tickets against Labor in student elections, as barriers to unity.
    Undoubtedly there are differences between our organisations on these
    tactical questions but we don’t see why they should stand in the way of
    unity. To rule out unity on the basis of these very specific tactical
    questions and the other trivial and quite nitpicking issues you raise seems
    to us to be a completely mistaken position. The divisive approach merely
    serves to weaken and discredit the whole international socialist current in
    Australia and the left more generally.

    Your approach seems to be one of turning tactical and other secondary issues
    into something approaching questions of fundamental principle. It is an
    approach we appeal to you to reconsider. Such an approach, if consistently
    adhered to on your part, would rule out the unity of the revolutionary
    forces in Australia at any stage in the future. There are always bound to be
    tactical and other secondary differences between and within socialist
    organisations.

    Take for example the question of the socialist approach to the ALP which has
    long been a controversial question on the left. Both Solidarity and
    Socialist Alternative view the ALP as a bourgeois workers party. We both
    called for a vote for Labor over the Liberals in the recent elections. We
    both argued against the common view on the left that independents holding
    the balance of power was a step forward. This is quite a high level of
    agreement and surely a basis for unity.

    Indeed it is a much higher level of agreement on the issue than has existed
    in the history of our movement. When the Australian and British Communist
    parties were formed in the early 1920s they united small socialist groups
    and individuals who had deep differences over the Labor party. Some groups
    opposed any participation in parliamentary elections; some considered Labor
    to be an outright capitalist party whereas others were for working inside
    the Labor party. Yet despite these differences it was an important step
    forward for the revolutionary movement when they united.

    In 1968 the British International Socialists put out a call for unity of the
    small revolutionary groups in Britain despite considerable differences in
    their approach to Labour. In the late 1980s the British Socialist Workers
    Party proposed unity with Militant, the socialist organisation working
    within the Labour party. More recently the supporters of the International
    Socialist Tendency in France joined the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA)
    despite the fact that the NPA does not view the French equivalent of the
    ALP, the Socialist Party, as a bourgeois workers party and has a dismissive
    approach to it.

    In the 1970s the Socialist Workers Action Group (SWAG), the forerunner of
    Solidarity and Socialist Alternative, was active in the ALP. It was only
    after years of discussion and practical experience that SWAG concluded that
    it was pointless working in the ALP and adopted an analysis of the ALP as a
    bourgeois workers party.

    Viewed in this context Solidarity’s disagreement with Socialist Alternative’s
    assessment that Gillard and Abbott represent “two faces of the same agenda”
    is pretty small beer. The fact that you seem to have a less critical
    attitude to the Labor government than we do does not in our opinion stand in
    the way of unity. It is a question that can be discussed and tested in
    practice in a united organisation.

    Surely you don’t demand as a condition of membership of Solidarity agreement
    on your assessment of the ALP’s election platform? Presumably all that
    Solidarity members have to agree with is the What We Stand For statement on
    your website. But your What We Stand For says nothing about your assessment
    of the Labor government (and that is not meant as a criticism). So how can
    you argue that our tactical approach to the Labor government is a make or
    break issue when it comes to unity with Socialist Alternative?

    As we said in our previous letter we don’t believe that moves towards unity
    will be simple and straight forward. However we are for a serious attempt to
    explore the possibilities. We don’t think the most productive place to start
    is by simply rehashing all the tactical and secondary organisational
    differences that have existed between us.

    You ask us to “more concretely suggest what you think would be the starting
    point for discussions”. Given your generally negative attitude to even
    having discussions this is not easy to answer. Maybe one place to start
    would be a discussion of our respective approaches to the Labor government
    and whether our tactical differences on this question are a barrier to
    unity.

    But much more important than any specific tactical question is Solidarity’s
    whole approach to the question of unity of the forces of international
    socialism in Australia. We call upon you to seriously re-consider your
    negative attitude to the idea of unity.

    Yours Comradely

    Socialist Alternative National Executive

  8. Lumpen says:

    Somehow I don’t think that Solidarity could swallow socialising with Socialist Alternative. There was this from as recently as July.

    My view of Socialist Alternative’s involvement in the refugee campaign is coloured by witnessing SAlt members proposing that refugees should be “symbolically” handed over to the police “because the point had been made” after the breakout at Woomera in 2002. This was after some period of arguing that the refugee campaign was a “distraction” from the anti-globalisation movement.

    On a related note, I hear that SAlt is helping out Steve Jolly’s election campaign.

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  10. lest we forget says:

    “yours comradely”…nice. g’day andy, i like what you’ve done to the place.
    these questions of left unity strike me as redundant. socialist doctrine, whether you’re pink, red, black, green or whatever, is so entrenched in each of it’s various constituencies, that any thoughts of long term unity past temporary expediency, are forlorn. you really don’t need a thousand word essay to realise this. the success of the greens can be attributed solely to the outstanding leadership of bob brown. although i agree with little of what he says, his wit, intelligence and charisma are paramount to presenting a rational face to sometimes somewhat irrational policies. his party associates are well aware of the esteem in which he is held by his fellow politicians and the general public, so are quite mindful of the need to keep their ardor in check, and maintain the party line. this seemingly wonderful situation, and the increased popularity that is a direct result of it, will only last while mr brown remains as leader. as soon as a vacuum is presented in the leadership, and therefore the direction, of the greens party, the inevitable turmoil of didactic incompatibilities must assuredly take place, thereby depriving the party of a coherent message to present to the public. what is now happening in regards to the far left parties and their ineffectual attempts to merge is a clear indication of what awaits the greens when mr brown no longer holds their doctrinal semantics in order.

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  12. Slab says:

    Uhhh…

    Sorry, I’ve been overseas for almost a year now. Wtf is this about SAlt/Solidarity??? Is this a new development or has it been happening for yonks? When I split from the reds I burnt a lot of my bridges, especially when I joined the anarchists.

  13. @ndy says:

    Just the usual flirting, I think, which has assumed a slightly more formal status in the last few months. I mean, on the face of it, there’s not a lot that separates SAlt from (the International Socialist Organisation + Socialist Action Group + Solidarity =) Solidarity: if there’s any substantial differences in terms of political principle, I’m unaware of it. From an outsider’s perspective, the chief difficulty in terms of an amalgamation would seem to be reconciling whatever lingering resentments there are among the two leaderships and overcoming whatever frictions exist among the rank and file. My understanding is that, as it stands, SAlt is several times larger than Solidarity in terms of membership, so presumably Solidarity would be mindful that they would be in a minority as a result of any coalition or merger. Further, Solidarity is formally tied to the iSt, so much would also depend on the attitude of the (new) organisation to the SWP…

    Maybe they’ll go psychedelic!

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