Australian politics after the elections

Australian politics after the elections

The following report was presented to the September 5 Socialist Alliance National Council meeting and the subsequent motions were adopted.

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We meet at an intriguing time in Australian politics. While perhaps we cannot quite say that “all that is solid has melted into air”, we can say that much of what was taken for granted by the political establishment has been significantly shaken, and Australian politics is in flux. One of the most important things to recognise in analysing the political situation is that there is motion among the people — all is not simply another replay of a no-choice, tweedledum and tweedledummer election.

The two-party system — essentially two parties that put slightly different faces on representing the ruling corporate elite - has suffered a knock. The Labor Party in particular is in disarray. Meanwhile, the party receiving the greatest swing towards it, the Greens, stood on a progressive platform that was consistently well to the left of the major parties. We have a hung parliament, and there is a lot of discussion about the considerable failures of our so-called democratic system. All this take place at a time when capitalism’s economic crisis is far from over and when the urgency of halting capitalism’s destruction of the planet’s climate has never been greater.

And in the Socialist Alliance, this unfolding situation has been reflected with a fascinating and excellent discussion on our National Council list, as we all try to come to grips with the post-election situation. This is as it should be. What would be a problem is if we were the stale type of sect that is totally inflexible, that instead of trying to understand a new situation, simply quotes old formulas and essentially ignores reality rather than trying to understand and learn from it.

So a good discussion has begun, and today it’s important that we flesh out that discussion. But our analysis will also be ongoing as a new government forms and the political situation develops.

One clearly important aspect of our discussion is taking into account the differing conditions around the country. It’s a tribute to SA, and a big advantage over every other socialist organisation in this country, that we are not confined to inner city ‘left ghettos’, but have, to a modest extent, been able to develop branches in regional areas. So it’s important to get those different experiences.

In this discussion, members should feel very free to contribute on a range of things. However, not all of these need to be voted on. A discussion has arisen on whether or not some sort of socialist-Green alliance may be a way forward for the socialist movement, and how might that take shape. This report will touch on that question, but it is not something we need to take a position on here.

So what will we be voting on? The key proposals that this report will motivate are:

  1. In the new political situation, we reaffirm our position toward the Greens, and other parties, as adopted our last national conference. In short, that we recognise that most of the electoral space to the left of Labor is being filled by the Greens, that we seek the closest political collaboration with the Greens, but also understand that there is an opening to present a socialist alternative, and grow, at election time.
    We also recognise that there are political differences in the Greens — differences that are likely to sharpen in this new period — and we seek to support the left in the Greens.
  2. That we reaffirm the value of Socialist Alliance putting forward a socialist alternative by running in elections. Some of the motivations of Socialist Alliance running in elections will be addressed in this report, while further of the Socialist Alliance building gains will be elaborated in Chris Williams’ report later today.
  3. Given that the shake up in Australian politics is likely to continue, that we recommend to the Victorian and NSW branches and state committees to rapidly organise strong state election campaigns in those states. While it is of course up to Victorian and NSW state and branch bodies to work out their campaign, the overall political situation makes a very strong case for SA being seriously engaged in the ongoing shake up of Australian politics

I want to make clear that while this report has tried to address some of the very useful discussion on the National Council elist, and tried to reflect some of comrades’ experiences, by necessity it could only do so briefly — so I urge comrades to feed in and expand on those points in discussion.

So how do we analyse the federal election and the political situation post-election?

It is ongoing, still playing out, with neither major party able to form government in their own right and furious negotiations taking place. In recent days we’ve seen the Greens and Andrew Wilkie commit to helping form a minority ALP government. The likeliest outcome according to the most reliable commentators — the bookmakers — is Labor to form a minority government. But whatever happens, with any government that forms having a wafer thin majority, being reliant on independents and/or Greens, facing a Senate with the Greens holding the balance of power, it is likely to be a very fluid political situation.

The first point to note in this outcome is the rejection, in part, of the traditional parties of government. Both the ALP and Coalition have been denied a mandate.

This is a positive for us, for the progressive movements — it will be much harder for whatever government forms, to push through unpopular legislation.

This rejection came in the context of an election campaign where the major parties conducted an ugly race to the right. We had the scapegoating of desperate refugees; we had bipartisan conservatism on same-sex marriage; we had a bolsterering of climate denialism through major parties who agree on doing next to nothing. Then we had key issues basically ignored - Indigenous rights, the Afghanistan war.

We should also acknowledge that this rightward push has had some effect, has produced a certain polarisation. The racism-generated Islamophobia, the religious right, the sort of stuff happening in the United States around the Tea Party — is real and has its reflection in Australia.

But, secondly, we had some rejection of this rightward shift by the major parties, with the swing to the Greens of around 3.9%

Mostly the swing came from the ALP (3 out of 4 votes).

The Greens record is well to the left of the ALP on a whole range of issues including refugees, same-sex marriage rights, the NT Intervention, the Afghanistan war, and also on the “traditional” Labor issue of workers’ rights — the Greens’ policy is far more pro-worker (e.g. they oppose the Australian Building and Construction Commission).

So, we would be missing something if we dismissed the Green vote as merely a “default” or “protest” vote. It is the result, primarily, of progressive positions that have wide support (on Afghanistan and same-sex marriage, the Greens, along with us, are in the majority), in a context of frustration at the rightward drift of Labor. This break in the two-party duopoly is something socialists have been looking for for years.

However, the role of the Greens is very uneven around the country — an issue which will be addressed later in report. But that, and the contradictions within the Greens, does not take away the importance of this break to the left, the importance of over 1.5 million voters looking to the left of the ALP.

With a likely nine Green senators and Senate balance of power, progressive social movements, including the trade unions will look to these Green senators to offer strong support in the struggles ahead, no matter which major party eventually forms government.

(An aside — in the early years of the Greens, they scored on 1 to 2% of the vote for over five years in early 1990s!)

Third, we have Labor’s own crisis, which is an explosive, ongoing situation. It’s amazing to think that a year or so ago Rudd was riding high in the polls. There has been a serious unraveling of the ALP, growing disgust amongst its ranks, tensions with the unions and a total gutting of any democratic process within the party.

It is important that the Greens won the seat of Melbourne, but also many once-safe ALP seats came close to being taken by the Greens.

State ALP governments, especially in Qld and NSW, are very much linked to the decline of Labor federally — which underlines the importance of the state elections. We want to be in the thick of the discussions, debates and struggles through these election campaigns, raising the socialist banner.

Labor’s crisis was reflected in a positive way by an important break in the trade union movement. The ALP has so completely dominated the unions, so the Victorian Electrical Trades Union’s decision to openly back the Greens in Melbourne was an important break to be welcomed. In the lead up to the federal election, the Victorian ETU held a ballot where 85% of members voted not to be affiliated to the ALP.

(Note the massive contradictions for CFMEU and other officials who furiously demanded support for the ALP — while the ALP continued to hold the spectre of jail over their members through the ABCC!).

What further ructions will there be in the unions? What will the unions do around the state elections — will they back poisonous state Labor governments or will there be further fallout?

Finally, we have the hung parliament, the role of the independents, and an opening of questions of democracy and the parliamentary system.

There is a big contradiction between the size of Greens’ vote and their representation in parliament: The Greens got almost 1 in 8 votes in the House of Representatives yet won just 1 seat out of 150. The idea of democratic reforms is being discussed openly, noting other countries where just a few per cent guarantees parliamentary representation.

The independents have shown relative principle in comparison to the right-wing spin from the major parties. Despite the three regional independents coming from conservative backgrounds, they all broke with the National Party over the neoliberal project of both the Coalition and the ALP. Their positions tend to be “community first”, and as the recent Green Left Weekly article pointed out, on many issues they are objectively to the left of Labor and the Coalition: on issues such as privatisation; all three are against the NT Intervention; and Oakshot and Windsor want action on climate change and have been sympathetic toward refugee rights.

It is also important to note the role of corporate Australia in buying elections with massive donations to the major parties. The Greens have tried to start to address this in their agreement with Labor.

The corporate media also has a dominant role in pushing right-wing agenda

The orporate response is always telling: the president of the Business Council of Australia wrote in the Australian Financial Review that a minority government needing the support of independents and minor parties is a “danger” to the “bold reforms Australia needs”. Myers CEO said: “Regardless who wins, it’s not good news for business at all,” i.e. — without Labor or Liberal having a clear majority, it’s going to be hard if not impossible to get their neoliberal agenda through.

So, we have a partial rejection of the major parties, a swing to the left in the form of the Greens’ vote, a crisis in the ALP, and a hung parliament with a fluid situation.

Now I want to turn to what is of key interest here and what has been the focus of debate. What does the Greens’ result represent and what should be our relationship to the Greens?

This report is motivating:

1. That in the new political situation, we reaffirm our position toward the Greens, and other parties, as adopted at our last national conference. In short, that we recognise that most of the electoral space to the left of Labor is being filled by the Greens; that we seek the closest political collaboration with the Greens, but also understand that there is an opening to present a socialist alternative, and grow, at election time.

We also recognise that there are political differences in the Greens — differences that are likely to sharpen in this new period — and we seek to support the left in the Greens.

Electoral space?

The swing to the Greens was more than double the swing to the Coalition. And in relation to the Greens’ previous vote, the rise was even more telling — almost exactly a 50% increase on their 2007 federal election vote of 7.8%.

There are a number of factors that produced this Greenslide, but certainly it was not merely a default vote. Overwhelmingly it was a bleeding of Labor votes to its left as the ALP moves right.

The Greens’ vote — over 1.5 million first preference votes in the House of Representatives, over 1.7 million in the Senate — was the highest third-party vote since World War 2.

Political collaboration with the Greens?

Well, it’s been suggested in the National Council elist discussion that we should “forget about the Greens” and make it all about the Socialist Alliance. We could do this, but over 1.5 million Australian voters won’t simply forget about the Greens. That approach would cut ourselves off from a large amount of people who are moving to the left, looking for progressive answers. And why should we forget this huge chunk of people, many of whom agree with what Socialist Alliance stand for, some of whom are socialists, others who can be won to socialism over time? If we dismiss this leftward shift we would be missing a big opportunity to connect with many people — some of whom could be in the ranks of the Socialist Alliance right now or at least working alongside us in the movements, others who can become convinced that to win a sustainable planet and humane society we need to change, not just the politicians, but the whole system.

Vote socialist and Greens — put Abbott last

What about our election campaign slogan and poster: “Vote socialist and Greens — put Abbott last”. Now we don’t need to vote on this — that would be retrospective! But it is worth discussing what we got out of this slogan: Did it hit or miss? What was it trying to do? How was it received?

First, we need to see that this slogan and poster was part of a wide array of Socialist Alliance’s political armoury. We also had weekly articles in GLW making arguments for socialism and SA; we had posters including “For the millions, not the millionaires”; “People and planet before profit”; plus numerous colourful themed posters promoting Socialist Alliance; we had a broadsheet with our amazing list of candidates; we had the climate charter, which saw us win number one position on Vote Climate; we had branch-specific materials like candidate leaflets and so on; stickers; T-shirts; etc. So while the “Vote Socialist and Greens, put Abbott last” poster wasn’t the most explicit argument for Socialist Alliance, we had plenty of very clear “vote and join and get involved with Socialist Alliance” focused material.

Secondly, the context is important. The poster was an attempt to reach out to Greens/Green-leaning people — that’s 1.5 million people, compared to perhaps tens of thousands who consciously vote socialist. As a poster is “shorthand,” it can never fully explain our position.

But there were also clear positives from the poster:

It promoted left unity. In Wollongong, former Communist Party members applauded the slogan as the right one; it reaffirmed our non-sectarian approach. It also helped differentiate us from the sectarian far-left, who often dismiss the Greens (e.g. Socialist Alternative) or even argue that the Greens are politically equal to the ALP and even the Coalition.

It spoke also to many on the left. For workers worried about Abbott, it was clear about putting him last; to Greens voters it showed that the socialists are supportive of their progressive positions. Left ALP voters also liked it. No doubt it wouldn’t have gained us many votes, but it did help open up discussions with people, which for us is more important.

I doubt that the more conservative elements in the Greens liked it: they don’t want to be connected with the socialists, they do want to appear “moderate”. But to left-wing Greens members it was a positive statement of radical unity.

Call for vote for Greens?

What about the question of whether we should call for a vote for the Greens in seats where we are not standing? Our position in the last election, and that proposed here, is a continuation of the positions that Socialist Alliance has long held of preferencing, and calling for votes for, more progressive parties before more conservative parties. Unlike the political horsetraders, we preference in a principled manner, from left to right.

No-one in the Socialist Alliance has questioned that preferencing policy specifically. However, it has been argued that we should not advocate a vote for the Greens where we are not standing.

As some members responded in the elist discussion, to support preferencing the Greens after socialists, but not advocating a vote for the Greens where socialists are not standing, is a false distinction. It suggests that we have nothing to say, and take no position, on whether a first preference vote for the Greens or Labor is preferable.

But imagine this election if the Greens had not increased their vote, or it had even gone down — that would be a far more depressing political scene than the intriguing one that faces us.

But this isn’t even a specific question of the Greens. Even if it were just Labor and Liberal running in a seat, we would take a position on who to support.

The Socialist Equality Party argues that there is no difference between the Greens, the ALP and the Coalition, or even ourselves. They call for a vote for themselves and then preference as you like. But in the real world there is a difference. While the differences may be getting smaller, it does matter whether a Coalition government is elected or a Labor one. And it certainly makes a difference if more progressive parties gain.

So we should continue to advocate preferences and votes based on the principle of voting for the most progressive candidates before the least progressive.

Contradictions and unevenness of the Greens

While this report is advocating that we welcome the Greenslide and continue our collaborative approach, the proposals make clear that we also recognise that there are political differences in the Greens — differences that are likely to sharpen in this new period — and we seek to support the left in the Greens. I think it is these differences within the Greens — in some cases quite stark — that have motivated some of the issues/criticisms raised by some SA members around our approach to the Greens.

Greens unevenness and regional differences: it is very important that members from different branches, working in different circumstances, contribute in this debate. By getting views like David Lowe’s we are doing what the rest of the left has failed to do - getting beyond the left ghettos of the cities (there is, of course, far more to do in this regard). One factor that probably contributes to the frustrations some people have expressed around the Greens in some of the regional areas is that on the ground Socialist Alliance may in fact have greater engagement than the Greens. But of course that doesn’t equal a greater vote for us and so, despite the Greens locally perhaps being almost non-existent and maybe having little or no activist history or involvement, they get the left of Labor vote. It can be very frustrating: in some cases where we may be more involved in the grassroots campaigns, the Greens, by simply turning up and standing in the elections, will get 10 times our vote.

So what does this mean?

Ultimately, the Greens must be judged as a national party. The reason that even in the areas where the Greens barely exist they get a decent vote is that nationally the Greens are known, have a profile and have taken clear progressive stances on most issues. This is not to say that some of their vote isn’t simply a “protest” vote, but even then we have to ask why it is that the Greens and not some other grouping is getting those votes. It is because the Greens occupy most of that left electoral space.

SA members in cities where there is a solid and perhaps even activist Greens presence need to appreciate that that’s not necessarily the same elsewhere.

But similarly, members in regional areas should be open to situations where the Greens are a very real and central part of the political landscape, where there are very left Greens, Greens engaged in the movements, responsive to the movements, and provide activist resources.

In the discussion it has been suggested that, given the weakness of the Greens in some areas and, in some cases, where there are more progressive ALP individuals, we wouldn’t want to advocate voting for the Greens. But the question of individuals is secondary to the question of the party overall, so even though there may be an individual ALP candidate who has progressive views, it would be very difficult to justify putting any such candidate ahead of even the weakest Greens candidate when the ALP candidate is running for a party that supports the Afghan war, the NT Intervention, keeping the ABCC, and another Pacific solution destroying the lives of refugees; and is against same-sex marriage rights and so on.

Tensions in the Greens

One of the key divides in the Greens is between the parliamentarist perspectives of the party machine and the grassroots activist inclinations of a significant bloc.

This can differ based on how the party developed in different areas. For example, in Tasmania the Greens developed through mass struggles, while in South Australia the Greens don’t have that history and therefore have less conception of the pitfalls of parliamentarism.

The Greens also have a relatively low level of membership involvement; we know of many people who joined wanting to do things and found their involvement was neither sought nor appreciated. The Greens are not like the Socialist Alliance.

For example, Greens member Michael Organ was elected at a by-election in the Illawarra through a mass grassroots mobilisation but then hired a PR company in a process that excluded activists who participated in his campaign. It was an example of the contradictions in the Greens playing out.

What will happen with the Greens now and what should our approach be?

The Greens have agreed to support a minority ALP government — backing supply and confidence — but without any further commitments.

At the same time, Bob Brown, while not precisely saying the Greens would take a cabinet position, has suggested that both Gillard and Abbott should be looking to include talented Green parliamentarians in their cabinets. Leaving open the possibility of the Greens taking cabinet positions in a government led by either of the major parties is problematic, in that it would trap the Greens in a conservative, anti-people, anti-environment government.

Greens’ parliamentarians have echoed the major parties’ line on the importance of governmental “stability”, yet when governments are waging wars, attacking refugees and workers and brutalising Indigenous people, “instability” is good for the people and good for democracy!

With their strong election result, the tensions in the Greens are likely to sharpen. It is not only voters who are looking to the Greens — opportunists seeing potential careers and useful bureaucratic positions have also noted the Greenslide and will undoubtedly be trying to jump on board.

So, we may see the Greens doing politically foolish things, such as the Victorian Greens current flirting with the Coalition in the lead-up to the state election there.

This all contributes to the need to run strong Socialist Alliance state election campaigns — with a unity approach to the Greens. That approach means that if the Greens betray their grassroots supporters, we will be in the strongest position to provide an alternative to people who looked to the Greens as a party committed to democracy, the environment, workers’ rights, refugee rights and equality and can see that we are consistently fighting for these alongside Greens, and indeed are more active in the movements. We need to remember that it is the shift in people’s consciousness that is the key issue — even if all Greens were sellouts, it wouldn’t discount the fact that the higher Green vote shows that many people are looking for progressive alternative

So our position is to strike a balance: neither simply cheering the Greens rise and hiding our perspective, downplaying the need for anti-capitalist, socialist answers to the challenges facing people and the planet, nor being sectarian by writing off the Greens or constantly looking for failures and “seeking to expose” them as “Sellouts!”.

Our focus should be on urging collaboration with the Greens in concrete campaigning around progressive issues.

The point is less about us needing to differentiate ourselves — but also we need not be fearful of differentiating ourselves. That is, we put forward progressive, pro-working class, pro-environment positions and if the Greens put forward the same sort of position then great; if not, we can patiently explain the weaknesses. Green Left Weekly is a useful way explain such questions — as we’ve done on the issue of climate change, for example, explaining that the Greens’ policy positions are weaker than what scientests say are necessary.

Often it will not be on the political issue that there will be differentiation between the Greens and Socialist Alliance — e.g. opposing the Afghan war, supporting same-sex marriage rights, refugee rights, etc — but on how to win change. That means we need our campaigning collaboration with them to be combined with patient explanation of the need for mass action to achieve real change.

Also, it is important to note that in many areas, Socialist Alliance leads and influences the Greens’ positions and actions. For instance, we have consistently opposed the war on Afghanistan whereas key Greens leader Bob Brown supported the war at the start, but is now opposed. We are a significant pressure on their left and that can be appreciated by their grassroots members (this was reflected in our experiences on polling day).

What are the results for Socialist Alliance and our role in the new political situation?

Our position on the Greens, which this report is reaffirming, notes that while most of the electoral space to the left of Labor is being filled by the Greens, we also understand that there is an opening to present a socialist alternative and grow our organisation at election times.

Some of the criticisms of the Greens that people have raised I think comes from a very healthy perspective — the ongoing importance of the Socialist Alliance; that socialist politics can’t be subsumed to the Greens, that it is important to understand the capitalist system as the root of the problems we face, and therefore the crucial role of a socialist view in providing solutions to these problems.

So while the Greenslide is encouraging, we know that real change has never come simply through the ballot box. Whatever the outcomes of the new government, the real job of fighting for progressive change will remain ahead of us.

And this real change can’t be put off until some idealistic distant time when the Greens “have the numbers” in parliament. The clock is ticking on climate change and the insane corporate-profits-first system continues to create havoc with the lives of billions around the wolrd. This all makes raising a socialist alternative in elections crucial, even with — or perhaps especially with — the Greenslide.

So how did we go in the federal election?

In terms of our vote, our general results were up.

In the House of Representatives our vote improved in eight seats — in some cases markedly. It fell in only two seats. In one other seat our vote was down slightly, yet we had the “donkey” position last time, so in reality our conscious vote probably went up a little. In another seat we didn’t run last time so can’t compare.

In the Senate we scored over 21,000 votes in New South Wales, but had the “donkey” position there so it’s difficult to compare. However, in every other state where we ran in the Senate we can make a fair comparison and in every case our vote was up — almost double in Queensland and up in Victoria, Western Australia and South Australia.

In terms of other socialists, the Socialist Equality Party’s vote is somewhat articificially inflated, since it got the donkey position in four seats plus the Victorian Senate. But as a comparison point, in the seats where the SEP was not first on the ballot, they had a lower average vote than us.

SA’s results were solid in the context of the Greenslide and given we only had four weeks to campaign. One good thing about the federal elections being held early is that we will have more time to prepare for strong state election campaigns.

We had a very impressive candidate list reflecting our grassroots change approach. Indigenous movement leaders Sam Watson and Sharon Firebrace; youth activists Jess Moore, Ewan Saunders, Zane Alcorn, Mel Barnes, Gemma Weedall and Ben Peterson; climate change and anti-war campaigners Pip Hinman, Duncan Roden, Ben Courtice, Trent Hawkins, Renfrey Clarke, Ruth Ratcliffe, Margarita Windisch and Alex Bainbridge; longtime trade union activists David Lowe, Ron Guy, Sue Bull, Sanna Andrews and Julie Gray; and in an election stained by the racist scapegoating of migrants, Sudanese refugee and community leader Soubhi Iskander and leading refugee rights and LGBTIQ rights campaigner Rachel Evans. It is this people-power, campaigning approach that is key to the conscious vote for Socialist Alliance.

Beyond the vote — building Socialist Alliance

We should be clear that while our vote is not unimportant, it is only one measure of how we went. More important to us is the people we involved in the campaign, people who joined Socialist Alliance, campaigns we helped build, and raising socialist ideas to many who haven’t heard them for a while or at all. Much of this will be covered in the next report, but all indications are that the elections were very important to bringing more life into Socialist Alliance branches by involving members and joining up new members.

We do need to recruit to socialism from this leftward shift — joining Greens members, people around the Greens and those who voted for the Greens.

The point is, building Socialist Alliance and our approach of reaching out to those voting for and supporting the Greens are linked. One of the best examples of this is our first elected Socialist Alliance councillor, Sam Wainwright. In brief, our work in collaboration with the Greens, running our own candidates but giving support to the progressive positions of the Greens, ultimately helped create the grounds for Sam’s election.

Socialist Alliance post the elections

Socialist Alliance is committed to real change and doesn’t slow down after elections. Actually, now is when we come into our own. It’s been interesting being back at campaigning spots where, during the election campaign, the Greens and ALP were also present but now it’s back to just us. People who were inspired by the election, intrigued, concerned or wanting to analyse the results spoke to us, the activists who were out on the streets in the weeks following the election.

What about further into the future — a red-green alliance?

Again, this is not a point we have to vote on. However, it’s worth noting that we already have policy, adopted at our last conference, which relates to this question:

The Socialist Alliance looks to build the strongest `red/green’ unity between socialist and climate/environmental organisations and activists as possible. The Socialist Alliance seeks the greatest possible collaboration with environmental and climate activists at a grassroots level, but also at a political level, including the greatest possible collaboration with the Greens. The Socialist Alliance looks toward building a `red/green’ alliance at all levels.

Essentially, this is a restatement of our broad, anti-sectarian approach wherein we try to unify the broadest possible forces willing to fight for progressive change. In this process we put what we agree on ahead of what we may disagree on. This is our basic approach in all movements, trying to maximise the forces for change.

But in the context of the climate crisis facing the planet and with the rise of the Greens, a red-green alliance is a powerful idea. Indeed, it is in a sense the reflection of “Green Left”.

All this is mostly hypothetical. There have been some encouraging examples, including some joint meetings. For example, in Adelaide there have been alliances between left greens and socialists including ourselves, and in Brisbane, Resistance held a joint forum with the University of Queensland Greens on Indigenous rights that drew 50 people.

Given that the tensions in the Greens between the parliamentarist focus and the grassroots is likely to intensify, it seems logical for us to promote the idea of red-green unity. The exclusively parliament-focused Greens don’t want us around. But if some in the left of the Greens radicalise further in light of the developing climate crisis they could be won closer to our perspective — if we are working beside them and promoting red-green unity.

So should we have an open mind to joint work, joint projects, potentially joint electoral tickets or the like? We would have to judge this based on reality, on the situation, and make decisions democratically, taking them through the Socialist Alliance.

What we should be able to agree on is that we won’t cut ourselves off from any such possibilities before they start. Socialist Alternative, for example, has already written the Greens off totally and in effect is calling for the working class to go back to the ALP! The Greens may well sell out, but taking a sectarian position, not engaging with the situation now, cuts you off from the discussion.

We need to keep an open mind, even while wary and resolute in our understanding of the problems of capitalism and the need for socialism.

Questions around our campaigning perspectives

This report’s focus has been on analysing the situation post the federal elections, in particular relating to the Greenslide. There hasn’t been time to assess the movements we are involved in. However, obviously the new, more fluid political situation and the Greens’ position in parliament opens up possibilities in the social movements. I’ll simply raise some questions that we can start to flesh out in discussion:

What does the situation mean for our trade union work? How can we try to further the breaks from the ALP domination of the unions? What openings are there in the state elections with regard to the unions? (The unions are an area that Socialist Alliance is relatively strong in when compared to the Greens.

The same-sex marriage rights campaign — this appears to be a campaign that has a real chance of victory in the foreseeable future. Do we need to step up this campaign, which is very strong amongst youth?

The Afghanistan war: with Wilkie’s election and the Greens, and the increasing deaths of Australian soldiers, how can we push the political openings for getting the troops out of Afghanistan?

Refugees: again, how can we make use of the Greens’ positions, push them into helping resource the refugee movement further?

The anti-intervention campaign: how can we strengthen this campaign?

The climate movement: there was a failure of the climate movement in the elections to run a strong independent campaign. While the trade union movment simply put forward “just vote Labor”, the climate movement tended toward a “just vote Greens” position, without battling to have climate at the centre of the elections. What openings are there now?


The reason why we are heralding the Greenslide is not because of the Greens party, but because of the motion in our class. That is what’s exciting — it reflects a significant body of people who are angered by betrayals of the ALP and are willing to look to a progressive alternative. Can the Greens as they exist solve the social problems we face? No. Can the Greens stated aims of peace, democracy, social justice and environmental sustainability be achieved under capitalism? No. But is it an advance, something to embrace, when a large amount of people turn toward progressive policies, vote for a party that is anti-war, pro-refugee, pro-environment, pro-equality, pro-Indigenous rights and pro-worker? Yes, absolutely yes.

And in the context of the global crisis of capitalism, the ecological and climate crises, etc, socialists urgently need to engage with this in a serious way.