As Morrison takes over, we need a strategy to fight back

While we have been spared a Dutton prime ministership, the fact is that none of them are capable of doing a good job from the point of view of the interests of working people.

The federal Coalition government remains unstable even though Scott Morrison has replaced Malcolm Turnbull as Prime Minister in the August 24 leadership spill. While a Morrison leadership may be less hard right than would have been the case under Dutton, Morrison will be a more capable champion of the right.

The #libspill spectacle has confirmed, yet again, the deep rift between the hard right and nominally “moderate” wings of the Liberals, despite the many policy similarities.

The political battle between the hard right and “moderates” is not irrelevant.

Just as “progressive” Labor MP Ged Kearney was claiming she could not cross the floor to vote in favour of refugee rights, conservative Liberal MP Tony Abbott was demonstrating the power of a determined fight for a political position.

Unlike Kearney, Abbott and others on the hard right threatened to cross the floor of parliament over disagreements with Turnbull's National Energy Guarantee (NEG) policy.

Even that mere threat won Abbott concessions that weakened, and then eliminated, the weak renewable energy promises contained in the original NEG.

This is just the latest example of concessions that the Turnbull leadership has made to the hard right of his party.

In the context of a Donald Trump presidency in the United States and advances by far-right forces in other parts of the world, nobody should be complacent about the prospects of the hard right gaining strength here.

The leadership shenanigans in Canberra have weakened the Coalition. And it is clear that the hard right of the party are playing for keeps.

Whatever the immediate outcome, it is not difficult to see the hard right coming out of this internal party struggle stronger in the medium term.

And while it is tempting for the left to hope – desperately – that “this time” Labor might govern in a progressive way, Labor’s actual record is one of an unbridled drift to the right.

In opposition, it generally accommodates to the right-wing policies of Coalition governments, preferring “small target” tactics to campaigning for a progressive alternative.

In government, every single Labor prime minister since Gough Whitlam has been more right wing than the previous one.

Labor’s rightward drift has paved the way for increasingly more right-wing Coalition governments.

While we have been spared a Dutton prime ministership, the fact is that none of them are capable of doing a good job from the point of view of the interests of working people.

The Greens have played a good role pointing out the bankruptcy of Labor's August 16 vote with the Coalition against refugee rights, and the utterly pathetic state of the Liberals.

But the Greens more “pragmatic” and moderate stance under the leadership of Senator Richard di Natale means the party is not in a position to take advantage of the openings available to a principled and inclusive anti-capitalist left.

We need to be organising to build the left’s grassroots forces. This is the only strategy that has a chance (and indeed a record) of defeating right-wing policies from either major party.

The task of building a stronger socialist left in this country remains.

Mainstream politics — which cannot even guarantee modest steps towards averting climate catastrophe nor reversing rising inequality — is bankrupt.

But it is not possible to build an alternative by simply being against something. We need to put forward a positive alternative.

It is still the case that socialism is the only practical, progressive alternative to the capitalist status quo.

We support the calls for a new election as soon as possible: it is the people who should be given the power to decide what happens next.

While a Labor government would be an improvement, it would fall far short of what is needed.

For people despairing about a Morrison leadership, the solution is to get involved in shaping a positive alternative.

Helping to build the Socialist Alliance and projects like Victorian Socialists which we are involved in, is a good way to help make a practical difference.

[Alex Bainbridge is a national co-convenor of the Socialist Alliance.]