One of the more enjoyable parts of election day for me is filling in my Upper House ballot paper. For those unfamiliar with the way Australia’s electoral system works, in the Lower House you vote for the one person who will be representing your area – which is usually several suburbs wide – and this is done simply by preferential voting; in the Upper House, you are voting for the five people who will represent the entire state you live in, which is much more complicated and is done by proportional representation (which I am not going to explain this time, unless someone really wants to know). The Upper House is therefore the place you are most likely to find representatives of smaller parties such as the Greens, the Democrats, or, heaven help us, Family First or One Nation, which means you get to decide exactly which nasty, mean-spirited little party deserves to be ranked dead last, and which tiny little party that you know perfectly well doesn’t have a hope in hell but you love anyway gets to go first..
The Upper House, or Senate, ballot paper tends to have a very large number of candidates – I think we have 60 in Victoria this year, and we sometimes have a hundred or more – and a fair number of political parties, too, most of which we have never heard of in our lives (which is where this series of posts comes in, but more of this later). Because most people sadly do not rejoice in numbering their entire ballot paper from 1-60, you can choose just to vote your party’s ticket, by selecting your preferred party’s box above the line. Your preferences then go wherever your party of choice decides to direct them, which is how Victoria got a Family First Senator in 2004, thank you so much The Australian Labor Party.
Anyway, since I do not, in fact, vote below the line solely to annoy the people counting the votes, I feel it behoves me to actually find out exactly what each party stands for, so that I can exercise my democratic rights in a well-educated, if slightly over-obsessive, fashion. To this end, I will be visiting the websites of as many different parties as have them over the next few weeks, reading their policies and their Senate Group Voting Tickets (often a very good way to find out what a party really stands for), and reporting back here. But, since one has to start somewhere, I am going to analyse the parties in donkey vote order, going from left to right on the Victorian Senate Form. Which means today we start with…
A cursory look at the SEP website tells me that “The Socialist Equality Party is the Australian section of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), the World Party of Socialist Revolution.” In other words, this is the Communist Party in Australia. Which is pretty cool, because I didn’t know we had one. When it comes to preferencing, they decided not to make a deal with anyone and instead have three different tickets – I haven’t worked it out mathematically, but they seem to have mixed things up enough that you might as well just order them randomly yourself; on one, they give Family First, the Liberal Party and the Christian Democratic Party a high billing, another preferences the Greens, the Democratic Labor Party, the Democrats, and the Shooting and Fishing Party; the third preferences Labor, the Carer’s Alliance, and the Secular Party. I do notice that the Socialist Alliance gets a pretty low billing on all three tickets, however – some bad blood there, maybe?
Interestingly, the SEP views the Greens as part of the Political Establishment (the ALP and the Libs do their best not to view the Greens as anything of the sort, but they are the biggest power of the minor parties). I’m finding their website a bit difficult to take seriously, to be honest, because it is reminding me of Peppone in the Don Camillo stories. I wonder what it is about Communist parties that cause them to use that particular style of rhetoric? Nobody else seems to. But I digress.
OK, policies. I have to admit, I am having trouble finding any policies on their website. So far the closest I’ve come to a policy document is the following statement: “Our aim is to unite working people in Australia and throughout the world to put an end to the social and economic system responsible for austerity and social inequality, militarism and war, attacks on democratic rights, and environmental disaster.” They are also opposed to big business (no surprise there), and xenophobia, they feel that the Aborigines are getting a raw deal and we should be doing better by them, and, in short, they say many things I agree with.
But then we start getting to the fun stuff:
“The official 2010 election campaign is a fraud. It is not being held to provide the Australian people with a “democratic” choice. Under conditions of the greatest global economic crisis since the Great Depression, the agenda of the next government has already been determined. The only purpose of the election is to put an electoral stamp of approval on the June 23-24 political coup that removed Kevin Rudd, and on the fashioning of a new, far more right wing, government. The campaign is the shortest legally possible, and called with minimum notice, effectively disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of particularly young, first time, voters….
“…The coup, which was launched by a cabal of Labor’s factional warlords and trade union bureaucrats, has raised to the surface of political life the long developing putrefaction of the Labor Party. In 1975, in a period of acute international turmoil, the coup against the Whitlam Labor government involved the highest levels of the state apparatus and international intelligence agencies. Thirty-five years later, Rudd’s removal was carried out by forces from within the ALP itself, demonstrating that Labor has become nothing more than a corporate- and state-funded apparatus for the implementation of the interests of the ruling elite. Like the trade unions, it has long ago severed all connection with the needs and sentiments of working people. The party’s factions are rival cliques of careerists, each functioning as the bought-and-paid-for conduits for different sections of business.”
I especially like the scare quotes around “democratic”. And the Gough Whitlam reference makes my heart sing with evil joy. The interesting thing is that I actually agree with the last line of the first paragraph, and indeed, with several other statements on their website, but the context and rhetoric is such that I forget this in my mean-spirited middle-class mockery of their marxist mannerisms. I am so very bourgeoise and will undoubtedly be the first against the wall when the revolution comes.
Because, you see,
“There is no peaceful solution within the existing social and economic order. Once again humanity confronts the danger of imperialist war unless the capitalist profit system is overturned by the international working class and replaced by a democratically organised and rationally planned world economy.”
In fact, so this website informs me, any government “elected” at this election, will only drive us further to the right, grinding the face of the working man under its heel (yeah, alright, that last bit was me, but believe me, they would have said it if they’d thought of it). They do, in fact, have a bunch of rather nice policies towards the end of the document: free education, well-paid, fulfilling jobs for all (*can* this possibly work in the real world? I am not convinced), public health, rights for immigrants and refugees, and so forth.
However, all these policies are to be achieved by revolution, not by election, and this leaves me wondering what exactly is the point of voting for them. I mean, if the election is a sham and I, as a worker, am to unite with my fellow workers around the world in revolt against the illegitimately elected government in order to assert the rights of my fellow workers, what *is* the purpose of voting for them? What, indeed, is the purpose of voting at all?
I feel like I should apologise at this point. I did not intend to write an entire post mocking this party, but there is something in the phrasing that brings out the worst in me. This is the sort of party that makes me want to say “Please stop being on my side, you are making my side look bad”, except that I’m not at all sure that they are on my side. I think I really am too bourgeoise for this political party, and I’m afraid they are not going to be getting my vote. I applaud their anti-war, anti-discrimination stance – but I am not sure that you can really be pro-revolution and anti-war at the same time. I do know I would not like to live through a revolution any more than I would like to live in a war zone, and I suspect the difference at close range is not great.
If the SEP had some policies that did not require overthrow of the existing government as their first step, they might well get my vote, despite their tendency to hyperbole. But I am opposed to violence as a means of social change (at least under the current circumstances; there are conceivably circumstances under which I might find violence acceptable, but I can’t think of any at present), and this does seem to be at the core of their message.
So, no, the Socialist Equality Party does not get my vote. But I do have to thank them. Their rhetoric may be hard to take seriously, but they are not mean-spirited, and they are fairly straightforward in their policies, however alarming. I suspect my journey into the minds of small political parties will take me into far darker places, so his wasn’t a bad place to begin. May the donkey vote work well for them. There are worse hands it could be in.