I was rather sad to note that the Socialist Alliance wasn’t fielding any Senate candidates this time around, because really, what is an election without a slightly unhinged Socialist Party to make it more fun? (To be fair, the Socialist Alliance has been becoming alarmingly sane of late – or maybe I myself am losing it? This is always a possibility…)
Fortunately, the Socialist Equality Party have stepped into the breach, doing its level best to be the counterbalance to all the somewhat terrifying right-wing parties we had to read about earlier in this process. I have high hopes of them, I must say, because their rhetoric last time reminded me of Don Camillo’s Peppone at his best, and I didn’t think that anyone talked about the proletariat any more.
Let’s start off with their Group Voting Tickets, which are an absolute mess, if you will forgive me saying so. Actually, I think they are a *deliberate* mess. There is no way you could end up with such a perverse combination of tickets by accident.
The three tickets have, as far as I can see, only one thing in common, and that is that the SEP candidates are at the top. And they probably had to think carefully before they did that. So ticket one has the Liberals first, followed by HEMP, Family First the Country Alliance and the Secular Party, with the Greens halfway down and the bottom of the ticket occupied by Rise Up Australia, the Liberal Democrats, One Nation and Senator online.
Ticket two prefrences Labor, Stop the Greens, Bullet Train for Australia, the Australian Christians and the CEC, puts the Coalition halfway down, and the Motoring Enthusiasts, Wikileaks, the Democrats and the Sex Party at the very bottom.
And ticket three preferences the Greens, Toscano and Matthews, Stop CSG, the Katter and Palmer parties with the Coalition halfway down and the Shooters and Fishers, Building Australia, Australian Voice and the Australian Independents at the bottom.
Actually, I think they’ve divided the ballot up at random, divided it into thirds and then rotated the thirds through the three tickets, as the sequences within sections seem to be the same. But this is fairly irrelevant; what matters is that the SEP have effectively created the ticket you create when you don’t want to preference anyone at all, but need some way for people to vote for you above the line.
Let’s take a look at their website, which tells me that they are the Australian Section of the International Committee of the Fourth International (they seem to be missing a noun), and that they say “No to war, austerity and dictatorship”. Other headers boldly proclaim “A Party of the Working Class”, “For Social Equality”, “Unite workers internationally” and “Billions for public health, education and housing”.
Where these billions are to come from is unclear. The bloated aristocracy, probably.
On the About page, we learn that “the Fourth International was established by Leon Trotsky, the co-leader with Lenin of the Russian revolution, in 1938 to continue the fight for internationalism against the nationalist program advanced by Stalin and his bureaucratic apparatus in the Soviet Union.”
So we like Trotsky and Communism, but we don’t like Stalin or nationalism. Or nouns. I have a bourgeois attachment to nouns, however, and will probably be the first against the wall when the revolution comes.
Sorry, there is just something irresistible about their rhetorical style.
(Incidentally, I’m not going to attempt to summarise their Statement of Principles here, but if you’d like some more delicious Communist rhetoric and revolutionary history, I do recommend the page to your attention)
The Socialist Equality Party calls on workers and youth to support our campaign in the September 7 election and vote for our Senate candidates in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland. The SEP is the only party advancing a socialist and internationalist program to mobilise and unite the working class in Australia, Asia and around the world in the struggle against war, austerity and the destruction of democratic rights.
Aux armes, citoyens!
We are informed that the official election campaign is a ‘travesty of democracy’, because ‘finance capital, big business and the major parties agree that working people must be made to pay for an ever-deepening economic crisis that is not of their making’. And apparently, all three major parties are supporting a military build up against China.
But before I become too mocking, let’s see what the SEP say about asylum seekers.
One of the sharpest expressions of the lurch to the right by the political and media establishment is the reactionary bidding war, which has dominated the airwaves over the past several weeks, between Labor and the Liberals over which of the two parties can mete out the harshest and most punitive treatment to refugees. Labor’s decision to permanently deport all asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat to small, impoverished Pacific islands in flagrant breach of international law is without precedent.
Sing it, comrades!
This inhumane and lawless treatment of the world’s most vulnerable and oppressed people is a clear warning of the anti-democratic methods that will be used against the entire working class as social tensions rise and major class struggles erupt.
We then get treated to a history of Australian and international politics over the last six years. It’s bad. It’s getting worse. The government is oppressing the working class. My favourite part is when they explain that the Labor Party has been “the principal instrument for subordinating the working class to the capitalist state for more than a century”.
The unprecedented chasm that now exists between rich and poor is incompatible with democracy. That is the significance of the vast and illegal spying operations exposed by whistleblower Edward Snowden. They reveal just how advanced the preparations are for police state rule…
In Europe, the austerity drive is now well into its third year, amid continuing economic stagnation and recession. What remains of the British social security and health system introduced after World War II is being gutted…
This onslaught on democratic and social rights has already led to strikes, protests and resistance by workers and youth and the emergence of revolutionary struggle, with Egypt in the forefront. These are harbingers of immense social upheaval around the world. Despite their determination and size, however, these class struggles have revealed the profound crisis of political perspective within the working class. In the absence of conscious revolutionary leadership, the working class has been pushed back, while the ruling classes and their political parties, aided by various pseudo-left organisations such as SYRIZA in Greece and the Revolutionary Socialists in Egypt, have been able to prevail and maintain their rule.
Revolution is nigh!
OK, I’ll just stop for a moment, and be serious, because the thing is, they actually do make some good points here. The gap between rich and poor *is* increasing, Austerity *has* been disastrous. Our treatment of asylum seekers *is* appalling.
But just when I start nodding my head, out the SEP comes with the revolutionary rhetoric, and suddenly everything I agree with starts to sound extremely silly. This is a classic example of “please stop being on my side, you are making my side look like idiots”.
I find that the most sanity-enhancing way to read these pages is to read the first sentence or two of any given paragraph and then move to the next one.
The program of the Socialist Equality Party, the Australian section of the International Committee of the Fourth International, is grounded on the common interests of the international working class. Its goal is to unite the struggles of workers in every country. The problems confronting workers in Australia—economic insecurity, unemployment, declining living standards, attacks on democratic rights, militarism and the threat of war, environmental degradation—are essentially the same as those facing workers in every part of the world. They are global problems requiring a global solution. They can only be tackled on the basis of an international socialist program, fought for against all political tendencies that seek to subordinate the working class to its “own” bourgeoisie and national state.
OK, that’s not actually too bad. Let’s look at some policies.
The SEP wants jobs for all, and advocates a massive public works program to meet pressing social needs and make jobs available for all. They also want a guaranteed living wage, not just for workers but for those who are unable to work for reasons of illness, old age, or caring responsibilities.
The SEP wants free, high quality and universal health care, and education. They want decent, affordable housing.
These are all good things and I will happily live in this Communist Utopia if you tell me where the money will come from.
The SEP wants banks and major corporations to be placed under social ownership and democratic control. I have no idea how that is supposed to work. They also want a clean and safe environment, which does not mean an emissions trading scheme:
For all their professions of concern about the environment, the Greens are the chief backers of such pro-market measures. Only the expropriation of the giant polluters on a global scale, bringing these industries into social ownership under democratic control, can open the way for rational planning to produce the energy and other necessities of life, while protecting the natural environment.
Shame on you, Greens.
The SEP wants to give full rights to immigrants and refugees and “rejects the reactionary framework of “border protection” upheld by all the capitalist parties, including the Greens. All refugees in detention centres must be released immediately and immigration controls and restrictions lifted. Workers should reject with contempt the claims that refugees are responsible for the social crisis that has been produced by government policies and the anarchic profit system.”
I love the bit where workers must reject these claims with contempt. Also, the Greens have really pissed off the SEP, haven’t they?
The SEP wants to defend our democratic rights, by repealing the anti-terror laws (which, to be fair, are pretty bad laws). In addition:
Laws against strikes and pickets must be overturned. Discrimination based on nationality, ethnic background, religion, gender or sexual preference must be outlawed. Women must have the right to abortion on demand, and homosexuals the right to marry and enjoy the same benefits as other married couples. The police-military interventions against the Aboriginal people must be ended.
Once again, I find myself in strong agreement, and wishing that this particular party wasn’t so loony in other respects.
The SEP is against militarism and war, and it sounds as thought they want to disband the army. They are, however, in favour of the international unity of the working class which, of course, allows for no racism, including the demonising of refugees.
Only by linking the struggles of workers in Australia with their class brothers and sisters in Asia and the world can the global offensive of the banks and corporations, and the drive to war, be defeated.
The working class also needs to break with both the Labor party *and* the trade unions. I can sort of understand the former, but the latter surprises me. They also warn the working class against the greens and the “pseudo-left organisations, including Socialist Alternative and Socialist Alliance” which “play a particularly pernicious role in keeping workers and youth tied to the existing parliamentary framework. They are deeply contemptuous of the working class, and represent a tendency within bourgeois politics that speaks for affluent layers of the middle class.”
You can’t have a proper socialist party without asserting that all the other socialist parties aren’t really socialist. It’s a law of nature. Basically, these other insufficiently socialist groups have blocked independent political struggle by “promoting the illusion that Labor or the Greens represent a “the lesser evil” compared to the Liberals”. Unions are no better, because they have apparently “suppressed any struggle by workers against plant closures, job destruction and the driving down of working conditions”.
This is news to me. I think someone has been drinking the crazyjuice again.
Finally, we are informed that:
The aim of our campaign is to develop a new political movement of the working class, imbued with socialist consciousness, and armed with the understanding that nothing less than the abolition of the capitalist profit system and the establishment of world socialism can provide a future for humanity as a whole; free of war, poverty and oppression.
Vive la revolution!
I find that I miss the Socialist Alliance. I do have socialist tendencies, but this particular sort of rhetoric makes me want to back away slowly, not making any sudden moves. Also, on a purely practical level, it annoys me, because it is so uncompromising that it rapidly becomes ineffective. The Socialist Equality Party does have quite a few policies I agree with – but they are never going to achieve any of them given our current political framework. And they do, in fact recognise this.
The trouble is, I don’t particularly want a revolution. Change, certainly, but not the kind where there are uprisings and violence in the streets. And it sounds to me as though this is the only kind of change the SEP is offering.