Federal Election 2019: Meet the Socialist Equality Party

Summary

Website: http://www.sep.org.au/website/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SocialistEqualityPartyAustralia/
Slogans:
No to Militarism and War!
For Socialism and Internationalism!
Themes: Trotskyist communists, who consider themselves the only true socialist party on the ballot.  Pro-revolution, but anti-war.  Feminism is apparently divisive to the cause of the working classes.
Electorate:
Upper House: NSW, VIC
Lower House: Calwell, Hunter, Oxley, Parramatta
Preferences: Declaring your preferences is a bourgeois conspiracy.
Previous reviews

Policies & Commentary

Ah, it’s time to turn to our comrades over at the Socialist Equality Party, the Australian Section of the International Committee of the Fourth International.  Which is to say, our own local branch of the Communist Party.

Their front page is currently all articles about freeing Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, and we are informed that:

The fate of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, political prisoners victimized by US and world imperialism for exposing imperialist crimes and conspiracies, must be a focus of attention of the entire working class and all those who defend democratic rights.

Must it indeed?  Look, freedom of the press is important, and it’s true that I wouldn’t trust the US government to decide what the rest of us need to know about, say, the machinations going on behind the various wars in the Middle East.  I also don’t have a lot of faith in the US justice system, where political issues are involved.

But releasing unredacted documents, including personal medical information, or the names of people who are gay in countries where this is an offense punishable by imprisonment or death, or the names of people in Afghanistan who were helping US troops, goes beyond informing the public, and is frankly irresponsible, unkind, and potentially fatal to the people concerned.

(Also, how about those rape charges in Sweden?  The left is very good at conveniently forgetting those, or just assuming that they must be fake, which is not a good look.  Are they real?  Who knows?  Nobody has had a chance to find out…)

So, yes.  Not making a great first impression here, comrades, but to be fair, this is a very popular cause on the left.

Of course, this all improves dramatically when we get to their statement on the 2019 election, which is full of the sort of rhetoric that fills me with delight:

The Socialist Equality Party is standing candidates in the 2019 federal election in order to build a political movement of the working class on a socialist program, to oppose the unprecedented levels of social inequality, the danger of world war, the development of authoritarian forms of rule and the re-emergence of fascist forces.

For the ruling elites this election is one of unparalleled crisis, marked by deepening hostility to the entire political establishment.

The Liberal-National Party government, despised by the working class, is controlled by extreme right-wingers, including Morrison, Dutton and Abbott. They carried out a leadership coup against Turnbull to take the Liberal Party even further to the right, while their policies—above all, their attacks on refugees and immigrants, together with their promotion of militarism and nationalism—are aimed at fostering fascist movements directed against the working class.

Lacking any positive popular support, the Labor Party hopes to come to power through duplicity and deceit. Behind closed doors its leader, Shorten, tells the major corporations that Labor will maintain the country’s credit rating and boost profits. At the same time, he makes populist pitches to workers and young people about “fairness,” including promises to legislate a “living wage.” These are worthless. As Labor has done for the past three decades, a Shorten government will impose new economic burdens on the working class.

We are told that this election is going to be even more full of lies than usual, and that the SEP are the only ones telling the Truth.  Also:

The vital issue facing the working class is not the futile attempt to change the mindset of the ruling elites through the ballot box, but the development of its own independent political movement for socialism, to abolish the profit system, the source of all the social ills and political dangers it confronts.

… so if voting makes no difference, why are you running for Parliament again?  This is, if I recall correctly, a pretty consistent weakness in the SEP’s arguments over the years.  They are standing for election, but they don’t really believe in change through electoral methods.  They want revolution!

We are informed that fascism is rising everywhere – ah, but fear not, comrades, because so is the working class!  They cite the yellow vest movement as an example of the latter, suggesting that they are a bit behind the times, since my understanding is that the yellow vests have moved significantly to the right and are being kind of scary nationalists at this point, they inform us that Trump is attacking democracy (can’t argue with that), and really, anyone who writes like this deserves extensive quotation:

Just as in Europe and the US, the ruling class here is nurturing far-right forces. The March 15 massacre in New Zealand was carried out by an Australian fascist. It demonstrates that all the reactionary filth that erupted from the bowels of capitalist society in the 1930s, is spewing forth again, and no country, no matter how “isolated” or “peaceful” it may appear, is exempt.

To be clear, I am on their side when it comes to the rising nationalism.  But I do find their dramatic rhetoric somewhat hilarious.  I don’t think I take myself seriously enough to be a proper socialist.

The SEP’s program is based on a number of principles, which are listed on the 2019 election page.  Many of them also get their own tabs under ‘Program’.  Programs and Principles are much more fun than policies, evidently.

Principle one is the International Unity of the Working Class, because

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.

Also, on a more practical level, they point out that things like ending war, addressing climate change and environmental disasters really do need to be addressed globally.  They also oppose all forms of racism and nationalism, and ‘unconditionally defend the basic democratic right of refugees and immigrants to live, study and work in Australia, or anywhere in the world, with full citizenship rights’.

So far, so good.  And then we have this.

The SEP opposes identity politics, including the retrograde #MeToo movement, used by the upper-middle class to enhance their privileged economic and social position. Identity politics is aimed at splitting the working class and obscuring the fact that in capitalist society the fundamental divide is that of class—between the working class and its exploiters, i.e., those who own the means of production and finance. The democratic and social rights of workers, whatever their gender, sexuality, skin colour or religion can only be defended through a unified movement from below to abolish capitalism.

Oh, this makes me absolutely spitting mad.  If speaking out against sexual harrassment and sexual assault is damaging to the cause of the working class, that says something very nasty about who actually counts as the working class. I suppose women are supposed to just tolerate this sort of thing for the good of the cause?  Or are we just making it all up in order to undermine the working man?

Seriously, that is the most toxic bullshit I have seen on a left wing site in some time.  In fact, it’s some of the most toxic bullshit I’ve seen anywhere, and I have been wading through some pretty disgusting muck this last few weeks.

Solidarity is important.  I vote and act in solidarity with people who have less privilege from me, and a big factor in my choice of political party is what it wants to do for people who are poor, disabled, unemployed or on low incomes.

But apparently, it’s not reasonable for me to expect solidarity in return.

(I have to say, this sheds an unappealing light on the SEP’s view of the Swedish charges against Assange.  Ten to one they think it was a false-flag conspiracy and that the Swedish women were undercover US agents.)

I would also note that this whole thing does seem to support the comments of another socialist friend of mine some years ago that the SEP is absolutely abysmal at intersectionality, and believes that the only injustice is class injustice – everything else is a distraction.  It’s depressing to see that this is apparently still the case.

Also, this is now totally going to colour everything else I write about the SEP, for which I apologise.  But having my pain and that of my friends dismissed as a bourgeois ploy and a betrayal of the working class is incredibly disheartening.

The SEP’s next principle is social equality (for people who aren’t female) (sorry).  They make the important point that the world’s richest 26 people own more wealth than half the world’s population, and they call for a ‘vast redistribution of wealth to secure the social rights of all, including the right to a stable and decent-paying job, a living retirement income, free and high-quality public education and health care, affordable housing, and access to culture and the arts.’

They also want to address the disadvantage of Aboriginal people, which is good (though they say elsewhere that Aboriginal nationalism is divisive, so that’s less good), and they want to put ‘the major banks, mining transnationals, retail conglomerates, pharmaceutical corporations and communications and energy giants’ under the control of the working class.  I quite like their plan for a multi-billion dollar public works program to both develop infrastructure and provide full employment.

On their actual page about social equality, they also want first class public healthcare and education, as well as free, well-staffed, quality childcare, and a guarantee of well-paid, full-time employment for young workers.

The SEP’s next principle is to defend democratic rights, which they feel have been attacked by the war on terror.  Mostly this section is about freeing Assange, but they also don’t like the military-intelligence-police apparatus, anti-strike legislation, censorship and section 44.

The latter is presumably part of their commitment to being international, but I have to admit, my instinctive and irresistible response to this is to cry ‘nooooo you will take section 44 from my cold dead hands, it has brought me more political entertainment in the last three years than anything else, including political comedians!’.

On their main page for this, they also want to end discrimination ‘based on nationality, ethnic background, religion, gender or sexual preference’, which is good, and they support legal abortion and gay marriage.

Heh, and also they don’t like ‘anti-democratic electoral measures, including those aimed at protecting the two-party system by preventing minor parties from standing candidates under their party name, and the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of first-time voters through the early closing of electoral rolls’.

Now, why do you think that might be?

Next up, we have a very exclamatory principle called ‘For the political independence of the working class! For a workers’ government!’

The workers are arising, comrades.  They cannot be stopped.  We have here a fine line in rhetoric, from ‘Bill Shorten’s pathetic populism’ to the Greens, who ‘rest on a privileged layer of upper-middle class professionals and “green” business interests’.  The Liberals are so far beneath contempt that they don’t even rate insults.

Also:

The various pseudo-left formations—Socialist Alliance, Socialist Alternative, and their parochial Melbourne-based electoral front, the Victorian Socialists—also represent layers of the affluent middle class. Their chief function is to maintain the threadbare illusion that progressive change can be achieved through Labor and the trade unions. As the political establishment swings ever further to the right, so too have these fake lefts—backing US-led wars in Syria and Libya, and the reactionary, anti-democratic nostrums of identity politics.

Ah yes, the worst class traitors of the lot: other Socialists.  Who I will totally be putting well ahead of these nutbars on my ballot, fake socialist that I am.

Also, Labor is responsible for many things, all of them bad.  They are nationalists and capitalists who care more about big business than working people.

I can’t *wait* to see this lot’s How to Vote card.

And once again, they undermine their own bid for election by reminding us that ‘genuine socialism is revolutionary’.  So… no point voting for you then?

SEP’s next principle is ‘Oppose Militarism and War!’.  They don’t like our alliance with the US.  They have Feelings about Pine Gap. All the major parties are terrible, especially the Greens, who are latte-sipping xenophobes.

I’m a pacifist at heart, and the SEP is doing a fine job of making being against war look unappealing.

Anyway, they want to repudiate our alliance with the US, stop spending money on the military, and withdraw our forces from war zones.  The money saved could be spent on infrastructure, schools and hospitals.

Finally, the SEP has a principle of Urgent Action on Climate Change! (The principles have definitely become more exclamatory as we go), which obviously can’t be done in a capitalist system, so they plan to take all major corporations out of private hands.  I suspect they are not talking about a buy-back here.

Another random principle that gets a tab but isn’t on the election page is about expropriating banks and corporations – actually it looks like a similar policy, only without the climate change tacked on.

I was going to read their ‘Statement of Principles’, but I can’t bring myself to do so, because I am still too angry with the SEP over their #MeToo stuff.  I do note that they list feminism as one of the things that divides the working class.  I had no idea I couldn’t be a feminist and a socialist at the same time, but apparently I have to choose.

Look, the SEP has a few good ideas.  I like their solidarity with refugees, their anti-war stance, and their desire for a more egalitarian world.  But their views on feminism and #metoo are incredibly upsetting.  I’m both enraged and hurt and deeply sad.  I like a good socialist party, and the Australian Workers Party is looking like getting top billing on my ballot at this point, or close to it.  Their vision of the working class is, I think, revolutionary in its inclusiveness.

It’s a kind of revolution the SEP might want to consider.

#MeToo #YesAllWomen

Eurovision Theme Song as determined by me, very objectively

On April 25, 1974, Portuguese singer Paulo de Carvalho stood up at Eurovision and sang a song called Depois do Adeus. It was the signal for the start of the Carnation Revolution in Portugal, which led to the overthrow of the authoritarian Estado Novo regime, and the beginnings of democratic government in Portugal.

I’m not convinced that democracy is precisely what the SEP wants, but they do like revolutions.  That’s close enough for me.

 

5 thoughts on “Federal Election 2019: Meet the Socialist Equality Party

  1. For all their class-based rhetoric, I have to wonder how many of these socialists are actually drawn from the working class, and how many of them from the same middle class origins they deride Greens voters for being from.

  2. After the unnatural outbreak of good sense known as the Victorian Socialists (running together! On one ballot! Rather than spending all their time stabbing each other in the back publicly!) I’m not surprised they’re getting denounced as class traitors by the Trotskyite communists.

    I always do wonder WHO they think they are in solidarity with, given their virulent hatred of every person and party even slightly splintered off from them. And I say this as someone who quietly enjoys a bit of far left ranting.

    I am seriously concerned about the fact that their main campaigns, on the front page, are over Assange and Wikileaks, and Israel Folau. Those are not the banners I’d be waving and manning the barricades over, and I feel they give a strong indication of their priorities and what they ignore (as you said, apparently feminism and intersectionality mean I can’t be socialist here). I don’t find myself in agreement with their position on either issue. I tend to feel like I’m somehow betraying socialist ideals, but I’m not convinced on absolute freedom of speech, especially as I feel freedom of speech does not necessarily mean freedom from consequences, particularly Section 18C consequences!

    • Oh my, I didn’t spot the Israel Folau stuff. Charming.

      And look, the SEP have a history of hating the other socialist groups. I’d call it classic People’s Front of Judaea stuff, except that I think this lot really are on a different plane from the Socialist Alliance and other Socialist groups.

      I’m rather disappointed, actually – I love me some lunar left parties, which the SEP always was, but I don’t remember them being so unpleasant about other axes of marginalisation in the past.

  3. This useless group. I used to see them at demonstrations standing ten feet away with their arms crossed, looking judgemental, and then they’d tell you why the demonstration was a waste of time and why the groups that were actually doing something were doing it wrong – but they never did anything themselves, just wrote leaflets trashing the real activists. I’m so disappointed that they’re the only socialist party on the Senate ballot this year.

    I once asked one of them where they stood on gay issues and was told ‘we don’t believe in those terms of empowerment’ and I should be fighting for the working class instead because capitalism was the sole cause of gay oppression. Not at all surprised to hear their view on #metoo

    • Apparently they are now championing Israel Folau, because Freeze Peach. So yeah.

      I was also hoping for some real socialists on my ballot – the Victorian Socialists are running in the lower house where we are (long live the People’s Republic of Moreland!), but that presumably doesn’t help you.

      The Australian Workers Party strikes me as a good option for people with Socialist leanings. They feel like the real version of what this lot are trying to be.

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