Federal Election 2019: Meet the Victorian Socialists and the Socialist Alliance

Summary

Website: https://www.victoriansocialists.org.au
https://socialist-alliance.org
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vicsocialists/
https://www.facebook.com/SocialistAlliance/
Slogans:
For the billions, not the billionaires
Our lives are worth more than their profits
People before profit
Themes: Socialism.  Solidarity with everyone.  Equality, pro-union, anti-discrimination.  Ambitious climate change policy.
Electorate:
Socialist Alliance
Upper House: NSW, WA
Lower House: Brisbane, Fremantle, Lilley

Victorian Socialists
Lower House: Calwell, Cooper, Wills
Preferences: As usual, the Socialist Alliance provides a fine barometer of which parties on the ballot are the most left-leaning.  Accordingly, they put the Greens first in both states; in Victoria, they are followed by the Australian Workers Party and Independents for Climate Action Now, neither of which are running candidates in WA.  After that, in both states, we have HEMP; NSW then gets affordable housing, WA and NSW then have the Animal Justice PArty; NSW takes a quick break for some Pirates, after which all votes are funneled to their traditional home in the ALP.
Previous reviews

Policies & Commentary

The Victorian Socialists is a coalition of socialist groups and individual activists, unionists and community organisers, which include the Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative.  Since the Socialist Alliance’s page on the election notes that their members are participating in the current election under the umbrella of the Victorian Socialists, and they have what looks like an identical policy platform for the Federal Election, I figure it’s fair to review these two parties together.

I reviewed the Victorian Socialists back in November, but I haven’t reviewed the Socialist Alliance  since 2014.  It doesn’t seem quite fair to the Socialist Alliance to just do a news update; but since both Socialist parties have extremely long and detailed policies, most of which I discussed back in November, it doesn’t seem quite fair to my sanity to do that again.

Accordingly, I shall restrict myself to their 2019 Federal Election Platform, which should give you a pretty thorough overview of what our local friendly socialists stand for, and will refer you to my 2018 commentary for more detail.

Oh, and I should probably put some sort of disclaimer here, noting that I am very likely to be voting for the Socialist Alliance in the Senate this time around, because I like Sue Bolton, and also because we were door-knocked on Saturday by a very lovely young woman who probably got more conversation than she bargained for, because at that stage I was an hour and a half into writing about Rise Up Australia and was eager to pounce on any plausible distraction.

So yes, this is a party that is pretty well-aligned with my personal political leanings, and it contains people I like quite a bit, and I’m probably going to be biased in their favour.  (Doesn’t mean I’m wrong, though…).

On to the manifesto!

(They don’t call it that, but I’m reading between the lines).

Australia is a wealthy country. We have the resources to guarantee everybody a decent life and to take genuine climate action.

But inequality in this country is extreme and getting worse and climate action is desperately needed but not on offer from the “parties of government”. It is time for a change.

The Morrison government stands discredited before the Australian people but the Labor “opposition” is offering at best only token change.

Labor is not promising to stop the Adani mine. They are not promising to end boat turnbacks or free the refugees on Manus or Nauru. They are not promising to raise the pitifully low Newstart allowance. They are not promising to create public sector jobs or to abolish anti-worker laws (such as restrictions on the right to strike). They are not promising to tackle the scourge of intimate partner violence and harassment of and assault against women in workplaces, families and communities around the country.

So we pretty much have their policies outlined right there – one can safely assume, from the tone of disapproval at Labor’s shortcomings, that these are all things that the socialists want to do.  These are also things that I want to do, so you can see why I’m quite keen.

There is a strong theme here of how the major parties are serving corporate interests, and only the Socialists care about The People.

We are informed that the Socialists are motivated by five key principles:

  1. Solidarity and collaboration. Not dog-eat-dog competition.
  2. Environmental sustainability & eco-socialism. Not environmental degradation and destruction that hits the poor the hardest.
  3. Participatory democracy. Where workers and communities make decisions directly and representatives are accountable and recallable
  4. A social and democratic economy. Where people’s needs come before corporate profits.
  5. Equality. Between peoples, nations, religions, genders and sexualities.

It’s a very kind philosophy, and also a fundamentally optimistic worldview.  The Socialists believe that there is enough to go around, and if we all just work together, share with each other and look after each other, we will all be alright in the end. And they also believe that it is possible for this to happen.

It seems worth noting that this hopefulness and essential faith in humanity contrasts very sharply with the fear, anger, and insecurity and certainty that others (be they the poor, or people of colour, or immigrants) are trying to harm us or cheat us that is pervasive in the philosophies of the far right. There have been some unpleasant attempts in the media to claim that parties like the Greens and the Socialist Alliance are just as extreme and dangerous as parties like Fraser Anning’s Conservative Nationals, or the Yellow Vests.  Which, of course, is another way to inspire fear.

And while it’s easy to think of examples where extreme fear, anger and insecurity have led to people harming or killing others, it’s harder to think of ones where extreme hope has had that effect.  You can burn yourself out with optimism; you are unlikely to harm anyone else.

(I mean, ill-founded optimism applied to policy is also dangerous, but I still think it’s less dangerous than ill-founded fear.)

The Socialists begin by pledging, effectively, solidarity with the worker: if elected, they will keep only an average worker’s wage, and they will donate the rest of their salary to movements for change.  They will stand for the poor against the rich, they will empower communities, and they will shine a light on injustice, exploitation and cruelty, and why do I suddenly feel like they are Batman?  (The superhero, not the dodgy Australian colonist).

Getting down to their policies, they express their intention to scrap the GST, which is a regressive system, and to introduce a wealth tax, as well as raising company tax and taxing the big polluters.  They will end tax evasion, and stop subsidising mining, banks and energy companies.  In fact, they will nationalise them and take back the wealth on behalf of the workers!

(An exclamation mark seemed to be required).

The Socialists want real action on climate change, with a shift to 100% renewables within 10 years.  This may be even more ambitious than the Greens.  In addition to the usual policies on emission reductions and investment in renewables, they have some more people-oriented points, including a ‘just transition for workers’ who were employed by energy companies; justice for those displaced by climate change; and a national heat health strategy.

The Socialists want proportional representation at all government levels, and public funding of candidates.  And all politicians should earn an average worker’s wage.

They have the strongest policy suite on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples that I have seen so far:

Negotiate treaties to respect Aboriginal sovereignty and land rights; repeal the “Stronger Futures”/NT Intervention laws; abolish racist welfare quarantining and compulsory income management; no uranium waste dumps; close the gap in Aboriginal health, education, employment and housing; implement all the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody; fund language and culture programs and bilingual education in schools; Aboriginal control of Aboriginal affairs — not tokenistic Constitutional recognition; no closure of Aboriginal communities.

They are against racism and Islamophobia, and they want us to treat refugees better.  In particularly, they want to end mandatory detention, end deportations, and ‘protect the rights of medical, teaching and security staff to speak out about abuse in detention’.

The Socialists are a bit suspicious of both the police and ASIO, and they definitely don’t like data retention laws and anti-terror laws.

Unsurprisingly, they are pro-union, and they want public investment to create jobs both by building needed infrastructure (particularly schools and healthcare facilities), and by introducing a 30 hour week at full time wages.  I have no idea if that is practical, but that sounds so wonderful right now.

(To be fair, between Easter singing, this blog, and work, I haven’t really had a day off since March, and I’m getting a bit desperate.)

The Socialists basically want to treat people on various welfare and pensions better.  They want to increase welfare payments above the poverty line and keep them there, and get rid of Work for the Dole, compulsory income management, and the Job Networks.  Instead, they want to ‘reestablish a Commonwealth Employment Service with a service provision (instead of punitive) focus’.

The Socialists believe in women’s rights, reproductive rights, LGBTQIA+ rights (my trans friends will be pleased to here that they did, in fact, remember that trans people exist, and have policies including easy change of identity documents, and full-publicly funded medical services for transition), and youth rights.   They want to end all forms of discrimination, and religious organisations should not be able to opt out of this.  They also want to decrease the voting age to 16, and get rid of the youth wage, so that young people can be paid properly.  I am cynical enough to note that lowering the voting age would almost certainly increase the Socialists’ share of the vote…

The Socialists want free education , free healthcare, and free public transport.  They want a massive increase in funding for ABC and SBS, and they want a publicly owned NBN that actually works.  They want to tackle homelessness by building a lot more public housing, and also by capping rent and mortgage repayments at 20% of income.  I have no idea how you make that last bit work, to be honest.  Must banks issue longer mortgages, or will they simply lend only to people whose incomes make this possible?  And must landlords decrease their rent to fit the needs of their tenants?  Which, I suppose, potentially works so long as the banks then have to reduce the mortgage repayments when the landlords’ incomes are reduced…?

I mean, I’ll be honest.  A lot of the Socialists’ policies make me think, ooh, that would be lovely, but can we really afford to pay for it?  But that one I think does stand out from the pack as a bit dysfunctional.

The Socialists want to abolish imprisonment for non-violent offenses, and they want fully-funded legal aid and no private prisons.  They also want to decriminalise drugs and address domestic violence.

They want to provide emergency assistance to struggling farmers and encourage sustainable farming and farming cooperatives, and they want better infrastructure in regional areas.  And they also want to end live exports and tighten standards for free-range farming

Finally, the socialists believe in international aid, not war and occupation.  In particular, they want to bring our soldiers home and end our interference in foreign countries – though they do want to ‘isolate apartheid Israel’, so apparently there are some forms of foreign interference they condone.

I would point out that none of these policies are at all nuanced – for that, you would need to visit their full policy page, which I did, because their policy on Israel made me twitch a little.  I do not like what the Israeli government has been doing to the Palestinian people, but I’m also a quarter Jewish, and feel very strongly that the Jews need a homeland.  I don’t know how one stops the one without threatening the other, and so I get a bit uncomfortable when anyone thinks they have a simple solution, because if there is one thing I am certain of, it’s that there isn’t one of those.  Anyway, the Socialists are in solidarity with Palestine, and their full policy on the subject is here.  They are very clear that this is not about being anti-semitic, and I certainly believe that they don’t intend it to be, but I don’t know enough about the overall situation in the Middle East to hazard a guess as to the likely outcomes of their policy.  I don’t think I want to touch this any further.

What a note to end on.

My uncertainty about the Socialists’ middle eastern policies aside, I do very much like the things they stand for, and I particularly like the way they centre the importance of looking after people.   I am not sure I would want an entirely Socialist government, because I feel like the maths would not work, economy-wise.  But I’d definitely like to see a few more Socialists in Parliament to push the whole thing further to the left.  Sue Bolton is still looking good for first place on my Lower House ballot.

Eurovision Theme Song as determined by me, very objectively

I’m running out of good revolutionary songs on Eurovision, but this one feels very right for the Socialist Alliance and the Victorian Socialist.  It has a nice mix of hopefulness and protest song.

Also, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this group handing out flyers for the socialists at rallies.

There’s no point in tightening the belt
There’s no point in complaining
There’s no point in frowning
And rage is pointless, it won’t help you

Night or day
The struggle is joy
And people only go forward
Shouting in the streets

I wish you joy in the struggle!

 

6 thoughts on “Federal Election 2019: Meet the Victorian Socialists and the Socialist Alliance

  1. Whenever I see the phrase “Victorian Socialists”, I always think of Phileas Fogg + Charles Darwin + steampunk.

      • It was expected that there would be poor performance in the senate vote and a decision was made at the party conference that it would therefore be better to focus on making as strong as a showing as possible in the lower house given the resources available.

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