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John Passant

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March 2010



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Conservative politicians: a pox on all their houses

There was enough in the voting in Tasmania and South Australia for all the conservative parties to claim a victory of sorts.

The Greens in Tasmania polled 21 percent of the vote. They may hold the balance of power, assuming Labor and the Liberals don’t shut them out with some shady deal.

The Greens’ 21 percent, as their leader Nick McKim said, is the largest vote for the Greens in any State or Territory in Australia. It is, he said, a vote for the new believers. Well, maybe, but believers in what?

 A mixed economy where production for profit is the touchstone which determines what can and can’t be done? 

A vote for the Greens is not a vote for the Left. Much of the support for the Greens comes from (former) Liberal voters.

As the Greens move closer to power they move to the right. This will create tensions in their cross class alliance between the new believers and the Green left over the way forward. Like the Democrats there is a real possibility they will wallow in mainstream mediocrity.

McKim stressed to business that the Greens were a safe pair of hands.  While I suspect Gunns won’t think so, the rest of business in Tasmania can breathe easy.

Labor in Tasmania has lost Government in their own right, but could govern with the support of the Greens in a deal similar to that in the ACT.

Here in Canberra we Territorians have a minority Labor Government which rules with the support of the Greens. Nothing much has changed politically since October 2008 – still the same old conservative offerings from all sides.

Certainly the ACT  Greens have imposed absolutely no radical program on Canberra’s local ALP Government and it looks as if they will let Labor get away with large public service wage and jobs cuts.

Even worse, in Tasmania there is a chance the Liberals will do some sort of Faustian deal with one of the other parties and govern with the support of either Labor or the Greens.

The Greens have not ruled out a governing coalition with the Liberals.

In South Australia, despite the fruitcake faction of the bourgeoisie centred around The Australian having wet dreams about the Liberals winning, it looks as if Labor will govern with a majority of one or three.

Labor across Australia will claim this as evidence the ALP is not on the nose, or as South Australian Labor leader Mike Rann put it, the sweetest victory of all. Yet the swing against Labor was over seven percent, and the ALP did not win the majority of votes on a two party preferred basis. The Liberals did.

So Labor has scraped back into power in South Australia with the support of less than half the population. This appears a victory to them because for the ALP and other bourgeois politicians the key is the reins of power in a capitalist parliament, not what the majority want. 

In Tasmania the evidence against Labor – a twelve percent swing  – is a little more inconvenient for the Rudd Government.

So what we have from Federal Labor and their apologists is spin about state issues deciding the results and that these two State Governments were old.  True, but  not relevant.

The important issue is how many rejected Labor at the state level because of what it stands for – nothing but making life easy for the profiteers. If so then the ALP federally will also have a problem because that is its philosophy too.

Indeed Rudd has modelled his Government on Rann’s ‘do nothing to upset the bosses’ approach.

The levels of unemployment in both States are low by historical standards. Yet there were big swings against both State Labor Governments.

The Rudd Labor Government may be starting to have a few nightmares that substantial swings like those in South Australia and Tasmania could happen against a Government who ‘saved’ the country from the Global Financial Crisis yet has done little for health, education or wages. A 7 percent swing would destroy Rudd Labor.

The Liberals will sprout rubbish about the level of the swings and themselves spin about spin. They will say the tide has turned.

Yet this is not a seismic change. This is the battle between various factions of conservatism. 

There is no sizeable political left in Australia capable of acting as a magnet for change. 

There won’t be till the more organised and militant section of the working class revives and begins the process of setting up a radical alternative to Labor, one that challenges the very rule of capital.

Until that time the conservative yo-yoing between Labor and the Liberals will continue, and the lack of a left wing alternative allows the Greens to take that mantle for the moment. 

The task before the Left is immense. But our steady work will and must continue to lay the foundations in the future for a mass revolutionary party of the working class.

Readers might also like to look at ‘We need a left alternative to Labor and the Greens’ by Andrew Cheeseman in Socialist Alternative.



Comment from Shane H
Time March 21, 2010 at 10:52 pm

So 20% of Tasmanians who voted Greens didn’t realise what they were voting for since they don’t know what they believe in it seems. No victory here against Gunns or the 2 party kleptocracy but just a prediction of a split down the track that will result in a new militant left displacing them.

The Greens in the ACT (I’m guessing with less than 20% of the vote) haven’t imposed a radical program on the ALP – when of course they don’t ‘rule’ the ACT any more than the ALP does. What they could do is force a new election I guess. This would be a tactical decision. and what would the likely result be? A bigger vote for a radical alternative?

The Liberals got the majority in SA so presumably they should be allowed to govern – and if this were to continue then the ALP would lose office federally. What a great opportunity that would be for the “Left”? Clearly the 2 parties are not giving the public what it wants – and since they didn’t vote for what you see as a ‘soft left’ alternative in the Greens its clear they wanted the liberals I guess.

So the political ‘left’ in your view compromises who? The socialist sects? We haven’t seen serious militant activity on behalf of the working class for what 30 years? So where will this come from – from the activity of a few hundred activists on campus who will eventually displace the Greens (or link up with the left-wing break-away) whose ‘conservative’ program attracts only 10-15% of the vote but somehow there is a huge audience for radical ideas out there being mislead by the Greens.

Comment from Shane H
Time March 21, 2010 at 11:27 pm

‘We need a left alternative to Labor and the Greens’

Continues the argument really:

You’d wonder why after all these years working people continue to look to the ALP. They are essentially the same as the liberals – racist, anti-youth and homophobic – but more treacherous.

When a small number of workers finally do look for an alternative – one that’s anti-war, pro-gay rights, anti-racist – they are deceived again by mere appearance of these things. They are really close to Hanson on immigration issues – and pro-(small) wars just not big ones.
This is because they are ‘reformists’ like 95% of the Australian population they believe that the way to change society is through parliament. Since real power is with corporations not with government the Greens should not compromise or negotiate but demand more radical change outside parliament.

They, or someone, simply needs to organise an anti-capitalist party to defend the interests of the working class – even though such groups currently number a few hundred members with less than 1% of the vote – they will be able to able to withdraw all Australian troops and be genuinely anti-racist and fight for change via strikes and mass protests to force the ruling class to concede power instead of negotiating about it. IF such a party existed several years ago then boy would things be different now.

In fact though in the 30 years since the Greens went from being a negligible number to a party with 5000 members and 10-15% of the vote – the revolutionary left was incapable of having ANY impact on this development or increasing its membership beyond a few hundred without a split over issues so fundamental to the future of revolutionary politics that no one outside their ranks knows what they are (or cares).

Comment from Shane H
Time March 21, 2010 at 11:28 pm

I posted one before this but it didn’t appear.

Comment from John
Time March 22, 2010 at 8:27 am

Thanks Shane. Not sure why your first post got held up. There are key words spammers use which may mean it gets diverted if the post contains those words. To the substance.

I actually said (indirectly for sure) that Gunns would be under the gun, but that other businesses could feel safe. Certainly McKim has moved the Greens to the centre.

So tell me – what do the new believers believe in? It’s me who doesn’t know. Maybe they do; or maybe, like many in Australia in November 2007, and the US in November 2008 they have illusions in the new change agents, namely the Greens.

The greens in the ACT have a fairly moderate programme anyway, but have moderated it to even further accommodate parliamentary thinking and reality. In other words they have done little outside parliament (eg mobilising people) to fight for their program. They have in fact compromised (ie sold out) on gay marriage.

you say that the Greens grew from next to nothing to be a major force. True. So can the revolutionary left, except we don’t create illusions in the parliamentary process.

If you think the contradiction at the hearts of the greens – a radical program or getting elected – won’t split them in power, then I suggest you look at the history of the Greens in Germany.

Comment from peter d. jones
Time March 23, 2010 at 3:50 pm

This is very silly. The working class in Tasmania either vote Liberal or Labor or don’t vote at all. Tasmania is the only state in Australia that has had a Labor government over half the last century because the Labor Party was so right wing to start with. The only workers on the Left were in the Railways and Wharfies unions and both those sectors have virtually collapsed in terms of employment. The CFMEU even supported the Libs under John Howard.

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