The Greens and Labor: Is this war baby or is it just confusion?
Do you think the Greens have wedged the ALP with their proposal for a $127 per fortnight increase in the single parent payment, loosening the restrictions on hours worked and paying for the $340 million by closing just one of the loopholes in the Minerals Resource Rent Tax, with money left over?
I do. I suspect this will be a long guerrilla campaign by the Greens every week or so pushing some socially progressive policy. There is already a proposal from the Greens to increase the dole by $50 a week.
If this single parents’ payment is one of the first in a line of demands to make life for the poor better, then it is good news, not just for the poor (who may or may not receive any benefit given the Greens only receive about 10% of the vote) but for the radical and revolutionary left too.
It is good news for socialists because it raises the possibility of reforms in the age of austerity. Of course the Greens will be fair-weather friends since their strategy is Parliament, not mobilising people in their workplaces and on the streets to fight for real progressive change.
This is evident from their decision to oppose, with the Opposition, any changes to research and development tax concessions that would have withdrawn the benefit from companies with a turnover of greater than $20 billion and saved $1 billion in revenue leakage. This would have adversely impacted on about 20 of the biggest businesses in Australia. Twenty!
If as the Greens claim the ALP has been captured by the miners (and there is an element of truth in that, albeit fear of the miners I suspect is a better description), then have the Greens been captured by the super big business R&D beneficiaries?
These are the same progressive Greens who haven’t ruled out preferencing some Liberals in some seats. This highlights the lack of a class analysis the Greens have and is only likely to stop the more advanced sections of the working class shifting from Labor to the Greens.
This single parent announcement of change from on high is perhaps nothing more than a crude vote winning tactic with little else behind it, least of all a strategy about how the party of ten percent can win these reforms.
It might win a few left-wing votes from Labor, but it won’t win the reforms themselves without a mobilisation of social forces to force capital to give real benefits to its workforce and those on below poverty line benefits.
The Greens may fear such mobilisations because they could unleash processes and forces well to the left of them and because their logic is bums on seats in Parliament, not fundamental societal change.
The Greens’ push for reforms imagines that in a time of global economic crisis, a crisis of low profit rates arising out of the way production is organised under capitalism, capital will willingly divert some of the surplus value we workers create back to us or the poor. That is fairy land stuff.
Let’s take a non-economic issue like refugees. The Greens are the one party that has taken a consistent pro-refugee position. Yet for all their arguments and logic, the major parties continue their descent into the 7th level of hell over asylum seekers.
Again, defending refugees verbally might win or solidify votes. It won’t on its own defend refugees.
To really defend refugees would require a mobilisation of many many people.
Now that the Greens have supposedly thrown off the shackles of their unhappy shacking up with Labor, an alternative to radical or not so radical words presents itself for the Greens. They could become the party of action, the party of real protest. They could mobilise their members and supporters out onto the streets in defence of refugees. God forbid they could begin a campaign of civil disobedience bringing the isolated and hence isolating tactics of activists in the far away forests to the cities.
Or the Greens with their million voters and thousands of members and tens of thousands of close supporters could mobilise hundreds of thousands onto the streets for real action to address climate change instead of fixating on the failed carbon tax and other mickey mouse market solutions to the environmental problems the market creates.
Their Parliamentary politics stop them doing any of this. That is where the opening for socialists might be found. How can we win progressive reforms?
We can explain why voting Green isn’t enough, and that if the Greens took to the streets and the workplaces the chances of winning real reforms would increase, and the party of ten percent might even win extra votes.
We can force through reforms, progressive change, if we unite and fight, mobilise and resist.
But pragmatically that can only occur at the moment, given the small number of socialists organised politically in Australia and our lack of influence in the working class movement, if the Greens give a lead. No amount of pray will make that happen. And so the Sisyphean task of building the revolutionary left continues.
The class will move into action at some stage, cleaning out the muck of ages. We need a significant revolutionary socialist group to become an important part of that upsurge, to guide it and be guided by it. That means building such an organisation now. That can’t be done just when workers do fight back. A revolutionary socialist party, a socialist alternative has to be built now.
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