Re Australian Greens rise

Pip, Peter & Zoe ppz at greenleft.org.au
Fri Dec 6 22:13:41 MST 2002


Ben Courtice answered Jose Perez's technical question about Australia's
preferential system.

I agree with Jose that the important thing for non-sectarian leftists is
how to engage with the leftward moving constituency being tapped by the
Green vote.

Actually the left is not separate from this constituency as quite a few
of the activists in the Greens are former members of various socialist
groups. Some remain socialist if sceptical about Marxists while others
have probably moved towards more liberal politics.

One could look at this in terms of a partial de facto division of labour
on the broad left, with the more parliamentary-minded being selected
into some leading roles in the Greens party while more of the "street
activists" organised in or around (and this layer is important) various
socialist groupings. We shouldn't overstate this as there are layers of
"street activists" in the Greens but generally they are not organised in
the framework of the Greens. This could change and some Greens leaders
have spoken to me of a new challenge to reorganise the Greens branches
(flooded with lots of new joiners) to organise non-parliamentary work. I
don't know if this process has really begun.

The socialist left, and I would include the Socialist Alliance, should
not rule out different tactics in the future but in the meantime it
would be a shame to give up our electoral presence (small as it is). One
worry is that the Socialist Alliance project may be negatively affected
by the developments in the UK Socialist Alliance and the Scottish
Socialist Party (cp. the two documents posted on this list recently).
Hopefully non-sectarian trends will prevail here.

One thing that is opening up, along with the Greens' electoral rise, is
the opportunity for the socialist left to work in united fronts with the
Greens. Already there have been several instances around the country
where we (i.e. DSP members) have supported the Greens in getting their
parliamentarians (who have been the only parliamentary opposition to
war, racism, attacks on civil liberties, neo-liberal attacks, etc) on
platforms, against some sectarian attempts by ALP supporters and some
old lefts to block them out.

One big fight is around civil liberties.

Last Friday night, for example, the NSW state Labor government, with the
support of the Liberal opposition, rushed through state parliament new
anti-terrorist police powers. These powers give the police minister to
impose state of emergencies on any part of the state. These give the
police the right to strip search (anyone over 10-year-old), break into
your house, vehicle, etc for a search all without a warrant, without any
specific basis, and all without judicial review. It will complement laws
about to be passed by the Liberal party at the federal level which will
give the secret police the right to detain people without trial and
without access to lawyers, create an offence of not answering the spooks
questions about your possible any possible involvement or even
information (journalists beware!) you may have about terrorism. Under
these proposed laws the onus is on the detained person to prove that
they don't have such information. That's pretty draconian. My point is
that in parliament it is the Greens who are speaking out against this.
So here is one very important united front with the Greens.

A future Red-Green alliance is very much foreshadowed while the Greens
keep on this trajectory. But I think the more socialist unity we build
today the better the chance of this becoming a reality. One big advance
for the socialist left will be the further practical demolition of the
dogmatic Trotskyist confusion on the character of the Labor party (as
anything but a bourgeois party with a conservative hegemony on the trade
unions -- the mean to dupe workers as Lenin put it -- which need to be
broken).

There is of course the future pressure on the Greens (as they obtain
more seats in the parliaments) to accomodate to conservative Labor in
the hope of becoming part of a governmental alliance. But this is not
even a medium term prospect because of the electoral system which
favours the two big parties. Before then the Greens may have the
"balance of power" in the Senate or in one of the state upper houses and
with this will come a pressure to be "responsible".

For now the Greens role in parliament is overwhelmingly
progressive/"irresponsible" to the capitalist parties and socialists
should welcome this.

Peter Boyle
peterb at dsp.org.au








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