The formation of Victorian Socialists is continuing to generate excitement among progressives in Victoria, with about 600 people attending the election campaign launch in Collingwood on May 12.
Organisers anticipated about 300 people would attend, but the venue was soon filled to capacity and about 200 people were relocated to the building’s basement. The three candidates and other speakers had to give their speeches twice!
Attendees heard from a number of speakers representing public housing and residents’ advocacy groups as well as representatives from the Tamil, Eritrean and Kurdish communities — all of whom gave rousing endorsements to the campaign.
City of Yarra Councilor and number one on the Victorian Socialists’ Northern Metropolitan Region ticket, Stephen Jolly, proclaimed that “it is about time” that the left got its act together and united.
“[People often tell me] that it is about time we had an opposition to the one-sided class war we have faced over the past 40 years of neoliberalism.
“The lack of a political voice so far, from working-class people, has allowed the 1% — or more precisely, the 0.1% — to scapegoat migrants and to scapegoat particularly refugees. We have a refugee policy in Australia that Donald Trump would love to have if he could get away with it.
“The Victorian Socialists is fundamentally about building a left-wing, socialist and progressive political alternative to the major parties who support neoliberalism.”
Jolly declared “it has been the socialists” who have been the backbone of community campaigns, such as for equal marriage, refugees, public housing and the fight against the far right.
“We have the right to now establish Victorian Socialists because we have done the hard yards. We ask you to support the Victorian Socialists based on our record — 14 years on Yarra Council, six years on Moreland Council and decades of struggle of the component organisations and individuals that make up the Victorian Socialists.
“If we don’t break the hold the Labor Party has over progressive working and middle-class people, we cannot see fundamental change in Australia. What better way to get value for your money, value for your vote, than by having a socialist in parliament with a foot on the neck of the Greens and the Labor Party.”
City of Moreland Councillor, Socialist Alliance member and number two on the ticket, Sue Bolton, spoke about the high level of unemployment in Broadmeadows compared to the rest of the country, proclaiming: “You would think that figure [25.4%] would be a scandal.”
“Imagine what the real rate of unemployment is, because we all know that the official figures underplay the real rate. Imagine youth unemployment, imagine you are a young worker with no job experience or an older worker nudging retirement. You would think that figure would be on the front page of every paper and there would be an emergency plan by governments at all levels to do something about it.
“Instead, there are other big companies planning to shut down and sack lots of people; like the Woolworths warehouse in Broadmeadows, to put another 600 people out of work, shift to the other side of Melbourne and have a totally automated warehouse. We believe the real reason is that the union [National Union of Workers] is well organised there.
“That is a national disgrace and is one of the reasons why we are taking up the issue of jobs very seriously in Victorian Socialists, because there are jobs to be done. We want real jobs.”
Bolton also said that “six out of 10 rental properties are negatively geared” and this is responsible for driving up the cost of housing.
“It means that housing isn’t being treated as a human right — it is being treated as a commodity. We believe it is entirely realistic to build 50,000 new public housing units in a couple of years.”
Socialist Alternative’s Colleen Bolger, number three on the ticket, said: “Our opponents are building a war chest to try and take us down.”
“[Victorian Socialists] will never match their resources, but what we can build is a people-powered campaign.
“A lot of us are here tonight because we have long talked about the need to build a left alternative to Labor and the Greens. Socialist politics puts the working class at the centre and champions the oppressed. We need people to be active, organised and to join us.”