The Socialist Alliance Senate candidates for New South Wales, Jim McIlroy and Reg Dare, spoke to Green Left Weekly about two of the party’s key platforms in this year’s federal election.
McIlroy, 67, is a retired public servant and 15-year workplace delegate for the Community and Public Sector Union. He radicalised during the 1960s anti-Vietnam War campaign, and has been involved in the socialist movement for more than 40 years.
McIlroy has been a longtime activist in the Latin America solidarity movement in Australia. He lived in Venezuela for a year in 2006 and last year travelled widely in South America.
He said the Socialist Alliance’s central demand was internationally inspired: “Take back the wealth — put the mines, banks and energy companies in the hands of the people. Part of the inspiration for this campaign has come from the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela, and the people's revolutions in Bolivia, Ecuador and other Latin American countries.
"The Venezuelan revolution has nationalised, or re-nationalised, key sectors of the economy in that country over the past 12 years.
"These include banking, steel, aluminium, electricity, cement and other vital industries — especially the crucial oil sector. In a number of cases, workers' management and control experiments have begun.”
Dare has been involved with the Socialist Alliance since 2007, engaged by the party’s involvement in the marriage equality campaign and Green Left Weekly.
“Before that I had done a little activism on my own. I was the sort that hears about a protest and turns up.”
Dare works in the security industry, where Howard-era Work Choices-type policies still “reign supreme”.
“Remember when overtime was paid at double time? Even the 40-hour week is a distant memory for me and so many others; 60-hour weeks are not uncommon. They do sometimes ask for 72 — without proper overtime pay, it’s criminal. That’s what the Liberal Party created with Work Choices, and Labor has not done enough to fix it, not by a long way.”
Dare says despite attacks on the working class there is an example of what can be achieved through people power.
“My main role in the last few years has been supporting the marriage equality rallies, where it has been great to see the public so supportive, but disappointing to see the lack of positive action by the leaders of the major parties.
“Support has reached over 65% in the wake of large, sustained rallies since 2004, when only 33% of people supported marriage equality. This campaign has shown mass protest delivers real change, when our profit-orientated leaders won't listen to us.”
McIlroy said this campaign mirrors the huge mobilisations of Venezuelan people.
"The Venezuelan people have mobilised through popular organisations, such as social missions and communal councils, to defend the gains of their revolution against attack by right-wing forces and US imperialism.
"Parallel, but different, processes have occurred in Bolivia, Ecuador and other Latin American countries. A spirit of economic and political unity has gained momentum throughout that continent in recent years.
"We in Australia, although our conditions are very different, can learn a lot from the Latin American experience. We can take up the struggle to put our country's massive wealth, now owned by a tiny minority, under public and community ownership and control, so that they can be run in a way that respects Aboriginal rights, the environment and social justice.”
Dare said the Socialist Alliance aims to do this by bringing together all people across the working class.
“Corporate governments like divisions. They divide black from white, queer from straight — so that we fight each other, not the 1%, not the government — not ALP and Liberal Party. It’s the corporations and their government lackeys that benefit from these divisions, not working people.
“When I encounter a problem, it will be looked at through those eyes. I feel socialism is the best way to express this in the form of government. We’re ‘for the millions not the millionaires’ after all.”
McIlroy and Dare plan to use the election campaign to make their voices on these issues heard by a wider audience and talk to more people about socialism.
McIlroy said: "In the face of US and Western threats to Venezuela and other progressive Latin American countries, we need to step up our international solidarity efforts, to oppose any form of outside intervention — military, economic or political — in their internal affairs.
"The late Hugo Chavez called for socialism of the 21st century. We in Australia should join in the worldwide fight to show that, in fact, another socialist world is possible: a world built not on private greed, but on social justice and ecological sustainability."
Dare said: “I’m offering my voice this election because I don’t feel it is wise to trust Liberals, not after Work Choices, and Labor has had a horrible record recently in terms of human rights in its treatment of refugees.”