Democratic Socialists: 'building a people's movement for change'


By Bill Mason BRISBANE — "There is no way to achieve social justice and ecological sustainability except through a vast switch in economic priorities. Only the Democratic Socialists are campaigning on a comprehensive platform which links up the key issues, and poses an alternative to the big business system", Coral Wynter, Democratic Socialist candidate for Griffith, said on February 17. Wynter, together with Zanny Begg, the socialist candidate for the seat of Brisbane in the March 2 elections, were addressing the Democratic Socialist campaign launch at the Resistance Centre. Begg condemned the right-wing policies of both Labor and the Liberals, and called for the development of a genuine alternative to the two-party system. The candidates outlined policies on fighting unemployment, protecting the environment, defending women's rights, justice for Aborigines and freedom for the people of East Timor. Wynter, 50 years old, is a long-time campaigner for the environment, workers' rights and the Latin American solidarity movement. Begg, 23, is the Brisbane organiser of Resistance, and a leader of last year's anti-woodchipping and anti-French nuclear testing struggles. The candidates were supported at the launch by music from Mark Cronin and Phil Monsour. For more information on the Democratic Socialist campaign, phone 3254 0565. From Sydney, Nick Fredman reports that more than 80 people packed the Resistance Centre to help launch the Democratic Socialist election campaign on February 18. Karen Fletcher, running for the seat of Sydney, outlined the Democratic Socialist's election platform — a real alternative to the parties of big business. Lowe candidate Max Lane stressed the need to build a socialist alternative to unite all progressive struggles, and spoke of how the interests of the oppressed majority can only be served by a new type of political power based on workers and community control. A lively discussion followed, taking up such issues as the need for socialists to work with all progressive groups and activists in elections and other campaigns, how electoral work is part of the Democratic Socialists' revolutionary strategy, and why other socialist groups had decided to support the Greens or the ALP instead of a socialist campaign. Singer Peter Hicks rounded off the evening with a rousing set of songs of struggle and solidarity. To help the Democratic Socialists' campaign call 690 1977. Thirty people attended the public launch of the Democratic Socialist campaign for the seat of Newcastle on February 22. The candidate, Kamala Emanuel, and community activists John dos Santos and Joan Webster spoke at the launch. Santos, an East Timorese activist, spoke about the complicity of Australian governments (both Labor and Liberal) in genocide. Webster, a long-time feminist activist, also endorsed Emanuel's campaign pointing out that small groups can often play an important role in social change. She said that any successful campaign for social change had to have far-reaching ambitions. She argued against the notion that the only effective road to social change is to ask for small improvements. Emanuel explained that the Democratic Socialists "are not prepared to limit our demands to what the status quo says is possible". "A Democratic Socialist in parliament will show up the inadequacies of the parliamentary system, and at the same time act as a voice for, and contribute resources to, the democratic self-organisation of communities struggling for change." The evening ended with a number of working class songs of struggle performed by Alex Bainbridge. Andrew Hall reports from Wollongong that Dr Margaret Perrott, the Democratic Socialist candidate for the seat of Cunningham called on people to "show opposition to the Liberal/Labor no-choice agenda and support an activist alternative" at the launch on February 18. A long-time peace activist, who played a leading role in the anti-nuclear testing campaign last year and is currently active in the International Women's Day committee, Perrott is campaigning around the slogan "People before Profit" "Despite all their promises, the fact remains that both Howard and Keating are committed to maintaining a system that puts corporate profits before people and the environment", she said. "We need to build a people's movement for change. If elected I will continue to build grass-roots movements and not just be their representative in parliament." Perrott also pledged that, if elected, she would donate her parliamentary resources and salary to the movements. The Democratic Socialists can be contacted on 262 010. The Democratic Socialists launched their campaign for the Northern Territory at the Resistance Centre in Darwin on February 22. John Barry reports that political activists from the anti-uranium movement, supporters of East Timor's independence and women's movement activists attended to give support to Bernie Brian. Brian is a long-time activist in the union, anti-uranium and East Timor solidarity movements and is a post graduate student in labour history at the NT University. He told Green Left Weekly that the campaign had been a "tremendous success" in the way that it has "raised the profile of the Democratic Socialists and introduced many more people to socialist politics. "Our campaign is historic because it's the first time that a socialist has run in the NT for well over a decade. We have received considerable media attention for an extremely low budget campaign. Apart from raising our opposition to uranium mining and our support for East Timor and free education, we are the only candidates to publicly support the right of unions to function freely in the Territory." This right was recently challenged when Chief Minister Shane Stone attacked the building industry unions. Brian said that the Democratic Socialists and the Greens, which had run a high profile campaign, have been able to cement "a good working relationship". "We released a joint press statement against the jailing of Albert Langer and we are exchanging preferences. To my knowledge this is the first time the Greens have given a socialist their preferences and it bodes well for future collaboration.