For Margarita Windisch, an anti-war leader and one of the organisers of the G20 protests in Melbourne, the "Hey, vote for us! We'll sort it all out!" attitude of the two major parties is not only condescending, it is increasingly falling on deaf ears. This is because the major parties have not, and cannot, "sort it" to meet people's needs, she said.
Windisch, who is standing for the Socialist Alliance in the November 25 Victorian state election, thinks people are sick of being patronised. "We don't agree that voting is enough", she said. "We're saying that people have to get involved in forcing changes in our working and personal lives. It's through that process — more people getting involved and being a part of collective action — that change will come about."
The alliance doesn't distinguish between the ongoing political campaigns it is involved in and election activity. "Elections provide a platform for us to profile the issues and campaigns that our members are involved in every day."
Because the alliance seeks to change society, relying on elections isn't enough. However, as Windisch said, "it is part of the process of identifying the key issues of the day, and helping people become active in those political movements to the point where they can have a real impact on governments".
Support for the Socialist Alliance's Victorian election campaign has come from local Middle East, Arab and Muslim communities because "they have seen us campaigning week in week out, not just around election time", Windisch said. The Alliance is no fair-weather friend: "We've been working with these communities, and not just when the shit hits the fan and there's an invasion of their home country", Windisch added. "We're conscious that the vilification of Muslims by state and federal governments means that solidarity and united campaigning are essential. For us, it's the 'touch one, touch all' principle."
The Socialist Alliance is also being supported by a number of unionists. "We have always fought for workers' right to organise in their workplaces and to be in a union." Unionists on recent picket lines have been making donations and signing up to the Alliance, and some will also help out on polling day.
"It's the on-the-ground work — being with people in struggle — that makes the alliance different", Windisch said. "We're working against the neoliberal program that both Labor and the Liberals are putting forward."
On polling day, the Socialist Alliance will be building public support for the November 30 rallies on the ACTU-called national day of action against Work Choices. "This is a chance to send a very clear message to Howard that these laws are not acceptable. But it's also a chance to tell Labor that we will not stop campaigning until these unjust laws are dumped, along with the others that Labor has yet to commit to dumping, such as sections 45D and E of the Trades Practices Act, which outlaw solidarity actions."
Windisch, who has also been involved in organising the G20 protests in Melbourne, promised that after the election the alliance will not hibernate. "We'll be continuing to campaign hard with all those wanting to force some changes now."
"Given the current climate change debate, there's an opportunity right now", Windisch said, "to raise the question of socialism as an alternative to this rotten capitalist system. Ultimately, only a people- and environment-centred social and economic system — call it whatever — has the capacity to fix the devastating global problems being caused by an outdated and irrational system."