How Australia could put people before profits

The creation of militant, democratic campaigning organisations, determined to win, is crucial.

This is an extract from Towards a socialist Australia, produced by the Socialist Alliance and its affiliate, Resistance. Read the first installment in last week's issue of Green Left, and the full text online on the Socialist Alliance website.

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How will lasting fundamental social change in the interests of the majority come about? There is no precise map or blueprint, but long experience gives us some guides and shows that we will get nothing unless we fight for it.

The capitalist oligarchy — “the 1%” — and its supporters will fight to the end to defend elite privilege and wealth. Our collective experience is that the most effective way to win even limited reforms within the system is by organisation and mass action: strikes, marches and rallies that can make the economic and political costs too high for the rulers not to concede a reform.

Such struggles point to the way fundamental change can come about. Real change requires a revolution, a real victory by the majority in the battle for democracy to open up the replacement of the capitalist system with a democratic socialist system.

This can only be won by breaking the power of the billionaires. Revolution doesn’t mean a violent coup by a minority: a revolution can only come about when the majority of people see the need for radical change, and are actively involved in bringing it about, thereby creating a radically more democratic government, state and social system.

This seems a long way off in Australia at present, but deepening economic, environmental and political crises can create a situation where people are looking for solutions, and are open to revolutionary ideas.

An important step in the struggle for such change might be the winning of an electoral victory within the current system by popular forces. In this case, history has shown, we will have to mobilise in the streets, workplaces, schools, campuses and neighbourhoods to defend any progressive moves made against the power of the corporate rich.

The creation of militant, democratic campaigning organisations, determined to win, is crucial. One of the most important of these is a socialist party — one that seeks to unite all those who want to fight to end capitalism and that strives to win mass support through its involvement in all the day-to-day struggles of the exploited and oppressed.

Through working with unions and all progressive social movements and organisations, helping to fight for and defend immediate gains, participating in elections and discussing and putting forward solutions to the problems we face, such a party can help to build the consciousness and forms of participatory democracy needed to take political and social power away from the 1%, and to start to create a system that serves humanity and the planet.

The problem of bureaucracy

Apologists for capitalism have long devoted enormous efforts to arguing against socialism. They argue that it is a completely utopian exercise that flies in the face of human nature. They say that it will never work or that it will always lead to bureaucratic dictatorship.

It is true that some revolutionary governments have degenerated into bureaucratic regimes, leading eventually to the restoration of capitalism. This highlights the centrality of the struggle for democracy as a part of the struggle to build a new society.

But it is also necessary to understand the objective conditions that contributed to such degenerations. Most revolutions in the 20th century took place in poor countries devastated by war. They faced constant attacks from the imperialist powers that used war, terrorism and economic sabotage to undermine them.

This created shortage and desperation that drove many working people out of public life and allowed an increasingly unaccountable bureaucracy to usurp power and accumulate private wealth and privilege.

If these countries had not suffered blockades, war and intervention at the hands of richer countries, things may have turned out completely differently. Thus, socialist revolutions in rich countries are important, not only for their own people but also for those of the poorer countries.

Towards socialism

If we can overcome capitalism — if the economy is socially owned and controlled and we have a system of popular power — then we have a framework for dealing with the ecological and social problems that we face.

The most urgent order of business of a real people’s government would be an emergency program of action to tackle climate change, including the consequences of decades of inaction, and to build a sustainable economy.

A people’s government would sign a treaty with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, recognising and compensating for their original dispossession and supporting their self-determination. A people’s government would move rapidly to overcome disadvantage at all levels and in all sectors of society.

The guiding principle of a post-capitalist society would be the welfare of all people and a stable environment. No one would be abandoned to their fate, as is the case under capitalism.

Increasingly more basic goods and services could be provided without charge (such as healthcare, education, transport, welfare). These rights belong to every human being.

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