Let's get practical: build the movements against racism and corporate greed

July 14, 2016
Ken Canning with Peter Boyle.

This election was very tight. I don't think any party can claim a mandate. Malcolm Turnbull barely fell over the line. There is no mandate in that.

Turnbull claims to have a mandate — to not tax the rich and keep giving it to Blackfellas. That is his mandate, and it would be the same if Labor had won.

Another disappointing factor is that in the lead-up to the election, and in the post mortem, we have heard nothing about First Nations people. We are still dying in great numbers and they are arguing about who got the most votes in what seat.

I was very proud of the campaign the Socialist Alliance ran. I went to a NAIDOC event the day after the election and First Nations poet, actor, jazz musician and activist Marlene Cummins asked everyone to give me a round of applause. She said the Socialist Alliance was the only party talking about fighting against racism and corporate greed. Nobody else mentioned that.

Even the Greens refused to take up the battle against racism. The federal Greens are doing nothing to stop the tide of legislation against First Nations peoples. It seems that this country has blinkers on when it comes to racism.

The Senate looks like it will be made up of lots of right-wing parties. Unfortunately, people have been frightened off from left-wing politics by the extreme right which has governed this country for decades.

People used to say former Prime Minister Bob Hawke was the saviour of the Labor Party. Hawke was as right-wing as former Liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser. There is really no difference. We have had the ultra right for some time.

When you run an election campaign, your candidates need to be visiting communities, going around the country. Socialist Alliance did not have enough money to cover our printing, let alone to get me around the state.

But we got votes in every seat in New South Wales and, at the time of writing, it looks like we may get close to 5000 votes in NSW — the largest vote we have ever had, apart from 2010 when Socialist Alliance was number one on the Senate ticket and benefitted from the donkey vote.

Look at Pauline Hanson and Derryn Hinch: they had bucket loads of money coming through the back door from the ultra right and business concerns.

Hanson was once charged with electoral fraud and found guilty. Later on, it was overturned. But the alarm bells should be going off. The same woman said publicly: “I will represent every sector of my electorate except Aboriginal people”. Hinch has made statements about David Gundy not being an innocent man to excuse the NSW police for executing him in his bed in Marrickville in 1989.

People like this are creeping into the parliament through more generalised dissatisfaction. It is what I call the “lunatic element”. Jacqui Lambie is going to look very sane beside these two.

These two will not know how to contain themselves. It might shake people up and say, “Look what we've let loose!”. Within the first six months they will probably destroy the Senate — and there might be a reason for a new election.

Our vote was respectable considering our lack of funds, no mass media — with the exception of Koori Radio — and the disunity among the left.

That disunity was very disappointing. Politically, it was an act of insanity. I was told by the socialists supporting the Greens, “We were appealing to the grassroots Greens”. Well, sorry, they are not the ones getting elected. They are not Richard di Natalie, who is a very conservative politician.

I have never declared that I am a socialist. I have just been one. I think that declaring you are a socialist is an academic exercise. We have to be practical.

We have to move away from theoretical socialism into practical socialism. We all know that there is big difference between the two.

As a practical socialist, every day you open your mouth you are waving the red flag. When you talk to your neighbour — by the very nature of your politics — you are waving the red flag. That, to me, is the critical difference between theoretical and practical socialism.

I'll stick with the Socialist Alliance, who do the hard yards and not just the hard talking. We need to build on what we did. Given what we ran for and how little we had, we now can build a people's movement against racism and corporate greed. These are the stepping stones to building for the future.

[Ken Canning was the lead NSW Senate candidate for Socialist Alliance.]

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