Last year we wondered where the Australian Bernie Sanders would come from. Now we're asking, who will be our Jeremy Corbyn? Could it be Anthony Albanese? Nah, too right wing. What about Scott Ludlum or Sally McManus?
Posing it this way gets the question the wrong way around. The circumstances produce the leaders that answer the call.
In both the US and Britain recession and austerity inflicted pain on working people to a degree not yet felt by most Australians, although it's surely on the way.
These countries have also seen serious pockets of sustained rebellion against the neoliberal order emerge. Sanders and Corbyn didn't come down with the last shower. They say what they've been saying for decades. The difference is they now have a much larger audience.
Of course we're not wrong to get excited about the Corbyn surge. We don't just share language and culture with Britain and the US. There's a high degree of mutual foreign direct investment by capitalists across the English-speaking industrialised countries, and the governments that serve them have been at the leading edge of austerity, privatisation, attacks on workers’ rights, blocking action on climate change and global war. We share that too.
Edward Snowden revealed how our three governments, along with Canada and New Zealand, intentionally spy on one another's citizens and share the collected information to circumvent domestic regulations. They describe this alliance as the "Five Eyes". The Five Arseholes would better describe their role in world affairs.
So, of course we're right to get excited when we see mass rebellion and an alternative vision for the future based on human solidarity emerge in the very belly of the beast. It gives us hope that the same can happen here, especially as we can identify with so many of the political and cultural references. It's so moving when we can hear and understand the grassroots participants in their own words. We need to share and learn from these processes.
But there is not much to be gained from speculating too much on who will or won't be our Corbyn, or where they will or won't come from. We just don't know. Equally, we can't sit back and wait for crisis to come to our shores in the hope that it will bring with it our Corbyn riding in on a white horse to save us. She will more likely arrive by bicycle, or is sitting next to you on public transport already.
The various small pockets of rebellion and resistance across Australia are what we need to build on and connect right now. It's from these that new fronts of struggle and new leaders in their thousands will emerge when crisis does come to Australia. The stronger these struggles are now, the more likely it is that a serious challenge to the system will consolidate when that time comes.
It's also vital for squeezing out the far-right populist response that will also emerge, the early signs of which we already see in this country. We're lucky Pauline Hanson is such a dill and that the various far-right groups keep falling out with each other. With a bit more discipline and strategic nous they'd be streets ahead of us already. We haven't a moment to lose.
Our version of the Corbyn surge will bring together the best of everyone and the best in everyone. It will unite Greens who understand that capitalism is the source of the problem, socialists who realise that there is no one perfect blueprint, unionists who reject refugee bashing, Labor people who are fed up with neoliberalism and community activists with experience in locking-on. Most of all it will draw in activists and leaders we haven't even met yet. Let's give them the best start we can.
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