Socialist Alliance (SA) believes that both the official Yes and official No campaigns for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament referendum are based on conservative agendas. Its new resolution was agreed by the SA National Council on September 10.
“We are advocating that people vote Yes in the referendum,” Socialist Alliance national co-convenor Sam Wainwright told Green Left. However, he said it is a “critical Yes”.
Voting Yes is the “best of a bad choice”.
Socialist Alliance is critical of both the content of the proposed Voice and the limited nature of the Yes campaign.
Its resolution says the Yes case does not even faithfully advance calls made in the Statement from the Heart.
These include “substantive constitutional change” to recognise First Nations peoples’ “sovereignty that has never been ceded or extinguished” and the setting up of a First Nations Voice, enshrined in the Constitution, to “empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country”.
Despite this, Wainwright said people need to decide which outcome will put the country in the best position to fight for First Nations’ rights.
“Real, substantial change is going to require a strengthening of the grassroots movements for land rights, for the Royal Commission into Black Deaths in Custody findings to be implemented and for the Bringing Them Home report recommendations” among other things.
Wainwright believes that the “demoralisation of progressive opinion” that would flow from a No victory in the referendum outweighs the problems and limitations of the Voice.
Beyond the referendum, Wainwright said Socialist Alliance will be continuing to support and amplify the voices and demands of First Nations activists, regardless of their position on the Voice.
The resolution states: “The level of grassroots struggle that happens now, and after the referendum, will determine if First Nations peoples’ quest for justice can overcome either constraint by a bureaucratic Voice or demoralisation by a majority No vote”.
SA remains committed to solidarity with that struggle, Wainwright said.
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Both the official Yes and official No campaigns for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Voice to Parliament referendum are based on conservative agendas.
The official Yes case does not even faithfully advance the Statement from the Heart’s calls for “substantive constitutional change” in order to recognise First Nations peoples’ “sovereignty that has never been ceded or extinguished”, and the establishment of a First Nations Voice enshrined in the Constitution to “empower our people and take a rightful place in our own country”.
However the No campaign is being used by the right to inflame racist opinion. A victory for the No campaign is likely to reinforce this dynamic and may demoralise progressive opinion. Polls suggest that younger voters are the biggest group supporting a Yes vote. They are also the majority of those who attended the Black Lives Matters marches and who take to the streets on Invasion Day. We should march alongside them while continuing to patiently advocate for more substantial change and explaining the struggle that it will take to achieve it.
Consequently, Socialist Alliance recommends a critical Yes vote.
Socialist Alliance recognises the concerns of many militant First Nations activists that the Voice will be another powerless advisory body which may actually block change, and that the referendum partly serves as a distraction to absolve the government of its continued crimes against First Nations peoples. The level of grass-roots struggle that happens now and after the referendum will determine if First Nations people’s quest for justice can overcome either constraint by a bureaucratic Voice or demoralisation by a majority No vote.
Socialist Alliance commits to solidarity with that struggle. It will continue to give voice to First Nations militant activists’ demands for real changes to advance First Nations justice and sovereignty, regardless of their position on the Voice.
[Adopted by the SA National Council on September 10.]