The Greens advance — “Greenslide” — in the federal election is a welcome development with a potential to change politics in this country.
Ever since former Greens Senator Bob Brown gave his inaugural parliamentary speech in 1996 (the same day the reactionary Pauline Hanson gave hers) the corporate media has downplayed the policies and role of the Greens as a growing third force.
By contrast, the media pays considerable attention to the small right-wing parties, such as Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Party and the United Australia Party, giving them undeserved credibility.
Even when criticised or ridiculed, the coverage given to their reactionary ideas helps legitimise them as natural alternatives to the two establishment parties.
Given the growing dissatisfaction with neoliberal “solutions” — under Labor and the Coalition — this helps the right.
In the lead-up to May 21, the “teal independents” were given more mainstream attention than the Greens, despite the groundswell of support for the Greens for those with eyes to see.
The Murdoch media accused the Greens — along with the teals — of being a “direct threat to our national security”.
Even on election night, as it became clear that the Greens were fast becoming the biggest ever third party, TV commentators downplayed their results.
The reason is obvious: the Greens have always espoused a progressive opposition to the ruling class’ four decade long neoliberal austerity drive.
They go part way to realising the alternative to Labor that is needed.
Capitalism cannot survive without bases of support within working class movements.
For more than a century Labor — in particular via its influence in the trade union movement — has been a critical in guaranteeing the viability of Australian capitalism.
At important junctures, such as the sacking of the Gough Whitlam government in 1975, the Labor leadership has sought to dampen popular outrage, which had the potential to break the bounds of business-as-usual capitalism.
Labor has also driven neo-liberalism, especially the governments of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, and refused to undo the neoliberal measures brought in by John Howard.
When the left of Labor was strong, in the lead-up to the Whitlam government’s election for instance, it would push for the sort of progressive reforms the Greens are arguing for today.
In the 1980s, sections of the union movement, combined with the left wing of Labor, helped strengthen the grassroots movement against uranium, against the push to eradicate the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and introduce “Star Wars”. The huge Palm Sunday peace marches were a product of this social movement organisation.
People power is the counter-power to big capital.
Building an alternative to Labor’s neoliberal project will require this approach. The Greens’ increased weight in parliament could help mobilise support for urgent climate action and green jobs and infrastructure; real wage rises; rights for minorities and women.
People’s expectations that progressive reforms can be won are high after booting the Coalition out.
We know that forcing Labor to stop supporting fossil fuels will require a mass street-based struggle, but even the Greens’ modest demand to incorporate dental care into Medicare will likely need the same.
Extra-parliamentary action to insist on progressive reforms will be needed on a size and scale not seen for several decades. The Greens are in a good position to assist in building the extra-parliamentary movements for climate, refugees and against war.
Green Left welcomes the Greens’ parliamentary break-through because of the possibilities it promises for social movements. You can help us build them by becoming a supporter and making a donation to our Fighting Fund.