As I marched through Sydney streets on February 17, along with activists from 30 community groups and trade unions opposed to the blatant privatisation scams that pass for NSW transport infrastructure, I am sure I was not the only one in the crowd reflecting on the ridiculous contradiction between what is possible for our society and what is forced on us from above.
This was yet another clear case of government working in the narrow and selfish interests of a small corporate elite. Similar examples of community resistance to corporate greed can be found all around the country.
In the course of organising community resistance against these monstrous scams, all of the community groups had become aware not only of how bad they were for the community and the environment, but also that there are feasible alternatives with public transport and community-centred planning at the centre.
In most cases these alternatives are cheaper than the private road tollway-centred projects that are being forced on our communities. They would also create jobs, but those jobs would make this a better and more sustainable society.
Yet, despite thousands of submissions detailing these alternatives and citing mountains of expert evidence, the government seems determined to force through its plans.
This frustrating situation defines the age we live in. We are part of a society pregnant with new and exciting possibilities blocked because the narrow and selfish interests of a small but wealthy elite prevails.
The situation begs for a movement to take power back into the hands of the majority. You can brand that movement by another name if you like but in substance such a movement would be a movement for socialism
However, if (as study after study confirms) wealth and power are becoming ever more concentrated in the hands of the few, isn’t any movement to take power back for the majority doomed to defeat?
There are two sides to this. As wealth is concentrated in fewer hands, there are many more of us (the exploited) and fewer of them (the exploiters). They may think they have invincible power because they can afford to buy anything and anyone, but the flip side is that the super rich are totally dependent on "the 99%” to do things for them.
Compliant governments can pass law after law stacking things even more in favour of the rich but, in the final instance, even the power of the capitalist state rests on armed forces recruited from the working classes.
The power of the super rich is more precarious than it looks.
As long as everyone is following orders, the super rich remain in control. So far, that remains the case and the rich get richer and, drunk on hubris, demand more.
But how much more is too much for the majority to wear?
How much longer can a system survive where just eight super wealthy people own as much as the poorest half of the world's population combined?
The super rich and their governments are already failing to take the public with them on issue after issue. The recent polls on the federal government’s plans to give more tax cuts to corporations, make this clear. We don't buy “trickle down” and we don't think that big companies, who already dodge tax by the billions, need a tax cut.
Australian governments have not had majority support for any war they have joined for nearly half a century.
There is an ongoing battle for ideas and values and as the rich get richer their ideology and their values become more estranged from most of society.
The ground can shift fast, when entire communities start to organise in a sustained way and convincing alternative courses of action are clearer to see.
It can shift even faster when organised resistance on different fronts begin to unite in common struggle. Quickly, people see not only that there is a better way forward but also that our side has more power than we previously thought we had.
Finally, the confidence of society’s majority that it can emancipate itself and run society democratically and effectively will grow exponentially in the course of organising sustained and united resistance to the blatant government for the rich that we see today.
When that happens, socialism will no longer look like a dream. It will appear simply as the next logical step to take.
[Peter Boyle is a member of the National Executive of the Socialist Alliance.]