DSP calls for socialist electoral alliance

January 31, 2001


The Democratic Socialist Party has written to other left parties and prominent left activists to initiate discussions around fielding common "Socialist Alliance" candidates in the coming federal elections.

The DSP is seeking discussions with other parties at the national and local level but will also be approaching left activists in the trade union and other social movements who are not in parties.

The DSP has been studying the process of left electoral alliances in other countries, in particular the British and Scottish left's experiences with socialist electoral alliances. The most interesting feature of those experiences is that most of the active groups, in a notoriously fractious left, supported those electoral alliances.

In Australia, the left is not nearly as divided. However, until recently, many of the other active left parties here, in particular the International Socialist Organisation, have been opposed to running in parliamentary elections. Now it appears that the ISO is making a major change in its approach to elections and may be prepared to participate in a socialist electoral alliance. This would be a welcome development.

In a document prepared for its January 27-28 national conference the ISO national committee now recognises that the gap between the ALP leadership and its traditional supporters is widening as that party shifts further and further right. And, instead of taking on the Liberals, Labor is backing the Howard Liberal-National Coalition government's subsidies to private schools and private health. Labor also accepts the GST, the racist treatment of refugees, military expansion and the attacks on welfare, public health and education.

Even Labor's headline "reform" for the coming federal election, the "Knowledge Nation", incorporates the seeds of further erosion of the public education system by further replacing face to face teaching at universities with "online" education.

Like the DSP, the ISO leadership now also recognises that the rise of anti-corporate movement, expressed so dramatically at S11, is creating the widest audience for left-of-Labor politics for more than two decades. In addition, after S11 the organised left has grown not just in numbers but also in confidence and in its political influence.

The DSP, ISO and most of the other socialist groups in this country are not parliamentarist, that is we do not believe that fundamental social change will be brought about simply by electing socialist candidates to parliament. The state and federal parliaments are thoroughly and institutionally corrupted and controlled by the corporate rich. These institutions, we agree, provide a "democratic" facade for the real rulers — the super-rich families that own the corporations and banks. Our main emphasis is in building a progressive extra-parliamentary mass movement that can create new democratic institutions that are independent of the capitalist ruling class.

After S11, there has been a lot of debate in the left about how best to advance the progressive extra-parliamentary movement and around the M1 project of anti-corporate tyranny strike and mass blockades on May 1, much of the active left is coming to a consensus and beginning to work together. The attendance of nearly 90 people at the M1 Sydney organising meeting on January 25 augurs well for that project.

A united socialist federal election campaign would complement a successful May 1 mobilisation.

Of course, socialist electoral alliances would not necessarily have to hinge on the participation of the ISO. But it is clear that, today, any socialist electoral alliance that does not involve either of the two largest and most active socialist parties in Australia — the DSP and ISO — will not have much credibility among the growing radical layer of the population. This has been the experience in union elections such as in the Community and Public Sector Union where the DSP and the ISO have joined with other militant unionists in a campaign against the conservative Caird leadership.

There should be no serious difficulties in coming to some agreed platform opposing the bipartisan agenda of racism (mandatory sentencing, attacks on native title, detention and deportation of refugees), welfare cuts, attacks on workers' rights and privatisation of public assets. There also should be no serious obstacles to working out acceptable methods for deciding on platform, candidates and practical campaign details.

During the last Victorian election, the left parties agreed not to run against each other and received some significant votes. Another modest alliance between the DSP and the Socialist Party (formerly Militant) is in place for the Western Australian election campaign now underway.

DSP candidates and activists will be campaigning actively for socialist alliances over the next few weeks. Our state election campaigns in Western Australia and Queensland will also take up this call. All progress in the discussions around the alliances will be reported on in Green Left Weekly.

Contact the DSP at <dsp@dsp.org.au> or visit <http://www.dsp.org.au>.

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