Thursday, September 14, 2006

Socialist Alliance election result

The Socialist Alliance in Australia just contested a by-election in Brisbane, and received a very creditable 2.03% in the polls. You can read the official vote declaration here.

The electoral terrain in Australia is more unfavourable for the left than in much of Britain, due to compulsory voting which favours mainstream parties, and due to the very established electoral presence of the Green party.

This is a very good result, and one that the SA can build upon. The following is a thank you letter from Sam's campaign.

Dear friends,
A huge "Thank you" to everyone who supported or helped in the Socialist Alliance campaign for Sam Watson to take on Peter Beattie in Brisbane.
Our whirlwind 18-day campaign - without corporate backing, TV ads, mainstream media coverage, nor spin-doctored politics - saw a tremendous group of Socialist Alliance members, supporters and friends come together to put forward real alternatives to the horrific social problems that face people in Brisbane, across Queensland, and indeed globally.
Sam scored 1.95% of the vote, with more than 400 people casting a conscious vote for socialism, for changing the system. But the real successes were what we achieved on the ground, raising issues that the other parties ignore - from Aboriginal stolen wages to Black deaths in custody to homelessness and the prioritisation of corporate handouts over public health.
Election day saw over 60 SA members and supporters talking to people at almost every Brisbane booth. While all the other parties hid from political discussion, SA members proudly stood on our principles of justice and solidarity, anti-racism and socialism. Many people commented they loved our slogan "For the millions, not the millionaires". SA supporters challenged Beattie at every booth he turned up to, asking him why the Stolen wages were not being returned to Aboriginal people in full? Why he wasn't bringing racist cops to justice?
Many people who voted were impressed that, unlike the other parties, we have alternative media with Green Left Weekly, that SA is active all year round, and that we speak to people after they vote as well! Many people bought GLWs, badges, signed petitions, took leaflets for our film nights and left their name to be contacted.
The election night party reflected what Socialist Alliance is all about - incredibly diverse peoples coming together for a better future, which puts humanity and our environment ahead of profit. We heard from political punk rapper Scart, and some didgeridoo from Adrian, and the 50 people roared their support for our candidate Sam, declaring that while we may not be in George Street, the powers that be can expect to find us in every other street!
Over the 18 days, SA members and friends have letterboxed 15,000 leaflets highlighting real solutions to the problems the majority of people face; helped lead a rally against black deaths in custody and police violence; put out media calling for Cuban doctors to be sent in to Queensland to help address the health crisis; and done numerous campaign stalls across the area.
While the corporate parties receive millions from companies, SA had to rely on members and supporters - fantastically over $1000 was donated in such a short time to allow the campaign to go ahead.
Most important of all, today we have many new members of Socialist Alliance, many more friends and supporters, and so the forces for social change have been strengthened.
The SA campaign in Brisbane reverberated around the country and even beyond. We received support statements from many activists, from progressive unionists in WA and Victoria, and even radicals from New Zealand, Malaysia and Norway that were inspired by our campaign.
As Sam said to cheers at the election party, "only Socialist Alliance raises the issues of the oppressed majority, the homeless, the youth, Aboriginal people. We should be proud of what we've done, what we stand for."
Well done and thanks everyone for your efforts. Now the struggle continues - toward the federal election, and in the day-to-day struggle against every injustice that exists in this society.
Viva Socialist Alliance!
in solidarity,
Sam Watson

Paul Benedek
Brisbane Socialist Alliance


Renegade Eye said...

Good use of electoral politics.

Peter Boyle said...

Here in the Australian Socialist Aliance we are discussing whether it is worth it for for us to field candidates in elections at this time when the Greens are taking most of the left-of-Labor vote. But the modest and mostly non-electoral results of the Sam Watson Socialist Alliance campaign suggests that it may be worthwhile, provided it is the sort of campaign that reaches out and builds on non-electoral campaign alliances in the way that campaign did. The statements of support that came in for Sam were inspiring and interesting. They supported not just Sam for his outstanding activism and leadership but also the Socialist Alliance - see here.

With the Victorian elections coming up soon, the challenge is for the Sociaist Alliance candidates in that state to show what hey can do with the example set by Sam's campaign. Their publicity will be up on the Socialist Alliance website shortly.

Dave Riley said...

Interesting campaign it was --and heres' a follow up in regard to the 'debate"(please excuse the long post but Paul's comments capture some of the context and dynamic of the campaign). You'll note that some of te polemic that Paul is reflecting on parallels some of the abuse that has been levelled at the SSP.

In an odd way, I feel closer to the SSP today than before because this election was so instructive as we have been freed from the harping drag of the affiliates (such as the ISO -- the SWP franchise here) who were determined to take the SA down the electoralist mould -- a la Respect. This wasn't a Respect type campaign but very much a networking and, in its way, empowerment exercise.

As a note, the SA will join anyone up regardless of their continuing affiliation and my branch in Brisbane boasts both ALP and Greens members. Both the ALP and Qld Greens carry proscriptions clauses in their regulations against dual membership with 'competing' parties.

dave riley

Re: [GreenLeft_discussion] Re: TORIES THUMPED IN QLD

Very briefly on the strange contributions to this list by the ever-ALP faithful Bob Gould:

1. "Triumphalism about Sam Watson vote". No GLW article nor anyone else is triumphant about the SA/Sam vote - it was nothing remarkable, as we expected all along. It indeed shows that the Greens basically monopolise
the vote to the Left of the ALP. But what was tremendous ('triumphant'?) was the nature of the SA and Sam CAMPAIGN - a gutsy, working class campaign that stood proudly on the side of the oppressed, and gained the attention, imagination and support of many activists. So yes, we can count 430 votes or whatever, but as socialists trying to build up active involvement in changing the system, more important to me is the grassroots results which can be contrasted to the Gould school of ALP apologism:
* The brand new people who have joined Socialist Alliance on the strength of the campaign, and scores of contacts staying in touch with SA events - contrast with the ALP who can trumpet an election win, but have NO LEFT remaining, NO ACTIVISTS remaining, according to bitter ALPer (ex?) Jim Fouras at a recent Just Peace meeting
* The very strong links SA has made with the Murri community, including those who set up the Black Panther party in Australia. Compare to the Beattie's DISGUSTING scrapping of Indigenous affairs ministry days after
the election, while giving MPs a pay rise. Watson will lead a demo tomorrow on this issue, and has been all over the media condemning this move which he says puts Beattie on the path of moving further right than Bjelke Petersen.
* The daily raising of issues of the oppressed - workers, students, homeless, Indigenous. Compare this to an ALP that shadows the Coalition in slavish big business politics.

2. Sectarianism to the Greens? Apparently SA has been sectarian for simply pointing out that, while the Greens got a good vote (which is commendable and a good sign for the Left) they have very little focus on involving their supporters in struggle beyond the election. And for socialists, that's the key thing, right - building up peoples power? Indeed, we had dual members of the Greens/SA AND of the ALP/SA who were all very enthusiastic about the campaign, and were clear that it was Sam and SA's campaign that really reflected their wishes and concerns.
Indeed, just got this email from Greens member and CANDIDATE for a Sunshine Coast seat (Dave Norris, excellent Greens activist who is a socialist):

Just found your email . Sorry i didn't reply . Got stuck in the election mud.
Thank you for keeping me informed about your upcoming events . Am forwarding them on. Wish i could have been there to help with Sams campaign. I am in ore of the strength of purpose and no shit straight to the heart of the issue presentation that you and Brisbane Activists have. Greatest respect hope to see you again soon ......Dave

Well, Dave, a Greens candidate, can support and congratulate us, but our firey commie in the ALP, Bob G, can't give anything but bile!

And Bob names myself and suggests i must have been "giving curry" to all the ALP booth workers - well actually it differed. I sold a GLW to one who basically told me the ALP were hardly different to the Libs, but he just couldn't quite pull himself free. Another couple took Inconvenient Truth leaflets and Michael Franti film leaflets expressing some interest. The others actually were really, really, really tame, basically hid inder a tree. But mostly i was more interested in speaking to those who were happy to see an organisation who
doesn't merely want your vote then forget you for 3 years.

3. Gould urges GLW article should have "celebrated the defeat of the Liberals"....sorry Bob, but (a) it was crystal clear the ALP were going to win, but more importantly (b) it was clearly the victory of one pro-corporate party
over another. The party that was backed to the hilt by Murdoch's Courier Mail. Everyone but you can see it Bob! In days since the election we have Beattie's parliamentary rises and perks and axing of indigenous affairs ministry - yet GLW should announce the celebration of this working class victory? Please.

4. Just before i rush off - Gould attacks the call for Cuban doctors as r"reactionary nonsense" since we are asking for doctors to come from the 3rd world to the first world. Well Bob, tell that to Sam Watson next time he's on
his way to Palm Island? Tell him when he goes to the 95% unemployed island (which Beattie happily presides over and ignores except to send in swat teams if the population rises up), when he speaks to his mob who are suffering conditions which the UN and others describe as worse than 3rd world. Argue with Sam that he shouldn't put out a call that condemns the Beattie's government prioritisation of budget surpluses over health care....or is that the problem Bob? Are you so committed to defending the ALP and Beattie that you attack the call to address
Beattie's failures, rather than Beattie's failures themselves?

Bob, if constant apologies for a party that shows itself day in and day out to be pro-big business, racist, environmentally destructive and the like is your bag, so be it. But i certainly am proud to have stood with Sam and the hundred SA members who helped in some way to bring a bit of colour to the otherwise cardboard election - and i look forward to protesting tomorrow against Beattie's latest disgusting manouvere.


PS: Bob ridicules the donations that SA members gave, "only $20 each" - sure but Bob, you've got to remember we don't get the bankers, CEOs and so on like your party. In fact, one very moving donation was a homeless man Allan Chan (about 70 years old) who handed over $35, saying he was proud to support SA and Sam. That may not stack up against the donations of the corporate media or the big banks - but i know which one i'm more happy accepting.

AN said...

Thanks Peter and Dave for expanding on this.

Last year i stood in the general election here in Swindon South, and in all honesty the vote was poor, around 0.6%.

But I have to say that as a consequence of our camaign our influence in the town has grown, and we have a much more serious relationship with a number of activists in the unions, the various campaigns, and with Labour party councillors (well some of them)

So votes realy aren't everything - even in elections! and what is more, for those outside of the political hothouse, people don't realy take much interest in the votes cast, but they do remember the campaign.

It sounds like Sam did really well. Congratulations

Derek Wall said...

Must admit I would love it if the green party of England and Wales received 19%, any chance of Socialist alliance/Australian Green Party working together!

Dave Riley said...

Well we try...but that's a challenge. The main project is to work with The Greens in campaign work by trying to get them to be active OUTSIDE election time. This is a problem for them in that they only come alive really at poll time. We call for a first preference vote for the Greens and if they are standing in the same seat as we, we give them #2. In this election their How To Vote was (1) Greens (2) Sam Watson and no other preferences allocated. That was unusual but Sam's indigenous identity may have a little to do with that as they would not have done that if another SA member was standing..But while we are so far below the returns the Greens are registering they aren't going to be very interested in joint work at elections so often -- but the initiatives are there, the platforms and such. We make overtures.

But since the Greens were set up with a proscription clause primarily aimed at organised socialists (even though it was socialists who were so actively engaged in establishing some of the formations that later became the Greens -- it did come down to who could grab the patent on the colour). The Greens also vary state to state with the NSW Greens being the most radical and the most successful electorally.

The history of the Greens here is very interesting because their break through goes back to the time of the Nuclear Disarmament Party in 1984 .

But let's say that our commitment is to work with the Greens as much as possible...but while the Greens are on a major election groundswell our ambitions electorally are going to be thwarted by that dynamic. So I think we are now beginning to register a very different sort of election campaign and the Watson one was a instructive exercise in doing it more as a networking exercise rather than an by-the-number propaganda type thing.

Also one difference here compared to the Brit Greens is that there is no organised left current in the Greens like your greenlefts(?) -- a development we found interesting in Australia.

Peter Boyle said...

Another thing we have done in Socialist Alliance election campaigns is to organise joint street actions with more progressive Greens candidates, approach them with joint appeals such as this one in the last NSW elections. This was a call on the incumbent Labor state government to use its powers to build the mass campaign against the Liberal-National federal government.