11761Re: SA-VIC: SA election results smash records!
- Dec 15, 2004By Bob Gould
Further to Nigel Irritable's measured and careful discussion of the
local government election results in Victoria, it might be useful to
add some elements.
Firstly, whether socialists decide to run independently in elections
is a tactical question to be decided by the socialists concerned. In
my view it's lunacy to counterpose such electoral exercises to the
work of socialists who decide that their tactical orientation is to
work in the Labor Party or the Greens.
It's even worse to delude yourself that engaging in a fairly
straightforward electoral exercise solves the central strategic
problems facing socialists -- whether you're relatively successful as
the Socialist Party and the ISO have been in Victoria, or relatively
unsuccessful as the DSP/Socialist Alliance has been everywhere in
The particular strategic problem facing socialists is clearly the
hegemony of the Labor Party over the organised working class and the
demonstrated viability of the Greens as a small mass electoral
formation to the left of Labor, based largely in the new social layers.
It's pretty clear that when they engage in their independent electoral
activity the Socialist Party and the ISO do so quite seriously, in the
way that Nigel Irritable describes.
The DSP tends not to do it in that way because of its preoccupation
with the internal life of its own apparatus, which absorbs the
energies of that organisation almost totally.
Several conjunctural factors obviously have a bearing on the Victorian
local elections. Firstly, the Labor Party in Victoria has a more
limited tradition of participation in local elections than it does in
NSW and Queensland, for instance.
Secondly, and this is an area where people who know more than me might
enlighten me. It's my impression that when the reactionary Liberal
government of Jeff Kennett enforced wholesale amalgamations of local
councils in Victoria a few years ago, it introduced
first-past-the-post voting everywhere. It appears that a number of
mainly Labor and Green municipalities have reintroduced proportional
representation, which is a progressive step. I'd be interested to know
when that happened.
An even more progressive step would be to increase the number of
councillors from three to four per ward, thus lowering the quota to 20
per cent. Maybe Steve Jolly could consider such a proposal for the
In the federal elections, the Socialist Party chose not to run,
implicitly recognising the great polarisation in Australian society
between the Labor-Green and the Tory sides of politics in those elections.
The ISO, which did run in the federal elections as part of the
Socialist Alliance, avoided to a large extent the extravagant
anti-Labor rhetoric of the DSP, but the DSP rhetoric tended to
dominate the Socialist Alliance campaign, for which the SA paid the
inevitable penalty of a vote so small as to be off the electoral radar.
It seems to me that better electoral result for the Socialist Party
and the ISO candidates of the Socialist Alliance in the Victorian
local elections is directly due to the less sectarian and more
sensible tone of the ISO and the Socialist Party, both to the broader
Labor movement and to the Greens.
On the face of it, Steve Jolly's statements before and after his
election seem quite reasonable. He counterposed himself as a socialist
both to the Labor Party and the Greens, but he also made an appeal to
the better traditions of the Labor Party and to the ranks of the
Greens for better collaboration around progressive policies. All of
that seems to me entirely reasonable.
He delivered his vote for mayor to the Labor candidate and explained
why. As he only had half a quota, it's quite clear that Steve Jolly
was elected on the Labor Party surplus, which carried over to him as
preferences. Half the votes that elected him came from Socialist Party
voters, and half from Labor voters.
I base this interpretation on local newspapers in Yarra, which have
been sent to me by a friend. Was it the case that Steve Jolly and the
Socialist Party actually exchanged preferences with the Labor Party?
That's a genuine question, because it's not entirely clear from the
local paper reports.
Anyway, it seems clear that Jolly's election is the product of a good
deal more sensible strategic orientation than that of the DSP, both in
the terms described by Nigel Irritable about concentrating seriously
in one area, and also adopting a more realistic overall approach to
the continuing grip of Labor and the Greens on the masses.
PS. One shouldn't underestimate, in this kind of political exercise,
Steve Jolly's individual personal role. He's a colourful immigrant to
Australia with a strong Irish accent and in a modest way a charismatic
figure with a long history of socialist political agitation behind
him. The human element should never be overlooked as a factor in
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