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Federal Election prospects of the Socialist Alliance and other socialist

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  • Gould's Book Arcade
    Federal Election prospects of the Socialist Alliance and other socialist groups are not rosy. Michael Berrel, who I had never seen before last Sunday s rather
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 3, 2004
      Federal Election prospects of the Socialist Alliance and other socialist
      groups are not rosy.

      Michael Berrel, who I had never seen before last Sunday's rather
      extraordinary WSWS meeting, but who I can at least now associate a head with
      the name, is talking impressionistic nonsense about socialist electoral
      prospects, despite the pseudo-scientific way he throws around figures. Dave
      Riley's response to him is more cautious, but also, in my view,
      impressionistic and I note that no-one in the DSP leadership has responded
      Berrel, and they are wise not to join in with his nonsense.

      Its possible, with a bit of work, to get a bead on the electoral prospects
      of socialist groups in current conditions. The general trend, in fact, is
      significantly downwards. Several whole books have been written about the
      electoral results of minority groups in Australian society, over the years,
      and Berrel would be wise to consult them before he talks off the top of his

      For recent electoral results, for radical and socialist groups, there is a
      clear and relatively current precedent. In the last state elections in NSW,
      the Socialist Alliance was registered under the Alliance name, and was on
      the ballot paper as the Alliance, which is the situation which will prevail
      Federally. The Alliance result was 5428 votes, absorb that, 5428, or 0.14
      percent. Absorb that too. The Green vote was 320,010, or 8.59% - absorb that
      too! The Labor vote was 1,620,190, or 43.53% - and absorb that as well.

      There's no reason at all to expect that the Alliance vote in the coming
      Federal election will be appreciably larger, except possibly in Tasmania,
      which I'll discuss a bit further down. Berrel's fanciful playing with
      figures about the 1.62% vote got by the Progressive Labor Party in the
      previous state election is impressionistic nonsense. Given the fact that the
      PLP conducted no campaign at all, outside the Newcastle area, that vote was
      clearly a combination of name confusion with the Labor Party, and a vote of
      discontented Laborites who wanted some version of Laborism that was more
      progressive. If that was not the case, why the discrepancy between the 1.62%
      for the PLP in one state election, and the 0.14% for the Socialist Alliance
      in the subsequent state election. There's no doubt in my mind, also, that in
      terms of campaigning, the Socialist Alliance probably conducted a
      considerably larger campaign than the PLP, considered statewide. The
      electoral result for the Socialist Alliance outside Tasmania will be in the
      range 0.1 to 0.3%. I make this firm prediction based on the current
      political conjuncture, where the Greens are clear the electoral destination
      of discontented Labor and progressive voters, and where there will be a
      significant rallying around Labor under Latham's leadership in what is
      perceived by people as a crisis election, and which has now been sharpened
      by the intervention of global emperor Bush, in Australian electoral
      politics. This election will be the 'All the way with GW Bush' election,
      with the inevitable result of rallying of progressive voters around Labor
      and the Greens.

      In addition to this, it seems to me that with the ideological confusion that
      prevails in advanced capitalist countries like Australia, after the collapse
      of Stalinism and the betrayals of right wing Labor leaderships, the word
      socialist is a distinct electoral liability on a ballot paper in countries
      like Australia. I myself am a Marxian socialist and have no intention of
      changing, but political realism dictates a sane estimate of labels on
      electoral prospects. The Green label, the Labor label, and the Progressive
      Labor label are all electoral assets for different constituencies, but the
      electoral appeal of the socialist label in Australia is miniscule by
      comparison for complex historical reasons (this is obviously a consideration
      with the DSP leadership who doggedly and sensibly resist pressure to change
      the name of their newspaper from GLW to something with 'socialist' in the

      All recent electoral results for small socialist groups fit this general
      trend, with a few significant exceptions, like the recent result in a
      Tasmanian by-election. I'd be interested in a detailed analysis from the
      people involved in that election as to the make up of the electorate, what
      other candidates were running, whether the candidate was on the ballot paper
      as a socialist or an independent, etc, etc. It seems likely to me that the
      fact that the candidate was a high profile local personality and a medical
      doctor may have been a factor. At different times in the past, for instance,
      the CP achieved significant minority electoral votes built around
      significant personalities, or built around sustained party in particular
      areas and regions, and electoral results in those circumstances flowed from
      substantial organisational implantation in those areas and regions in
      combination with particular charismatic personalities as the candidates,
      like the Rhodes Scholar Fred Paterson in Queensland, and the other medical
      doctor, and CP leader, G.P. O'Dea in Melbourne. Andrew Jamieson, a DSP
      leader who was active in the mining industry in North West Tasmania,
      succeeded in getting elected as a socialist independent councillor in a
      particular Tasmanian local council (I forget the year, am I imagining it?).
      Andrew Jamieson might write a little about that experience and correct me if
      I've got the story wrong. My understanding of that experience was that when
      Jamieson, for personal reasons, moved from Tasmania to Western Australia
      that electoral experience was concluded.

      I don't dispute the point that for socialists to run in elections
      independently sometimes creates the possibility for effective socialist
      propaganda during the election campaign. But that, of course, has to be
      balanced against the way that it tends to preclude socialists intervening
      and participating in the election campaigns of the mass organisations of the
      labor movement, the ALP and the Greens. To get back to Michael Berrell, and
      to some extent Dave Riley, they are deluding themselves if they think that
      there is a substantial prospect of small socialist groups sustaining ongoing
      comprehensive electoral activity independent of Labor and the Greens,
      outside a few situations where very favorable circumstances apply. This will
      be demonstrated in the coming federal elections by the results that the
      Alliance will get in every state where the Alliance is registered and
      labelled on the Senate ballot paper.

      Gould's Book Arcade
      32 King St, Newtown, NSW
      Ph: 9519-8947
      Fax: 9550-5924
      Email: bob@...
      Web: www.gouldsbooks.com.au
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