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Vote socialist! Not!

by Kylie McGregor
Socialist Party candidate for the federal seat of Melbourne

The following is an open letter to the International Socialist Organisation (ISO) from the Socialist Party. The ISO are the Australian affiliate of the International Socialist Tendency (IST). We have asked that they consider publishing this letter in their newspaper the Socialist Worker and that they accept our challenge to a debate on the question of ‘How should socialists relate to the Greens?’

Dear comrades of the ISO,

The Socialist Party would like to challenge you to a debate about the Greens. At a recent ‘Unity for Peace’ meeting held in Melbourne (13th Sep, 2007) one of your members made a contribution from the floor urging people to support the Greens electoral campaign in the seat of Melbourne. We have also noted that in your paper you are supporting the Greens electoral campaign more broadly.

We are writing to seek clarity about what your position is in relation to socialist candidates at the upcoming federal election. We would have thought that the best possible position for socialist organisations to take would be to call for people to vote for socialist candidates where they can. This is the case in the seat of Melbourne where the Socialist Party will be standing. We think it would be a serious mistake for socialists to call for a vote for the Greens in seats where other socialists are standing.

We urge you to look at the track record of the Greens not only in Australia but internationally. In Ireland the Greens have recently entered a coalition government with the main capitalist party, Fianna Fail. This government allows US military planes to land and refuel at Shannon airport.

Even here in Australia the Greens are not an explicitly anti war party let alone anti capitalist. They support bringing the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan only to redeploy them in the East Timor and the Solomon Islands. The Socialist Party has also written many articles about the Greens when they effectively controlled Yarra Council in Melbourne from 2002-04. The budget that they endorsed was in no way progressive and they still refuse to support modest reforms such as recycling for small businesses.

The Greens are a small capitalist party who like every other capitalist party are forced to bend to the needs of big business when they get into power. The Socialist Party on the other hand is a genuine anti capitalist and anti war party. Our preferences will go to the Greens before Labor or the Liberals.

If this is in fact your position that you support the Greens above socialist candidates in the upcoming election, we would like to have more discussion and debate about this. We would like to challenge you to debate us on the question of ‘How should socialists relate to the Greens?’ It could be held somewhere in the seat of Melbourne with the speaker and chair of your choice. We look forward to your reply.

Yours in unity

Kylie McGregor

Socialist Party candidate for the federal seat of Melbourne

6 Com:

Cuzco por Zanola | September 18, 2007

I am the Socialist Alliance candidate for the Seat of Wills (which for interstate readers is a federal electorate in the Melbourne area)and would also be interested in joining this debate.
The Greens are also running a candidate in the seat of Wills.
Obviously the Greens are a much more progressive party than Labor and in cases where there is only the Greens, Labor and Liberal running, Socialists would logically advocate a green vote followed by labor and then liberal. However for a socialist organisation to ignore the fact that that there are Socialist candidates running in the federal election (and avoid recommending a vote for them) is indeed unfortunate.
I rate unity of the Left as an important goal to strive for and as such am reluctant to dwell upon the inadequacies of the Greens as a force for change. However there are important and not insignificant distinctions between our politics (the Socialist Alliance) and the Greens and this debate would be a useful time to highlight those differences in an open and comradely manner.

Cuzco por Zanola | September 18, 2007

Sorry forgot to include my name.
I am Zane Alcorn, the Socialist Alliance candidate for Wills.

Red Wombat | September 18, 2007

The wombats have also taken this issue up at the Hole, regarding it, as it is, yet another example of the short-sightedness of too many elements of the left.

The potential of the Socialist Alliance, if other groups were to get over themesleves a little and take part, would far outweigh what little gains we have made thus far:

http://communistwombat.blogspot.com/

Dave Riley | September 19, 2007

The SP says:"We would have thought that the best possible position for socialist organisations to take would be to call for people to vote for socialist candidates where they can."

That's the main argument surely? So why won't these outfits do just that? What's holding them back from a self evident course?

Throwing around labels like 'sectarian' isn't a very useful either --although the word may come to mind.

I've put forward the Panglossian Pessimism argument elsewhere --see comments * but in reality these groups aren't facing up to the political challenge -- preferring instead to pursue a very safe course. Having only recently discovered The Greens, they are chumming up as a new & 'fresh' tact.

A new tact --which conveniently covers for their unwillingness to engage with the socialist candidates that may be on offer on polling day.

But underpinning the whole approach is the problem that if they support a vote for the SA (or the SP) at the poll  -- what does that mean for their own ongoing relationship with other groups and other socialist projects?

If these projects can be conveniently denied to exist --so you're off the hook, despite your cowardice.There's not a problem -- only a lie.

*"Panglossian": can also be applied to the SP's limited and isolationist electoral intervention too. We could just as easily rephrase the SP's adage so: "We would have thought that the best possible position for socialist organisations to take would be to field candidates together where they can and call for people to vote for socialist candidates."

But the SP doesn't want a bar of that does it?

Not a SP member | September 19, 2007

NOTE: THE SP ALSO FAILS TO NOTE in its journal that other "socialist candidates" are running in the federal election. In effect following the exact same course they attack the ISO for.

che | September 19, 2007

The whole issue isn't massively huge in that both Socialist Alternative and the International Socialists don't own a large milieu so you can't talk about influencing the electoral habits of many people such that it will make a significant electoral difference.

But where the approach does register is what it indicates about the Australian left and where it seems to be at after so many years, decades, of activism.

"Panglos" -- as Dave Riley suggested -- may apply but it also indicates a failure to foster a sharp trajectory and chart a way forward. This is a left stuck in the doldrums, flitting from this to that as opportunity arises --or seems to arise, and one failing in its avowed historical mission-- because it does not offer a tangible option -- because it cannot get its shit together-- in its own right or name.

The Greens then become a proxy for this left, a fill in, a substitute....a sort of good enough until the world changes.

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