By Van Thanh Rudd
Last Monday I joined Socialist Alternative. I wanted to write this statement then, but didn’t have much time to sit down in front of a computer til now!
I am a visual artist and Left wing activist based in Melbourne. Activism slowly grew on me since witnessing the S11 anti-globalization protest in Melbourne in 2000. But I didn’t engage more fully until around 2004 when I was embracing anarchist tendencies especially in relation to my artistic practice. Realizing over time, the limits of this approach, I joined the anti-capitalist Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP)in 2008. Being a member of the RSP, I took part in Palestine solidarity, anti-racism and anti-war campaigns. I also took part in the 2010 Federal Election against Julia Gillard with the slogan ‘Capitalism is in Crisis’. Many forums and discussions held by the RSP have given me inspiration to continue as an revolutionary socialist, some of which are the valuable lessons derived from Cuba, Venezuela and Vietnam – each unique in their approach to socialism especially given their own historical conditions, and fight against the injustices of imperialism. Also, among various cultural interventions, the RSP initiated Under the Hammer Artists Activists Hub and has been going strong since as a Left wing alternative to the many other ‘neutral’ cultural spaces.
Early this year I resigned from the RSP, not for their lack of a correct perspective regarding revolutionary socialism, but more because of the fragmentary forces on the Left generally that didn’t allow the group the space it deserved. There was another Left wing force that was already taking up this important ground, especially in relation to the Australian political context……
I seriously want to change the world for the better. I mean, who wouldn’t? The USA keeps the definition of Imperialism crisp and as relevant as ever by disemboweling collective resistance to its gargantuan territorial reach, tweaking and churning objects/people, however destructive and chaotic to suit its interests in the profit drive! When it doesn’t do this militarily, then it will sell you ideas and a lifestyle to boot: “Democracy is best just as long as you think of no alternative to capitalism!!”
Because thinking of an alternative requires action to produce that alternative – as a collective claim over the abundance of materials and ideas that we produce day-in, day-out. Wouldn’t that, for instance, give us the ability to adequately feed the entire world? – no doubt one step in a logical direction!?
But as history has shown, when we attempt to do this, somebody stops us. Very quickly we find out this somebody will do this cunningly and/or violently – whatever their tactic, they have a distinct advantage – they have money, and lots of it. Very quickly we find out they are a small group of extremely rich who dictate the terms of ‘democracy’ under capitalism. But they say, “Just wait there a second. Don’t get angry. We give you jobs through investment – you are nothing without us…..Then we say, “No, you hang on. Where did you get that wealth in the first place? You have to take it from somewhere? It certainly doesn’t simply appear out of nothing!
Somebody produces that wealth. And that’s us! Labour!” Therefore you can’t exist without us – the working masses.”
…..And so continues the historic battle between the minority capitalist class and majority of workers. No doubt the character of this conflict is different in various parts of the globe. But to see it pretty clearly, one need look no further than present day Europe.
As this is a global battle, who/what can I turn to in Australia?
The Australian Labor Party (ALP)? Don’t they stand for democracy and freedom for the oppressed? Don’t think so. Last time I checked, they’re still helping the USA invade Afghanistan. Last time I checked, they’re still continuing the Liberal Party’s racist Northern Territory Intervention. And they’re still locking up refugees in onshore/offshore prisons……And among many other crimes, they define democracy by accommodating billionaires’ appetites for digging massive holes and calling it ‘correct economic fundamentals’, while attacking workers for standing up for better conditions. In a nutshell, they have an unwavering support for the capitalist system. No great amount of radical change there!
Well, what about joining the Liberal Party? Don’t go there! (see above reasons for not joining ALP and add salt into the wound)
The Greens? Haven’t they made inroads into parliament? Isn’t reform better than revolution? Can’t you keep capitalism in check, or at least make it more humane? I really would like to believe in this perspective – I was looking to the Greens years ago when I woke up to the ALP facade. Unfortunately, as history has shown, trying to make capitalism more humane, environmentally conscious etc through the parliamentary arena is kind of like telling the capitalists that they have the ultimate say to the world’s ills – that they hold the power to change the world in the last instance – it is only the capitalists’ attitude we have to change. This tactic comes in many forms, including the Greens’ various alliances with the Liberal Party and ALP in order to achieve certain parliamentary/electoral aims. This immediately compromises the Greens’ often progressive, leftist ideals. More importantly the contradiction between the ruling class (exploiters) and the labouring class (exploited) is not the Greens’ overall explanation of the dynamics of capitalism. It is regarding this main point that I choose not to join the Greens.
The question of class entering a phase of increasing importance on the broad Left. I think the battle we have against the ruling elites of the world is no doubt more acute than it was before the 2008 capitalist crisis. People have a clearer mental picture of this type class that holds us captive. They run financial institutions, industry and of course, are more or less running the state (ie police, military). Many more people in the developed world are more aware of what this system needs in order to keep itself running, ie to keep profits up, to keep people buying, to keep people working. And that is a system that ultimately tries to deny the possibility of the world’s workers uniting for a common goal beyond capitalism.
Under this current systemic crisis, your wages will drop, you will lose your jobs, you will lose your shelter and food and live in dumpsters, and the ruling elites say it’s our fault! “You must blame the worker next to you! You must blame other workers from overseas. You must blame the environmental crisis on yourself and other workers for not saving electricity at home. Just don’t blame the system itself. Just don’t build a mass social and political revolution, let alone a future society that shares its wealth equally. It will always end in disaster! And for God’s sake, don’t mention Lenin!”
Challenging this capitalist propaganda is no doubt a difficult task. What group in Australia is up to the task? What group out there sees the logic and potential of a revolutionary class in Australia (and the world) – one that sees the working class as the motor for changing a system that glorifies private property, into one that collectivizes property? And what is the group will fight for justice and achieve victories along the way in the ongoing struggle against war, greed, sexism, racism and inequality?
I believe it is Socialist Alternative.