Raising the Socialist Flag

The Revolutionary Socialist Party’s campaign to run Van Rudd against Julia Gillard and Hamish Chitts against Kevin Rudd was a clear step forward for the profile of revolutionary socialist ideas among working people in Australia.

The RSP’s objective in running in the elections was to put revolutionary socialism on the map and into the minds of as many working people as possible. This we were able to do partly through the capitalist media. Half-hour of prime time television on the ABC’s Australian Story program was the headline act. Rudd was also interviewed live on Channel Nine’s Today show, where he invited Gillard to travel with him to Venezuela so she could see what democracy is really about.

The log of media coverage is the most any socialist organisation in Australia has received since Van Rudd and the RSP organised the “Australian-Made Racism” protest on Invasion Day, January 26 this year. Footage of police arresting RSP members in Ku Klux Klan outfits emblazoned with the words “Racism — Made in Australia” was syndicated across the world by television networks such as Al Jazeera and many Indian and other news networks.

Election campaign coverage tended to give more profile to RSP policies and our ideas for the future. The Sydney Morning Herald’s election blog reprinted in full the front page of an RSP flyer “Fight Racism! Tax The Companies, not Workers! Socialism is the Alternative!” The RSP received mentions or articles in every major paper on the east coast as well as The Australian, ABC Online, major news websites such as Ninemsn, local and regional newspapers and websites as well as radio interviews in various cities.

The campaign launch in Melbourne marked a surge in support for the new party. It raised over $2000, partly through auctioning art works by Footscray artist Nicholas Wight and Van Rudd. The launch filled the venue with more than 80 party supporters and activists young and old from the Latin American Forum, the Chilean Communist Party, the FMLN (El Salvador), the Indian community, Palestine solidarity, Refugee Action Collective, Free Tamil Eelam and Refugees, Survivors and Ex-Detainees.

Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology students and Australian Story filmed the entire night. Melbourne musician Nicolas Jorquera performed solo and the Conch, an 11-piece funk, ska, reggae, Latin, hip-hop, swing band performed two sets and an encore. Their music can be seen and heard on the Australian Story program, which is still available on the ABC website.

The RSP’s vote of 457 has to be seen in the context of Lalor being a very working-class area where the far left has not had a presence for many years. The ALP is still well entrenched, but workers who came in direct contact with the RSP campaign were often very supportive. For example, five women workers on their lunchbreak at the Werribee Mercy Hospital signed up to help nominate Rudd as a candidate. The only worker who couldn’t was a non-citizen without the right to vote or nominate candidates — something common in the electorate.

The dynamic campaign has triggered a lot of interest in the RSP. As a result of the campaign, the party has received many inquiries about its socialist politics. Direct Action sales have increased on Melbourne University since the election, with many students who had seen Australian Story asking about the RSP campaign and the politics behind it.