Documents in: Bahasa Indonesia Deutsch Español Français Italiano Japanese Polski Português Russian Chinese Tagalog
International Communist League
Home Spartacist, theoretical and documentary repository of the ICL, incorporating Women & Revolution Workers Vanguard, biweekly organ of the Spartacist League/U.S. Periodicals and directory of the sections of the ICL ICL Declaration of Principles in multiple languages Other literature of the ICL ICL events

Subscribe to Australasian Spartacist

View archives

Printable version of this article

Australasian Spartacist No. 236

Summer 2018/19

Workers, Minorities Need a Revolutionary Workers Party!

Victorian "Socialists" Swimming in the Mainstream

DECEMBER 4: In his famous pamphlet, The State and Revolution (1917), Russian revolutionary leader V.I. Lenin noted that the essence of capitalist democracy is that “the oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representative of the oppressing class shall represent and repress them in parliament!” This basic Marxist truth was illustrated in the November Victorian state elections, which saw the Labor government of Daniel Andrews win in a canter. The Liberal/National Coalition’s electoral strategy boiled down to an hysterical and racist “law and order” campaign. Given Labor was already spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build new prisons and to deploy over 3,000 more police, the Coalition’s scare campaign fell flat. While the ALP offered to slightly ameliorate living conditions by building some desperately needed infrastructure, it was widely recognised that for the previous four years they had dutifully administered capitalism by keeping workers in check and the capitalist rulers’ profits humming.

Auditioning for a bit role in the parliamentary circus, a group calling itself the Victorian Socialists (VS) stood candidates for the upper and lower houses of parliament. This lash-up was put together by well-known reformists, Socialist Alliance (SA), Socialist Alternative (SAlt) and former Socialist Party (SP) honcho, Stephen Jolly. According to SAlt, the “organisational weight” of SA and themselves, hooked up with the “respected” 14-year-long local councillor Jolly, gave them a chance of sneaking into an upper house seat in northern Melbourne. Crucial to this “opportunity” was the thoroughly undemocratic preferential voting system. With over four percent of the ballot, it appears that Jolly was beaten by a candidate with even fewer votes!

VS has been trumpeting their campaign as a major success. As one SA supporter gushed, “We face a unique opportunity to break into the mainstream” (socialist-, 5 November). In fact, to the extent they had any influence, all VS’s campaign did was maintain illusions in capitalist democracy while debasing the meaning of socialism.

While VS put forward some supportable measures, such as equal and free access to healthcare, abortion services, childcare, education and transport, these were divorced from a class-struggle perspective let alone social revolution. VS’s whole program was encapsulated in their classic social-democratic formula for “a transfer of money from the private sector to the public sector” while keeping the capitalist state intact. Despite the “socialist” fig leaf, the VS platform was just another form of parliamentarist left Laborism, with an appeal to the petty-bourgeois liberal fringe around the Greens. Notwithstanding their verbiage about being a “genuine left alternative” to the main parties, VS treacherously called on people to preference the bourgeois Greens and the social-democratic ALP.

Parliamentary Reformism Versus Revolution

VS leaders will pretend that their campaign is a step in the direction of revolutionary change. Nothing could be further from the truth. More than a century ago revolutionary leader Rosa Luxemburg exposed the treachery of leading German Social Democrat Eduard Bernstein who in arguing for a gradual reform of bourgeois society pronounced that for him the “movement” was everything, and the final goal of socialism was nothing. Luxemburg fired back:

“People who pronounce themselves in favour of the method of legislative reform in place of and in contradistinction to the conquest of political power and social revolution, do not really choose a more tranquil, calmer and slower road to the same goal, but a different goal. Instead of taking a stand for the establishment of a new society they take a stand for surface modification of the old society.”

This sums up the political content of the VS campaign, which retailed the time-worn lie that one can pressure the capitalist state to operate in the interests of the workers and oppressed. Perhaps sinking even lower than Bernstein, in an interview with Murdoch’s Australian newspaper Jolly spruiked VS’s demand for a state-wide audit of employer superannuation and wage payments saying, “We’re not out and about talking about Trotsky and Stalin…. It’s probably the most moderate thing a socialist party has ever called for.”

Communists can, as oppositionists, stand for election and serve in bourgeois parliaments as revolutionary tribunes of the working class. This is not the case for any executive office of the capitalist state, such as mayor, whose purpose is to administer and enforce capitalist rule. If a party within the workers movement draws a class line against the bourgeoisie, then Marxists can consider offering them critical electoral support as a tactic in order to show workers with illusions in that party that, once in power, it will defend the interests of the capitalists and not the workers. In his book on communist principles and tactics, “Left-Wing” Communism—an Infantile Disorder (1920), Lenin wrote: “It is entirely a matter of knowing how to apply these tactics in order to raise—not lower—the general level of proletarian class-consciousness, revolutionary spirit, and ability to fight and win.”

There was no party standing in the Victorian elections that warranted critical electoral support. For socialists to call for a vote to a capitalist party such as the Greens is outright class betrayal. It would also have been class treachery for socialists to call for a vote to the ALP. Unlike the Greens, the ALP is a bourgeois workers party—pro-capitalist in its leadership and program while based on the trade unions. However, the ALP stood openly committed to continue delivering for the bourgeoisie. As for VS, far from drawing a class line and utilising the Bolshevik perspective to use parliament to help bring revolutionary consciousness to the working class, their whole aim was to win a seat in parliament in order to advance their reformist goals.

Sounding eerily like Daniel Andrews, VS did grandly assure voters that it would fight on the streets and in Spring Street (no less) for “a city and a state which works for everyone.” This is possible, they declared, because “Australia is one of the richest countries in the world” and “We can afford a decent society.” For Marxists there is no such “we.” There is no state that “works for everyone.” The interests of the workers, who are forced to sell their labour power to survive, and the capitalists, who grow fat profiting from the wealth produced by the workers, have nothing in common. The only way for workers and the oppressed to achieve real emancipation is through the overthrow of the repressive capitalist state—at its core consisting of police, prisons, and military—through workers revolution and the establishment of a workers government.

Australian capitalist society began with the brutal uprooting and dispossession of the Aboriginal peoples. Today Australia is a jackal imperialist country. While having its own imperialist interests and appetites, it functions as an underling of its U.S. big brother. As long as capitalism reigns, its “riches” will continue to flow from the exploitation of workers’ labour power “at home” and the plunder of resources and the super-exploitation of workers and peasants in Asia and the Pacific. But in their manifesto VS did not have a word to say about the depredations of Australian imperialism abroad. This is no oversight.

These groups, and Jolly, are never as comfortable as when they sit in the imperialist camp. All these players are from outfits that supported every pro-imperialist counterrevolutionary movement arrayed against the Soviet bureaucratically degenerated workers state during Cold War II in the 1980s. Today they refuse to defend the Chinese bureaucratically deformed workers state against the growing U.S.-led imperialist military encirclement. In contrast Marxists stand for the unconditional military defence of China and the other deformed workers states—Laos, Vietnam, North Korea and Cuba—against imperialist attack and internal capitalist counterrevolution, while calling for proletarian political revolutions to oust the Stalinist bureaucrats and establish workers democracy.

The Syphilitic Chain of Social Democracy

While there are some warm and fuzzy remarks opposing racism in the VS Manifesto, what is notably absent is the need for a class-struggle fight against ongoing racist police terror targeting Muslims, African youth and Aboriginal people. Rather, VS politely called for “better training” for police dealing with people with mental illness, and the establishment of a so-called “independent body to investigate complaints against police.” Jolly’s former organisation, the SP, has long pushed the grotesque view that prison screws and cops are “workers in uniform.” As for SAlt their occasional and feeble attempts at Marxist orthodoxy on the capitalist state are not worth the paper they are written on. For example, in 2012 they hailed a walkout by prison screws
in Queensland declaring it “…the kind
of action there needs to be more of” (, 16 September 2012)! Better conditions for the screws and cops means they are better prepared to repress the struggles of workers and minorities. The view that police and prison officers are workers and potential allies reflects the outlook of the privileged and predominantly white upper echelons of the Laborite union bureaucracy. Acting as labour lieutenants of capitalism, these union misleaders act to subordinate the interests of the working class to the bourgeoisie.

VS bragged about the tens of thousands of dollars donated to their election campaign by various unions including the ETU and NUW. The pro-capitalist union tops were happy to flip some cash to VS who provide them with a slightly left cover. Any militant worker looking for a class-struggle program to take on the bosses and win won’t find it in VS. They expressed zero opposition to the union misleaders’ pandering to the bosses’ courts, and their vile protectionist poison, which helps fuel the growing fascist threat.

Sounding every bit like the Labor-loyal union tops, who rarely lift a finger to mobilise their base in struggle against the bosses’ attacks, VS declared that they would name and shame the “bosses who don’t pay workers their legal entitlements.” If that didn’t work, they would hold Daniel Andrews to account, “to honour his promise to make wage theft a crime and introduce industrial manslaughter laws.” Sans any class-struggle perspective, presumably the Andrews government would also be the agency to bring about VS’s maximum demands for worker rights, such as the return of the 8-hour day and a 10-hour limit on shifts.

We favour any reforms that would improve workers’ wages and conditions, but these will not be obtained by publicity stunts to “shame” recalcitrant bosses or by pressuring the ALP, which when in power is a capitalist government. In fact history shows the only way significant gains have been won is through bitter class struggles. As VS’s call for the return of the 8-hour day painfully shows, reforms are only ever a pallid and highly reversible glimpse of what will be achievable once workers have overthrown capitalism. The main obstacle preventing workers from mobilising in their interests are illusions in the Labor Party, centrally pushed by the sell-out pro-capitalist union misleaders.

We Trotskyists are for a class-struggle fight to rebuild the labour movement, including through strikes, mass pickets and plant occupations. We fight for a program of transitional demands, such as union control of hiring and safety and a sliding scale of hours at no loss in pay to spread the available work around, linked to the fight to get rid of this whole rotting capitalist system. What’s needed is an internationalist class-struggle opposition within the unions to break workers from the grip of Laborism. This would lay the basis for the building of a Leninist-Trotskyist revolutionary vanguard party. Such a party would be a tribune of the people taking up all manifestations of capitalist oppression. It would fight for nothing less than socialist revolution, leading to a rationally planned and collectivised economy based on production for need, not profit, and for qualitative development of the productive forces. Only then will the road be opened to the elimination of scarcity and to the creation of a communist society.


Australasian Spartacist No. 236

ASP 236

Summer 2018/19


For Workers Revolution in Indonesia!

Independence for West Papua!

Indonesian Troops Out! Australian Imperialism Hands Off!


Down With the EU!

Brexit and the Fight for a Socialist Europe


For Labour/Black Mobilisations to Stop the Fascists!

Fascist Proud Boys Rampage in U.S.


Workers, Minorities Need a Revolutionary Workers Party!

Victorian "Socialists" Swimming in the Mainstream


Native Americans Targeted

Free Dakota Access Pipeline Activists!


Down With Government Ban on Chelsea Manning!


U.S. Escalates Trade War, Military Provocations

Hands Off China!

Down With U.S./Australia Alliance! Defend the Gains of the 1949 Chinese Revolution!