Brisbane Launch – Socialist Equity Party

Socialist Equity claims refugee policy is “a cynical and calculated diversion from the real issues”.

Last Sunday evening (28 July) I attended the campaign launch for the Socialist Equity Party (SEP) in Queensland.

Held in Jagera Hall in South Brisbane’s Musgrave Park, this was a somewhat austere affair when contrasted to the more ‘tub thumping’ Socialist Alliance public launch held in Boundary Street on 13 July.

I paid the $3 entry fee for workers (it was $2 for non-workers) and explained my purpose in attending. I was welcomed to take photographs of the candidates and to record proceedings. The room was set up formally in theatre style. A large table of SEP books and pamphlets staffed by a volunteer was at the back of the room. None of this material is offered free, and while the prices are nominal, if you want to know the detailed philosophy of this party, you need to be prepared to pay for the opportunity. The take away message for me was, “this is serious, and it requires effort’.

I joined about 15 or 16 people to listen to proceedings. The chair sat at a central table flanked by the two candidates who were also the guest speakers for the evening. The two speeches were followed by questions, “through the chair please’

Mike Head and Gabriela Zabala

Mike Head and Gabriela Zabala

The subdued and the formal structure of the meeting reminded me of my early days in a somewhat obscure fundamentalist church. I was, I suspected, amongst true believers.

The SEP candidates for the Queensland senate are Mike Head and Gabriela Zabala. Both have previously stood as senate candidates in NSW. Ms Zabala set the scene. Her focus was on global imperialism of the United States, and the ‘complete integration’ as she put it, of the “Australian military with the US command”. Pine Gap in the Northern Territory she claimed is central to US drone attacks and “unlawful assassinations” in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This activity has been supported by the ALP and the Greens in the absence of public debate or scrutiny by the Australian people.

Recent revelations by Edward Snowden of illegal spying by the US and his subsequent treatment by his government, provide an illustration, she claimed, of an emerging global distrust of established governments by workers and young people. The SEP’s concern is about “…arming the working class with a genuine revolutionary program and building the necessary revolutionary leadership”. It  is the SEP she claimed, and its sister organisations in the world Trotskyist movement, that are the only organisations “capable of providing the perspective and leadership” needed to harness emerging revolutionary sentiment and activity.

Mike Head’s focus was both global and local. He explained that while the SEP is standing candidates in the election (and he said, it does want votes), its real purpose is totell the working class the truth and to “…cut through the conspiracy, lies and fraud that dominate this election campaign”. 

The Labor party he claimed has acted in violation of international and domestic law with its increasingly hard line approach to refugees. Refugees, he said have rights to basic, health, welfare and education services, and the right to access the courts and “Kevin Rudd has violated these rights”.  This he said acts as “a warning call” to the working class. “Refugees are just the most defenceless, the most oppressed, the most vulnerable section of the international working class.” This government “will be just as ruthless in dealing with any resistance by the working class to the destruction of jobs, to cuts in their wages, to cut backs to their essential services, including health care and welfare”.

Jagera Hall, Musgrave Park

Jagera Hall, Musgrave Park

Head said that the “hysteria in media’ about refugees and Tony Abbott’s calls to bring in the military, “is a cynical and calculated diversion from the real issues that confront the working class and young people in this country and around the world.” What really confronts them he said “is a wholesale assault on their jobs and living standards”.

Head’s message to workers is that refugees aren’t to blame for attacks on workers’ rights and service, they are victims,” fleeing wars and devastation caused by the US and its allies, including the Australian government”.

There is already mass unemployment and attacks on services in Australia, Head claimed, and he cited as an examples, the unemployment rate of 13.8% in the suburb of Inala in Brisbane’s south, and recent government cuts in Queensland to health, welfare and housing services.

The working class he said is paying for the failures of capitalism through the global financial crisis in 2008. He cited Detroit as a once thriving city that has now been declared bankrupt and in so doing is able to impose austerity measures that affect workers’ pay, conditions and access to services.

Australia, he said, is no exception, and ousting Gillard was an expression of this. Rudd was reinstalled he said, not just to prop up Labor’s fortunes in the coming election, but to head off the breakup of Labor party itself. The reinstallation of Rudd was supported by the media because the ruling class fears the loss of the two party system. After all Head claimed, it was the Labor party in WW1, WW2 and during the great depression that imposed sacrifices on the working class, and it has continued to do so.

SEP believes that it is the myth that “Labor represents a “lesser evil” to the Liberal/National parties”. Nor does it have any time for the Greens which it dismisses on its website as a party promoted by the bourgeoisie “as a means of diverting political opposition into safe channels”.

There were only a few questions from the floor following these rather ponderous speeches. One, concerning the SEP’s position on marijuana instigated a mini debate, but with the chair having restored order, the position of the SEP was made clear. While a revolutionary government would not criminalise drug taking, the SEP does not support recreational drug use, as the mind should be clear to read philosophy and take revolutionary action in the community. It was the free access to drugs after all, that muted the rising revolutionary zeal of young people in the 1960’s.

Socialist Equity Party campaign table, West End Markets

Socialist Equity Party campaign table, West End Markets

My question through the chair was why there had not been reference in either speech to global warming and action on climate change. I should have by then predicted Mike Head’s answer, which was, that both a carbon tax and Emissions Trading Schemes merely perpetuate the capitalist market model. True action on global warming he said will only result from the establishment of the “socialist reorganisation of the world economy”.

One wonders how long that is expected to take, but this gathering it seems, believes in the coming revolution as assuredly and as passionately as those fundamentalist Christians I used to know believe in the imminent second coming of Christ. I doubt there is any room for skeptics here.

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