On the 2022 Election: Part 2; Or, Great Disorder Under Heaven
Updated: May 30, 2022
I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, nor to hate them, but to understand them. - Baruch Spinoza
The elections have come and gone, and while the last of the cards are yet to fall, it seems the situation is clear. Despite the relatively low stakes of the election - the Coalition and the ALP took great pains not to differentiate themselves on the most important issues facing workers and youth - the election has managed to be a fascinating artefact of the current epoch. Indeed, it seems that this election has clarified greatly many of the dynamics at play in Australia’s political crisis: for there is indeed a political crisis, and it is merely a form of an appearance of the deeper crisis that is now unfolding in the Australian social formation.
The Lay of the Land
Let us present the immediate facts of the matter. The Coalition has lost the election, their slim hold on government being shattered as they are reduced to a minority in the House of Representatives. The Australian Labor Party has moved into the void, claiming the right to form a government with Anthony Albanese as the new Prime Minister. With such a turn of events, it is easy to chalk this election up as a victory for the ALP - however, such a reading would be incorrect. The ALP may have taken a seat or two off the Coalition, but their total share of the vote dropped. The Coalition certainly lost the election, with the ALP more or less taking the win by default.
The overwhelming impetus for the collapse of the Coalition has been an unprecedented surge of independent candidates scalping prominent members of the Liberal Party’s neoliberal centrist wing. Known as the “Teal Independents”, they largely represent sections of the urban bourgeois and professional class, especially women, who are displeased with the Coalition’s ties to the more rabid and atavistic layers of their class, and their deep ties to Fossil Capital. These dyed in the wool neoliberals have jumped ship to a new field of independent MPs who they hope will directly represent their class interests in Parliament. On the other end of its base, the Coalition also had trouble avoiding losing votes to the United Australia Party and One Nation - votes that ultimately funnelled back into the Liberal Party via the Single Transferable Vote system, but not before depressing their primary vote.
The Coalition is not the only party to see a fragmentation of its base. The Australian Labor Party is reeling from having their base cannibalised by an insurgent vote for the Australian Greens, especially in the subtropical city of Brisbane, where several Greens candidates have won stunning victories off sustained campaigns of grassroots organising around a social democratic platform. The victory of figures like Max Chandler-Mather has certainly strengthened the hand of the left-wing sectors of the Greens, and represent recently proletarianised members of the middle-classes, workers and the poor in the inner city electorates. While not all that surprising to anyone who lives in the area, the victory of these candidates has shocked the establishment press and political elites.
Two interesting dynamics to be noted here: the effect of generation, and concerns about the climate crisis. The gang of ecocidal corporatists that make up the Coalition, have been nothing but disdainful towards the youth, and totally prepared to commit wholesale to global eco-genocide in the name of their master: Fossil Capital. This has led young people in particular, and all climate-concerned people in general, to shift away from the major parties, and in particular abandon the Coalition at breathtaking rates. Despite Australia’s role as a pre-eminent ecocidal imperialist on the world stage, there seems to be some potential for future organisation here.
Old Bosses, New Bosses
What can workers make of the change of government? The Australian Labor Party is now poised to drink from a poisoned chalice - they will form a government that is on the cusp of facing a financial collapse and subsequent social crisis. Capital seems confident that the ALP will govern in their interest - there has been no panic at the stock exchange for “wages and profits” Albanese. The Coalition, despite its utter loyalty to the regime of accumulation and property, seemed uniquely ill-equipped to deal with a profound social crisis that now seems imminent. Perhaps the ALP will be better positioned to deliver the reforms capital needs.
However, we should not expect to see a repeat of past ALP reform packages - the state capacity and profit rates that built the post-war consensus or even that drove down wages after the Accord are simply not there - the social fabric is threadbare, and there seems like little sites of potential capital accumulation in the coming period.
It was notable, for those viewing the mainstream press during election night, that all voices from the respectable moderates at the ABC to the rabid reactionaries at Sky News wanted a stable majority government more than anything. This is indicative - any state action to ameliorate the coming crisis will require a significant amount of state action that can only be hampered by the presence of a cross-bench of section interests and potential hurdles.
Indeed, both the ALP and the Coalition seem unified on a key platform: no wage growth above the rate of inflation, imperialist competition with China, and the security of Fossil Capital well into the 2040s. Truly, that is the coalition at play: between different ruling parties, between capital and the state, between different sectors of the bourgeois, the PMC, the middle classes, and the union bureaucracy. The Coalition of Order. The New Bosses. Same as the Old Bosses.
A Victory for the Class?
Is this a victory for our class? Certainly, I join with all members of the Revolutionary Communist Organisation in wishing nothing but endless defeat, humiliation, and suffering upon the Coalition. It was especially enjoyable to see some truly hated reactionaries and arch-liberals lose their seats - from Tory stooges Josh Frydenberg, Eric Abetz and Tim Wilson, to the wretched Catholic reactionary Laborite Kristina Kineally, and Morrison’s hand-picked gay-basher Katherine Deves. Class conscious workers cannot help but throw scorn and bile upon these horrendous cretins.
However, it would be too soon to mark this election as a victory for the class. Truly, we detest the Coalition, but the ALP represents no great shift in terms of the fundamental dynamics of the class struggle. Indeed, the ALP has never had qualms with crushing workers struggles, and is more than willing to use its control of the trade union movement to limit any possible challenge to its power. So, to the newly arrived occupiers of the cabinet room, we bid you good luck. We will see you across the barricades.
Of more interest to revolutionaries is the breakthrough of the Greens, especially in Brisbane. We have long maintained a distance from the Greens, though I myself have campaigned for them in the past - the Australian Greens are an electoral party with a petit-bourgeois base, with a progressive liberal program of managing the capitalist state and mode of production, and have no orientation towards either class struggle or a workers republic. Certainly, there are some members of the Greens who are sympathetic to our politics and indeed, many of their members are part of our ephemeral party of communists. We cannot rightly ask them to abandon their work there - there is currently no workers' party with a communist program to which any of us could affix our hopes. Indeed, the preconditions for such a party, militant class struggle and Marxist intellectual circles, are largely absent. Surely there will be many debates in the coming weeks and months, as news of this victory settles in.
What can be said decisively is that the victory of the Greens in Brisbane shows that working class people are interested in politics that speak directly to their interests, and that a robust program that offers real change can mobilise people. And carrying this program from door to door in a wave of serious organising is a real strategy that gets real results. All communists should internalise these facts, and carry this lesson into workplaces and housing struggles around the country. The Greens may not be the Party, but that does not mean there are no lessons to be taken from this victory.
Where Now, Proletarian?
What happens now? It is not immediately obvious, at least to me. Certainly, we could say that we need to return to struggle, the source of the proletariat’s collective power, the source of our hope for humanity’s future. But, we already know that. And saying it is a lot easier than doing it. For in the current moment, where the proletariat is barely recovering from a historic wave of defeats, and decomposed and fragmented to an unprecedented degree - what can be said of simply returning to the struggle. It seems almost cliche. It is a cliche.
But it is also true. It is up to us, revolutionary communists, worker-intellectuals, to return to the very foundations of our movement, to begin the daily work of organising amongst our fellow workers, fighting for basic organisational structures, and building pre-party formations. For only through this process can we hope to lay the foundations for the coming party, the one that can truly challenge for power, and lay the foundations for our long awaited emancipation.
As the Great Helmsman once (allegedly) said, “There is Great Chaos under Heaven, the situation is excellent.” So march on, proletarians! A Long March is ahead of us, but victory is not unimaginable.
About the Author
Edith Fischer is a student militant, tenant unionist, member of the Revolutionary Communist Organisation, and Chairwoman of its Central Committee. She is a Bolshevik.