Upper house

Putting socialist politics on the map in Melbourne

Of the eleven lower house seats contested by Victorian Socialists in North and West Melbourne, more than 22,000 voters gave us their first preference. With the current count, it is by far the highest number of votes for a socialist electoral project for many years in this country.

Once again, the party’s hundreds of volunteers (700 on Election Day alone) have shown that a socialist message of hope and resistance, which for decades has been pushed to the fringes of Australian politics, can strike a chord with many thousands of people in some of Melbourne’s key working-class hearts.

It is important to put the 2022 results in context. In the 2019 federal election, Victorian Socialists contested just three seats. We were happy with our results: 4.6% at Calwell, 4.5% at Wills and 4.2% at Cooper. In 2022, campaigning in eleven seats, we were always going to be tense. We had far fewer campaign resources at Calwell, for example, both in the polling booths on Election Day and in advance knocking on doors.

It is therefore a tremendous achievement that the first recorded preference vote for Jerome Small at Calwell currently stands at 4.3%. A few stalls in Roxburgh Park, we won 10% of the vote. In the large early voting center of Westmeadows, where the Electoral Commission banned just about any meaningful campaigning for the first week (and called the cops on our activists when we insisted on our legal right to distribute election materials in a polling station), we won 6.5% of the vote.

Other results in the north also held up well. Kath Larkin in Cooper is currently at 3.8%, Emma Black in Wills at 3.1% and Colleen Bolger in Melbourne at 3.7%. At Scullin, where we didn’t have the resources to do much beyond the letterbox and some stall presence, Cameron Rowe is at 2.9%. Scullin’s result includes cabins such as Lalor North, where 7.4% of people voted Socialist, and Thomastown West, where we won 5.8% of the vote.

In the western suburbs, Victorian socialists have never fielded a candidate in a federal or state election. Although our local advisor Jorge Jorquera has raised the profile of VS through his constant work, in most areas we are starting from scratch. It is therefore great to see Catherine Robertson currently with 5.2% of the vote in Fraser, a very good result for all the work provided by our activists. Two booths at Footscray yielded over 10% for Catherine, with five other booths earning over 7%.

Most of our campaigns out west consisted of mailboxes and a small presence in voting booths, reaching out to voters who had never heard of us before. Belle Gibson at Gorton is at 2.3%, Andrew Charles at Gellibrand at 1.5%, Jack Hynes at Hawke at 1%, Claudio Uribe at Lalor at 1.7% and Daniel Dadich at Maribyrnong at 2%.

In each of these electorates, our activists could find a sympathetic audience for a socialist project when we could engage with voters. For example, about one in ten people in Deer Park voted for Belle Gibson, while almost 6% of all those who voted in Tarneit West voted for Claudio Uribe. However, the scale of the task meant that duplicating this type of voting across the west was always going to be a challenge.

Of course, these raw numbers only tell part of the story. Among these numbers are airport employees, older workers, students, construction workers, retailers, storekeepers and all kinds who have heard a socialist message, often for the first time in their lives, and who have responded in voting socialist.

Members and supporters of the Victoria Socialists should be proud of our efforts. We’ve put socialist politics on the map across large swathes of working-class suburbs in Melbourne’s north and west for the first time in decades – or for the first time ever, in the case of the massive growth suburbs. We have achieved this by dropping hundreds of thousands of flyers in mailboxes, knocking on tens of thousands of doors and through countless thousands of conversations on doorsteps, in malls and especially in voting booths.

In particular, the contribution of over 100 Tamil activists and other refugee communities who participated in Aran Mylvaganam’s senatorial campaign deserves special mention. Most of these activists are systematically pushed to the margins of Australian society, but during the election they played an inspirational role.

Importantly, all of this work has built a platform for the Victorian state elections on November 26, when we will aim to achieve a breakthrough for the socialist left by getting a socialist elected to the Victorian Upper House. While we have a lot of work to do sifting through the results and planning our campaign – and a huge amount of work before November 26 – our federal campaign results give us confidence that it is possible to accomplish this task. .

Of course, while we are proud of our efforts, Victorian socialists are under no illusions about the state of politics in this country. We celebrate the appalling Morrison government that was removed from office. And it’s great that the Greens won three lower house seats in Brisbane. But with a lackluster Labor government under Albanese determined to look like a pale imitation of the Liberals and a surging far-right vote, the urgency and importance of rebuilding a socialist undercurrent in Australian politics is clearer than ever. .

Corey Oakley is secretary of the Victoria Socialists.