Labor and Green sectarianism


Labor sectarianism and Green sectarianism gives Liberal minorities the balance of power in inner-Sydney municipal politics

Green Left discussion list, April 21, 2004

The wash-up from the municipal elections in inner-Sydney municipalities has had unfortunate results from the point of view of the left in the labour movement and the left in the Greens.

In four municipalities, Marrickville, Leichhardt, Waverly and Randwick, the electoral results gave an overwhelming majority of council seats to Laborites and Greens. The logic of the situation should have dictated a united front between the two mass organisations on the left of society, the ALP and the Greens.

Unfortunately this only happened in Waverly municipality. In the other three municipalities the Laborites and the Greens conducted a kind of political war to the death, in which both groups wooed minority Liberal Party councilors and/or conservative independents, thereby inflating the importance of these conservative groups well beyond their numerical strength.

In Marrickville, a conservative independent-Green combination beat the Laborites. In Randwick an outright Liberal and Green combination beat Labor by one vote, electing that city’s first Green mayor, Murray Matson, and a Liberal deputy. In Leichhardt the Laborites outmanoeuvred an overconfident Green group and Labor’s Alice Murphy was elected mayor and the Liberals got the deputy mayor.

In the City of Sydney the conservative populist Clover Moore and her ticket held out the three Labor councilors from all but one important position on the committees, with the support of the one Green councillor.

The net effect of the sectarianism of most Labor representatives in most of those municipalities, and the Green representatives in most of those municipalities (except Waverly) has materially contributed to the re-emergence of the Liberal Party as a force in inner-Sydney municipal politics.

As a 50-year veteran of ALP politics, I’ve distributed a fairly sharp letter to my fellow ALP members around the inner city, making the general point that Labor should have no enemies on the left and the natural alliance for Labor people, particularly for serious socialists in the Labor Party, should be with the Greens.

Clearly the Greens in Waverly have a similar view, and they should take up that view sharply with their Green colleagues just down the road in Randwick, for instance. In the run-up to the federal elections, the deep-rooted sentiment of the overwhelming majority on the left of society is for the removal of the Howard Liberal government, and the election of a Latham Labor government, with probably a large contingent of Greens holding the balance of power in the Senate.

Socialists in both the ALP and the Greens should fight very hard for the necessary unity between Labor and the Greens, including unity in municipal politics. Labor and the Greens should both tear up their deals with the Liberals and start negotiating with each other in a sensible way.

Words of wisdom from the Socialist Alliance

At the rather tumultuous meeting in Leichhardt at which the Greens came unstuck, the Socialist Alliance conducted a picket on the theme of praising the Greens as a break from what the Socialist Alliance called the “two capitalist parties, Labor and the Liberals”.

The DSP leadership obviously thinks this kind of intervention is serious mass politics. Whom the gods wish to destroy they first make mad, as the saying goes.

The real issue for socialists is to campaign for the necessary unity between the mass workers’ formation, the ALP-trade union continuum and the substantial leftist political party, the Greens, in opposition to the outright representatives of the ruling class in Australia, the Liberal-National coalition.

Inane prattle about the Greens being something totally distinct from the DSP’s metaphysical invention, “the two capitalist parties”, is confounded by the unfortunate bloc between the Greens and the Liberals in Randwick, and the bloc between the Greens and the conservative independents in Marrickville.

The key question for socialists in the next period, whether operating independently, in the ALP, or in the Greens, is to campaign strenuously for the united front to remove the hated Liberal government.

Anything else is a diversion from the current strategic necessities facing socialists and the labour and Green movements.

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