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Issue #1763      February 1, 2017

In common need and cause

Capitalism in crisis can be seen everywhere: in its failure to provide the basic necessities to a greater part of the world’s population; its push globally for privatisation which is theft from the people and deprives them of even the most crucial services; in its smothering of national cultures; in its destruction of the environment; in the development of globalisation itself, which capital must impose in order to satisfy the insatiable need for more and more profits.

This crisis, which is fundamental and deepening, expresses itself also in ongoing struggles by people around the world. Increased pressure from the grassroots environment movement to halt the destruction of the environment, the pollution of the planet which threatens all life, has forced the hand of corporations responsible and the governments representing their vested interests, showing them up as the main culprits at one world forum after another.

In Australia, actions have already taken place in the first month of this year, with thousands of people taking to the streets for recognition of Australia’s First People in the growing push to change the date marking, essentially, the meaning and history of the nation, Australia Day (see page 3). In essence this was both a gesture by Australians to the Indigenous people as an acknowledgment of our history and prior ownership, and a protest at the backward and racist position taken by successive federal governments.

The world’s workers have long recognised the global nature and the need for unity and internationalism based on class, to unite the workers of the world. That is what we are witnessing now: hands across nations, continents and oceans to, in common need and cause, decide the future of the world.

Free and fair?

In relation to this, the right to a universal franchise is not unimportant and must be preserved, but the electoral system has and is being systematically manipulated to regularly produce an outcome different to that indicated by the majority of voters. “The will of the people” is a cliché being invoked by Donald Trump and used by politicians in other countries as well. But as has become clear the present system does not work out like that.

Any election is far from “fair” when only the super rich can buy the necessary media space to put their policies before the people. In the US, the total of money spent by the Democrat and Republican campaigns runs into hundreds of millions of dollars and most of it is provided by corporate donors who expect to get more than their money back in the policies to be implemented by whoever is the winner.

And now, for the first time, a gangster sits openly at the desk in the Oval Office in the White House.

Australia is not free of similar manipulation of the electoral system. Past amendments to the NSW electoral law, for example, by a then Labor government, resulted in the exclusion of many smaller parties who might otherwise stand candidates. There is also a very onerous financial hurdle to jump to stand candidates. The NSW electoral changes are designed to ensure that the existing two-party system remains intact with the spoils of office being shared by the Labor and Liberal Parties long into the future.

In the federal sphere, the votes cast for the respective parties bear little relationship to the number of seats they “win”.

The right to vote is only one element in the electoral system. So long as the media is controlled by those who support either Liberal or Labor (or Democrat or Republican in the US), so long as they are able to use government offices to manipulate electoral campaigns and bribe voters with last minute cash handouts, so long as electorate boundaries are manipulated, to mention only a few areas, there will be a long shadow over “free and fair” elections.

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