Sunday, August 18, 2013

Socialist candidate: We need to act locally and globally

Sam Wainwright is a Fremantle city councillor and the Socialist Alliance candidate for the seat of Fremantle. Being passionate about sustainable transport he is active in the local Bicycle Users Group and the Fremantle Road 2 Rail campaign.

Wainwright worked on the waterfront for 12 years during which time he edited the MUA WA journal Rank & File Voice. He now works as a disability support worker and is a member of the Australian Services Union.

Wainwright told Green Left Weekly why he decided to run as a candidate for the Socialist Alliance.

“While they are very different workplaces, the experience of human solidarity and the pride in a job well done has confirmed in me the central socialist idea that working people and the wider community have the capacity to run society better than the corporate elite and governments that serve them,” he said.

“The capitalist ideologues claim that, like them, people are only motivated by the carrot and the stick.

“But it's the lack of control over our working lives, the lack of means to do the job properly and the fact that capitalism requires so many workers to engage in profitable but useless and destructive activity that breeds cynicism. I think people really yearn to work for society and not a boss.”

Wainwright joined the socialist movement in 1990 in Hobart, but only after quitting the ALP, which he had joined as high school student four years earlier.

“I absorbed from Mum, Dad and their friends an outrage at the Whitlam dismissal; even wearing a 'Shame Fraser Shame' badge to primary school”, he said. “To think that Fraser is now to the left of the ALP on refugee rights; that tells a pitiful tale doesn't it!

“As my political awareness grew, I shifted to the left while Labor in government was moving to the right. I was especially outraged by their total support for Indonesia's genocidal occupation of East Timor.

“It's funny, but only a few years earlier a generation of people quit Labor when it junked its anti-uranium policy. It shows how hopes and illusions in Labor are reborn and have to be dashed with successive generations, and how successfully it breeds the idea that the lesser evil is the best you can hope for.

“Last election, an ALP booth captain confided in me that he had voted Socialist Alliance. That's an important lesson for us socialists. It's not enough for us to be right. People need to believe that real change is not just necessary, but that it's possible. That's the challenge.”

Socialists spend a lot of time discussing the big world events, so what spurred Wainwright to get involved in local politics?

“I don't think I lived in one place for more than 18 months in my 20s, the local council was not on the radar”, he said. “But when you settle down in a place you do start to think more about what you want see changed in your local neighbourhood.

“A big movement for change will be born out of the myriad of smaller struggles for a better world intersecting with the massive social, economic and ecological disasters produced by capitalism.

“We have big ideas about how to solve these problems, but people will only listen to them if we can prove our worth in struggles today.

“If you can't organise a campaign to get a new pedestrian crossing or bike lane in your suburb, why should people believe you've got the ideas to save the world?

“I'm not arguing for narrow parochialism, and some councils are so conservative that it would be very hard to achieve anything. But we have to think and act both locally and globally.

“Where you have the opportunity to make a positive difference, connect with activists in your community and lift the level of political discussion then you should do it.”

[This article by Justine Kamprad was written for Green Left Weekly #978.]