Content Warning: References to Genocide, Bigotry, Abortion, War 

Luka Kiernan is a member of Socialist Alternative Monash and Students for Palestine

Over the last decade a peculiar new industry has sprung up for the super-wealthy: Luxury Doomsday Bunkers. One particularly opulent refurbished missile shelter boasts “restrooms having a whirlpool bath, double sinks, and rainfall showers, a spa, swimming pool… cinema, a splendid bar, an extravagant wine cellar” – all the essentials a billionaire might need to see out the apocalypse, all while keeping out the plebeian masses.

Capitalism is in an intense crisis. Crises of the climate, finance system, imperialism, health, and everything else the system produces. The rich are now enjoying the greatest level of wealth inequality in all of human history. Australia’s three richest people have been making 1.5 million dollars per hour for the last 4 years.

Marx famously declared that capitalism entered the world “dripping head to toe, from every pore, with blood and dirt” (Marx, 1867, ch. 31). In his time, the blood and dirt was chattel slavery, the horrific conditions of factory workers, the genocidal colonial occupations, and whatever else. Capitalism’s blood and dirt continues today.

At time of writing, over 24,000 Palestinians have been confirmed to have been killed in the genocide of Gaza, almost half of whom are children. Western politicians’ criticism is limited to the most tokenistic finger-wagging, because the genocide is being carried out by an important imperialist ally. 

The far-right is pushing a sexist, racist, anti-LGBTI+ agenda around the world. Since the overturning of Roe v Wade, more than 1 in 3 women in the United States have lost the right to abortion. In some states, such as Texas, doctors facilitating abortions can face sentences up to life in prison. The United Kingdom is modelling its refugee torture regime on our home-grown Australian system. The much lauded United Nations COP28 was headed by the CEO of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. Somehow worse than being just another greenwashing exercise, the conference was also a networking opportunity for fossil fuel executives, who used it to make plans to boost the industry in the global south.

The system itself is totally impotent to provide change. Hope in Australia for the Labor Party or the Greens to take meaningful action, has been well and truly dashed. Albanese has ruled for the rich, while Australia sees the greatest decline in living standards in the OECD. He has allocated at least 330 billion dollars in signing us up to AUKUS – a nuclear war death pact. The Greens have put up only token opposition to Albanese, rubber-stamping his worthless, greenwashing climate bill, and – after slightly stiffer resistance — the woefully insufficient HAFF Bill. Their milquetoast electoral manoeuvring shows no way forward.

So where does that leave us? The only answer is getting rid of the system entirely. While capitalists have all of the powerful institutions of society on their side, they can’t do anything without us. Brecht put it most beautifully in his poem ‘From a German War Primer: 

“General, your tank is a powerful vehicle. It smashes down forests and crushes a hundred men. But it has one defect: It needs a driver.” 

Just as this is true for the army, it’s true for the economy. Gina Rinehart has never lugged a piece of coal out of the ground, Bezos doesn’t wrap packages in his warehouses, and Musk doesn’t screw the doors onto his overpriced trucks. While capitalists amass ungodly amounts of wealth, they do so only off of our labour. Around the world over the last few years, our side has been using this to fight back..

In Iran, the brutal murder of Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini by the state ‘morality police’ provoked millions across Iran to participate in the Woman, Life, Freedom Movement. University and high school students initiated mass protests, and were backed up by tens of thousands of striking teachers, oil, gas, and petrochemical workers.

Right now, new President Javier Milei is attempting to force through austerity on Argentine workers, and a general strike against him took place on January 24. Over the last few years, other countries including France, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Chile, the US, Myanmar, Thailand, Colombia, Algeria, India, and Hong Kong, have all experienced serious mass struggles.

Australia hasn’t seen such intense levels of class struggle, but there is no shortage of meaningful activism to be a part of here. But it’s not enough just to think socialist thoughts, and maybe attend some protests by yourself – though that’s a great place to start. We have to be organised. 

Socialist Alternative is Australia’s biggest and most serious socialist group. If you want to be a left-wing activist, you should join us. To give you a sense of what we do, I’ll just give an abbreviated list of some of our political efforts last year.

In March, far-right provocateur Kellie Jay Keen (aka Posie Parker) held transphobic rallies around Australia, and was decisively shown up, outnumbered, and humiliated by trans rights activists, in rallies around the country organised by SA member and National Union of Students Queer Officer Grace Hill. The next weekend, Victorian Trades Hall organised the largest pro-trans rally in Australian history, where more than five thousand people came out to declare their support for trans people.

Socialist Alternative’s members in University workplaces were instrumental in leading strikes around the country, including at the University of Sydney, RMIT, Monash, and record breaking strikes at the University of Melbourne.

As a part of Palestine collectives in each city, we have played a major role helping organise the historic protests. Our members have spoken at the rallies of tens of thousands every weekend, and our high school members organised the biggest School Strike for Palestine in the world.

But we also think you need to understand the world in order to change it. Our organisation puts on the Marxism Conference every year, and prints Red Flag, and the Marxist Left Review. The biggest and best socialist conference, newspaper and theoretical journal respectively.  On campus, we organise reading groups, public meetings, and much more.

Capitalism is in a death spiral. We have to fight against it. But to do that, we have to be organised. Join Socialist Alternative at Monash to be a part of that. Message our Facebook or Instagram pages to get involved, or come along to one of our many events. 

Luka Kiernan

The author Luka Kiernan

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