More than 250 volunteers and supporters turned out on 21 October to the historic Mission to Seafarers in Melbourne’s Docklands to help launch the Victorian Socialists’ state election policy manifesto.

First to speak was Western Metro upper house candidate Liz Walsh, who decried the damage wrought by decades of privatisation and sell-offs of public services and assets carried out by both Liberal and Labor governments. “We need to root out the corporatisation of our public services ... we need to fight against government cost-cutting and underfunding ... and socialists are up for that fight”, she told the applauding crowd. “Victorian Socialists are fighting to take our public services back into public hands ... We fought against Kennett, we fought against Hawke and Keating when they were introducing economic rationalism and neoliberalism, and we will take that fight into parliament if we’re given a chance ... and we’ll use that platform to organise resistance on the ground.”

Also addressing the crowd was VS member and construction union delegate Viraj Dissanayake, who was then 36 days into a strike at the Knauf plasterboard factory in Port Melbourne (workers have since gone back to work having won a key demand regarding labour hire). The battle Viraj helped lead at Knauf embodies everything Victorian Socialists is about—workers getting organised, standing up and fighting for a better deal, not just for themselves, but to set a precedent that can inspire and encourage other workers to do the same. “They [Knauf management] wanted us to take a massive pay cut”, Viraj explained. “We told them to get stuffed.”

Viraj also provided a strong endorsement of Liz and Jerome Small, the respective VS upper-house candidates in the Western and Northern Metro districts. “I have known Liz and Jerome for a long time”, he said. “I know they are staunch fighters, who are absolutely dedicated to organising, fighting, and generally raising hell alongside working-class people. Which is why I’ll be an active part of Victorian Socialists’ election campaign.”

Last to speak was Jerome Small. He started with a shout out to the VS members who have been organising in their workplaces in recent months, including in factories like Knauf, on university campuses and in childcare centres. “The working class create all the wealth”, he told the crowd. “We should be the ones electing management—if we need them—and sacking them if they behave badly.” The project of Victorian Socialists, he went on, was about bringing together the best working-class fighters and activists and “reviving socialism as a political movement in the daily conversations all around this country and all around this state”. 

Legal aid for migrant workers, abolishing anti-strike laws, democratising workplaces, securing a decent living wage—these were just some of the VS policies Jerome highlighted. In his words, getting one or two socialists into parliament is about rebuilding socialism as a “living, breathing, fighting, organising, controversialising force in Australian political life”. At the state election in a month’s time, we have a chance to make history by doing just that.