Labor’s win in the recent Victorian state election was historic – the first time a one-term government had been turned out for more than 60 years. It was also a fantastic example of how organisation can win elections. Labor’s leader Daniel Andrews’ focused on having 5500 active volunteers behind him. 45% of these were not Labor party members, but they made more than 500,000 telephone calls and door-knocked 170,000 houses in a state with a population the size of New Zealand’s.
Last night I heard from one of our organisers who had worked in the campaign. Three things particularly impressed me – they had 26 paid organisers, their campaign was in place years ahead of the election with their persuasion time at least six months out, and they monitored activity systematically and relentlessly.
This report puts a lot of the organising success down to the community organising principles made famous in the seventies by Saul Alinsky. I know they work – I was a community organiser in the seventies and eighties – we didn’t have Saul Alinsky but we brought a Creole priest from France called Philippe Fanchette to teach us how to win power from the powerless position. He trained many of us before he disappeared into Maoridom, and I still have my old photocopy of Rules for Radicals. Those principles were invaluable in the union campaign in the lead-up to the 1999 election, and in the get-out-the-vote campaign in 2005.
I don’t know if Labour’s 2014 review of the election here has touched upon the importance of organisation, although resourcing was mentioned. I know that Matt McCarten understands the principles, I hope Andrew Little gets to know Daniel Andrews, and I would love it if our Labour Party could get Stephen Donnelly over here to talk to party members.
It’s true – organisation does win elections. In my opinion, Labour’s organisation here could do with a rev-up.