The Victorian Socialists is one of Victoria’s biggest and fastest-growing minor parties coming into next week’s state election. It also has some of the state’s youngest candidates and volunteers who have been campaigning and promoting an anti-capitalist, pro-community message. But is it just their policies that are behind their rise?

The party was formed in 2018 ahead of the previous state election by an alliance of socialist groups including the Socialist Alternative (you may have seen them handing out flyers at uni).

Hundreds of volunteers knocked on 90,000 doors during the 2018 election campaign and the party picked up about 4 per cent of the vote in the northern metro seat — higher than many other established minor parties.

This year they’ve doubled in size. More than 1000 volunteers have knocked on 165,000 doors and counting to promote the Victorian Socialists’ 22 lower house candidates and 16 upper house candidates.

“We narrowly missed out on winning the northern metro seats in 2018 but it was a really strong showing for a socialist party,” Victorian Socialist assistant secretary and western metro lead candidate Liz Walsh told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

“We thought there was enough energy to keep it going.”

They also organised a number of protests this year in keeping with their activist roots, including the defend abortion rights rally in Melbourne after Roe v Wade was overturned. It attracted more than 15,000 people.

“When we get together, stand up for ourselves, have blockades … we can make change,” Walsh said.

So who are the Victorian Socialists? We spoke to three of their youngest candidates about why they joined and what they stand for.

Catherine Robertson, 27 — Victorian Socialist Lower House Candidate for Laverton

Robertson grew up in Melbourne’s western suburbs and became a member of Socialist Alternative as a uni student.

She got her start in political activism campaigning against the Abbott Government’s cuts to higher education. While she never considered a career in politics, she decided to put her hand up as a candidate when the Victorian Socialists first formed because they had “a very different sense of where change comes from” compared to other political parties.

“The Victorian Socialists want to fight on all fronts and see the profit motives, the heart of decisions in parliament, as the thing we need to change,” Robertson told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

The Victorian Socialists formed as a working-class party, as Labor did. They stand for the redistribution of wealth and power, radical climate action and a reorganisation of society. They believe in galvanising and motivating people to fight for equality.

But they understand socialist can be a polarising word.

“The reason we call ourselves socialists is because we want to rebuild the tradition of socialism being the politics of working-class struggle,” Robertson said.

“People have negative associations with Stalinism and forms of socialism that really bastardised the name … but hopefully over time as the ranks of socialists get rebuilt in Victoria in some small way, it can be the thing that starts to shift people into being more open to it again and seeing it as genuinely trying to fight for ordinary people’s interests.”

Nahui Jimenez, 26 — Victorian Socialist Lower House Candidate for Brunswick

Jimenez is a Mexican-Australian who joined the Campaign Against Racism and the Socialist Alternative when she moved to Melbourne in 2015. She became heavily involved in the campaign to free the refugees of the Park Hotel, which she said was a stellar example of activism succeeding.

Jimenez was involved in forming the Victorian Socialists in 2018 because she wanted people with left-wing values to have an alternative to Labor amid growing right-wing extremism, rather than turning to the Liberals.

“A lot of people on the far left were sick of politics as usual and I think there was an opening for the far left to create a real political alternative,” Jimenez told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

“Around the populism of the Trump era of 2016 I think the right was winning and was more organised. [We] decided to become more organised in response to polarising far-right campaigns like Reclaim Australia gaining ground.”

For Jimenez, constructing a socialist political party was about addressing the climate crisis, housing crisis and so on and not only providing hope to people that they can in fact be fixed, but inspiring them to take action as a community.

“I think people feel so lost and think ‘what the fuck can I do?’” Jimenez said.

“If we’re going to change anything in the system we need to break through the apathy that nothing can be done and start to mobilise people.

“When we say ‘people-powered’ it doesn’t just mean that we have policies that benefit working-class people, it’s about saying ‘you need to be active with us because you have the power to change things on the ground’ and I think that’s the key missing ingredient in politics at the moment.”

Julien Q. Macandili, 23 — Victorian Socialist Lower House Candidate for Williamstown

Macandili said “inequality is a bit more in your face” in the Phillippines where they grew up, which they said gave them a unique perspective on social equality.

“Poverty and environmental destruction is something you see every day [which] made me someone a bit more receptive to left-wing ideas,” Macandili told PEDESTRIAN.TV.

Their introduction to activism was the environmental movement of 2019 and the campaign against the religious discrimination bill.

They joined the Socialist Alternative while studying a Bachelor of Science at Melbourne University when medevac refugees were transferred into Carlton’s Park Hotel prison, next to their campus.

Macandili never considered a career in politics but said they have been inspired by the growing number of young people taking part in political activism in recent years.

“People see politicians as too old, they’re out of touch,” they said.

“Young people are depressed, disempowered and disillusioned with how the environmental crisis is heading [so] it’s incredible that we’re reaching high-schoolers and have volunteers who are high-schoolers.”

“Campaigning is our priority and getting people themselves to organise and fight back. It’s actually us [the people] who have the interest to stop climate change, raise the dole, raise the minimum wage, rather than lobbying people in parliament who are getting a lot of money for overseeing Australian capitalism.”

Want more state election info? Read our complete beginners’ guide here and our highly simplified guide to all the minor parties.