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Australia’s two biggest socialist groups begin talks on prospects for left unity

Graphic from the North Star.

By Peter Boyle

November 4, 2012 -- Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- On November 4, a delegation of Susan Price, Sue Bolton and myself, from the Socialist Alliance had an initial meeting to discuss left unity prospects with a delegation comprising Mick Armstrong, Sandra Bloodworth and Corey Oakley from Socialist Alternative.

The meeting was cordial and constructive. A short joint statement was issued that night, which noted that “the basis exists to begin a process of discussion to clarify our respective political positions and engage in collaborative work, with the aim of establishing if unity is possible”. The statement was published on both organisations' websites.

The joint statement said: “It was acknowledged that there are real political differences between the groups, both historic and to do with immediate questions of day-to-day politics and a conception of what kind of organisation the left needs. We had only the most provisional discussion of these issues, and it is clear that we are just at the start of a lengthy process of clarification.

“We both consider that, in a context of global capitalist crisis and an increasing offensive by the ruling class in Australia, it is incumbent on the left to try to work towards unity where it can. Nonetheless, neither organisation wishes to rush the process. We do not want unity at any cost, but unity that will be able to take the socialist movement forward.”

The meeting resulted in:

1. Agreement to schedule a series of discussions between the organisations to clarify our respective views on important political questions such as the socialist attitude to: parliament and elections, alliances and questions of party form, the environment, trade unions and women’s rights.

2. Provisional agreement that Socialist Alliance would be involved in the Marxism 2013 conference at Easter, that Socialist Alliance speakers would be invited to Marxism 2013, and that Socialist Alliance would help to build the conference.

3. Agreement to continue and where possible increase the level of collaboration between our groups in movement and union struggles.

The November 4 meeting was held on the initiative of the Socialist Alliance.

After noticing some statements by central leaders of Socialist Alternative in an internet discussion that declared a openness to socialists with different perspectives on a variety of issues working together in a common political organisation, the Socialist Alliance national executive wrote to Socialist Alternative on September 15, 2012, requesting a meeting to explore possibilities for closer cooperation and unity.

“The class struggle is rapidly intensifying as state and federal governments increase their attacks on the working class and other oppressed sectors and on the social concessions won through years of struggle”, the letter said.

“In the midst of these attacks, the ALP (which still dominates the labour movement) has severely weakened the fightback by consistently restraining any militant fightback and on top of that it has confused, disoriented and divided the working class by promoting the racist scapegoating of refugees and asylum seekers.

“As the two largest socialist organisations in Australia today we have the duty to see if we can work together to build a stronger pole of leadership for the desperately needed fightback and to win more in the working class and other oppressed sectors to the struggle to end the class dictatorship of capital.”

The September 15 letter welcomed the comments by leading Socialist Alternative comrades Sandra Bloodworth and Tom Bramble that some of the differences that have divided the revolutionary left in the past should not be a barrier to working in a common party.

“We respect the success and broadening out of the annual Marxism conferences that Socialist Alternative has organised and we have expressed this respect in Green Left Weekly. We would like to help build the next Marxism conference into an even bigger gathering and discussion for the left.

“We also respect the role that Socialist Alternative members are playing in building several important movements, including the refugee rights movement, the equal marriage rights movement, the student movement, Palestine and Aboriginal solidarity, etc.

“We acknowledge the strong solidarity you have organised for militant trade union struggles such as the Baiada poultry workers’ strike, the Toll/Coles warehouse workers’ strike and the construction workers’ Grocon strike.

“We are serious about the question of left unity and we are committed to constructively exploring all prospects for such unity.”

The November 4 Socialist Alliance-Socialist Alternative joint statement and a copy of our earlier letter requesting that meeting can be read below and are republished from the Socialist Alliance website.

[Peter Boyle is a national co-convener of Socialist Alliance]

Joint statement by Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative representatives

November 4, 2012

A meeting was held in Melbourne on November 4 between Peter Boyle, Sue Bolton and Susan Price (representing the leadership of Socialist Alliance) and Mick Armstrong, Sandra Bloodworth and Corey Oakley (representing the leadership of Socialist Alternative), to explore the possibility of closer collaboration and unity between the two organisations.

The meeting was comradely and constructive, and both sides agree that the basis exists to begin a process of discussion to clarify our respective political positions and engage in collaborative work, with the aim of establishing if unity is possible.

It was acknowledged that there are real political differences between the groups, both historic and to do with immediate questions of day-to-day politics and a conception of what kind of organisation the left needs. We had only the most provisional discussion of these issues, and it is clear that we are just at the start of a lengthy process of clarification.

We both consider that, in a context of global capitalist crisis and an increasing offensive by the ruling class in Australia, it is incumbent on the left to try to work towards unity where it can. Nonetheless, neither organisation wishes to rush the process. We do not want unity at any cost, but unity that will be able to take the socialist movement forward.

We have agreed on the following:

1. Scheduling a series of discussions between the organisations to clarify our respective views on important political questions such as the socialist attitude to parliament and elections; to alliances and questions of party form; to the environment; to trade unions; and to women’s rights.

2. There was provisional agreement that Socialist Alliance would be involved in the Marxism 2013 conference at Easter, that Socialist Alliance speakers would be invited to Marxism 2013, and that Socialist Alliance would help to build the conference.

3. We will continue and where possible increase the level of collaboration between our groups in movement and union struggles.

Letter to Socialist Alternative requesting discussions to explore possibilities for closer cooperation and unity

September 15, 2012

Dear Comrades,

We are writing on behalf of the Socialist Alliance national executive to request discussions with your leadership to explore possibilities for closer cooperation and unity. Our national executive met on September 14 and agreed on sending this letter.

The class struggle is rapidly intensifying as state and federal governments increase their attacks on the working class and other oppressed sectors and on the social concessions won through years of struggle.

In the midst of these attacks, the ALP (which still dominates the labour movement) has severely weakened the fightback by consistently restraining any militant fightback and on top of that it has confused, disoriented and divided the working class by promoting the racist scapegoating of refugees and asylum seekers.

As the two largest socialist organisations in Australia today we have the duty to see if we can work together to build a stronger pole of leadership for the desperately needed fightback and to win more in the working class and other oppressed sectors to the struggle to end the class dictatorship of capital.

We have followed with interest the discussion around the Facebook announcement by a former DSP leader, Jorge Jorquera, that he is joining Socialist Alternative and the positive responses by several leading Socialist Alternative members and from others in the left. We welcome the comments by leading Socialist Alternative comrades Sandra Bloodworth and Tom Bramble that some of the differences that have divided the revolutionary left in the past should not be a barrier to working in a common party.

We respect the success and broadening out of the annual Marxism conferences that Socialist Alternative has organised and we have expressed this respect in Green Left Weekly. We would like to help build the next Marxism conference into an even bigger gathering and discussion for the left.

We also respect the role that Socialist Alternative members are playing in building several important movements, including the refugee rights movement, the equal marriage rights movement, the student movement, Palestine and Aboriginal solidarity, etc.

We acknowledge the strong solidarity you have organised for militant trade union struggles such as the Baiada poultry workers' strike, the Toll/Coles warehouse workers' strike and the construction workers' Grocon strike.

We are serious about the question of left unity and we are committed to constructively exploring all prospects for such unity.

If Socialist Alternative is interested in having an initial and exploratory leadership discussion, we are prepared to attend a meeting with a delegation of around three or four from each party in either Melbourne or Sydney at a mutually suitable time in the near future.

The Socialist Alliance is having a two-day broader leadership (national council) meeting on October 6-7 and we would appreciate a response from you before then, if possible.

Comradely regards
Susan Price and Peter Boyle
for the Socialist Alliance national executive

 

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