Australia: Socialist Alliance to launch public consultations on 'socialism in the 21st century'

Scenes from the 8th national conference of the Socialist Alliance. Made with Slideshow Embed Tool.

January 27, 2012 -- Socialist Alliance -- The 8th national conference of the Socialist Alliance -- held in Sydney on January 20-22 -- decided to take a draft document entitled “Towards a socialist Australia” through a nationwide public consultation process to promote a wide discussion about socialism in the 21st century.

This was in response to its assessment that it is important for socialists is to take full advantage of the expanded political opening created by a new wave of popular anti-capitalist sentiment and mobilisations to win many more people to socialism. Socialist Alliance recognised it is equally important for socialists to immerse themselves in this new wave of struggles.

“The global capitalist economic and environmental crises and the now global Occupy movement have opened a big public discussion about alternatives to capitalism”, said Susan Price, newly elected national co-convenor of the Socialist Alliance. “We hope to advance this discussion by organising a series of forums and consultations in all major cities. We'll be inviting a range of socialists and other progressive groups and individuals to give their input... The conference extend this dialogue beyond the organised left to trade unions, unions, faith-based communities, the First Nations, local governments and community-based activist organisations.”

At the 9th national conference of Socialist Alliance, to be held January 19-20, 2013, a redraft of the document, based on the consultation year-long consultation process, will be reconsidered.


A discussion on the new world political situation was kicked off at a packed out special presentation on January 20, by Dick Nichols (from Green Left Weekly's European desk) on the topic "The Indignado movement and beyond: Crisis, revolt and the left in Europe". Nichols is now based in Barcelona but was in Australia to attend the conference.

This discussion continued the next day with a report on the international situation, presented by Mel Barnes, and a report on the Australian political situation, by Paul Benedek.

The conference also reviewed the wide range of political activities that Socialist Alliance members are involved in.

Aboriginal rights

These include the campaign against the racist Northern Territory "intervention" against the Aboriginal people's rights and its extension by the Australian government -- led by Prime Minister Julia Gillard of the Australian Labor Party -- of its discriminatory provisions to other states, the campaign against Aboriginal deaths in custody and campaigns to defend Aboriginal heritage sites in Tasmania. Aboriginal leaders and Socialist Alliance members Pat Eatock (who opened the conference) and Sam Watson – both veterans of the 1972 Aboriginal Tent Embassy protest – urged support for the 40th anniversary of the tent embassy on January 26-28.

“Back in January, 1972, I was invited down to the embassy as the minister for information of the Brisbane chapter of the Black Panther Party of Australia”, said Watson in his greetings to the conference. “That was my first visit to Canberra and I was invited to stay on and become a full-time staff member of the Tent Embassy. I stayed there until July, when the federal government enacted a law that gave them right to move the cops in and smash the tents."

“Over the next seven days, thousands of blacks and our supporters, rallied, marched and fought pitched battles with the cops to put the tents back up. The embassy has now been there for 40 years and it has been the focal point of our national struggle... This struggle has achieved great things; but there is still a long way to go. I want to acknowledge the enormous contribution that has been made to our struggle by our non-Indigenous comrades and friends. We would never have succeeded to this stage without that strength and support from our comrades”, Watson added.

Coal seam gas, equal marriage, Occupy, socialism, Left Unity

Other campaigns where Socialist Alliance members are playing leading roles range from the campaign against coal seam gas mining and “fracking”, the equal marriage rights campaign, refugee rights, international solidarity and anti-war campaigns, women's rights and various trade union struggles.

Socialist Alliance members were also very active in the Occupy movement that came to Australia in October 2011.

While the Socialist Alliance made plans to build and strengthen its own organisation, it also resolved to continue to try and unite with “anyone who supports the replacement of the capitalist system with a socialist system”.

“From our point of view, the door is always open to unity (or even practical proposals for greater collaboration) with others on the left“, Alex Bainbridge said in the Socialist Alliance building report to the conference.

“We welcome the election of Anthony Main from the Socialist Party to Yarra council [in Melbourne] since our last conference and by welcoming the actual local [left] alliances that have emerged in the last period: that is Community Voice in Wollongong; and Left Unity in Adelaide. Further, we pledge our support to the Communist Party' of Australia'ss election campaign in South Australia this month.”

The Socialist Alliance also decided to field two candidates in the March 25, 2012, Queensland election.

The conference received greetings in person from Greens NSW upper house parliamentarian David Shoebridge; Patrice Nyembo, president of the Congolese Community of Australia, Comrade Hom from the Nepalese People's Progressive Forum and Victor-Hugo Munoz from the Latin America Social Forum.

Warm messages of solidarity were received from Nelson Davila Lameda, the ambassador to Australia for the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and Pedro Monzon Barata, the ambassador to Australia for the Republic of Cuba.

Written greetings were presented from several parties and individuals, including the Socialist Party of Malaysia, the Labour Party Pakistan, Partido Lakas ng Masa (Philippines), John Riddell (Canada), Peoples Democratic Party (Indonesia), Socialist Aotearoa, Left Unity (South Australia), Aurora-POR (Spain), Janadesh Weekly (Nepal) and the Green Left current in the Green Party of England and Wales.

Susan Price and Peter Boyle were elected national co-convenors. Conference also elected 12 other members to the national executive. Another 14 members of the national executive will be elected by state bodies.