The Democratic Socialist Perspective and the Socialist Alliance

This is the text of a resolution of the twentieth congress of the Australian Democratic Socialist Party, which was held December 27-30, 2003.



Socialist unity—the preconditions and the gains to date

Strengthening our base of support in the working class

Socialist Alliance, revolutionary socialism and the Democratic Socialist Party


A. Introduction

When the May 2003 Second National Conference of the Socialist Alliance voted to adopt the perspective of transforming itself into a single, multi-tendency socialist party and to "accept and welcome a strong revolutionary socialist stream as an integral part of our vision of a broad socialist party", the door was open for the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) to become an internal tendency within the Alliance. In adopting the following resolution the Twenty-First Congress of the DSP votes to become an internal tendency in the Socialist Alliance and renames itself the Democratic Socialist Perspective with the following aims and objectives.

B. Socialist unity—the preconditions and the gains to date

1. The founding affiliate groups of the Socialist Alliance agreed from May 2001 that there was a special opening for socialists in this period, arising out of the neo-liberal offensive, the growing resistance to that offensive and resulting mass disillusionment with the Australian Labor Party (ALP).

2. The opening for the Socialist Alliance was very concrete. It was a response to the beginning of a new cycle of working-class and anti-capitalist struggle following two decades of working class retreat. Those who formed the Alliance welcomed the new militancy demonstrated in:

  • the mass high school walkouts against the racist One Nation Party of Pauline Hanson;
  • the mass opposition to the 1998 attack on the Maritime Union of Australia;
  • the mass solidarity with the East Timor national liberation struggle, which forced both Coalition and Labor parties to reverse their longstanding policy in support of the Indonesian occupation; and
  • the 20,000-strong, three-day S11-2000 blockade of the Melbourne World Economic Forum as the beginning of a new wave of resistance.

We recognised that some sort of left unity project, like the Socialist Alliance, was essential if socialists were to get a broader hearing from the working class in these new circumstances. This perspective has been strongly reinforced by imperialism's global offensive and the huge anti-war movement that erupted before the invasion of Iraq.

3. The Socialist Alliance has fielded candidates in state and federal elections, has begun to organise its members and supporters in the trade unions and has built campaigns around the demands of its action platform. In all these endeavours, our united campaigning has been more effective than the individual efforts of any single socialist group.

4. The greater left unity that the formation of the Socialist Alliance represented has already given socialists a broader hearing in the working class. In several cities, Socialist Alliance members are respected leaders of the militant trade union minority, enjoying the support of thousands of militant workers. The Alliance's influence has also grown in the anti-war movement and among the left intelligentsia.

5. The class-collaborationist leadership of the trade union movement certainly has taken notice of this development. They warn of the growing threat of Socialist Alliance-influenced militants and seek to red-bait and slander us as "extremists trying to take over the unions". We have also seen the conservative Laborites' paranoia about Socialist Alliance, which led them to split the Sydney anti-war coalition.

6. Having led the working class into retreat and having championed the neo-liberal offensive against the social gains of previous working-class struggles, the ALP is facing a serious political crisis. Labor's ever more explicit shift to the right—whether in government or in opposition—has opened up a space to its left that all serious socialists know we have to contend for. A growing section of the working class and other oppressed and victimised sections of society are looking for a political alternative to the major parties.

7. As the ALP stands increasingly exposed, the Greens are winning a growing hearing, particularly among young people. Their principled political stance on many issues, widely publicised through their parliamentary positions, has led many to believe that they offer a program of genuine progressive environmental and social reform. However, the Greens do not offer lasting or effective solutions to the crises caused by capitalism. The party is unclear about whether or not its aims can be achieved under capitalism. This leads the Greens to underestimate the importance of independent working-class mobilisation and organisation in favour of parliamentary activities. While there are some socialists and other grass-roots activists within the Greens, there is a rightward pressure exerted on the party by its wealthier supporters and by its parliamentary focus. As these strategic limitations become clearer, the Socialist Alliance can convince left-wing Greens activists to join a working-class party with an effective strategy for social change and ecological sustainability. The Democratic Socialist Perspective supports close collaboration between the Socialist Alliance and the Greens in community, social, environment and electoral campaigns.

C. Strengthening our base of support in the working class

8. However, winning the working class away from its traditional Labor misleadership requires a lot more than exposing the ALP's betrayals. Indeed, today socialists are hard-pressed to keep up with the ALP politicians' relentless self-exposure! However, if disillusioned-in-Labor workers are to rise above despair, cynicism and apathy, they have to see a viable alternative political vehicle, or at least one in construction.

9. To create this vehicle it is simply not enough for revolutionary socialists to hold up their political program and call for support from these workers breaking from the ALP. Rather, our challenge is to unite with the actual leaders of the working-class resistance, fighting alongside them in a common effort to reverse the cycle of defeat and reinvigorate the movement. In this way we can win over more of their ranks to the socialist movement. In short, our priority in the Socialist Alliance is to unite with these leading forces.

10. Socialist Alliance will be able to win over more militant trade union leaders and work more closely with a wider layer of working-class militants—winning their respect and confidence—if we are organised as a united socialist party. The sooner we move to implement the perspective adopted at the Second National Conference of the Socialist Alliance, the greater the chance of winning valuable working-class leaders to our ranks and to socialism. This also holds for activists from other arenas of social and environmental struggle.

11. Three-quarters of the delegates at the May 2003 Socialist Alliance National Conference, including nearly all those delegates who did not belong to a revolutionary socialist organisation, voted to "progress towards a single, multi-tendency socialist party" and to "accept and welcome a strong revolutionary socialist stream as an integral part of our vision of a broad socialist party". The Democratic Socialist Perspective agrees with this resolution and advocates that the affiliate groups in the Socialist Alliance pool their resources and experience and build the Socialist Alliance as the new multi-tendency party for socialism in Australia. We seek to lead this process through example.

12. Building a united socialist party with as much of the socialist working-class vanguard as possible is a greater priority today than resolving the historical and theoretical differences that continue to exist among the revolutionary socialist affiliates of the Socialist Alliance. Many of these differences are going to be resolved only with a certain test in practice combined with democratic discussion and decision-making. The Socialist Alliance is already this vehicle for comradely and democratic debate. The Democratic Socialist Perspective will continue to defend this feature of the Socialist Alliance.

D. Socialist Alliance, revolutionary socialism and the Democratic Socialist Perspective

13. The Democratic Socialist Perspective is a revolutionary socialist, Marxist organisation. This means that the Democratic Socialist Perspective is convinced that the socialist society for which the Alliance fights cannot be built unless the working class—which comprises the overwhelming majority in society today—conquers the power to make the decisions which are presently made by the corporate elites and those who govern for them. Only then will it be possible to put an end to inequality, injustice, poverty and oppression through the systematic and democratically decided restructuring of all social relations.

14. For this transformation to take place, the vast majority of working people have to become conscious socialists—conscious of their own power as the productive majority of society and convinced, too, that the socialist alternative represents their interests and remains viable despite the perversions and crimes that Stalinism committed in its name. Such consciousness can arise only through working people participating in struggles to defend their own immediate interests and in solidarity with working people in struggle elsewhere.

15. But socialist consciousness cannot grow in the absence of socialist organisation—a mass revolutionary socialist party based in the working class. This is because socialist consciousness does not develop spontaneously. It has to be struggled for in the face of a capitalist class with immense and highly centralised military, financial, political and ideological power.

16. The experience of all mass working-class and popular struggle to overthrow capitalism and establish a socialist society—beginning with the Russian Revolution—confirms the following key lessons of the pioneering Bolshevik experience in this regard:

  • Socialist consciousness and successful struggle is impossible without a revolutionary program for leading the class struggle to a revolutionary socialist conclusion.
  • That program can be developed and effectively applied only by a party which—through its consistent political activity—can win a leadership or vanguard role in the working class.
  • That party must be composed of activists who carry out such a program and who agree with and are capable of working collectively (i.e. in a disciplined way) to advance it.
  • That party must have an internationalist perspective, understand the role of imperialism and be firm in its goal of overthrowing its own ruling class.

17. However, neither in Australia nor anywhere can these features be decreed or conjured up. The revolutionary program, organisation and leadership have to be developed and tested in a real struggle to provide leadership to Australian workers in all the battles—economic, political and ideological—that they will face.

18. By the same token, the mass revolutionary socialist party in this country will never be built simply by the incremental growth of the existing small socialist propaganda groups. The road to such a party will be conditioned by the specific social conditions and political developments that emerge. Crucial in this process will be the consistent effort by the consciously revolutionary forces to win over and fuse with the leaderships that emerge in the working class.

19. It is on the basis of this analysis that the Democratic Socialist Perspective sees building the Socialist Alliance as a united, multi-tendency socialist party as an important stage in the struggle for a mass revolutionary party in this country.

20. We are confident that, while the Socialist Alliance begins with an incomplete class-struggle platform and a broad socialist objective (i.e. does not have an explicitly revolutionary program), in the course of united engagement in mass struggles, it will steadily and democratically develop its program in a more explicitly revolutionary direction. With tendency rights protected within the Alliance, revolutionary socialists should be confident that they can win other comrades in the party to the revolutionary perspective.

21. Others in the Socialist Alliance may not share this orientation, but this is our perspective as revolutionary socialists. We are totally open about this perspective and seek to win others in the Socialist Alliance to it. Those comrades with whom the Democratic Socialist Party now works—and the many more who will join the Alliance in the future—will always know where the Democratic Socialist Perspective is coming from. It will not seek to trick them into collaboration by hiding its revolutionary perspective.

E. Conclusion

22. On this basis the Democratic Socialist Perspective seeks to unite in a single organised political tendency all revolutionary socialists in the Socialist Alliance who agree with this perspective. Members of the Democratic Socialist Perspective may not agree with every political position adopted by the tendency; such agreement is not a requirement of membership. All that is politically required is that members of the Democratic Socialist Perspective agree to implement the decisions of the tendency.

23. In accordance with the perspective outlined here the purposes of the Democratic Socialist Perspective within Socialist Alliance are as follows:

  • to build the Socialist Alliance and progress its transformation into a united, multi-tendency socialist party;
  • to integrate as much of the resources of the Democratic Socialist Party into the Socialist Alliance as possible;
  • to promote internationalism and comradely collaboration between the Socialist Alliance and socialist organisations in other countries on the basis of solidarity and mutual non-interference;
  • to win other Socialist Alliance members to revolutionary socialism;
  • to educate and train Socialist Alliance members in all aspects of Marxism; and
  • to provide revolutionary political leadership and direction within the Alliance.

24. The Democratic Socialist Perspective will pursue these aims within the democratic framework of the Socialist Alliance.