Resolution on work in the Socialist Alliance

from the Democratic Socialist Party

This resolution was adopted by the Twentieth Congress of the Australian Democratic Socialist Party [DSP], held in Sydney from December 28, 2002 to January 1, 2003. For an explanation of its background, see Peter Boyle's article in this issue.

This Twentieth Congress of the Democratic Socialist Party:

1. Reaffirms our commitment to strengthening the Socialist Alliance. Since its founding, the Socialist Alliance has shown that the socialist left has been able to establish a distinct, if still modest, support base through standing in federal, state and municipal elections as a registered party. Through united work in the Alliance, the left is also beginning to make a valuable contribution to the anti-war and refugee rights movements and in building solidarity with militant, democratic forces in the trade unions. Through this and other work, the Alliance has already achieved a profile that overshadows that of any of the individual affiliates. The DSP is committed to further strengthening the Alliance on the basis of these gains.

2. Is convinced that the Socialist Alliance has the potential to develop much greater influence in the unions, the movements and electoral politics on the basis of building higher levels of unity within the Alliance. The key to the success of the Alliance has been the practical demonstration that the left can work together. It is this that has inspired (and re-inspired) many leftists and progressive people to involve themselves in politics within the Alliance. It has also created interest and sympathy towards the Alliance among wider layers of unionists and movement activists. The potential clearly exists for the Alliance to further develop support within working-class and migrant communities and to continue its expansion into new regions. The more the Alliance can be developed as a united organisation of socialists (with its own publication, system of education in socialist politics and other resources) the more it will attract into its ranks these and other people committed to the struggles for social justice. This perspective is also needed to build a socialist pole of attraction powerful enough to act on the left flank of the rapidly growing Greens. Particularly in this phase in Australian politics, restraining the Alliance's role mainly to that of a socialist electoral front would not only block the potential for socialist unity—it would undermine the Alliance's ability to harvest electoral support.

3. Believes that the transformation of the Alliance into a united organisation (with right of tendency for all participating forces) remains necessary and possible. The perspectives outlined in the document "For a Step Forward in Left Unity", adopted by the party's October 2002 National Committee plenum, retain their validity despite the sharp debate they have provoked from some on the left within and outside the Alliance. Common experience since the Alliance was founded has shown that there is a wide body of agreement among the Alliance affiliates, going beyond the proposals that make up the Alliance's Founding Platform. Indeed, the possibility of reaching a higher form of unity, along the lines achieved in the Scottish Socialist Party, has already been advocated by another Alliance affiliate (Workers' Liberty) and was also canvassed as a possibility in the International Socialist Organisation National Executive document for the ISO's December 7-8 national conference.

4. Affirms that the challenge of higher unity remains present, even while endorsing the decisions of the DSP Political Committee and National Executive to withdraw the proposal to Congress to convert the DSP into a tendency within the Socialist Alliance (along with the party's specific offers concerning Green Left Weekly and Resistance Centres operating as activist centres and multi-tendency bookshops). The ultimatum of the ISO to abandon the Alliance if the DSP voted to transform itself into a tendency within the Alliance left the party with no option but to withdraw that proposal—the very future of the Alliance was at stake. At the same time, the DSP's withdrawal of the offer of a negotiated relationship between Socialist Alliance and Green Left Weekly and Resistance Centres has freed the Alliance debate to focus on the political arguments in favour of higher unity. Yet, despite this forced retreat, it is the real Australian political situation and the real development of the Alliance—and not the subjective desires of the DSP—which continues to pose the challenge of how, when and in what form the Alliance should strive for higher levels of unity. For the DSP, the key objective preconditions (sufficient level of programmatic agreement, the felt political need for socialist unity among many Alliance members and supporters) already exist: the fundamental issue now is how prepared the Alliance affiliates are to address the challenge of unity.

5. Recommits the party to the struggle for a higher level of unity within the Alliance. The most important task for the DSP in the coming period is to commit its forces—together with those within the Alliance who agree with or can be convinced of our general perspective—to the struggle for greater unity. That perspective not only means that the DSP will allocate resources to develop the areas of joint work agreed upon, but that the Alliance itself should also address the issue of what resources it needs to broadcast the socialist message as effectively as possible. In this context, Congress welcomes the ISO's statement that it understands the need to make greater resources available to the Alliance.

6. Affirms the DSP's commitment to making as useful a contribution as possible to the Alliance debate. While the DSP remains committed to the goal of the Alliance being transformed into a multi-tendency socialist party, this is a perspective for which we will seek to win support through the democratic processes of the Alliance. The DSP will devote all its energies to convincing Alliance members of the validity of our approach, but whether it is realised will be determined by the Alliance's own debate and decision-making processes. The DSP intervention in the Alliance debate will need to focus on making an accurate and objective analysis of the real shifts taking place in Australian politics and on how best the political openings these provide can be grasped by the Alliance. This is also the best framework within which to carry forward the discussion on the outstanding differences among affiliates—as they impact on the Alliance's ability to meet the real challenges of politics.

7. Recognises the need for the May 2003 National Conference of the Socialist Alliance to take decisions on basis of the common experience of the Alliance. The Alliance will arrive at its May 2003 National Conference with common experience in many areas of work behind it. Making a balance sheet of this work and charting the way forward in such areas as the trade unions, anti-war and refugee rights campaigns, women's liberation and youth work should form an important part of the conference—along with the assessment of our work in the electoral arena. The DSP's practical proposals to the conference (and to the Socialist Alliance National Executive) will be conditioned by the development of this work, along with the positions and interventions of the other affiliates in the Alliance debate. In developing its proposals, the party will continue to act in the spirit with which it has acted to date—arguing strongly for our viewpoint but always trying to move ahead on the basis of consensus or the largest possible majority.

8. Empowers our incoming National Committee, National Executive and/or Political Committee, after consultation with DSP branches and districts and supporters of our general perspective, to raise any specific proposal that is judged to advance left unity. The particular form and timing of the proposals that the DSP will put forward in order to advance left unity at the Socialist Alliance May 2003 National Conference (and beyond) will be conditioned by the degree of support they receive from unaligned Alliance members as well as the positions of the other affiliates. While the party should work to develop a broadly supported, concrete proposal as soon as possible—in order to allow thorough debate within the Alliance—the detailed form of the proposals it advances can only be settled after extensive consultation.

9. Empowers our incoming National Committee to decide if and when the Democratic Socialist Party should cease to build itself publicly and become a tendency within the Socialist Alliance. At a certain point along the road to higher unity within the Alliance, it will become possible to convert the DSP into an internal tendency within the Alliance. The conditions needed for that to take place cannot be established in advance: the judgment is therefore entrusted to the DSP National Committee, the highest decision-making body of the party between congresses. This Congress empowers the incoming National Committee to implement that decision.