Celebrating a step forward for the left

Monday, January 18, 2010

The following article is abridged from a speech by Peter Boyle, former national secretary of the Democratic Socialist Perspective, to the January 2 opening of the seventh national conference of the Socialist Alliance. The DSP was the largest affiliate organisation within the Socialist Alliance. For more information on the Socialist Alliance, visit here

The DSP decided today, at its 24th congress, to dissolve into the Socialist Alliance, and to transfer all that it has built up over its four decades of existence to the Socialist Alliance.

Sadly, it is an unusual and rare thing for socialist groups like the DSP, to break from the idea that they are the "true" party of socialism, with the sole correct political program, and seriously embrace left unity.

I say this not to boast, but to apologise for the DSP taking so long to take this step. After all, the Socialist Alliance was launched in 2001 and now it is 2010!

We may have taken a long time to take this step but the decision, when finally taken, had overwhelming support from DSP members.

The Socialist Alliance presents an opening for the left in Australia. It is an opportunity to unite in a new socialist party, with socialists from different political traditions
Among current Socialist Alliance members are some important leaders of the working class and other oppressed groups: people such as Craig Johnston, who went to jail for fighting for workers' rights, and veteran Indigenous activists such as Sam Watson and Pat Eatock.

Indeed, in the Socialist Alliance today, thanks to our Indigenous comrades, we have an opportunity to restore the powerful collaboration between the socialist and Aboriginal rights movements. This collaboration made its mark on Australian history through epic struggles, like the Pilbara Aboriginal stockworkers' strike in the 1940s and the Gurindji walk-offs in the 1960s.

For socialism to be more than just a good idea, it has to become a movement of the working class and other oppressed groups. To build the socialist movement, we have to wage a permanent campaign to link up with activists who are fighting capitalist oppression.

Socialist groups can and do link up with other activists in movement campaigns. But when the activists and leaders of such movements want to join us in the broader and ongoing struggle against the capitalist system itself, then what is our duty?

Surely it is to unite with them in a party to wage such a struggle — a socialist party.
We must be prepared to look for agreement before disagreement. If we find — as we have in the Socialist Alliance — that we mostly have political agreement, then it's a no-brainer: we need to be in a common political party!

But what about those outstanding differences among socialists? What about the 10% that we don't agree on? Surely the sensible thing is to not let this stand in the way of us working in a common party for real change.

We have a better chance of resolving the differences after we have gone through a period of collective struggle to advance what we agree on.

There is clearly still a lot of work ahead of us before we unite the notoriously fractious left.

At any protest action in any major city you will still be confronted with a smorgasbord of socialist groups, each harbouring the illusion that it is the true party of socialism with the correct socialist political program. However, we've made a start in uniting more of the left in the Socialist Alliance.

Today, DSP members ended a stage in our political organisation and embarked on a new stage. This was both a break from our past as well as a change that grew out of our collective political experience.

We said goodbye to a party to which we have devoted a tremendous amount of loyalty and energy. However, we are not mourning this end. Rather we are celebrating. We are celebrating our transfer of that same commitment and energy to the Socialist Alliance.
In his greetings to the DSP congress, Comrade Abelardo Curbelo Padron, the ambassador of revolutionary Cuba, summed up the broad political situation today in one poetic sentence: "Today, the capitalists cannot sleep and they cannot dream."

But we, he added, have a dream of a radically different world based on solidarity and sustainability. And at this seventh national conference of the Socialist Alliance, we have greater means to plan and organise the struggle to make that dream into a reality.