The 23rd Congress of the Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP), a Marxist tendency in the Socialist Alliance in Australia, reaffirmed its commitment to broader left regroupment.
The Congress noted that a new political terrain was opening up with the election of the Rudd Labor government on the back of a mass campaign of opposition to the anti-worker Work Choices laws introduced by the former Liberal-National government.
A perspectives resolution (for full text see
"After promises made by Labor after mass mobilisations against the attacks by the Howard Coalition government, in particular Work Choices, most workers expect the new Labor government to reverse the Howard government's policies. However, Rudd's announcement that a Labor government would keep the sections of Work Choices which severely limit industrial action and the right of unions to enter worksites means that there needs to be a new stage in the fight for these fundamental rights.
"The challenge will be for socialists to engage with other militants in the trade union movement and activists in other movements to build an extra-parliamentary struggle to fight for workers' rights, and against attacks on welfare recipients and Indigenous communities, for serious action to stop global warming and to withdraw all Australian troops from the wars that they are engaged in under the imperialist alliance with the US plus a refusal to support future US military plans."
The DSP Congress reaffirmed its commitment to building the Socialist Alliance as a broad left party project. It decisively rejected a minority view that such an orientation today risked "liquidating" the DSP's revolutionary program.
The resolution assessed: "After seven years of life the Socialist Alliance represents a modest but definite step towards the emergence of a broadly based anti-capitalist party in Australia. It is identified by advanced elements of the working class as the political pole of militant initiatives on the trade union movement (particularly in initiating a mass campaign against the anti-worker 'Work Choices' laws) and for more general leadership in other progressive social movements, including the anti-war, anti-racist, environment and democratic rights movements.
"The continued membership in the Socialist Alliance of significant mass leaders and hundreds of other individuals not belonging to the DSP, or any other left group, is evidence of this.
"By championing the need for a broadly based anti-capitalist party and by organising the most united left intervention possible in the social movements, the Socialist Alliance can continue to win the respect of and recruit broader layers of militant workers to its ranks and in this way take practical steps along the road to such a party. This is a specific opening that needs to be further tested out and developed with strong and united leadership from the DSP."
The Congress recognised that while the Greens still occupy most of the electoral space to the left of the ALP, the Greens have not filled the political space opened up by the crisis of leadership in the trade unions and the broader labour movement. The Greens also remain torn between the anti-capitalist direction of their stated aims of "ecological sustainability, social and economic justice, peace and non-violence and grassroots democracy" and strong tendencies to opportunism and parliamentarism.
With the Labor Party now in government federally and in all states, the resolution recognised the increased potential for new left regroupment projects.
"If there is a new rise in the class struggle, new partners will be drawn into the project for a new party and the Socialist Alliance may have to become part of or be transformed into or be supplanted by new structures for organising the strongest and most effective political voice for anti-neoliberal struggle."
The DSP also decided that while it builds the Socialist Alliance as a broad, class-struggle socialist party project, the DSP should continue to maintain its own structures and to build a united and disciplined cadre core.
The 23rd Congress also agreed to continue to give a high priority to building solidarity with the revolutionary governments of Cuba and Venezuela.
"The leadership demonstrated by the revolutionary governments of Venezuela and Cuba … has made deep impressions on millions, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean, but increasingly across the Third World and now within the imperialist heartlands. Working closely with revolutionary Cuba, the Venezuelan revolutionary government has begun to develop concrete challenges to the neo-liberal agenda on a regional scale, giving a boost to all anti-imperialist struggles and helping reverse the decline of socialist influence in these movements."
The climate change crisis was identified as the most pressing global issue and delegates pledged to build the emerging movements calling for an urgent response to global warming.
DSP members will be organising a major Green Left Weekly conference, "Climate Change — Social Change", in Sydney, April 11-13. International guest speakers include John Bellamy Foster, the editor of Monthly Review and author of Marx's Ecology; Patrick Bond, Director of the Centre for Civil Society, University of Natal (South Africa), and editor of Climate Change, Carbon Trading and Civil Society; Roberto Perez, a Cuban permaculturist (featured in the film The Power of Community); and Sandino Carrizales, a Venezuelan youth activist and communal council organiser.
Recognising the central importance of Green Left Weekly, the congress rally raised $103,453 in pledges for the $250,000 Green Left Weekly 2008 Fighting Fund Appeal. In 2007, DSP members and other supporters of Green Left Weekly raised 92% of the same target.
The 23rd Congress elected a new national committee, strengthened by new leaders, mostly younger. Women comprise 42% of the new national committee, compared to 37.5% of the outgoing national committee. This is also higher than the proportion of women in the DSP membership (38%).
Peter Boyle was re-elected national secretary and two assistant national secretaries, Sue Bolton and Lisa Macdonald, were also elected. Jim McIlroy was elected as new DSP president.
Special guests at the congress included Sivarajan Arumugam, a representative of the Socialist Party of Malaysia, Tran Quoc Khanh, the Deputy Consul-General of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam and Nelida Hernandez Carmona, the Consul-General of the Republic of Cuba.
Greetings were also received from Nelson Davila, Charge d'Affaires of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in Australia; the Labour Party Pakistan, the People's Democratic Party of Indonesia, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front of El Salvador, Socialist Voice (Canada), Socialist Action/Ligue Pour l'Action Socialiste (Canada) and from Felipe Stuart Cournoyer in Nicaragua.
[Peter Boyle is the national secretary of the DSP.]