A capacity crowd of about 350 people filled the room for the opening night of the Marxism 2013 conference in Melbourne on March 28.
The forum, called "Uniting the left to resist austerity, war and crisis", heard from six speakers, including Australian unionist Bob Carnegie, striking airline union PALEA president Gerry Rivera, US teacher and socialist Brian Jones, Socialist Alliance co-convener Peter Boyle, Socialist Alternative national executive member Vashti Kenway, and the Revolutionary Socialist Party's (RSP) Kim Bullimore.
Rivera said PALEA airline workers in the Philippines have sustained a picket camp for 18 months. “In that time, we have successfully defended our camps from two violent attacks from hired thugs paid by management, and we collectively braved the rains and typhoons to continue the picket."
Jones spoke about the hypocrisy of the US government which promised so much and delivered very little.
“The social crisis that is going on in the United States is much more acute than what you face [in Australia]. The United States is a land of tremendous contradictions. The president of the United States is a man of African descent, yet while he reigns we have more people with his complexion behind bars than were slaves in 1850.
“His middle name is Hussein, and yet people with that exact same name fear for their lives because of unmanned aerial drones sent on his orders to their countries, repeatedly dropping weapons of death on them.
“His father is an immigrant, and yet he is deporting immigrants at a rate faster than predecessor George W Bush, I believe he has now deported 1.4 million people from the United States.”
Boyle spoke about the progress of collaboration talks between Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative.
“I’d like to acknowledge the seriousness with which Socialist Alternative has taken this question.
“Socialist Alliance [has] believed for some time that it is possible, that there is enough programmatic agreement for all the organisations in this country who call themselves socialist, to be able to work together in a single organisation. Not to say that there will not be any differences on tactics or how to operate, but theoretically if there were democratic institutions in such an organisation to work out what to do next — we could work together.
“But we have learnt through our own experience that there is one other element that is necessary and that is the political will to do this. That is what is being tested on the Australian left today, who has the political will to take this question of left unity seriously?”
Bullimore announced the official merger of the RSP with Socialist Alternative.
“Over the last six months the RSP has been in discussion with Socialist Alternative about the possibility of unity between our two organisations. This afternoon the RSP has held our final congress and we voted unanimously to fuse with Socialist Alternative, so as of tonight we are formally one organisation.”
Kenway said the reality of capitalism in Australia means: “There is a real urgency to the task of trying to build the side of the 99%. We have to try and persuade people that there is a reason to be engaged, there is a reason to get active."
Marxism 2013 has been organised by Socialist Alternative and supported by Green Left Weekly, the Socialist Alliance and the Revolutionary Socialist Party. It is expected to attract up to 1000 people over three days.
Video: Peter Boyle: Long live left unity
Video: Brian Jones: The hypocrisy of US capitalism today
PHOTOS: Marxism 2013 Day 1