BY MARGARITA WINDISCH
MELBOURNE — One hundred and twenty socialists attended the Socialist Alliance's Victorian state conference, held on November 15 around the theme "Resisting the Empire".
Renowned Marxist historian Humphrey McQueen opened the conference with a key-note address on the topic "Can capitalism collapse?". He said he had first considered this question when he was 19 at a seminar organised by Young Labor in 1960. Labor shadow minister Frank Crean had addressed the question of whether capitalism could survive, answering affirmatively, but only for another 30-40 years. McQueen argued that the scale of capitalist crisis that exists now puts the question of collapse back on the agenda again.
McQueen used the example of Chinese capitalism as it exists today, and its similarity with the early capitalism portrayed by Marx in Capital, as the herald of what a collapse might bring to the rest of the world.
Following McQueen's address, a series of workshops were held on the growing resistance to imperialist capitalism across the world.
Later, Colin Fox, one of six Scottish Socialist Party members of the Scottish parliament, treated participants to an inspiring exposition of the virtues of left unity. He stressed the importance of the SSP being a "combat party", arguing that the electoral success of the SSP was the result of its primary orientation of helping to organise the extra-parliamentary struggles of working people.
The final session of the day was a discussion of differing perspectives for building the socialist movement in Australia.
David Glanz, speaking on behalf of the International Socialist Organisation (one of the alliance's eight affiliated parties), drew attention to the discomfort of the Labor Party in having elected a left-wing president (Carmen Lawrence), who was in conflict with a right-wing parliamentary leader, Simon Crean.
Glanz predicted significant fall-out from Lawrence's election, which the Socialist Alliance should be willing to catch. He argued that this could be achieved largely through building the alliance's election campaign for 2004.
On the question of further political integration of affiliates into the Socialist Alliance, and on the issue of building the alliance as a multi-tendency socialist party, Glanz had little to say.
Louise Walker, a non-aligned national co-convener of the alliance, stressed the need to build the alliance as a united force for socialism. She emphasised the gains that the alliance had made to date in building the infrastructure of a united party.
Speaking for the Democratic Socialist Party, Graham Matthews presented a balance sheet of what the alliance had achieved to date. The expanding branch structure of the alliance, its growing membership, and the growing influence of its membership within the trade union movement demonstrated that it was a successful project.
The conference ended with a lively discussion of what the role of the alliance should be in Australian politics, and of how a socialist alternative should be built. Many who addressed the question expressed their support for continuing affiliate integration into the Socialist Alliance, and frustration at the relatively slow pace of development of this process.
The next project for the Socialist Alliance in Victoria will be a large solidarity dinner on December 6 featuring an address by Ali Kazak, Palestinian Authority representative to Australia.
From Green Left Weekly, November 26, 2003.
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