The call by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at the International Encounter of Left Parties in Caracas last month to begin to launch a "Fifth Socialist International" could not have been better timed.
Confronting huge poverty, escalating wars and the rapid destruction of our natural environment, the world's peoples desperately need an end to the rapacious capitalist system. They need a chance to create a new, alternative way to live with each other and the planet.
To have any chance of achieving that, much greater cooperation and unity between all those social movements and organisations struggling against any facet of capitalism are urgently needed.
It's for that reason that the Socialist Alliance has endorsed Chavez's call and will be participating as fully as possible in preparatory discussions for a new international socialist organisation.
Strengthening left cooperation and unity is no less urgent in Australia than anywhere else. A big goal of the Socialist Alliance's seventh national conference in Sydney over January 2-5 is to help that process.
The conference, "Towards Justice, Sustainability and People's Power: Fighting for Socialism in the 21st Century", will bring together activists from many different campaigns to discuss and plan action to build the progressive struggles and the links between them.
The day before the Socialist Alliance conference, the Democratic Socialist Perspective will meet to decide whether to merge with the Alliance. The DSP's decision will be announced at the public meeting to open the Socialist Alliance conference on the evening of January 2.
The presentations, discussions and decisions made at the conference will be an important contribution to building the progressive movements in Australia in 2010. The Socialist Alliance welcomes everyone who wants to be part of creating a just and sustainable alternative to take part in the gathering.
A wide range of campaign leaders will share their experience and ideas over three days of discussions. From the campaigns for Aboriginal rights, Richard Downs, spokesperson of the Alyawarr people's walk-off at Ampilatwatja in the Northern Territory will report on the battle against the Labor government's racist NT intervention.
Queensland Aboriginal writer and activist Sam Watson and Sydney Aboriginal leader Pat Eatock will share their views on how to end the oppression of Aboriginal people.
Tackling the climate emergency will be another big theme of discussion. Dave Kerin, a Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union organiser and initiator of a workers' cooperative to build solar-powered hot water systems (see interview on page 10) will address the opening public meeting. He will also conduct a workshop the next day on the relationship between workers' control and stopping global warming.
John Rice from the Climate Emergency Action Network of South Australia and Resistance member Mel Barnes, who is involved in organising the 2010 national climate summit, will speak in a plenary session on the challenges confronting the climate movement in the face of an apparent resurgence in the climate sceptics' lobby and claims of "climate action fatigue" in Australia.
Melbourne environmental researcher and writer Hans Baer will conduct a workshop to analyse in greater depth the connections between ecology, socialism and human survival.
The struggles for justice, sustainability and people's power in Australia are intimately connected with what is happening in the rest of the world, and the need for an internationalist approach and solidarity will be addressed in several sessions.
These include presentations by special guest speaker Sivaranjani Manickam from the Socialist Party of Malaysia. Manickam will speak at the opening public meeting and hold a workshop on the struggle for democracy and socialism in Malaysia.
Well-known Tamil rights advocate Dr Brian Senewiratne will speak alongside Melbourne activist Sue Bolton about the Labor government's treatment of asylum seekers and rebuilding public support in Australia for refugee rights.
Australia-Venezuela Solidarity Network national co-convener Jim McIlroy and Green Left Weekly co-editor Stuart Munckton will lead a plenary discussion about the significance of the Latin American revolutions, and the need for international solidarity and left unity.
Getting the imperialist troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and building solidarity with the Palestinian people's struggle, will be the subject of a session addressed by Sydney Stop the War Coalition activist Pip Hinman and Palestine solidarity campaigner Aaron Benedek.
The vital role of the trade unions, still the largest and potentially most powerful organisations for class struggle in Australia, will be examined in conference sessions, with unionists including Geelong and Region Trades and Labour Council secretary Tim Gooden and National Tertiary Education Union national councillor Susan Price.
They will introduce discussions about rebuilding democratic, militant trade unions capable of winning the many battles for environmental sustainability, workers' rights and social justice more broadly that lie ahead.
Other feature sessions and concurrent workshops will address many issues: the current campaign for abortion rights; the struggle for equal marriage rights lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people; the nature of capitalism's economic and financial crisis; and the history of the Communist Party of Australia and the left-Indigenous alliance in Australia.
This conference will be packed with information and discussion, but it is not simply a "talkfest". The many discussions will be geared to better understanding the world to change it: taking action to strengthen the campaigns for real change and the linkages between them, and to build a movement for socialism.
The full conference agenda and registration details are available at www.socialist-alliance.org. Come along, join the discussions and help make a just, sustainable world possible.