Socialist Alliance, global warming and left unity

Issue 

The Socialist Alliance WA state conference took place on August 15. In the same week, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) failed to pass through the senate.

Global warming is a major challenge for all humanity. It touches all parts of society in some way. It is an issue that puts all political forces to the test.

Voters expected Rudd's Labor government to take serious action on climate change when they elected it into power. It has already failed that test.

The CPRS had an unconditional aim of reducing emissions by a measly 5%. In reality, it won't reduce emissions at all for the foreseeable future. Rudd plans to hand over more than $16 billion to Australia's biggest polluters — the more they pollute, the bigger the reward.

Malcolm Turnbull's Liberals also utterly failed. Their main difference with the ALP is they want to hand out even bigger rewards to the polluters.

Joining in the chorus of failure, the leadership of the Australian Council of Trade Unions has let down its members by supporting the CPRS instead of leading a serious fight for renewable energy and green jobs.

To its credit, the Australian Greens held its line courageously and refused to support Rudd's woeful climate policy. However, even the targets backed by the Greens fall short of what is needed to avert runaway global warming.

It is common — and also easy — for the radical left to sit around and criticise the various mainstream political forces. What is less well understood is that we too are put to the test by the challenge of climate change.

This was one of the points that I tried to emphasise when I spoke on the opening panel of the WA Socialist Alliance conference. A clear analysis is valuable, but it is a long way short of what is needed if we are to make a difference.

This is because the fossil fuel corporations and their governments cannot be defeated by ideas alone — only the power of a massive people's movement can make them crumble.

But such a movement cannot be conjured out of thin air. It has to be built. And this is where a strong socialist movement will make a big difference.

Why? Because we need a movement that is built around grassroots activism — a movement core that is not going to compromise in the face of bribes or intimidation.

The Socialist Alliance was formed to build a stronger and more united left. Some say this is an impossible task but we think they are wrong. Not only is it possible, it is urgent. And now is not the time to make excuses for why it cannot be done.

That is why Socialist Alliance members are throwing themselves into the fray. The WA state conference was a marker: both of the modest achievements we've already made and also of the long way we have yet to go.

Between 60 and 70 people took part throughout the day. The conference included presentations by representatives of the Socialist Party and the Communist Party of Australia. It received greetings from Friends of Palestine WA, the Australia-Cuba Friendship Society and the campaign against genetically engineered crops in WA.

Seven people joined or renewed their membership of the Socialist Alliance at the conference. These new members mean that we have trebled our WA membership in 2009.

We aim to reach 100 financial members by the end of the year — the highest membership the Alliance has ever had in WA.

The highlight of the conference was a public meeting that featured retired coalminer and climate change activist Graham Brown and Sudanese musical group WAZA.

The conference also discussed the election campaign of Socialist Alliance member Sam Wainwright for the Fremantle Council and the Alliance's work in the campaign for a safe climate.

Other outcomes of the conference included: the establishment of an education committee for the Alliance, the decision to formally affiliate to Friends of Palestine WA and to change the name of the Resistance Centre to Perth Activist Centre.

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