BY DICK NICHOLS
Through the first telephone hook-up of its National Liaison Committee since its founding in March, the Socialist Alliance last week decided to have its founding conference in Melbourne on the weekend of August 4-5. The conference will be delegated and the delegate ratio and precise agenda will be set by the next meeting of the NLC.
The decision came against a background of vigorous growth of the new organisation and with its electoral baptism of fire approaching in the July 14 Aston by-election in suburban Melbourne. The conference's main task will be to discuss, amend and adopt the alliance's draft platform as well as a constitution. A number of ideas and proposals are already circulating as to how this can best be achieved.
The conference will also be an invaluable opportunity for members to discuss how the organisation can better intervene in the movements of resistance against Coalition and Labor governments, and how best to get its message that "another world is possible" out to as widely as possible. It will look to build on the support already given to the June 3 national day of action in support of refugee rights, as well as numerous local struggles.
To build the profile of the Socialist Alliance the hook-up agreed to produce a four-page monthly broadsheet, the first issue of which would appear as a supplement to Green Left Weekly, Socialist Worker and other papers produced by the alliance's founding organisations. Extra bundles of the broadsheet will be printed for distribution by the Socialist Alliance's expanding network of local groups.
The NLC decided by a majority vote that at this stage the broadsheet would not be a forum for discussion within the Socialist Alliance. How this should most fruitfully be carried out will be an issue for discussion before and resolution at the founding conference.
The NLC also adopted the proposal for a national day of protest on the first anniversary of the imposition of the Howard government's widely hated GST. The day would be marked by pickets outside the offices of government ministers and MPs as well as other forms of protest. It will help establish the Socialist Alliance as the main force in Australian politics with a clear policy of throwing out the GST and increasing taxes on those who can afford them — the Murdochs and Packers.
The NLC also voted to repeat its invitation to other left organisations, such as the Progressive Labour Party and the Socialist Party (formerly Militant), to come in under the Socialist Alliance umbrella. It also decided to approach all trade unions in order to explain the alliance's policy on workers' and union rights and seek ongoing dialogue with union members and officials.
Finally, the NLC clarified that since membership of the Socialist Alliance is open to anyone who is in agreement with its platform there would be no need for any category of associate membership for members of existing parties. For example, if members of the ALP or the Greens wished to join the Socialist Alliance it would not demand that they resign their existing affiliation. What the reaction of these parties will be to any of their members taking out membership of the Socialist Alliance is, of course, another matter.
The full decisions of the NLC will be communicated to all Socialist Alliance local groups by email and letter.
[Dick Nichols is an acting national convenor of the Socialist Alliance. Visit the Socialist Alliance web site at <http://www.socialist-alliance.org>.]