While Victorian Socialists showed great potential when it was formed in early 2018 and ran two big and exciting socialist election campaigns, it has not lived up to its promise to build a more united left.
Socialist Alliance participated in the founding of the project because we felt that it could be a step towards a bigger and more united left, beginning with an electoral alliance.
At that time Socialist Alliance joined with Socialist Alternative and socialist Yarra councillor Stephen Jolly to recruit more than 500 people to secure electoral registration for state and federal elections.
But, even then, there were signs that the project may have a limited scope, as Socialist Alternative, the party with the greatest numbers participating, rejected proposals to invite other socialist groups to join.
Socialist Alliance accepted this limitation at that time as we could see that the initial greater unity displayed by Victorian Socialists made it attractive to other new and independent left individuals and forces that might develop it beyond its limited electoralist focus.
We recognised then that in any new collaborative effort it is important to retain the political strengths of existing groups, and that this can be a challenge to balance against developing more united structures.
However, we no longer feel that the Victorian Socialist project is capable of uniting broader layers of socialists in an alliance that has the dynamic to move beyond electoral politics.
Recent decisions have shown that Victorian Socialists is not open to allowing any groups of independents, for example, to develop its political life outside of elections.
Indeed, the majority faction organised by Socialist Alternative has made clear that it will not accept anything that is not electorally oriented, beyond the very limited Membership and Activity Committee decided upon at the Governing Council on May 9.
At the May 2 membership consultation, Socialist Alternative mobilised overwhelming numbers of its members to vote down a motion, which Socialist Alliance supported, from independent socialist members of Victorian Socialists.
That motion called on Victorian Socialists to “develop its organisational structures and sustain a more active membership”. It insisted that “avenues must be made available for members to be active outside of the electoral cycle”. The motion also noted that “the bulk of Victorian Socialist activity is confined to electoral activity, where it should be fighting around multiple issues the whole year round”.
Socialist Alternative’s preparedness to use its numbers to restrict the democratic participation of independents in the Victorian Socialists means that Socialist Alliance does not believe that our continued participation in the project can be effective.
While Socialist Alliance is withdrawing from Victorian Socialists, we remain committed to building democratic alliances that will help fight for anti-capitalist change in the unions, the environment movement, the campaigns for Indigenous and refugee rights and elections.
As we enter a period when the federal government has flagged that the working class — not capitalists — will be forced to pay for the COVID-19 crisis, Socialist Alliance remains open to working with all of the constituent parts of Victorian Socialists.
We will also collaborate in handing over to Victorian Socialists any of the positions or responsibilities that we have undertaken.
Socialist Alliance intends to run a full ticket in the Moreland Council elections in 2020 and will work hard to have Socialist Alliance Councillor Sue Bolton re-elected. We will also contest the City of Greater Geelong Council elections. We invite all who wish to build a stronger, more united left to support these endeavours as practical steps towards building the socialist movement.