Socialist conference charts course in divided world

Murri leader Sam Watson at the Socialist Alliance conference. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

The 12th Socialist Alliance national conference, held over January 20 to 22 at the Geelong Trades Hall, discussed the challenges facing the left and the state of the fightback against neoliberalism in Australia. It also adopted new policies and elected a new national executive.

International and local guests included militant unionists from Unite (Aotearoa/New Zealand), the new Retail and Fast Food Workers Union (RAFFWU) and socialist activists from the Malaysian Socialist Party and the Party of the Labouring Masses in the Philippines.

The conference heard from Socialist Alliance’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island national spokesperson Uncle Sam Watson and Murri leader Ken Canning.  

Delegates from across Australia debated a resolution summarising the challenges facing the left and Socialist Alliance. They also formalised the party’s approach to building resistance in a time when the legacy of decades of class collaboration and retreat has weakened the labour movement which is largely still shackled to the Australian Labor Party.

An inspiring opening panel, featuring Electrical Trades Union state secretary Troy Gray, Mike Treen from Unite, Siobhan Kelly from the RAFFWU and Andrew Heart from the Victorian Allied Health Professionals Association laid out the challenges and openings for unionists and their allies. The speakers were remarkably optimistic despite the challenges each described in either linking up with, rebuilding or starting their union from scratch. 

The final resolution on Australian politics committed the party to help build campaigns where people are organising.

“There is receptivity for socialist ideas among working people and opportunities for a non-sectarian socialist party to make ground and to seek out coalitions that can take the struggle forward,” the resolution noted.

“The deepening crisis of capitalism and the political polarisation that results from a system ruled by the rich can give rise to far-right populist forces, but can also give rise to left-wing alternatives. 

“This makes the task of raising socialist solutions to the crisis of capitalism all the more urgent,” the resolution concluded.

New policies on animal welfare, defence of sections 18C and D of the Racial Discrimination Act, nationalising the banks, solidarity with the Kurdish freedom struggle and euthanasia were debated and adopted.

Susan Price and Alex Bainbridge were re-elected national co-convenors and Vivien Miley was elected as national treasurer. 

“It was a very good conference: we had constructive discussions, made some good decisions and this was helped along by our inspiring guests,” Price told Green Left Weekly.

“We’re prepared for a new year of struggle and we’re keen to work with those who are struggling for a more just world.

“The inauguration of arch conservative US President Donald Trump will help reactionaries here. Our job, and that of the broader left, is to bring together those who want to fight their destructive agenda and make sure we defend the gains that generations of workers have made.”

Resistance, the youth wing of Socialist Alliance, also met and elected a new leadership team with Zeb Parkes and Mia Sanders elected national co-convenors.

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