By Jennifer Thompson
The struggle for socialism today was the basis for discussion at the 16th national conference of the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP), which took place in Sydney in early January. The conference took up key issues confronting the socialist movement worldwide and how to advance the movement both internationally and in Australia.
The most important debate, a key question for socialists, was what sort of party is required to help unite and lead the movement for fundamental social and economic change. This discussion was reflected in sessions on the nature of international and Australian politics and struggles, and in sessions addressing directly the organisation and party-building tasks of the DSP.
Delegates adopted a report on the nature of the epoch, answering debates and questions raised in the international movement in the wake of the collapse of Stalinism and some victories for international capitalism. Drawing on the questions raised by Irwin Silber in his recent book Socialism: what went wrong, the report argued against the idea that the objective conditions for revolution do not exist in this epoch.
The report also analysed the shift to "radical reformism" taken by some sections of the international left, and concluded that the social and economic basis for social democracy is now smaller than ever, especially in developing countries. The report confirmed the relevance of a Leninist strategy in view of both historical and conjunctural political experiences, including the ecological crisis.
Flowing from this discussion, a report on the international work of the DSP reviewed the two major internationalist projects, last year's International Green Left Conference and the launching of Links magazine. The work done through direct collaboration with socialist forces in Indonesia and the Philippines, and through Green Left Weekly with the stationing of a correspondent in South Africa, was analysed. Plans for future work were also discussed and adopted.
A report on Australian politics particularly focused on the role of federal Labor government interventions in the region, both in shoring up Australian capitalist interests such as in East Timor, and in advancing joint Australian and US interests through APEC. Domestic politics and movements in the context of 11 years of Labor attempts to manage and divert these movements were examined to provide a framework for decisions on the DSP's political interventions. A review of DSP involvement in the relatively small and disparate movements of today was detailed in a further report, and priorities were discussed and decided upon.
A report on trade union work and perspectives reviewed the conflicting trends in the workers' movement, including the rate of deunionisation, the impact of non-union enterprise agreements and the commitment from the union bureaucracy to keep wage claims within limits comfortable for Australian business, along with the actual wages campaigns. Discussion focused on developing the report's analysis and plans for DSP work in the unions in the year ahead.
The report and discussion around the DSP strategy of building a mass revolutionary socialist party on Leninist principles, was a highlight of the conference, reflecting the key discussion in the period leading up to the conference. The report summarised arguments defending current party-building perspectives, priorities and organisational principles, and all questions were thoroughly thrashed out in a day-long debate before conference delegates voted to adopt the report.
The next day, delegates went on to discuss a report that reviewed and made proposals on concrete party-building tasks, adopting a range of projections. Also reviewed in detail was the work of the DSP in building and relating to the socialist youth organisation Resistance.
Other reports discussed draft resolutions on Socialism and Human Survival, looking at the worldwide ecological crisis, solutions and strategy, and Socialism and the Struggle for the Rights of Lesbians and Gay Men, presenting a Marxist approach to lesbian and gay liberation. The final session elected a new national committee of the DSP.
Educational sessions during the conference featured international speakers including Sonny Melencio, vice-president of Makabayan, on the socialist movement in the Philippines; Franco Turigliatto of the Italian Party of Communist Refoundation on the fight against neo-liberal austerity after a right-wing election victory; and Barry Sheppard from Solidarity in the USA, who spoke on the relevance of Marxism today and the socialist movement in the USA.
DSP speakers gave talks and participated in panels on the Philippines, the role of market and plan in post-capitalist societies, defence of the Cuban revolution, the early history of the socialist women's movement, the year of the ANC election victory in South Africa and the DSP's orientation to the ALP in the 1970s and '80s.
The conference received written greetings from other socialist parties (see boxes) and greetings from the Cuban Communist Party, delivered personally by Hilda Perez.
Despite rigorous discussions during the day and early evening, conference attendees still found time to relax at night events. The most memorable was the multi-media presentation on Green Left Weekly, examining its role as a campaigning newspaper for socialist and other progressive activists. The presentation drew on archival video footage, including that of the former Communist Party of Australia, and launched the DSP's involvement in Green Left Weekly's fifth year.
Unforgettable also was the famous conference cabaret. A party-building rally on the last evening highlighted launched the 1995 fund drive for Green Left Weekly and other party projects. Conference goers made a higher level of pledges than ever before, reflecting the enthusiasm and inspiration of the entire conference.
Dear Comrades and friends,
Together with the best wishes for the New Year, I send the 16th National Conference of the Democratic Socialist Party comradely greetings of the Party of Democratic Socialism in Germany.
We feel sympathetic with the fresh ideas of your party for a broad left approach to the manifold and complicated problems in your country and abroad, for a more solidaric, constructive and concrete cooperation of the democratic forces of the left in this one world.
In this sense we wish your conference fruitful debates and effective decisions. We are very much interested in its outcomes and ask you to keep us informed.
With solidarity greetings,Lothar Bisky, Chairman
Please accept this message of solidarity on the occasion of your 16th National Conference.
In the South African Communist Party we have welcomed our dynamic contact over the last four years. It is a contact which, of course, has its roots in your own consistent struggle in solidarity against apartheid over many years.
We would also like to congratulate you for your important media initiatives, Green Left Weekly and Links.
The need for open-ended and internationalist socialist discussion and debate is absolutely critical. Your party has made a very important contribution to this process.
We salute your contribution and hope that this National Conference will help to strengthen and consolidate your efforts.
General Secretary, South African Communist Party
It is with great pleasure we witness the growth of the Democratic Socialist Party of Australia at a time when international capital has tied the world with its World Trade Organisation.
We in the Indian subcontinent feel the terrible pressure of this imperialist project. We believe our international solidarity will be a great support for all our individual and separate struggles.
We are happy with the progress made with the Links magazine and wish it to become a great journal of international solidarity. We hope that the Democratic Socialist Party and the Fourth International will be linked in the close future.
Long live the Democratic Socialist Party of Australia.
Bahu, on behalf of the Nava Sama Samaja Party
On the occasion of the 16th National Conference of the Democratic Socialist Party of Australia, we would like to extend to you our warm greetings.
We wish the conference the best of successes.
May the friendship and cooperation between our two parties and peoples be consolidated and develop day after day.
Communist Party of Vietnam