There are many ways to fix New South Wales — currently plagued by cuts, privatisations and tollway madness — participants at a socialist activist conference concluded on August 12. The day-long discussion ended with the election of a team of Socialist Alliance candidates to contest for the NSW Legislative Council in the March 2019 elections.
A panel of Millenials opened the day by setting the scene for the range and depth of issues facing their generation: homelessness, job insecurity, cost-of-living pressures and a resurgence of racism and sexism. Tech savvy and keen to be more political active, many Millenials are bogged down in work, study and family commitments, speakers noted.
The lack of organising spaces and infrastructure was taken up by Helen Masterman-Smith, a sociologist involved in a new community project in Albury. The Global Village drop-in centre provides material goods to people in need while aiming to involve them in political change to transform their own lives.
Masterman-Smith said much of the inspiration for the project came from the observations of Chilean socialist Marta Harnecker.
Stop WestConnex campaign activist Andrew Chuter spoke about how the long-running campaign has evolved to include affected communities from across NSW, pointing to the successful “Fix NSW Transport” lantern procession on August 11.
A series of workshops were organised on feminism and misogyny, stopping the fossil fools, class power in the workplace, and lessons from the campaign for justice for the family of David Dungay, an Aboriginal man who died while in police custody.
Steve O’Brien, a former steel worker now vocational educator, took up the question of why the anti-capitalist left should run for parliament, reflecting on the experiences of the Communist Party of Australia at local and state government level.
“If anti-capitalists don't run”, he said, “we leave it to the right and the alt-right. At a time when millions of ordinary people are so alienated from politics as usual, this is extremely dangerous.”
O’Brien said socialist councillors in Victoria (Sue Bolton and Steve Jolly) and Fremantle (Sam Wainwright) were delivering up some important lessons, including the need to concentrate on mobilising communities to fight for their own interests without worrying about propping up the status quo.
The Socialist Alliance elected a team of 16 candidates for its Legislative Council ticket, with the option of expanding this number.
With no corporate donors and very little to nothing in the bank, it also launched its election fighting fund to help get its message out that there are people with a vision for an ecological and sustainable NSW who are willing to take a stand for the people and against the profiteers.
[Pip Hinman is the Socialist Alliance West Sydney branch convenor.]