Twenty-first century socialism conference to be held in Sydney

Issue 
Michael Lebowitz.

An important conference for activists will be held in Sydney on May 13 to 15. “Socialism for the 21st Century” will focus on deepening the discussion about the theory and practice of the socialist movement today.

Conference organiser Susan Price told Green Left Weekly that the conference would discuss the challenges of building movements for radical social change while taking the struggle into capitalist institutions, such as parliaments and councils.

“There is a lot more interest in socialism. The groundswell of support for Bernie Sanders in the US and Jeremy Corbyn in Britain is evidence of this. Young people, in particular, are strongly identifying with the class politics that Sanders and Corbyn are raising,” she said.

“But the interest in socialism is not just happening in these countries. We have seen it in the popularity of new mass left-wing and anti-austerity parties in Europe and in the movements for 21st century socialism in Latin America.

“These ripples are reaching Australia and people are making the connection between their growing economic insecurity with the major parties' support for the 1%. People are increasingly angry with the steady erosion of our democratic rights, and big corporations increasingly asserting their power over our lives — down to the most basic level.”

The three-day conference has secured keynote speakers from across the Asia Pacific, Latin America, Canada, Spain and Australia. They will share experiences of struggle and discuss the challenges that go with building social and ecological movements powerful enough to challenge the rule of capital.

“We're in a new situation,” Price explained, “because while we should and do learn from the struggles of the 20th Century, the challenges being thrown up today are complex and there is no simple rule book.

“What do socialists do when they are voted into governments? How can they use that platform to undermine the old structures — the capitalist state — and start building new ones? How can they help build up movements that are capable of challenging the rule of capital?

“The struggles across Latin America over the last decade illustrate some of these complexities. They also show how left parties can help grow new mass resistance movements and find new allies.”

Marxist writer and activist Marta Harnecker and Emeritus Professor of Economics at Simon Fraser University in Canada Michael Lebowitz are two of the keynote speakers. Both have worked at the Miranda International Centre in Venezuela.

Price said: “The movement for climate justice has prompted many environmental activists to start campaigning against the capitalist system. Many young people have only known continuous war and conflict over resources, territory and markets.

“We are pleased that author and activist Ian Angus, founder of the Ecosocialism International, will launch his new book Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil capitalism and the crisis of the Earth system on May 13, the first night of the conference.”

Representatives of left parties across the Asia Pacific, which are resisting oppression, the theft of resources and impoverishment will also take part. They include: Suresh Kumar from the Socialist Party of Malaysia; Radhika Menon, who works with the All India Agricultural and Rural Labour Association; Sarah Eleazar from the Awami Workers Party in Pakistan; and Sonny Melencio from the Party of the Labouring Masses in the Philippines.

“These activists are working in a range of campaigns and coalitions while also taking part in elections for public office. Building a socialist alternative under these difficult conditions has its own challenges: activists are regularly arrested or charged with colonial-era laws, like sedition, when they criticise their governments.”

Building a strong people's movement, and recognising the central place Aboriginal people have within them, will be another important aspect of this conference, Price said.

“We need to learn about and understand the history of European invasion, genocide and racism here. We are very pleased that Uncle Sam Watson and Uncle Ken Canning, both veteran Aboriginal activists, will be participating in this event.

“These veteran militants are still leading struggles against police violence and deaths in custody, against child removals, for land rights and against community closures.

“Having such important social movement leaders makes this a unique gathering for anyone interested in the ideas and practice of social change today.”

The complete agenda and a list of speakers from the environmental, women's and trade union movements are available on the conference website.

The conference is being held at the University of Sydney. Registration is only $50 concession for 3 days or $100 waged. For bookings click here.

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