The ninth National Conference of the Socialist Alliance was held in Geelong over January 18-20. More than 150 people took part in the conference, including Hashim bin Rashid representing the newly formed united party of the left in Pakistan, the Awami Workers Party.
Rashid attended the conference as a special guest, and gave presentations on racism, refugees and the war on terror, as well as the continuing struggles of the poor, the dispossessed and oppressed communities in Pakistan today.
“The discourse of the war on terror overshadows the everyday struggles and protests of the peoples of Pakistan,” Rashid told the conference. “The social engineering imposed upon Pakistan in the first Afghan War was responsible for some of the recent religiously motivated violence there, and has been used as a justification for the Pakistan Army's continuing occupation of Khyber Pakthunkhwa [in the north-west of Pakistan].”
After the conference, Rashid spoke at public meetings in Melbourne and Sydney about the process of left unity in Pakistan and he expressed his thanks for the opportunity to attend the conference and contribute to learning on some of the critical issues facing the global left.
The conference was opened by local Wathaurong elder David Tournier, who welcomed delegates to country, and by Tim Gooden, Geelong Trades Hall Secretary, and was followed by educational workshops and talks, covering a range of topics from imperialism to a Marxist understanding of women's oppression, race and class, economics, the transitional method, and challenges in building a party of the revolutionary class.
Over the next two days, delegates discussed international and domestic politics and campaigns, Socialist Alliance's plans for this year's federal election, reflected on the achievements and challenges in building the Socialist Alliance today and the prospects for greater unity of the left in Australia.
Several important constitutional changes were voted on, which bring the document up to date with the Alliance's practice today. Delegates deliberated on a range of new policy proposals and amendments, including solidarity with the struggle for Tamil liberation, Palestine and the BDS campaign, drugs, housing and disability. Several amendments to the Alliance's draft document, Towards a Socialist Australia, were adopted, and it was resolved to retain the document as a draft, open for further amendments, in the lead up to its next national conference in June next year. Delegates also elected an incoming national executive and treasurer.
Susan Price and Peter Boyle were elected as the national co-conveners of the Socialist Alliance.
Taking place in the context of discussions about prospects for greater unity of the left, the conference adopted proposals to strengthen the Alliance's work in building local and national campaigns and movements, including the labour, environmental and women's movements, and the importance of convincing youth and students of the need to organise for fundamental social change.
The conference voted on a range of proposals to increase the reach of Green Left Weekly and to build on the success of its newest initiative — Green Left TV — still in its first year of operation.
It launched the 2013 GLW fighting fund, and adopted a fundraising target of $250,000. Conference participants made a head-start on achieving this by pledging and donating nearly $80,000 at the launch.
Delegates reaffirmed the need to strengthen the Alliance and to seek greater unity in action, while defending the democratic rights of affiliates and tendencies of thought within the party. The conference reaffirmed the decision to participate in the upcoming Marxism conference, and to taking further steps in exploring prospects for unity.
The Socialist Alliance will host a seminar on 21st Century Socialism over the 2013 June long weekend, and respected US socialist Paul Le Blanc, author of Lenin and the Revolutionary Party, has agreed to travel to Australia to participate in the event.
A delegation from the national leadership of the Socialist Alternative and a representative of the Communist Party of Australia also attended the conference, and Mick Armstrong (Socialist Alternative) and Andrew Irving (CPA) both gave presentations on Australian politics today.
Greetings were received from a number of international organisations and collaborators, including the CPIML (Liberation) India, the Malaysian Socialist Party, the Palestinian Peoples Party, the PLM (Philippines), the Nepal-Venezuela Solidarity Network, the NSSP (Sri Lanka), Fightback (Aotearoa), the Latin American Social Forum, the URNG (Guatemala), Venezuela Analysis, Nelson Davila (Venezuelan Ambassador to Australia), Ian Angus (Editor of Climate and Capitalism), Barry Sheppard (US Socialist), and others.
Below: Photos by Alex Bainbridge
Below: Photos by Ali Bakhtiarvandi