Members of the Australian Young Greens (AYG) met in Canberra over January 27 to 29 for their annual conference which included Senator Lee Rhiannon addressing the climate emergency and the need for a just transition.
AYG members also elected a national leadership, headed by co-conveners Axeris Sondyre and Robyn Lewis.
The conference took place as rumblings about the direction of the Australian Greens increased following the emergence of an anti-capitalist tendency called “Left Renewal” which was condemned by the party's leader, Richard Di Natale.
Sondrye told Green Left Weekly: “The emergence of Left Renewal and the surge of interest it has gotten, especially but not exclusively from young people in the party, is an indication that politics is changing and that the centre will not hold.
“Young people will have to deal with the aftermath of the climate emergency and ever-deepening gap between the rich and poor, so I don't think it's surprising that more and more young people in the party and outside are rejecting capitalism and are looking for alternatives.”
Sondyre said that while Left Renewal is distinct from the party's youth wing, the emergence of Left Renewal is useful in providing an explicitly anti-capitalist perspective.
He argued that The Greens “are at a crucial point where we're having to seriously consider whether we want to professionalise and adjust our messaging to cast a wider net electorally, or whether we want to position ourselves as a radical alternative that taps into momentum we've seen from left-wing parties worldwide.”
Former Greens Leader Bob Brown has also attacked the NSW Greens, targeting Rhiannon. Brown called on Rhiannon and the "old guard" to step aside, to allow for "renewal".
Sondyre said: “Bob Brown's commentary is not only extremely unhelpful and an obvious attempt at red-baiting, but it also flies in the face of the principles of grassroots democracy.
“We absolutely support Senator Rhiannon in the face of these attacks and I think for the vast majority of Greens members the meddling and attempted influencing of our democratic process by Bob Brown is really not appreciated.”
The increasingly centrist politics of Di Natale has disillusioned many in the Young Greens. But Sondyre said “the political situation ... within the Greens is symptomatic of something much broader than the leadership”, noting that “it's high time the Greens implemented a democratic ballot for the leadership”, which was a hot topic at the conference.
Sondrye said the Young Greens will be focussing on the campaign for free education, advancing young workers’ rights and fighting for affordable housing.
Clearly an anti-capitalist sentiment runs deeper than just Rhiannon. The youth are ushering in a new tide of radicalism which the party's right wing will not so easily be able to label the “old guard”.
[Mia Sanders is a co-convenor of Resistance Young Socialist Alliance.]