Optimistic plans set by DSP congress
By Margaret Allum
SYDNEY — Indonesian political prisoners Budiman Sujatmiko and Dita Sari from the People's Democratic Party (PRD) were honorary members of the presidium of the 18th congress of the Democratic Socialist Party, held here January 5-10.
The almost 250 participants were able to hear from three other members of the PRD who addressed the conference: Marlin, Edwin Gozal and Wahyu. Another Indonesian guest, Dede Oetomo, described the development of the gay and lesbian movement in that country.
A new video on Indonesia by Jill Hickson (director of There is Only One Word: Resist!) was previewed. Featuring footage of speeches by Xanana Gusmao and Budiman Sujatmiko and an interview with Dita Sari, this will be launched shortly nationwide.
Congress participants observed a minute's silence on the first day to commemorate the deaths of two central leaders of the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist), general secretary Vinod Mishra and Nagbhushan Patnike.
The congress theme was "Capitalist Crisis, Socialist Resistance". The first of the reports from the outgoing national executive was an assessment of the current international economic crisis, presented by Allen Myers.
This was followed by a report by Max Lane on the mass upsurges in Indonesia and East Timor and their implications for Australian politics. Delegates voted to increase the DSP's work in solidarity with the democratic movement in Indonesia and the independence movement in East Timor.
The congress adopted a new assessment of the political process unfolding in China, confirming that while the economy remains mixed, the Chinese state has fully embraced capitalism.
There was wide-ranging and fruitful discussion on the report detailing perspectives for building the DSP in 1999-2000, which set the framework for the other conference reports and decisions. In this report John Percy, national secretary of the DSP, outlined the new period in which the party now operates.
Listing the Asian economic crisis, the upheaval in Indonesia, the rise of the anti-racism movement and the new spate of activity in the unions, Percy spoke of the opportunities the party has before it and the significant challenges it has already risen to. He noted an organisational strengthening of the DSP over the last two years, and increasing opportunities for collaboration with a range of parties internationally.
In Australia under the second term of the Coalition government, conditions for most working people and welfare recipients are declining.
"The class struggle in Australia is being shaped by the cumulative effect of the last two decades of capitalist neo-liberal offensive", said Peter Boyle in the report on the Australian political situation, as he explained why many people were slow to challenge the system at the moment.
The report exposed Howard's myth of the "fireproofed" economy and examined the rise of organised racism and the anti-racist response. Delegates discussed the potential for resistance to the capitalist offensive after 13 soporific years of ALP federal government and were optimistic about the potential of a working-class fight back.
The congress voted to step up the DSP's anti-nuclear work, especially in the anti-Jabiluka mine campaign and the campaigns to close the Lucas Heights nuclear reactor and to oppose a nuclear waste dump in South Australia.
Presenting the report from the national executive was Pip Hinman, who also pointed out nuclear hot spots such as the expansion of operations at Roxby Downs in South Australia and the upgrading and expansion of the Ranger mine in Kakadu National Park.
Lisa Macdonald reported on the DSP's work to build the women's liberation movement. While acknowledging the weakness of the movement at this time, the report noted the start of a rebuilding process, and the increased level of feminist consciousness among young women getting active for the first time.
Delegates voted to continue to strengthen the party's work in this area and to further the Marxist understanding of the oppression and liberation of women. The report emphasised making International Women's Day marches and rallies large, vibrant and inclusive of all those who support the struggle for the liberation of women.
Dick Nichols described the sharp rise in trade union activity last year, including the MUA and other disputes. The report welcomed the development of radical oppositions to some of the conservative union leaderships, as illustrated by Workers First in the AMWU in Victoria and the rank and file group within the Western Australian Maritime Union of Australia, whose member Steve Best addressed the congress.
Two reports emphasised the need for the party to held build the socialist youth organisation, Resistance, to ensure the future of the socialist movement. The report on campus perspectives concentrated on political work among students.
The DSP affirmed its commitment to continue its assistance in the production and distribution of Green Left Weekly in 1999, along with members of Resistance. The 1999 GLW Fighting Fund was launched after the congress rally, with a target of $145,000.
Delegates also voted to expand the party's book and pamphlet publishing program, adding to the already impressive range.
As well as the guests from Indonesia, representatives from other parties around the world attended.
Farooq Tariq, general secretary of the Pakistan Labour Party (PLP) spoke on the rise of Muslim fundamentalism in Pakistan, and the inability of reform leaders to provide real social and political change.
He explained the development of the PLP, formed in 1997, and its first electoral success last year. He said, "We want to build a new Pakistan: we want to build a workers and peasants' Pakistan where we [the people] have the power, not them [the current leaders]".
The co-chair of the newly formed Socialist Party of Labour (SPP) in the Philippines, Sonny Melencio, explained the latest developments within the Philippines left. He described the process that led to the development of the SPP, which involved the merger of the Socialist League, of which he was a founding leader, with the Revolutionary Proletarian Party of the Philippines.
Davey Lyons from Socialist Democracy in England and Wales described to the congress the state of the British left today, and the factors that gave rise to the formation of his organisation.
G. Buster, representing the United Left in Spain, examined in detail the emerging effects of the European Union on the people of its member countries.
A feature talk by Green Left Weekly's correspondent in Palestine, Adam Hanieh, detailed the background to the political divides within the Middle East.
DSP members Neville Spencer and Jorge Jorquera provided a lively presentation celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Cuban revolution. With footage compiled by Claudine Holt, the excitement and determination of those first revolutionary months were brought to life with images of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara and others being welcomed by the Cuban people.
Greetings were read from a number of parties unable to attend the congress: the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist), South African Communist Party, Japanese Communist Party, Communist Party of Nepal United Marxist Leninist, Synaspismos — Coalition of the Left and Progress (Greece), Socialist Workers Party (Denmark), Socialist People's Party (Denmark), Left Alliance (Finland), Left Alternative Association (Hungary) and the Union of Socialist Politics (Germany).
Ending on an internationalist note with a spirited rendition of "The Internationale", the congress was successful in setting a clear path for the work of the DSP in the next two years.
DSP national executive member Peter Boyle explained, "The biggest challenge in Australian politics today is to win more people to socialism, to the need to replace the system and not just fight this or that of its ills". In 1999, the DSP is better equipped than ever to meet the challenge.<>><>41559MS>n<>255D>