Pledge to fight racism, climate change

July 4, 2009

The three crises facing capitalism — jobs, the environment and war— were the subject of Victoria's Socialist Alliance conference on June 27.

The conference was addressed by Marxist historian Humphrey McQueen, former coalminer and climate activist Graham Brown and a number of movement activists from different communities.

Eighty people heard McQueen, Brown and Socialist Alliance speaker Bronwyn Jennings from Geelong present responses and solutions to the crises of the economy and climate.

McQueen gave a Marxist analysis of the economic crisis. He said workers focus too much on wages and not on the power that their labour gives them in the bargaining process. He called for a re-regulation of the financial sector, saying bank nationalisations do not go far enough.

Brown spoke about the contribution coalmining makes to global warming, with particular emphasis on his own community in the Hunter Valley of NSW. Australia must convert to renewables, he said, stressing that it was important to return to public ownership, maintain jobs and reduce the cost of energy.

Jennings presented the eight emergency measures against economic and climate ruin outlined in a pamphlet the Socialist Alliance will release. Demands included in the pamphlet are:

• nationalise the banks;
• place moratoriums on house repossessions;
• ban companies from sacking workers if the companies are still making a profit;
• raise pensions to 35% of average weekly earnings;
• significantly increase spending for all areas of public infrastructure;
• dump all anti-union laws and abolish the Australian Building Construction Commission and the ALPs' replacement, the Building Inspectorate;
• support the UN call for involvement in discussions about how to resolve the crisis globally; and
• end funding for Australian military interventions overseas.

Workshops were presented by Brown; Michael Shaik from Australians for Palestine; and Sivakuma, communications officer with the Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations. The lively workshops provided activists with a chance to share experiences and plan campaigns.

The conference heard greetings from the Australasian Federation of Tamil Associations, the Communist Party of Sudan and the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) from El Salvador.

The conference pledged solidarity with the people of Honduras now fighting against the military coup and with Tamils fighting for self-determination. The Socialist Alliance will also continue to campaign against the war in Afghanistan, Labor's anti-worker laws, racism and anti-refugee policy, and for real action on climate change.

In Victoria, one immediate focus of the climate movement will be to close down the Hazelwood coal-fired power station — the most polluting in the world's major industrialised countries, according to the WWF.

Sue Bolton, elected at the conference as Socialist Alliance's state convenor, told Green Left Weekly: "It was a terrific conference. The number of issues we were able to cover was impressive. It was a tribute to the breadth of work Socialist Alliance members in Victoria have been involved in.

"We had three country regions represented, with members from Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo present. Our profile is really growing and a number of new members joined throughout the conference."

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