Watching the terrible plight of the Tamil asylum seekers aboard the Australian customs ship Oceanic Viking last week brought home the depressing continuity in policy and perspective between the previous John Howard Coalition government and Labor rule under PM Kevin Rudd.
Australia's razor-wire enclosed refugee detention centres are once again filling up with desperate victims of war and oppression.
Howard's "Pacific solution" is now Rudd's "Indonesian solution", and the supposed threat of "potential terrorists" among the refugees is once again being used to justify the brutal treatment of people from the Third World.
Since federal Labor was elected two years ago, it has never been clearer that Rudd is Tweedledum to Howard's Tweedledee. Whether it's Work Choices Lite, the continuation of the racist Northern Territory intervention into Aboriginal communities, the further privatisation of Telstra, or the ongoing military support for the United States' occupation of Afghanistan, the evidence is rapidly piling up that Rudd's Labor is little more than a mirror image of the hated Howard government.
In the face of global environmental, economic and social crises that threaten billions of lives, if not the very survival of humanity, the need to battle against, and build genuine alternatives, to governments such as Australia's is increasingly urgent.
The world can't wait, and the question of how to build sufficiently strong social movements, fighting trade unions and alternative political organisations that can stop the capitalist parties' neoliberal rampage, warmongering and greenwashing confronts us all.
Answering this question will be the focus of discussions at the Socialist Alliance's seventh national conference, to be held in Sydney over January 2-5, 2010.
"Fighting for Socialism in the 21st Century: Towards Justice, Sustainability and People's Power", sponsored by Green Left Weekly, will kick off with a public meeting on the evening of January 2 called "Their crises: our solutions". It will introduce some of the many issues and campaigns to be discussed over the following three days.
The conference program includes educational workshops, and sessions devoted to discussing and deciding the Socialist Alliance's policies and varied campaign activities in 2010.
Panels of speakers in plenary sessions over January 3-5 will introduce resolutions on: the political situation; socialist electoral strategy and tactics; building the climate action movement; rebuilding militant trade unions; justice for Indigenous people; refugee rights and internationalism; the Latin America revolutions and solidarity; getting Australia out of Afghanistan and Iraq; youth activity and women's and queer rights.
Specific campaign workshops on January 3 will discuss the climate change movement, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander rights campaigns, anti-war activity, the same-sex marriage rights campaign, and solidarity with the revolutions and anti-imperialist struggles occurring across Latin America.
Workshops on January 5 will discuss and plan activities in many aspects of party building, including GLW content and distribution, election campaigning, and publications and internet campaigning.
On January 4 and 5, educational workshops will focus on: the left-Indigenous alliance for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander justice; understanding the financial and economic crisis; ecology and socialism; and Laborism and radical alternatives, explaining the history of the ALP, the role of the Wobblies, and communist organising experiences in Australian history.
The conference will also launch the 2010 GLW fighting fund at an indoor rally featuring multimedia presentations and a theatre performance. An international cultural performance night will be held on January 4.
The three days of political discussion, education and planning for action is open to everyone interested in joining together with others to fight for a better world, or simply in finding out more about socialist ideas and activities.
The detailed conference agenda and registration forms are available at www.socialist-alliance.org, or contact the Socialist Alliance at 02 9690 2508 or email