Migrant socialists to run for parliament

Issue 

The Socialist Alliance in New South Wales has added two migrant activists to its list of candidates for the upcoming federal election.

Sudanese-born Soubhi Iskander, who has been a socialist for more than half a century, will run for the Senate. Fijian-born Resistance member Duncan Roden will be the Socialist Alliance candidate in the seat of Parramatta in western Sydney. Both pledge to take up the fight for refugee rights and against racism.

Roden, 25, is a member of the socialist youth organisation Resistance, which is affiliated to the Socialist Alliance. He is studying environmental science while working in bush regeneration. Roden told Green Left Weekly: "In 2009, I became aware of the injustices in the world. I researched Marxism, and realised I had to become politically active."

Roden is a leading member of the Parramatta Climate Action Network. "I can see the frontline of climate change. I still have family living in on a Pacific Island, where climate change is not just about the future — these islands are going under now.

"I'm determined to help build the mass people's movement that's needed to turn around climate change."

Iskander joined the Sudanese Communist Party in 1956, a party that has been at the forefront of fighting against three dictatorships. Despite being jailed and tortured, he remains a committed and active socialist and is the editor of GLW's Arabic supplement, The Flame.

Iskander described becoming a socialist in his youth and recounted having "a wonderful, rich father. He was a doctor, a gynaecologist. His walls were full of books. When I was 12, he gave me the key to his whole library. He told me, 'you can read any of these books, but there are just two I don't want you to read'.

"They were Karl Marx's Capital and Charles Darwin's Origin of Species. Naturally, these were the first two I read!

"When I was 14, I told my father I wanted to join the Communist Party. He said 'no', and told me to wait till I finished university. But in 1956 Egypt had a revolution, led by [Gamal Abdel] Nasser, a similar character to [Venezuelan President Hugo] Chavez. He was young, energetic — he nationalised the Suez Canal. Of course, France, England and Israel attacked Eygpt."

Iskander was studying at university in Egypt at the time. He joined the Communist Party and fought in support of Nasser. His political activism led to him being thrown out of the country.

"There was a dictatorship in Sudan and many communists could not return", he explained. "The first secretary of the Communist Party was killed by the dictatorship. So the party told me not to try to return", he explained. "I went to Poland to study, under a scholarship granted by the Soviet Union."

Iskander said when he came to Australia he was taken to a Labor Party meeting. "It was a pre-selection meeting", he said. "I remember thinking, 'These people are like thieves dividing the loot!'"

"The approach from the Labor candidates was not 'what can I do for the people?' but instead 'what can I get from the people?' I knew I never wanted to go back to a Labor meeting.

"While you can change your tactics, you can never change your strategy — involving people in the struggle for a better world."

Iskander joins prominent queer rights and climate activist Rachel Evans on the Socialist Alliance's NSW Senate ticket.

Roden told GLW: "At a time when the far-right is getting organised, with letterboxing of anti-immigrant and anti-African material, assaults on Indian students, and racist rallies being organised in Melbourne and Sydney, it's crucial to campaign against racism.

"This racism is being egged on by the Labor and Liberal parties, which are competing to see who can be more inhumane towards refugees and migrants. An anti-racist, pro-people alternative is more important than ever."