Left unity builds in South Australia

June 1, 2012
Left Unity contingent at Adelaide May Day march, 2012. Photo: Gemma Weedall

In what was an important milestone for the anti-capitalist community in Adelaide, Left Unity held its inaugural AGM on May 26.

The group collected membership fees, elected an executive and established working groups. It also chose a new logo. The AGM culminates several months of careful discussion towards consolidating the organisation.

Left Unity formed in May 2010. Its goal was to unite class-conscious radical left forces through common struggles against the ecological and social evils of our increasingly brutal and irrational economic and political system.

Left Unity is composed of anarchist, communist and socialist activists, from various grassroots organisations including the Communist Party of Australia, Resistance, the Socialist Alliance, Organise!, the Adelaide Anti-Capitalist Forum, members of the Greens and unaligned left-wing individuals.

Left Unity has surprised participants by how smoothly it has functioned, given not only the diverse political tendencies it encompasses but the history of alienation and estrangement (never quite as deep in Adelaide as elsewhere in Australia) that has afflicted much of the anti-capitalist left.

Left Unity members have cooperated remarkably well, coordinating two community pickets against the South Australian Defence Industry Exhibition (DIE), and engaging in solidarity actions during the Lilydale industrial dispute. It has marched as a unified contingent at the past two May Day rallies, adding plenty of colour and noise to those events.

It has organised many rewarding and successful public forums discussing topics from the carbon tax to occupational health and safety to education and neoliberalism, and most recently on worker cooperatives with Dave Kerin from the Earthworker Cooperative.

These were attended by diverse sections of the explicitly anti-capitalist left, and also by more social-democratic tendencies. Most notably, it hosted the famous Afghan dissident and feminist Malalai Joya last year.

John Rice, an activist in the Climate Emergency Action Network, was elected convener of its newly elected executive. Also elected were the Socialist Alliance's Lisa Lines as secretary, Anne McMenamin as treasurer, Pas Forgione as assistant convener and the Communist Party's Bob Briton as assistant secretary.

The members of the executive reflect the diversity of political traditions and organisations present in Left Unity. Two anarchists along with the convener of the Communist Party and co-convener of the Socialist Alliance.

Lines, said: “Left Unity promotes and values cooperation among socialists and leftists in Australia and this is critically important in the 21st century given the challenges humanity faces.

“Our cooperation is particularly relevant in the current Australian context of the climate emergency, the introduction of regressive policies like welfare quarantining, the continued mandatory detention of refugees in Australia and ongoing racism, sexism and homophobia in our society. These injustices can only be combated by a strong, committed and organised left that is united.”

The gender balance of the executive was also pleasing. An ongoing concern for Left Unity has been the under representation of women at Left Unity meetings and public events.

It is hoped that, with two very accomplished and experienced female activists elected to leadership positions, Left Unity will make progress on this longstanding problem, organising more events and campaigns likely to resonate deeply with the concerns and interests of women.

After several months dominated by internal activity, Left Unity looks forward to the second half of this year as an opportunity to expand its base and profile through concerted and carefully targeted public activity.

Left Unity hopes to reach out not only to other anti-capitalist groups and individuals but to disaffected social democrats and more radical Greens frustrated by their party’s marked rightward shift.

At the AGM, there was constructive discussion about how to do this but also ensure that the concretely anti-capitalist, class-conscious character of the group is not compromised or diluted.

The group will shortly consider options for sustained, long-term campaigns, which the group is yet to undertake.

Left Unity’s next public events will include a meeting about the ongoing campaign against the proposed expansion of BHP's Olympic Dam copper and uranium mine in northern SA: “Olympic Dam: The Struggle Continues.”

Left Unity will also host arguably the most famous anti-nuclear campaigner on the planet, Nobel Prize nominee Dr Helen Caldicott, who will discuss uranium, the nuclear cycle and the enduring threats to the environment and health.

[For more information email pas.forgione@yahoo.com.]

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