Socialism for the 21st Century conference a success

May 20, 2016
Chilean Marxist Marta Harnecker speaks at the Socialism for the 21st Century conference in Sydney on May 14. Photo: Zeb Parkes

Sydney University campus came alive with political discussion, talks and workshops for three days during the Socialism for the 21st Century Conference, held over May 13–15.

The conference had more than 30 sessions and 50 speakers, including international special guests Marta Harnecker, Michael Lebowitz and Ian Angus. Local and international activists shared their experiences of struggle and discussed the necessity of building alternatives to capitalism today. Up to 400 conference-goers faced the task of choosing from a range of stimulating sessions on offer.

There were many highlights of the conference, including the world-wide launch of Ian Angus' new book Facing the Anthropocene — copies of the book sold out before the talk had finished.

The contribution of First Nations leaders, such as Sam Watson and Ken Canning and the talks by activists from East Timor, Kanaky, Malaysia, the Philippines, India and Pakistan, gave the conference a strong anti racist and anti imperialist focus. Hawzhin Azeez's address to the conference live from Rojava about the campaign to rebuild the city of Kobane was particularly moving.

The struggles for sex and gender equality brought activists from the LGBTIQ and feminist campaigns together for workshops on fighting misogyny and against homophobia. The participation of anti mining activists, including farmers Helen Bender and Elena Garcia, reflected the importance of constructing alliances to challenge the might of the fossil fuel corporations.

The final conference session on building alternatives drew together many of the ideas raised in the conference, including the need for tactical openness in the project to build a mass movement for socialism in Australia that unites the majority in struggle.

Peter Boyle, who spoke on behalf of Socialist Alliance — one of the organisations hosting the conference — said the left needed a flexible and constructive orientation towards the Greens and any other new significant political projects with a left trajectory. However, there remained an important role for some form of political organisation that helped socialists to collectivise activity and experience, and to educate and train new generations of socialist activists.

Bringing together activists in conferences such as this is definitely part of advancing such a project.

Audio and video of key conference sessions will be available online soon. Visit for updates.

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