Friday 8 January 2010

Left Unity in Australia: two steps forward...

There is truly no rest for the wicked.

The wombats are still tired from the extraordinary events of the weekend - in particular, the Socialist Alliance's 7th National Conference, held in Sydney for the first time. But we are obliged to dive head-first back into the battle for social justice and sustainability.

For those who missed it, the Bureau of Meteorology (one of my favourite outfits, truth be told) has released its Annual Australian Climate Statement 2009, which does nothing to calm our fears about climate change, and indicates that 2009 was the second hottest year in Australia on record (and the 5th hottest year world-wide).

Also worth noting is the impending court decision against Chevron Texico in Ecuador, for causing near-apocalyptic pollution-related harm to that country's rainforest. Chevron is facing over US$23 billion in damages. The "Amazonian Chernobyl" continues to unfold, and Chevron seems poised to appeal any decision against it. Readers should head on over to Chevron Toxico for background, sign the sign-on letter/ petition demanding action and watch the new film "Crude".

But the big news of the week (well, not really, the REALLY big news is that we're all going to die in a supernova as the nearby binary stars of T Pyxidis reach the Chandrasekhar Limit in mass and go "bing badda boom", bathing us all in a deadly Gamma ray burst in a couple of millennia. Maybe.) came out of the Socialist Alliance conference.

After several years of a tentative fox-trot with other affiliates who opposed any such move, the Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP) has formally dissolved/ merged itself into the Socialist Alliance.

Now, to many on the "left" (by which we mean to include all those self-described "vanguards" of circa three people, as well as the more genuine outfits and individuals), this is either:

1) irrelevant, because the DSP already controls the Socialist Alliance;
2) irrelevant, because the DSP had already dissolved into the Socialist Alliance;
3) irrelevant, because both groups are counter-revolutionary/ Pabloite/ class-collaborationist/ Stalinist/ reformist/ {insert random unsubstantiable insult here}/ etc;
4) irrelevant, because the best vehicle for achieving socialist change is via the Greens/ ALP;
5) irrelevant because {insert name of your grouplet here} is the one true revolutionary organisation.

etcetera, etcetera. None of the above is, of course, true. These views largely serve the sole purpose of quarantining existing groups from engaging with the reality of the Socialist Alliance, the class struggle in Australia, and the need for a new, broad, socialist working class party.

Negative views (and very genuine imperfections) aside, the decision on the weekend could actually be a (another) very interesting and beneficial development, both for the Socialist Alliance, and for the left in Australia more generally. Amongst other things, it removes the DSP from the picture, handing over that group's assets to the larger Socialist Alliance and providing more human resources by removing the need for DSP members to build a parallel organisation.

While individual DSP members will no doubt maintain their political views, and put them forward in the Alliance, in can also be hoped that the death of the DSP may encourage those with paranoiac ideas of a "DSP takeover strategy" to (re)affiliate to the Socialist Alliance.
A more successful Socialist Alliance, which welcomes the affiliation of other left groups and individuals, can only strengthen the socialist left in Australia, providing a unified-yet-pluralist and coherent alternative to the disaster which is capitalism.

Of course, there are those who will decry this move by DSP members a retreat from the "leninist" model of party-building, and even from Marxism. I disagree, and perhaps in a further post, I'll return to that claim in order to refute it. But suffice to say that the "Leninist Party" model being constructed by most little left groups today has extraordinarily little to do with what Lenin did in Russia (whatever your views on his successes and flaws).

One of the many (somewhere well over 200) members and delegates who attended the energetic and exciting conference, Ben Courtice, has put together a couple of (somewhat contrarian) analyses of the changes (here and here), not all glowing of course, but interesting reading nonetheless.

The new, improved, Socialist Alliance now has the opportunity to revivify the fragmented left. In one sense, the ball is firmly in the court of other left groups to meet the challenge of creating a genuine socialist alternative
in Australia. If Solidarity, Socialist Alternative, the Socialist Party, or anyone else, wants to affiliate, the door remains open, and we will welcome them.

However the Socialist Alliance is not going to be held hostage to the nightmare of the past - a viable, non-sectarian and pluralist socialist alternative must be built, regardless of the involvement of historical divisions. The potential for socialists to present that alternative is greater - and more important - now that ever.

As Olivier Besancenot, the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste's "Red Postie", pointed out recently: "
It’s in these times of economic crisis that we will have to show just how useful we really are."

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