‘Seize the time’ on uniting Australia’s socialist left
‘Seize the time’ on uniting Australia’s socialist left

Last month Socialist Alliance National Council adopted a resolution on left unity. Here we publish a reply to the Alliance by the Socialist Alternative National Executive, welcoming their statement and proposing further concrete steps towards unity.


We welcome the resolution on unity with Socialist Alternative adopted at the recent Socialist Alliance National Council meeting as a very positive step on the road to unity. In particular we strongly agree that unity between our two organisations needs to be based “around an explicitly revolutionary socialist perspective and an agreed program of action to advance this perspective today.”

We also endorse your very important point 6:

“We should not have to reach absolute agreement on a detailed revolutionary program…We can unite around a general agreement on political objectives, what we do now to take the struggle forward (not necessarily agreement on all historical assessments or assessments of political processes in other countries) and a democratic structure based on unity in action with freedom of discussion and freedom of opinion.”

Socialist Alternative is very serious about unity. We want to see a unity that lasts, not something that tears itself apart two years down the track. We want a unity that is a real advance for the revolutionary left. We want a unity that not only unites our two organisations but draws in newly radicalising forces that want to see a militant fightback. We have seen some of the benefits that unity can bring in our fusion earlier this year with the Revolutionary Socialist Party. For all these reasons we need a well prepared unity. We are not for artificially forcing the pace of the unity process.

However, having said all that, it is also very important to seize the time. To drag out unity negotiations too long will mean we lose momentum and it can lead to a certain cynicism developing amongst those outside our ranks who are following the unity process and who might be inspired to join a new united organisation which would be easily the largest organisation of socialist activists in Australia for quite a number of years.

So we need to do all we can to maintain the momentum of the unity process between our two organisations. One aspect of this as you state in your point 8 is that “the two organisations should seek to broaden united activity involving their memberships”. We are in full agreement on this score. We need more joint external work in the unions, in the student movement and in progressive campaigns, more joint public meetings and forums, more combined educationals and further discussions to clarify a range of political issues, the priorities of a combined organisation, constitutional issues, organisational arrangements and so on.

Specifically we want to propose:

1. That we have joint contingents at demonstrations and where possible produce joint placards.

2. That we publicise each others’ public meetings in our publications (Green Left Weekly and Red Flag) and encourage our members to attend each others public events.

3. That we organise leadership discussions and joint members’ meetings at a local level to discuss political issues about which Socialist Alliance have raised concerns about our approach. These include a) women’s oppression b) the environment c) election campaigning.

4. That we organise joint caucuses in unions, student work and campaign work.

To turn to some further specifics.

Under point 4 you state “we would be open to taking part in a broader political formation if/or when objective conditions in Australia made this possible, and if this was a step forward in bringing together broad forces into a sustained independent struggle against capitalist rule.” We agree with this as a general orientation. A radical left formation like SYRIZA in Greece within which revolutionary socialists are active as an organised left wing force would be an incredibly positive development. However no such possibility presently exists in Australia.

What is possible in Australia today is the building of a larger united revolutionary socialist organisation. If we can achieve that then the revolutionary left will be much better placed to relate to opportunities that open up in the future to advance the class struggle and play our part in building a new militant working class party to challenge the stifling hold of the ALP over the broader labour movement.

We agree with your statement in point 7 that “A new united organisation should not abandon any significant areas of political engagement of either group.” Reflecting this approach, as you note in point 9, Socialist Alternative’s National Committee previously decided to support the Socialist Alliance’s 2013 federal election campaign as a positive step in the unity process.

However we feel it would be dishonest of us not to make clear that Socialist Alternative does not share Socialist Alliance’s emphasis on the importance of electoral work for the small revolutionary left in the current political period in Australia. The amount of energy and resources a united organisation puts into to electoral work compared to other areas of, from our point of view, more important political intervention is an issue about which we will need to reach a formalised agreement.

We agree with your statement in point 8 that “There now appears to be a common position … on unity in action with freedom of discussion and opinion. However, we would have to agree on the constitutional and structural embedding of these principles.” This is something we need to start drafting. However as you rightly say “Ultimately, political practice and political culture – as much as constitutions and structures – will determine the real democratic character of a new united organisation. The ultimate guarantee of this practice and culture is an active, educated and engaged membership.”

We endorse your point 10 that “organisational unity between Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative will need to involve … the construction of a new united left organisation. Attempts to combine our memberships by simply putting them all into either the current form of the Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative is unlikely to work.”

As to your point 11 that any proposal for unity “must be taken to a National Conference or Special Conference of the Socialist Alliance for consideration and decision”, we agree that this is obviously necessary and Socialist Alternative will be adopting a similar procedure.

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