A significant step towards a united socialist organisation
A significant step towards a united socialist organisation

Socialist Alternative and the Socialist Alliance, the two biggest socialist organisations in Australia, have since late 2012 been engaged in discussions about the possibility of forming a united organisation.

The Socialist Alliance National Council met on 10 June and adopted the resolution printed below. Socialist Alternative welcomes this as a significant step towards establishing a united group. We agree with the Socialist Alliance NC that unity should be based on an “explicitly revolutionary socialist perspective and an agreed program of action to advance this perspective today”, without the necessity for agreement on a detailed program. We think that the “statement of principles” Socialist Alternative adopted at our last conference is a reasonable attempt at starting to define a broad basis of agreement, although we are open to other suggestions.

Socialist Alternative also agrees that unity with the Socialist Alliance will necessitate a new united organisation, not the grafting of one group on to the other. This new organisation needs to combine firmness of principle with a democratic culture and structures that guarantee the rights of minorities. Uniting the revolutionary left into a single organisation should not mean the suppression of differences.

We further concur that the new organisation should draw on the different strengths of both organisations, rather than restrict its activities to those carried out by either of the existing groups.

It is, of course, easy to mouth platitudes about left unity, but much harder to overcome old differences and create unity in practice. However, we believe that the collaboration between ourselves and Socialist Alliance that has developed this year, at both a leadership level and between members of both groups, has put us well on the road to establishing the mutual trust that is necessary to establish a united group on a sustainable basis.

Socialist Alliance resolution on left unity

• If socialism is not just to be a good idea, it has to become a movement of the working class and other oppressed groups. It flows from this that to build the socialist movement we have to have a permanent focus on linking up with the activists and leaders of the working class and oppressed groups who are fighting capitalist oppression. We see the current unity discussions with Socialist Alternative as a step toward building a pole of attraction to socialism as part of this process.

• The ruling class is intensifying its attacks on the working class and other oppressed sectors and on the social concessions won through years of struggle. In the midst of these attacks, the ALP (which still dominates the labour movement) has severely weakened the fightback by consistently restraining any militant fightback and, furthermore, confusing, disorienting and dividing the working class by promoting the racist scapegoating of refugees and asylum seekers. In this way, the ALP is paving the way for a Tony Abbott-led Coalition victory in the next federal election – and the escalation of neoliberal attacks that will follow. Therefore, as the two largest socialist organisations in Australia today, we have the duty to see if we can work together to build a stronger pole of socialist leadership for the desperately needed fightback and to win more of the working class and other oppressed sectors to the struggle to end the class dictatorship of capital.

• The Socialist Alliance came out of a process that – for nearly five years – brought together socialists from several small revolutionary socialist groups with socialists who had come out of the ALP or the Greens or who have never been in the organised left before. The Socialist Alliance started with initial points of agreement on a platform of struggle against the capitalist neoliberal attacks between various small revolutionary socialist groups that worked together to form it in 2001. There was agreement to set aside the relatively minor theoretical differences the various left groups had with each other, work with what we agreed on and then – over time and on the basis of new collective experience in united action – seek to develop greater political agreement.

• The Socialist Alliance’s politics have never been that of a “broad party” of revolutionaries and reformists around a program that does not go beyond seeking reforms to capitalism. However, 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.

• The prospect of developing a new united organisation with Socialist Alternative is on the basis of a different, more extensive initial political platform to that which initially brought together the groups and individuals to launch the Socialist Alliance in 2001. It is around an explicitly revolutionary socialist perspective and an agreed program of action to advance this perspective today.

• We should not have to reach absolute agreement on a detailed revolutionary program with Socialist Alternative. We can unite around a general agreement on political objectives, what to 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.

• An effective united program of action – what to do now to take the struggle forward – should encompass the strengths of the current political interventions of both the Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative. A new united organisation should not abandon any significant areas of political engagement of either group. If it does, a united organisation might be bigger than either of the two existing groups, but this would not strengthen the socialist movement as a whole.

• There now appears to be a common position between the Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative 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. 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. Further, with more collective experience in united action, the members of the Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative can develop greater mutual confidence and greater political agreement. While the unity discussions are in progress, the two organisations should seek to broaden united activity involving their memberships.

• We welcome the recent decision by the Socialist Alternative national committee to support the Socialist Alliance’s 2013 federal election campaign as a positive step in the unity process.

• In our assessment, organisational unity between the Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative will need to involve – in substance – 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.

• This meeting of the national council authorises the national executive to continue unity discussions with Socialist Alternative within the framework of this resolution. However, any proposal to enter into a new united organisation with Socialist Alternative must be taken to a national conference or special conference of the Socialist Alliance for consideration and decision.

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