9am: Registration

9:30 - 11am

A) What is socialism?

Class struggle 101

Everyone agrees that socialism is making a comeback – but what does “socialism” actually mean? This is a vital question, not just for working out goal of our political activity, but what practical steps are most important today.

This session analyses the “democratic socialism” of Bernie Sanders and the reformist socialism of Jeremy Corbyn, and lays out a case for the revolutionary socialist tradition, as it has developed from Karl Marx through to the present day. As in all of the “Class struggle 101” sessions, there will be plenty of time for questions and discussion.

As in all of the “Class struggle 101” sessions, there will be plenty of time for questions and discussion.

B) The great US teacher rebellion of 2018

Politics and class struggle today

A special presentation on this year’s historic wave of teacher strikes, one of the great eruptions of struggle that punctuate US working class history. In February 2018, teachers in West Virginia launched an all-out, rank and file driven strike in defiance of the law and their own union leaders. They returned to work after an extraordinary two week strike having won pay rises, extra resources, and a halt to school privatisation.

Since then, teachers in a series of US states have launched strikes, protests and organising drives that have shaken up the workers movement in the US.

Join teacher union delegate Sadia Schneider and a US teacher (via Skype) for this important session analysing the background to the strike wave, as well as the dynamics and prospects of the movement.

C) Marx, the working class and the struggle for democracy

Socialist ideas and theory

Democracy has always been a product of class struggle – from the city states of ancient Greece, to the working class uprisings for democracy of the 1840s that shaped the politics of Karl Marx, to today’s battles to defend democratic rights. This talk discusses the democratic dynamics of mass working class struggle; how the working class pushes against the limits that capitalism imposes on democracy; and how our struggles point the way to genuine democracy, where the mass of humanity control the colossal wealth we produce instead of being dominated by it.

D) Demand the impossible! A global history of 1968

Radical history

January of 1968 saw the US military, the greatest armed force in world history, humiliated by a peasant army in an impoverished country, Vietnam. In May, France was gripped by the world’s biggest general strike. And by mid year, the Stalinist regime in Czechoslovakia rocked by a student and worker uprising as the global wave of revolt continued.

The revolts of 1968 gave birth to a new revolutionary left in countries around the world. The revolts of 1968 helped shape world history for many years as the ruling class struggled to restabilise their system.

Join us for this discussion and celebration of one of the great historic waves of global revolt.

E) From dog whistle to megaphone: racism in Australia today, from the myth of “African gangs” to the return of “White Australia”

Politics and class struggle today

Victorian politics is being shaped by racist lies about so called “African gangs”. Federally, years of bipartisan racism towards refugees and Muslims has prepared the ground for the return of blatant, “White Australia” style racist politics.

Join us for this special panel to look at the roots of racism within Australian capitalism, the dynamics of racism today, and the possibilities for resistance.

11 - 11:30am: Break

11:30 - 1pm

A) Can the working class still make a revolution

Class struggle 101

Sure, the working class has a history of radical, insurrectionary struggle – but wasn’t that all a long time ago?

This talk separates myth from fact on the changing working class, and argues that the working class still has the potential for revolutionary struggle.

B) Stalinism vs the real Marxist tradition

Socialist ideas and theory

Stalinism is making a comeback on the internet.

For revolutionary Marxists, however, Stalinism and its associated states represent the antithesis of genuine working class democracy.

As well as puncturing various Stalinist myths, this session will outline a revolutionary socialist attitude to the state, authority and revolution and explain how Stalinism turns the classical Marxist position on its head.

C) Why the far right hates women: Incels, MRAs, and the psychology of fascism

Socialist ideas and theory

Gross sexism has been a growing element of far right organising in recent years, and this misogyny is not a new phenomenon.

From the KKK to the Nazis in Germany, women have occupied a particular place in far right ideologies. What’s behind this? And what are the differences and continuities with today’s far right movement?

D) Imperialism and the military industrial complex in Australia today

Politics and class struggle today

An in depth look at Australia’s military-industrial complex, where giant weapons companies entwine with our universities and major political parties. Vast profits are at stake – along with Australia’s imperialist role in the capitalist world system.

E) A rebel union: organising shearers and rural workers in the 1990s

Radical history

Steve Roach presents an insider’s history of the militant Shearers and Rural Workers Union. This breakaway union split from the conservative Australian Workers Union in 1994, organising among miners, shearers and other rural workers throughout Victoria and NSW.

Steve was the founding secretary of this rebel union, and will bringing these battles to life with rare footage along with his first hand account of the union’s many battles.

1 - 2pm: Lunch

2 - 2.45pm

Class struggle and socialism today

Special guests including Victorian Socialists candidate Stephen Jolly

2.45 - 3pm: Break

3pm - 4:30pm

A) How they get away with it: capitalism and social control

Class struggle 101

The ruling class are only a tiny minority of society – so what allows them to get away with so much?

Many explanations of social control focus on “human nature”, or a simple top-down view of how the media operates.

The starting point for a Marxist analysis of social control is the ruling class’ ownership and control of society’s “means of production”. We look at how this simple fact shapes our social reality, and how it enables a tiny minority to dictate terms to the rest of us.

B) Special session: Never Again! Fighting the Nazis in Britain, 1970s to today – stories from a participant

Radical history

The Anti Nazi League was one of the most successful anti fascist movements in modern history, mobilising tens of thousands of people to isolate and confront the fascist National Front in Britain from 1977. Moira Leahy was active in the ANL in the 1990s when it was reformed to counter a new challenge from the far right.

With a newly invigorated far right mobilising worldwide, this is vital history.

C) “Flappers and pioneer girls”: the history of Melbourne’s women metal workers

Radical history

From the 1890s, an army of young women fought against dangerous working conditions and low pay at Footscray’s ammunition factory. Their story involves the Australian branch of the Knights of Labor (the first mass radical organisation in the US working class), the early Labor Party, explosions, strikes, and cricket.

Archivist and socialist historian Katie Wood uncovers this fascinating history for the first time.

D) Being a socialist agitator at work

Politics and class struggle today

Our expert panel of call centre communists, troublemaking teachers and rebel rail workers will lead a discussion on the highs and lows of rank and file organising and socialist politics in today’s workplaces.

E) Anyone but Trump? American politics after the midterms

Politics and class struggle today

While Trump and his allies continue their ruthless, pro-corporate agenda, the unelected elite that controls the Democratic Party is moving the party to the right for November’s mid term congressional elections, hoping that an “anyone but Trump” sentiment will lead to significant electoral shifts. Meanwhile, socialist groups including the Democratic Socialists of America have been able to grow significantly out of disenchantment with the state of official US politics.

Join us for a discussion of some important questions: where is US politics is going? Many of the US business elites backed Clinton over Trump – what’s the sentiment now in the US ruling class? And what are the prospects for the left in the US, which is growing for the first time in many years?

4:30 - 4:45pm: Break

4:45 - 6:15pm

A) Socialist Alternative: all your questions answered

Class struggle 101

This special session will answer anonymous questions collected from the conference “question box”. Make sure you drop off your question in advance so it can be answered as part of this interactive discussion.

B) Identity politics and its discontents in 2018

Socialist ideas and theory

Identity politics, dominant on the Left from the 1990s, is now coming under sustained attack from both the Left and the Right. This talk will explore how Marxists explain this new situation, and how we assess both identity politics and the various attacks on it.

C) “Do nothing, and do it well!” Radical Chinese workers in Australian history

Radical history

Socialist historian and film maker Liam Ward presents a sneak preview from his forthcoming film, uncovering a hidden history of racism, resistance, and Melbourne’s militant Chinese workers.

D) The rising tide of the global far right

Radical history/Politics and class struggle today

From Trump’s America to the growing fascist movement in Europe, and Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil: there is a dangerous surge of the far right around the world. Veteran socialist Rick Kuhn presents a Marxist analysis of what’s behind this rising tide of authoritarian and fascist politics.

E) Workers against war: unions, workers, and the anti Vietnam war movement

Radical history

When maritime workers refused to load military supplies for the Australian army in Vietnam in 1967, they helped ignite one of the great radical movements of Australian history. The movement against Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam War saw a gathering wave of radicalisation and defiance among students, young people and workers. Together, they shook Australian capitalism and transformed Australian politics.


Socialist Alternative end of year party

After the last session, join us for Socialist Alternative’s end of year celebration – dinner and drinks at a nearby venue.


Sat 8 December 2018
9am onwards

Victorian Trades Hall

Cnr Victoria and Lygon Street

Click here to buy tickets.
$40 solidarity

$20 full price

$10 concession

A list of suggested readings for the conference sessions is available here.

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