More than 500 people attended Socialist Alternative’s Socialism Conference in Sydney, held at the University of Sydney from Friday 19 to Sunday 21 August.
Around 350 people packed in for the conference’s opening night plenary, “Racism and resistance to the system”. The panel discussion featured Rahaf Ahmed, anti-Islamophobia activist; Gavin Stanbrook, Aboriginal activist and Socialist Alternative member; US socialist and Black Lives Matter activist Khury Peterson-Smith; and Liz Walsh, refugee rights activist and Socialist Alternative member.
Program highlights on Saturday included Safe Schools co-founder Roz Ward’s discussion about political witch-hunts, “McCarthyism then and now”. Representatives of the right wing media took a keen interest in the topic, an audience stooge being sent to the conference by the Australian quoting parts of Roz’s speech in an article printed the following week. Sandra Bloodworth and Simone White presented an inspiring picture of women in struggle in their session, “Women at the barricades: Snapshots of class struggle and women’s liberation”. On Sunday, “What really happened in the Russian Revolution?” drew the largest crowd, most of whom were young people keen to hear the truth about one of the most contested events in history.
The weekend ended on a high with April Holcombe, National Union of Students LGBTI officer, and Jerome Small, each addressing the closing plenary to make the case for a socialist alternative. “Being a socialist today means convincing others – as many as we possibly can – that capitalism is not just responsible for the world’s ills, it is the world’s ill”, said April in her speech to the crowd gathered in the Manning Bar.
Organisers were pleased with the overall conference turnout, which exceeded the attendance at the inaugural event held last year. The success of the conference has quickly cemented the Socialism Conference’s place on Sydney’s political calendar. While details are yet to be confirmed, the Socialism Conference will be held again in 2017.