“It’s not enough to just think left wing thoughts. Without being embodied in movements, without being embodied in unions and without being embodied in socialist organisations, ideas alone cannot change the world”. With this call to action another successful Socialism conference was brought to a close.  

The conference – held in Sydney on the first weekend of September and attracting more than 550 people – reflected the revival of interest in socialism. The need for a political alternative to challenge the inequality, racism and right wing politics that characterise global capitalism today was clear to the many people for whom the conference was their first foray into activism and politics. 

Now in its fourth year, the conference featured more than 30 sessions covering socialist theory, radical history, left wing debates and ongoing global struggles.

US socialist Dana Blanchard, from the International Socialist Organization, travelled from Chicago to address two of the largest sessions of the weekend.

“Amidst all the horrors and the daily barrage of nonsense and hate that comes from the White House and the bigots in the streets, there is a real sense of hope on the American left”, she said of the political polarisation in the US. 

Blanchard contrasted Trump’s right wing agenda and the confidence of the far right with the wave of teachers’ strikes across the country and the growth of the socialist left.

Her involvement in the West Virginia teachers’ strike was brought to life in her second presentation, “Education is not for profit!”. The strike was an important point of resistance and inspired workers well beyond West Virginia to take similar action.

Kurdish refugee, journalist and author Behrouz Boochani addressed an overflowing room via phone from Manus Island. Behrouz provided a heart wrenching account of the Australian government’s barbaric regime of mandatory detention and took questions from attendees. 

The panel discussion also featured Tamil Refugee Council founder Aran Mylvaganam and National Union of Students ethnocultural officer Hersha Kadkol, who spoke about the need to resist the bipartisan horrors inflicted on refugees and the system that creates them.

Many sessions were overflowing, including “Democratic socialism: can it work?”, “A people’s history of the Vietnam War” and a panel discussion on “Our unions in crisis: how did this happen and how do we rebuild?” with transport union activist Giovanna Bonelli, author Elizabeth Humphrys and Socialist Alternative’s industrial organiser Jerome Small. 

Reflecting the support for socialist ideas among 58 percent of Australian Millennials, a special “Socialist Q&A” panel elicited dozens of questions from first-time attendees.

The organisers want to thank all presenters and participants for making the conference a success. We look forward to again hosting Sydney’s largest forum for left wing ideas when the Socialism conference returns in 2019: http://socialismsydney.com.