Socialist Alternative’s Socialism 2020 conference in Perth over the weekend of 26-27 September, attracted more than 160 participants. The conference grappled with the overlapping political, social, economic and climate crises.
Capitalist classes around the world are willing to sacrifice workers and the oppressed to COVID-19 to keep profits flowing. The climate crisis is wreaking havoc, as historic wildfires, orange skies and smoke become a part of the new normal. While healthcare workers fight the pandemic in underfunded hospitals, militarised police brutalise protesters, murder people of colour and defend the far right. These issues were introduced in our opening panel—featuring Perth-based socialists Lian Jenvey, Nick Brown and Erin Russell—and continued across sessions on the rise of authoritarianism, police abolition, and pandemics and capitalism.
These conditions are producing death and destruction. But they’re also creating mass resistance, from Lebanon and Belarus to the centre of global capitalism, the United States.
We heard from radicals on the frontlines of this resistance. At the closing panel on Sunday, Khury Petersen-Smith, a Boston-based socialist, discussed heroic resistance across the US to racist police violence. Petersen-Smith celebrated the mass defiance, and highlighted the transformative process happening in every neighbourhood in which people are organising resistance and discussing the police, racism and capitalism.
Activists from the last major upsurge in global struggle, the 1960s and 1970s, addressed the conference. Gumbainggir radical Gary Foley spoke about the electrifying Black Power movement in Australia, which he was central to. US socialist Joel Geier—who was part of the Freedom rides and Berkeley Free Speech movement—spoke about the wave of struggled during the “long sixties” (1960-75). He gave an insider’s account of how the process of mass struggle radicalised a generation and far-left organisations mushroomed in size.
The discussions about resistance around the world today and throughout history aimed to guide our approach to organising in Australia today. Police racism, state repression, inequality and exploitation are central to Australian capitalism. These injustices need to be opposed here, and radicals need to be organised. As Geier concluded: “Our job is to build something now to prepare for the ongoing radicalisations. You've got to decide for your whole life, what side are you on?”
“On the day of my mother’s funeral, I went home and wrote reports”, Kate says. She’s a public high school teacher and, along with 50,000 others, many also from Catholic schools, she’s striking to demand better pay and reduced workloads from the New South Wales government.
Nurses and midwives in New South Wales have rejected the state government’s insulting offer of a 3 percent pay rise in a combative, all-membership meeting at Sydney’s Town Hall.
Fifteen years ago, the John Howard federal Coalition government launched a military invasion and occupation of Aboriginal townships and lands in the Northern Territory. More than 600 military and police personnel, accompanied by a phalanx of government bureaucrats, entered 73 Aboriginal communities, placing them under the unilateral control of the Australian army.
Around the US, tens of thousands have hit the streets slamming the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that established abortion as a right. In Manhattan, a large crowd of young, multiracial activists marched, chanting “Fuck the Supreme Court!”
In the late 1960s, cryptic notes began to appear on poles and noticeboards around Chicago, directing women who were pregnant and in trouble to “call Jane”. The number provided connected them to the Jane Collective (officially the Abortion Counselling Service of Women’s Liberation), an underground network of activists providing illegal abortions in the years before the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision. This collective is the subject of The Janes, a new HBO documentary directed by Emma Pildes and Tia Lessin.
Anthony Albanese started his victory speech on election night with a commitment that his government would implement the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full, beginning with a referendum to create an Indigenous Voice to Parliament in its first term.