Socialist Alliance Conference moves forward on policy despite organisational scheming

Share with your friends










Submit

The 2004 National Conference of the Socialist Alliance (SA) was a largely successful gathering which made major progress in adopting detailed policy for the upcoming Federal election. For far too long the Alliance has neglected policy. An interminable, and largely irrelevant, debate about its organisational structures has taken up a lot of energy that could be used to actually build SA. Last year, FSP’s detailed work on policy was swept aside in the rush to “transform” the Alliance into the precursor of a multi-tendency socialist party along the lines of the Scottish Socialist Party. This year we were pleased that our work was recognised, as much of the detail of the policies adopted was based on what we had proposed the previous year. Better late than never!

Empty victory. The positive outcomes of the conference were a little overshadowed by two sharp debates, one concerning the “offer” of Green Left Weekly (GLW), the newspaper associated with the Democratic Socialist Perspective, as a ready-made newspaper for SA. The proposal from the National Executive (NE) majority was to continue a “trial period” begun in December 2003. Many of the non-aligned members voted with the DSP to push through the extended trial. This will do little to build the Alliance for the simple reason that those who disagree with the politics of GLW and the DSP will not sell the paper. It’s one thing to vote on a proposal using numbers at Conference. Its another to get it implemented.

Unprincipled manoeuvring. Last year, enthusiasm for “unity” — at the expense of real political agreement — resulted in the formation of an informal bloc comprised of SA members not aligned with affiliates (the Non-Aligned Caucus or NAC). This bloc has declined into a small group calling itself the NAC NE Working Group (NWG) which put forward a proposal for “leadership structures,” entrenching the DSP and itself, to the detriment of other affiliates and independent members. After protest and against the objections of a large proportion of genuine non-aligned members, a much amended version was adopted with DSP support. The real day-to-day leadership is now effectively the  five-person National Conveners Group. The NE is reduced to a review group which meets bi-monthly by phone.

The lowest point of the conference came at its end. In a move which looked like payback, a non-aligned critic of the NWG, Michael Morphett, was voted off the National Conveners Group on the NWG’s motion. Then seconds before the vote, NWG dropped a bombshell, revealing a platform document making it clear that NWG is now in effect a tendency within SA. NWG members are free to form a tendency if they they want to, within the Constitution and political climate of SA. But they are not free to do it in secret, in particular while representing themselves as “non-aligned.”  Using a winner-takes-all slate voting system, the NWG — which is about the same size as several of the small affiliates — now holds three of the five National Convener positions, while genuinely independent members have none.

Alliance grows steadily. In contributions to the structure debate, FSP comrades have argued that an important project such as the SA cannot be completed hastily. Uniting the socialist Left around agreed goals takes time, and full programmatic agreement cannot be achieved through the vehicle of a socialist electoral alliance. However, what we can do is achieve the widest possible tactical agreement to build SA. In practice that is what has occurred, and the Alliance has broadened its focus to encompass joint work in unions, the anti-war movement and other important campaigns.

SA has more than 1,000 financial members. The 2004 Conference will help it grow precisely because it provides working people with a much more comprehensive account of where we stand on a range of issues. Working people are not attracted by inward-looking arguments about “structures” — they will join SA because it is socialist and anti-capitalist.

Maximise your vote! Despite organisational machinations, the Alliance remains viable and will grow during the next year. The outgoing NE presented a motion on SA’s immediate strategy which targets the Howard Government while putting Latham’s ALP on notice that its version of neoliberalism will be challenged. That’s why it’s important to vote 1 Socialist Alliance and make your preferences flow to the ALP ahead of the Coalition and the far Right.

The slogan “Troops Out, Howard Out, Vote Socialist,” coupled with a wide range of concrete policies, will strike a chord with many workers disillusioned with both sides of politics. Conference delegates were united, enthusiastic and keen to discuss plans for contesting the upcoming Federal Election, which will be the first with the name “Socialist Alliance” on the ballot papers. This will be the biggest nationally coordinated socialist intervention in Federal Elections for many decades. Contact your nearest SA branch or visit www.socialist-alliance.org to join and to volunteer to help with the campaign.

Share with your friends










Submit