Draft Socialist Alliance perspectives resolution

Draft Socialist Alliance perspectives resolution

The following draft of a perspectives document for the 7th national conference of Socialist Alliance is presented by the Socialist Alliance national executive in two parts. The preamble, which sets out in draft form, an explanation of the political situation after two years of the Rudd government, is for information only, and is not intended for a vote by the conference.

The second part, the resolution, lays out Socialist Alliance's tasks for the year ahead, and is intended for a vote at the conference. The document as a whole is a draft only, and is offered to the Socialist Alliance for suggested amendments as part of the drafting process.

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Preamble

  1. Two years of Rudd Labor

    1. After two years of the federal Labor government led by PM Kevin Rudd, support for Labor in opinion polls remains very high. In its first year of office, the Rudd government took certain steps to ameliorate the worst policies introduced by the Coalition government led by John Howard including the ratification of the Koyoto climate change agreement, the abolition of Australian Workplace Agreements (AWAs – individual employment contracts) and delivering an official apology to the Aboriginal Stolen Generations.
    2. Nevertheless, the Rudd government has left many of the underpinning policies of the Howard era in tact. Most of the anti-worker/anti-union provisions of Howard’s Work Choices were incorporated into Labor’s Fair Work Act. The Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC) continues to persecute building workers like Arc Tribe. It has continued and deepened the racist Northern Territory intervention into Aboriginal communities as well as Australia’s participation in the Afghanistan war. The ALP government continues to lock-up refugees and deny same-sex couples the right to marry.
    3. While rhetorically attacking neoliberalism, and blaming it for causing the Global Financial Crisis, Rudd has continued to implement a socially conservative, anti-worker agenda that has primarily benefited the wealthy at the expense of the most disadvantaged.
    4. This Rudd agenda has prompted opposition, including from sections of the trade union movement, the environment and climate movements and other social movements. This opposition has been reflected in a growth of support for the Greens at an electoral level. While this organised discontent remains relatively small, Socialist Alliance is committed to working with others to build this incipient challenge, both electorally and at a grass-roots level.
    5. Labor is in crisis in many states. In NSW and Queensland, Labor is deeply unpopular owing to its failure to provide a reasonable standard of services for working people and its program of mass privatisation of state assets. Labor faces electoral tests in South Australia, Tasmania and federally in 2010, which may open opportunities for the left.
  2. Global warming, the Rudd government strategy and politics

    1. The threat of runaway climate change caused by rising carbon emissions emanating from human industrial and agricultural activity is the greatest threat to the continued existence of human civilization of our era. Increasingly alarming scientific predictions, only further dramatise the urgent need for governments internationally to take immediate action to move to a low-carbon economy.
    2. The response of the Rudd government to the threat of climate change has been to attempt to introduce a carbon trading scheme (the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, or Emissions Trading Scheme), which would incorporate billions of dollars in subsidies for big polluters (such as the coal, electricity and aluminium industries), while imposing a massive tax on working Australians. It is also unlikely that such a scheme would make any significant cuts to Australia’s carbon emissions or make a positive contribution to the global carbon economy (e.g. stopping Australia’s coal exports).
    3. In presenting the CPRS as its only response to the climate change threat, the Rudd government has given an opportunity to right-wing forces to paint action on climate change as being an attack on the living standards of working people.
    4. Socialist Alliance applauds the Greens for their opposition to the Rudd government’s carbon trading scheme. It condemns the Liberal/National Coalition, for its opposition to taking any concerted action on reducing Australia’s carbon emissions. Socialist Alliance rejects the unsafe, insecure nuclear power option being advanced by the Coalition. Socialist Alliance also calls for an immediate end to uranium mining.
    5. Socialist Alliance supports the campaign launched at the 2009 Climate Summit for the transformation of the economy to 100% renewable energy by 2020, as the only serious means to prevent run-away climate change. Socialist Alliance also demands that the governments of Australia and other rich nations prepare to receive the millions of climate refugees from the Third World who will be displaced by climate change.
    6. Socialist Alliance calls for a just transition to a carbon neutral economy, including the phasing out of Australia’s coal industry. Workers employed in carbon intensive industries should be retrained on full pay and redeployed to socially and environmentally useful work, without loss of pay or conditions.
    7. Socialist Alliance recognises the growing discontent of a number of farmers with the slavish pro-coal mining policies of both Labor and the Coalition and welcomes greater dialogue with these communities, as witnessed in the Just Transitions tour conducted through effected communities in NSW in November 2009.
    8. Socialist Alliance joins with eminent NASA climate scientist James Hansen in condemning the framework of international discussions held at UN Climate Change Conference held in Copenhagen in December, and condemns the role played by the Australian government in failing to contribute to a genuine solution to climate change.
  3. The Rudd government’s response to the global economic crisis

    1. The impact on the Australian economy of the Global Financial Crisis that began in the United States and spread across all parts of the world economy has not been as catastrophic as feared or predicted. The $52 billion ploughed into the economy by the two “stimulus packages” sufficiently increased economic activity to prevent the Australian economy contracting in the year since the crisis began.
    2. While the economy has largely been sheltered from the crisis, many working people have paid a price. Unemployment has increased from a low of 4% in February 2008 to 5.8% in October 2009. In that time, an extra 229,000 people joined the unemployment lines, which grew to 670,100 in October.
    3. Australian workers are increasingly either underemployed or overworked. Official labour underutilisation in October (the sum of unemployment and underemployment – those who have a job, but want more hours) was 13.6%, while Australians work 2.14 billion hours of unpaid overtime each year, according to the Australia Institute.
    4. Real wages are stagnating and declining. Wages increased by only 0.7% in the September quarter of 2009, less than prices, which rose by 1%, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
    5. Continuing strong mining exports to China, along with the Rudd government’s stimulus packages and the quick lowering of interest rates by the Reserve Bank of Australia, have sheltered the Australian economy from a major downturn to date. Nevertheless, the US economy remains in severe recession and growth in China is reliant on massive government spending. The threat of a new global downturn is very real.
    6. The international financial system is returning to its pre-crisis reliance on speculative financial investment, which risks the conditions for a further crisis reemerging at a global level. Any “recovery” promises to be shallow and accompanied by government austerity, including in Australia where the Rudd government has promised to cap any new spending at 2% until its budget deficit is paid off.
    7. Rising unemployment, rising interest rates, rising inflation and stagnating wages threaten working people in Australia with paying for the “recovery”. Socialist Alliance is committed to building resistance to attempts by government and employers to make working people pay for a crisis they did not create.
  4. The unions and Labor governments

    1. Tensions between the union movement and Labor governments have grown since the election of the Rudd government on the back of the anti-Work Choices “Your Rights at Work” campaign in November 2007. Federal Labor’s refusal to “rip-up” Work Choices, replacing it with the Fair Work Act (“Work Choices lite”), which preserves many of the anti-union aspects of the Howard legislation, its insistence on preserving the ABCC in some form and its plan to water down occupational health and safety laws (so-called “national harmonisation”) are straining the relationship between Labor and some union leaderships.
    2. At a state level, the NSW and Queensland government’s attempts to privatise public assets has also met with some resistance from the union movement. The campaign in Queensland, which has been led by the Electrical Trades Union, has been more broad-based than that in NSW, where it led to a compromise supported by much of the union movement. The decline in the organising strength of unions is being exploited by Labor machines.
    3. While hours lost to industrial action continue to decline, important struggles have been had. Over 2009 the National tertiary Education Union has waged an important fight against federal government attempts to further casualise and privatise the higher education sector. The Victorian branch of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union has successfully fought employer attempts to use Labor’s mandatory “flexibility” arrangements o introduce individual contracts through the back door.
    4. Socialist Alliance members continue to play an important role in helping to build resistance in a range of unions. A significant challenge to the class-collaborationist union leaderships will not be built without a new rise of rank and file action for workers’ rights in unions, and new generation of union activists. Socialist Alliance is committed to contributing to that process.
    5. Socialist Alliance condemns the uncritical support given to the Rudd government’s carbon trading scheme by the Australian Council of Trade Unions. Socialist Alliance recognises the crucial importance of building the climate change movement within unions, both at a policy level, but also at a grass-roots activist level. Such a movement must emphasise the need for a just transition to a carbon neutral economy, with workers in carbon intensive industries (such as the coal industry) retrained on full pay and redeployed to socially useful work, without loss of wages or conditions.
  5. Other social resistance and politics

    1. Social resistance against the neoliberal, warmongering, racist and socially conservative agenda of the Rudd Labor government continues in a range of areas. Socialist Alliance commits its support to these campaigns and pledges to continue to build these campaigns by all possible means.
    2. Despite delivering an apology to the Aboriginal Stolen Generations, the Rudd government has continued, and intensified, the racist Northern Territory Emergency Intervention into Aboriginal communities begun by the Howard government. Socialist Alliance condemns the intervention, and calls for the end to welfare quarantining, and for full funding of social services to all Indigenous communities, without strings attached. Socialist Alliance supports the walk-off by the Ampilatwatja community.
    3. While having dismantled the Howard government’s temporary protection visa system for refugees arriving in Australia by boat, and dismantling detention centres at Nauru and Manus Island, the Rudd government has maintained the mandatory detention of refugees, and the excision of coastal islands from Australia’s immigration zone. It has also advanced an “Indonesian solution” of detaining refugees in Indonesian detention centres. Socialist Alliance calls for the end of mandatory detention, the end of the excision of parts of Australian territory for the purposes of the Migration Act and the closure of the Christmas Island prison and all detention centres. Let the refugees land! Let the refugees stay! No “Indonesia solution”!
    4. Labor has continued Howard’s war in Afghanistan, sending an additional 450 troops in April 2009. Socialist Alliance recognises that the US-led occupation is opposed by a majority of Afghans, and majorities around the world. We also note that the occupation is not improving the lives of Afghans. Socialist Alliance calls for the immediate and complete withdrawal of Australian troops from Afghanistan and that war reparations be paid.
    5. The Rudd government has continued to support the right-wing Likud government in Israel despite its flouting of UN resolutions to leave occupied Palestinian land, stop building settlements and lift the siege of Gaza. Socialist Alliance will continue to work with the Palestinian community and their supporters in Australia to pressure the Rudd government to stop giving legitimacy to the Israeli apartheid regime.
    6. Rudd Labor has continued to support Howard-era “anti-terror” laws, which have restricted civil liberties and have been used to intimidate Islamic communities, among others, in Australia. Socialist Alliance calls for the repeal of all “anti-terror laws”. Hands off our civil liberties!
    7. The Rudd government has maintained the ban on same-sex marriage, introduced by the Howard government in 2004. It has previously suppressed legislation in the ACT which allowed for the legal recognition of same-sex civil unions. Socialist Alliance calls for the repeal of the ban on same sex marriage. Marriage should be legal between any consenting adults.
  6. The Greens

    1. The Greens’ opposition to the Rudd government’s carbon trading scheme, their opposition to privatisation and consistent support of the rights of refugees (among other issues) have won them increased support. Greens Senators and state parliamentarians are seen as the political voice of the social movements.
    2. Socialist Alliance welcomes the role played by Greens parliamentarians in opposing the Rudd government’s conservative agenda. Socialist Alliance commits itself to the closest possible collaboration with Greens’ members in the social movements and electorally, where possible.
    3. There are many different political positions within the Greens, including those that look to market-based solutions to social and environmental challenges. Socialist Alliance recognises that there are strategic political tensions within the Greens and seeks to support and strengthen the left within the Greens.

Resolution

  1. Building the Socialist Alliance

    1. Socialist Alliance continues to urge its members to become active in a wide range of social movements. Socialist Alliance members play an important role in building the movements, ensuring their democratic functioning and arguing for strategies that mobilise the largest numbers of people in campaigns for progressive reforms.
    2. Socialist Alliance, as a campaigning organisation, continues to play an important role in giving voice to dissent against government attacks. By organising stalls, writing for and distributing Green Left Weekly and through informational forums organised by branches, Socialist Alliance can help galvanise opposition. An important case in point is the Rudd government’s recent attack on the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.
    3. Socialist Alliance welcomes the collaboration that it has built with other left–wing and socialist organisations and communities. It seeks to build on its collaboration with a range of migrant communities, including the Latin American, Tamil and Sudanese communities.
    4. Socialist Alliance welcomes the election of Comrade Sam Wainwright as councilor for the Hilton Ward of Fremantle City Council, as its first elected councilor, and the first socialist elected to Fremantle Council. Socialist Alliance recognises that this success rested on collaboration with a range of activists from the local community, including the Greens and the left of the ALP. Socialist Alliance seeks to build similar left unity in other election campaigns, wherever possible.
    5. Socialist Alliance seeks to build a strong national network of branches currently in all states and the ACT. We recognise the uneven state of branch functioning around the country and seek to strengthen our organisation and political effectiveness.
  2. Political opportunities for and responsibilities of the Socialist Alliance

    1. Socialist Alliance recognises that right-wing Labor governments in power do not serve the interests of working people, but reinforce the class domination of capital. The increasing gap between the expectations of working people and the real action delivered by Labor governments continues to open political space to Labor’s left.
    2. Socialist Alliance recognises that the largest part of the electoral space to the left of Labor is being filled by the Greens. Socialist Alliance seeks the greatest possible political collaboration with the Greens, but also understands that it has an important responsibility to present a socialist alternative at elections. The fact that there are two socialists who have been elected to local councils over recent years, shows that there is some electoral space which socialists can fill.
    3. Socialist Alliance will continue to build and strengthen grass roots movements for change. Socialist Alliance will also continue to support class-struggle unionism and to seek the greatest possible collaboration with unionists committed to consistent class struggle, regardless of their political affiliation.
    4. Socialist Alliance continues to offer support for the independent newspaper Green Left Weekly. Socialist Alliance will continue to encourage its members to write for the paper, help distribute it, and help fundraise for it.
    5. Socialist Alliance encourages states and branches to organise and hold socialist ideas forums when practicable, to facilitate a wide-ranging discussion of socialist ideas. Socilist Alliance commits its resources to building the Climate Change/Social Change conference to be organised in Melbourne on November 2010.
    6. Socialist Alliance recognises and supports the role of Resistance in recruiting, educating and mobilising young people around socialist politics.
    7. Socialist Alliance seeks to make maximum political use of local, state and federal elections.
  3. Building a more united left red-green movement

    1. Socialist Alliance continues its commitment to greater unity of socialists and other left-wing activists, at a national and international level. Socialist Alliance supports the Caracas Commitment, adopted by delegates to the International Encounter of Left Parties, held in Caracas, Venezuela over November 19-21, 2009. Socialist Alliance agrees to participate in the preparatory meetings for the founding of the Fifth Socialist International in 2010.
    2. Socialist Alliance is committed to building the maximum unity possible among socialist and other left-wing groups and individuals in Australia. Left unity is a necessary step to building the largest socialist alternative possible and crucial to convincing the mass of working people to break with Labor.
    3. Socialist Alliance looks to build the strongest “red/green” unity between socialist and climate/environmental organisations and activists as possible. Socialist Alliance seeks the greatest possible collaboration with environmental and climate activists at a grass-roots level, but also at a political level, including the greatest possible collaboration with the Greens. Socialist Alliance looks toward building a “red/green” alliance at all levels.
    4. Socialist Alliance seeks the greatest possible unity with all forces to the left of Labor. We are open to discuss how unity can be advanced, without precondition. Socialist Alliance would welcome the decision of other left groups to affiliate to the Socialist Alliance, based on agreement with its democratically-decided platform.
  4. Strengthening the Socialist Alliance

    1. The 7th National Conference of the Socialist Alliance looks forward to the political challenges of the coming year as an opportunity to build support for socialism in Australia. Socialist Alliance recommits itself to a greater projection of socialist politics, to a better organisation of our resources, and a larger role in Australia politics.
    2. While some branches have declined since our last national conference, others have grown. Recognising the political space to the left of Labor, the 7th national conference of Socialist Alliance commits itself to “Campaign 1000”, whereby we aim to build the national Socialist Alliance membership to 1000 or more by the end of 2010.
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