The experience of youth and dissenting voices in Socialist Alliance

The experience of youth and dissenting voices in Socialist Alliance

Socialist Alliance considers youth recruitment, and growing a culture of youth integration and leadership in the party, a national priority.

In the Draft Socialist Alliance Perspectives Resolution, adopted by the National Executive on May 7 for discussion at our upcoming conference, in the youth work section, the document states:

'While we continue to make progress in this area, recruiting and training new young socialists is the single most important party-building challenge facing the Socialist Alliance.

'We continue to prioritise political work on campus as a means to reach out to young people.'

This aligns with my experience in the Alliance, having benefited from the encouragement and mentorship, both political and organisational, from my local branch and specifically my branch co-conveners.

Accordingly, I believe there is a need to present this perspective to dispute the claims asserted by ‘The Witches’ tendency, which severely misrepresent the approach and treatment of both youth, and dissenting voices within Socialist Alliance.

My involvement in the party was fostered through a myriad of leadership opportunities, educational experiences, and a variety of responsibilities in the branch.

Within the first 6 months of joining, and at the age of 17–18, I received a permanent invite onto the Branch Co-Ordinating Committee and was later elected in my own right. I was elected to the role of Sydney branch Campus Convener, and was elected a delegate to my first National Conference where I was elected to the Resistance national executive. Within a year of membership, I became a member of the SA National Executive.

Jaz’s claim in “A Tendency Report Back” that “younger members are failed dramatically by the cemented executive which have become the ruling class of the party”, and that “young people have “positions” in the executive but “that does not mean that what they say has any effect on the party what so ever” is a caricature of our processes. It misrepresents youth like myself, as well as the three other Resistance-age members who are on the NE.

None of the four Resistance members who sit on the National Executive were consulted by Jaz on our experience.

Jaz goes on to say: “The party constantly speaks of replacing itself and having young members take some leadership but I have failed to see this happen”. This only identifies that they indeed failed to observe it. The truth about our youth leadership is proven in practice throughout our party.

Socialist Alliance is in no deficit of experienced comrades capable of filling leadership roles. Yet youth and new members are frequently encouraged to contend for leadership positions, and they are motivated and supported in doing so by long-term, leading comrades. This disproves The Witches’ allegation of a leadership conspiracy. Far from controlling or squashing new members, these active efforts to encourage integration and participation are the practical steps, which shows that Socialist Alliance takes youth leadership seriously.

This is supported by a report, given behalf of the Resistance: Young Socialist Alliance National Leadership, at the December 2014 Radical Ideas Conference, reaffirming that Resistance YSA believes that the merging of Resistance into Socialist Alliance and becoming the youth wing, was the correct decision at the time, and is proving to be the correct decision now.

Claudia’s assertion in ‘Reconnecting Comrades’ that “comrades with ideas and views outside of the ‘usual’ are experiencing misrepresentation, demoralisation”, contrasts with the accelerated leadership roles (including Branch Coordinating Committee, Resistance National Leadership, GLW editorial team) the relatively new comrades in ‘The Witches” tendency do, in fact, have and where they have the opportunity to present their ideas and views (apart from as part of their local branch).

Jaz’s claim in ‘Jaz’s Epic Manifesto’, that “regardless of democratic structures it is virtually impossible for the average member to develop skills and have an equal say within the party” does not hold water. These claims are completely unsubstantiated, and they are also hypocritical given Jaz’s position on a local leadership body, which should, according to their PCD, afford them more opportunity to develop skills, and more of a say in the party.

Notably, the prioritisation of the integration of myself and fellow youth comrades in Sydney branch, did not depend on conformity, nor an unwillingness to voice dissent.

To the contrary, arguments are judged on their merit and persuasiveness, and never simply dismissed out of inexperience. If we follow the democratic process, it is inevitable that not all ideas and views will get support from a majority.

Whether arguments are lost or won, the cornerstone of maintaining branch democracy is the right of comrades to put their perspectives forward, and allow the branch to determine our collective direction.

This is in contrast to the political immaturity outlined in the PCD, ‘Reconnecting Comrades’, which is specifically highlighted in the proposal of “trialing a motion” in lieu of voting.

This proposal to abandon democratic centralism in favor of a chaotic, anarcho alternative which effectively blocks an elected leadership body from voting against unfavorable ideas completely misunderstands the fundamental role of a leadership body and is a counter-productive use of branch resources. It undermines democratic principles.

It is also based on a false claim that to encourage the active membership of youth, we must sacrifice our party’s democracy and permit experimentation with branch resources. There is no political basis to entitle <em>any</em> dissenting voice, with <em>any</em> dissenting ideas or views, to resource and enact any motion within Socialist Alliance, in replacement of a majority vote.

On the consequences of the proposal, this PCD dismisses concerns of “limited capacity” and “negative repercussions”, claiming that there are “solutions to this”, without, in fact, providing any solutions. The concerns about limited capacity and negative repercussions, however, are valid and sensible reasons not to proceed with a course of action, and are vital to take into account when determining our party’s activities.

Branches should not be preoccupied with finding solutions to the limited capacity and negative repercussions of a “trial” in order to please those who dissent in the party.

The prioritization of youth integration, undertaken to encourage active youth membership in Socialist Alliance, is designed to equip comrades with the political confidence to argue their position within the party and argue the party’s position in public, and ultimately, convince youth of revolutionary socialism, life-long activism and a day-to-day commitment to the party — a process which our party’s youth leadership is a testament to. Our continued achievements in this field reveal that ‘The Witches’ account of the treatment of youth and dissenting voices in Socialist Alliance has no basis in fact.