National conference: invaluable opportunity to boost our socialist cause

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The challenges, opportunities and responsibilities that we socialists face today are pretty huge.

Start with the opportunities. The financial and economic crisis that was never supposed to happen is leading tens of thousands of people to wonder whether socialism’s “nineteenth century doctrine” (words of K. Rudd) mightn’t still have a few things to say about the world we live in.

The interested reception our New South Wales and Victorian municipal election campaigns been getting confirm that more people are prepared to listen to a socialist message — even if many of them end up voting Green as apparently the most practical way of saying “no!” to the major parties.

Alliance local government campaigns have also brought us into closer contact with migrant left and socialist movements, and with the working-class communities that support them — like the Communist Party of Sudan comrades in western Sydney and the Turkish and Kurdish left in Melbourne’s north.

But with the opportunities come the challenges. The capitalist economic crisis may be opening many minds to the socialist analysis, but what about our counter-proposals? How convincing are they? Can we be confident that as working people are driven to look for alternatives many won’t be seduced by right-wing populism? What about our capacity to lead and influence the struggles of the day in an anti-capitalist direction?

Our Sixth National Conference (Geelong, December 6-7) will provide an invaluable opportunity to better understand our world of economic, environmental and social crisis in order to improve our socialist proposal. That way we can better carry out our responsibilities as leaders and activists in the struggles that alone can seriously change things.

The first day of the conference will be devoted to a special public forum aimed at analyzing the triple crisis of financial meltdown, global warming and rising social misery. Dr Jamie Doughney (Victoria University), David Spratt (Carbon Equity Project) and Lisa Macdonald (Socialist Alliance) will lead the way in shining their torches on these dark and difficult themes .

Following workshops into more specific aspects of the crisis, Dave Kerin (Union Solidarity) and John Rice (Adelaide Ecosocialists) will help lead the hunt for the key elements of a pro-people program against the crisis.

This will lead to an all-in discussion aimed at drawing out the core elements of an anti-crisis program, to feed into the Socialist Alliance’s own thinking but also into that of the broader movements for social and environmental justice.

The rest of the conference will focus more directly on improving the Socialist Alliance’s own policies and work.

Resolution and proposals will be grouped under themes, leading off with the politics and campaigns needed to build the rickety Australian trade union movement. Other sessions will cover the Alliance’s work in the struggle for Indigenous justice (led by our National Indigenous Rights spokesperson Sam Watson), in the campaign against global warming (headed by National Environment Coordinator David White), and in further strengthening ties with the migrant left.

This last session will feature Alliance members Soubhi Iskander (Communist Party of Sudan), well-known fighter for Tamil rights Dr Brian Seneviratne and Turan Ertekin (Party of Labour, Turkey).

The conference will also feature two special events — a special presentation by Nelson Dávila (Venezuelan chargé d’affaires in Australia) on “Latin America’s struggle for a new world”, and “The Great Afghan Socialist Feast” on Saturday night, to be addressed by prominent civil liberties lawyer Rob Stary and Margarita Windisch, participant in a recent trade union delegation to the Western Sahara.

Conference Highlights

December 5-7, Geelong Trades Hall, Geelong

Special public forum: Financial meltdown — what working class response?

Saturday, December 6

  • The financial, environmental and social roots of the crisis — Jamie Doughney (Victoria University) David Spratt (Carbon Equity Project);Lisa Macdonald (Socialist Alliance)
  • Building the worker, community and environmentalist alliance against the crisis — Dave Kerin (Union Solidarity); John Rice (Adelaide Ecosocialists): Luke van der Muelen (CFMEU, La Trobe Valley); Mel Barnes (Resistance)
  • What politics and campaigns to rebuild the union movement? Noel Washington (CFMEU); Chris Cain (WA MUA)*
  • Latin America’s struggle for a new world — Nelson Dávila (Chargé d’affaires, Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela)
  • The Great Socialist Afghan Feast — Rob Stary (Civil rights lawyer); Margarita Windisch (Socialist Alliance)

Sunday, December 7

  • Socialist Alliance Perspectives and Tasks in 2009 Sue Bolton (Victorian State Convener)
  • Socialist Alliance tasks in the Indigenous rights movement — Sam Watson (Socialist Alliance Indigenous Rights Spokesperson); Pat Eatock (Aboriginal Rights Coalition).
  • Socialist Alliance work in the environment movement — David White (National Environment Coordinator); Cam Walker (Friends of the Earth).
  • Strengthening ties with the migrant left — Soubhi Iskander (Communist Party of Sudan, Socialist Alliance); Dr Brian Seneviratne (Fighter for Tamil rights, Socialist Alliance); Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front; Turan Ertekin (Party of Labour, Turkey, Socialist Alliance).

*To be confirmed