Unity Dossier — 1. Introduction

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The unity negotiations between the Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative ended after the latter's National Committee decided on October 26-27, 2013 that the unity process had “reached an impasse and consequently we are for ending the negotiations with the Alliance”. The unity process began a year ago at the initiative of Socialist Alliance. Five meetings were held between leadership delegations of three each from the two organisations and joint public meetings were held by the two groups on the subject of left unity in Brisbane, Sydney, Wollongong, Canberra, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth. Joint caucuses were held in a number of cities for various areas of movement work. A Socialist Alternative delegation attended and addressed the 9th National Conference of Socialist Alliance, Socialist Alliance participated in, endorsed and promoted Marxism 2013 (organised by Socialist Alternative) and Socialist Alternative participated in and addressed Socialist Alliance's Organising for 21st Century Socialism seminar in June 2013. Following the latter seminar, a joint public meeting with Paul Le Blanc was held in Melbourne. In addition, the two organisations participated in joint contingents in May Day marches around the country, and members from both organisations attended some of the others local events and forums. Socialist Alliance left the negotiation of city-wide joint meetings and activities to its local branches and various initiatives where taken at the local level. Since February the two groups had agreed on a process for progressing the unity talks and in July the Socialist Alliance submitted a first draft of common perspectives for discussion. However, Socialist Alternative had not been prepared to discuss that document in the last two negotiation meetings, held on August 11 and September 15. Following those two meetings, the Socialist Alliance informed Socialist Alternative of its preparedness to persist with the agreed process and that it was open to other ways of proceeding to take the unity process forward. The Alliance also that it was also prepared to consider other forms of ongoing cooperation should the two groups be unable agree on organisational unity. Socialist Alternative's decision to end the unity talks was conveyed in a November 8 email to the Socialist Alliance. This email said the Socialist Alternative National Committee had also agreed: “The unity process has led to more collaboration and joint activities between us and the Alliance and this has been a step forward. We don’t want the unity discussions to end in pointless acrimony. The situation may change at some point in the future and greater possibilities for revolutionary unity may open up and we should be alert for that possibility. “We want the collaboration between ourselves and the Alliance to continue wherever possible in union, student and campaign work. We have invited a number of their comrades to speak at our upcoming union activists’ conference in Melbourne. We will be approaching them about having speakers at next year’s Marxism conference.” The Socialist Alliance National Council had met earlier on October 5-6 and resolved to persist with the attempt to negotiate a common political program as a basis for a new united organisation. It also reaffirmed a political approach to the unity process that it had adopted in a resolution at its June meeting: “We do not have to reach absolute agreement on a detailed revolutionary program with Socialist Alternative. We can unite around a general agreement on political objectives, what to do now to take the struggle forward (not necessarily agreement on all historical assessments or assessments of political processes in other countries) and a democratic structure based on unity in action with freedom of discussion and freedom of opinion. “An effective united program of action — i.e. what to do now to take the struggle forward — should encompass the strengths of the current political interventions of both Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative. A new united organisation should not abandon any significant areas of political engagement of either group. If it does, a united organisation might be bigger than either of the two existing groups, but this would not strengthen the socialist movement as a whole. “In parallel with leadership negotiations with Socialist Alternative around an effective united program of action, the Socialist Alliance is also prepared to have discussions with Socialist Alternative about more practical matters associated with unity and organise other confidence building measures, including joint membership meetings. “However, such supplementary activities cannot substitute for a serious leadership negotiation on agreed political objectives, what to do now to take the struggle forward and a democratic structure based on unity in action with freedom of discussion and freedom of opinion.” The Socialist Alliance’s National Council had also empowered the organisation's negotiating team to prepare practical solutions to disagreements on issues such as participation in parliamentary elections. The Socialist Alliance remains open to collaboration wherever possible with Socialist Alternative and to continuing a broader political discussion in the left about how to advance the struggle for socialism. We remain confident that in the future all groups and individuals persisting in the struggle for socialism will find the ways to unite. Socialist Alliance has agreed to participate in a one-day trade union activists' school organised by Socialist Alternative on November 16, 2013 and has also been invited to participate in and endorse Marxism 2014 as a supporting organisation. Socialist Alliance will reciprocate with similar offers to Socialist Alternative to participate in some of its major events, and to leave all doors open to the possibility of resuming unity talks in the future.