Unity Dossier — 5. Draft documents prepared by Socialist Alliance for unity negotiations

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Draft points for joint leadership discussion on the politics of a united socialist organisation (sent to Socialist Alternative on July 12, 2013)

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Climate crisis poses: Socialism or barbarism?

  1. Humanity has reached a critical crossroad. Capitalism cannot advance society as a whole. Already, large sections of the world live in a barbarism of poverty, repression and endless war but in addition the irrational and insatiable drive for profits by a highly monopolised and globalised capitalism is driving towards irreversible and catastrophic climate change.
  2. Capitalist governments – and the giant corporations they work for – are refusing to act on the desperate warnings of the great majority of the world's leading scientists to avert this crisis.
  3. 21st century capitalism's threat to our common future is a chronic and systematic problem that arises out of the unprecedented drive for profit at all cost by a tiny rich elite and the giant corporations that now own or control most of the world's wealth. To free itself from a descent into barbarism, humanity has to liberate itself from capitalism.

Revolutionary perspective

  1. To assure itself a truly democratic, peaceful, just and ecologically sustainable future, the ownership and control of society’s productive resources must be taken out of the hands of the capitalist minority and transferred to society as a whole.
  2. Humanity's collective wealth and technological capacities needs to be urgently invested in a radical transformation to an ecologically sustainable society that is just, equitable and freed from all class divisions. This can only be achieved through a qualitative expansion in direct democracy and democratic planning at all levels.
  3. Such a change is possible. The technology exists and capitalism has brought into being a global working class that has a tremendous potential for collective organisation and collective action and the historic potential to liberate the whole of society through its struggle for self-emancipation.
  4. However, this potential can only be realised through a decisive struggle to defeat the state power of the capitalist class and the transfer of political and economic power to the working class to begin a transition to a socialist society.
  5. All previous attempts to end the rule of the powerful capitalist minority have been met with violent repression. The working class majority can defeat this repression only with the most thoroughgoing self-organisation.
  6. A revolutionary transfer of power will require the complete replacement of the institutions of capitalist power – including the corrupted and rigged capitalist parliamentary systems – with new democratic institutions of popular power based on the independent self-organisation of the working class and other oppressed groups.
  7. The bureaucratic one-party “Communist” dictatorships that emerged in countries such as Russia and China – amidst economic backwardness, imperial military siege and isolation – were based on a total suppression of the socialist democracy that is require to liberate society from capitalism. These dictatorships wiped out the socialist revolutionary movement in those countries and have embraced the return of the most ruthless capitalist exploitation.
  8. Only with the most thorough-going socialist democracy can the creativity and energy of the working class needed to build a classless society be unleashed. Further, after the direct or indirect experience of the tyranny, corruption and economic misery that millions of working people have suffered at the hands of these dictatorships, socialists today can only win mass working class support if we are seen as the most consistent and resolute defenders and builders of democracy.

We need to build a pole of socialist leadership today

  1. Our strategic aim should be the construction of a mass socialist party to educate, organise and mobilise the Australian working class and other oppressed groups in a struggle for its own power to replace the power of the capitalists.
  2. We need to start organising these forces, however we recognise that any organisation we form today is but one step in a much bigger, and still to unfold process of the formation of such a party capable of leading such a struggle. A party capable of leading real revolutionary struggle will have to unite the real socialist leadership that develops in the course of class struggle. Hence any united organisation we can form today cannot even claim to be the embryo of such a party. We are but one small step towards the development of such a party and we will continue to be open to uniting with all those prepared to join us in our strategic aim.
  3. We need a mass revolutionary force to lead the struggle for a socialist transformation. But the kind of mass movements and mass consciousness that would allow a mass revolutionary party to develop have yet to crystallise in Australia. The responsibility of a serious socialist group is to help create the preconditions necessary for the emergence of such an organised force among radicalising sectors of the working class. It should become a space for radicalising elements to act collectively and to discuss in order to advance the struggle for socialism.
  4. Small revolutionary socialist groups should help shape and initiate struggles, or join in already-existing struggles, to win improvements in the here-and-now for the working class and all oppressed groups. Such struggles, combined with revolutionary socialist popularisations and educational outreach to more and more people, can help us to work towards building the mass revolutionary socialist party needed.
  5. A serious socialist organisation does not start out with the illusion that it has a finished, “correct” program. It will develop its political program in the process of engagement in such struggles through which it seeks to win real leadership and political authority in the working class and seek to unite around the struggle for socialism with the real leaderships that emerge in the working class.
  6. A serious collective engagement in the class struggle and the development and testing out of an effective political program requires organisation around the principle of unity in action with freedom of discussion and opinion.
  7. A united socialist organisation needs to have democratic constitution and structure supported by democratic political practice and political culture. The ultimate guarantee of this democracy is an educated and engaged membership. Therefore, the new organisation must promote – and facilitate through systematic education – an organisation where all members are active consistent with their circumstances (work/study, age, health, family responsibilities, location) in the building of the organisation, its political campaigns and projects.
  8. A united socialist organisation must seek to increase its weight and influence in the working class as socialism remains simply a dream unless it can become a movement of the working class. As such the united socialist organisation must constantly strive to be, in the main, a party of workers. Its structures and culture must be accessible to workers and the organisation has a duty to provide the political education and collective support needed to enable the equal and effective participation of workers in the political life of the organisation.
  9. Any active socialist organisation also needs to pay special attention to the recruitment of young people, who can be the most confident and energetic activists. Young people are relatively free from the pressures of family life and from the weight of past defeats suffered by working-class and other oppressed groups. While we should seek to recruit young people from the working class, the unemployed and from high schools, it is critically important for socialists to have a well-organised presence on universities and other higher education institutions and to engage in political activity on these campuses. To develop the experience and confidence of younger activists, the organisation should encourage leadership structures that allow youth to develop through taking leadership responsibility.

For independent mass action of the working class

  1. Socialists advocate, encourage and seek to organise the independent (of the capitalist class) mass struggle of the working class in defence of its own immediate, historic and global interest. But socialists face powerful competition from political forces that seek to limit working class struggle to reforms or changes within the context of the capitalist system.
  2. The Australian Labor Party, formed more than a century ago by trade union officials and sections of the intelligentsia, now acts as a systematic agent for capitalist rule in the labour movement. ALP governments have always defended the interest of the capitalist system and worked to contain trade union and other social movement struggles within the framework of capitalist parliamentary politics.
  3. The ALP has fostered class parliamentarism, collaboration, racism, xenophobia and protectionism as ways to diverting the working class from seriously confronting the capitalist class. It has promoted the false idea that workers in Australia have more in common with their “Australian” bosses than they have with the working masses in other countries – particularly in the colonial and semi-colonial countries.
  4. Therefore, a central part of socialist struggle in this country today is to win the working class away from the conservative domination of the ALP.
  5. While it still retains a significant base in the working class, since the 1980s all ALP governments have played a leading roll in the capitalist neo-liberal offensive and with the collaboration of the trade union bureaucracy have severely weakened the trade union movement and constrained it from taking independent mass action. In this period the ALP has increasingly abandoned championing new reforms – or even defending previously won reforms – in the interest of the working class and other oppressed groups.
  6. As the neo-liberal ALP has increasing effectively abandoned much of its historical social-democratic program of reforms to ameliorate the worst effects of capitalism, the Greens party has a emerged out of some of the environmental and other social movements and taken up some of the reforms that the ALP once championed. In doing so they have won some of the forces deserting the ALP.
  7. However, the Greens party also limits itself to seeking changes within the framework of the capitalist system and primarily through the mechanism of parliamentary politics. The Greens do not stand for breaking from the capitalist system even if some of their politicians and leaders may have come from the left or even still consider themselves “socialist”. This can be seen in their unwillingness to campaign even for the urgently needed solutions to the climate change crisis, which necessarily involved major imposts on the rights of ownership of big capitalists. Instead the Greens have tailed behind the false “market solution” of the ALP's carbon price/emissions trading scheme.
  8. Therefore, socialists also campaign to win labour and other social movement activists away from the Greens' utopian politics of “greening capitalism”.
  9. It is necessary, but not sufficient, to expose through our propaganda the politics of the ALP and the Greens. The struggle to win militant trade unionists and other activists away from the capitalist politics of these parties also requires socialists to have a united front approach to these parties, wherever it is possible, to advance the independent mobilisations against all oppressions of the capitalist system.

Socialists and capitalist parliaments

  1. Both the ALP and the Greens attempt to channel popular struggles into their parliamentary campaigns. This weakens the independence of struggles and tends to demobilise them on the promise that the politicians of those parties will provide a solution through parliamentary means.
  2. A united socialist party should reject parliamentarism but should not abstain from parliamentary politics. To break the hold of the parliamentarist ALP and Greens, socialists need to engage in this arena of politics, not in order to reform capitalism, but above all to put forward socialist ideas in this arena that is still regarded by the mass of working people as the main political forum and vehicle for satisfying their social needs. This is particularly so in periods of comparatively limited mass activity, when the masses see the ballot box as their only or main means of redressing their grievances.
  3. Socialist need to engage in parliamentary elections to effectively expose the limitations and essentially anti-democratic nature of the system of capitalist parliamentary institutions and to explain how a genuine system of popular self-government, based on social ownership of the decisive means of production, would immensely increase the real participation of the masses and their control over decisions that affect their lives.
  4. Socialists should be seen as the strongest defenders of democracy, exposing the limitations of capitalist democracy and campaigning for the extension of democracy to the economic sphere.
  5. However, the primary goal of socialist parliamentary electoral campaigns is to develop the political awareness and self-activity of the masses and to draw all progressive organisations into mass political activity.
  6. Socialists elected as representatives at any level of government should act as “tribunes of the people,” seek to use these positions on government bodies to organise campaigns and public mobilisations in the interests of the working class and oppressed sectors and take all progressive measures possible within the framework of these institutions. They will also use these platforms to present the our socialist positions, including the need to build new institutions of popular power.
  7. Socialist elected representatives should work under the close direction of the organisation, retain no more that the wages of a skilled worker and at all times put forward the party's political positions and support the development of new forms of democratic organisation or the working class and other oppressed groups that are independent of the apparatus of the capitalist state.

A working-class program of action against all oppressions

  1. Socialists advocate, encourage and seek to organise the independent (of the capitalist class) mass struggle of the working class in defence of its own interests and against all oppressions. By engaging in struggles against all oppressions, socialists seek to build a bridge between immediate struggles of the working class and other oppressed groups with the broader anti-capitalist struggle. It is only through such struggles that the working class can develop a consciousness of the need to replace capitalism and emancipate itself.
  2. The systematic championing by socialists of struggles against all the ills of the capitalist system is part of the process of development of the working class – at first through its politically advanced elements, and then eventually through the broadest layers of the class – from the subject of capitalist oppression to its function as the new ruling in a necessary transition to a classless society. This is another important reason why today, in the midst of the global climate change emergency, it is essential for socialists to offer political leadership in the struggle for real solutions to the greatest crisis facing humanity.
  3. Socialist intervention in and leadership of the struggles against various oppressions should always be aimed at maximising independent mass action. Socialists should be serious builders of the movements and advocate steps that advance the movement, connect with the working class and bring the greatest possible number of people into action.
  4. The trade unions are only encompass a small part of the working class today but they remain the basic organisational vehicles for the workers' day-to-day defence of their economic interests against the capitalist class.
  5. They also remain the key institution through which the ALP maintains its dominant political influence over the working class. This remains the case despite the fact that trade union density has shrunk from 46% in the early 1980s to 18% today. As such the battle for political leadership in the trade unions remains a important priority for socialists.
  6. Socialists should struggle in the trade unions to maximise their effectiveness in the defence of the immediate interests of the workers and, in the course of such struggles, win the workers to a socialist perspective.

Trade unions

  1. Socialists strengthen the union movement by promoting trade-union democracy, labour unity and class independence. Trade-union democracy involves the right of the union ranks to freely determine the union's goals and policy, and to elect and recall the union's leaders. The ultimate guarantee of such democracy is the involvement of the entire membership in the union's activities, particularly at workplace level. A strong workplace delegate structure is needed for this.
  2. Socialists also strengthen the union movement and the working class as a whole by:
    • Campaigning for unionisation of unorganised workers.
    • Extending solidarity to all workers in struggle.
    • Breaking down narrow craft divisions and promoting democratic amalgamation into unions that embrace all workers in a given branch of industry.
    • Promoting full participation in the life of the unions by specially oppressed groups of workers, such as women, migrants, the young and the unemployed.
    • Promoting international working class solidarity.
    • Urging unions to take up the struggles of the oppressed and struggles for a sustainable environment.
  3. Socialists in the trade unions, especially any holding leadership or organiser positions, should work under the political direction of the organisation.
  4. Socialists in leadership positions in the trade unions should offer political leadership not only on the immediate bread and butter concerns of the union's membership but also on all the major political issues of the day that impact on the working class and other oppressed groups. They should seek to present the independent interest of the working class on all political questions and mobilise trade unionists around these questions wherever possible.
  5. However the working class movement comprises much more than the trade unions and socialists should seek to win leadership in the various other organisations, institutions and campaign groups that working class seeks to organise against capitalist exploitation and oppression.
  6. In addition, socialists should seek to provide political leadership in the struggles of all other groups oppressed by capitalism. Such leadership could be provided through reporting and exposing these oppressions through the propaganda of the organisation and through direct participation in the actions and/or organising bodies of such struggles.
  7. A small socialist group is limited in the areas of struggle it can directly engage and offer active leadership to. However, a new organisation uniting the Socialist Alliance with the Socialist Alternative with ample resources to maintain the key interventions currently being organised by both organisations and reach out into more areas of struggle.

Racism, sexism and the working class

  1. Socialist interventions should always respect the democracy and independence of movement structures. This is particularly important in movements against oppressions in which the capitalist class exploits and fosters entrenched prejudices to divide the working class, for example through racism and sexism.
  2. Because of Australia's modern history as a European colonial settler state which brutally dispossessed, massacred, imprisoned and marginalised its original inhabitants and because of its continuing status as an imperialist nation, racism is a power weapon of division and manipulation used by the ruling class in this country.
  3. The capitalist class uses racism to scapegoat refugees and blame them for the pain and insecurity caused by the capitalist system and to justify imperialist wars of aggression and occupation in the Third World.
  4. Socialist interventions should always respect the democracy and independence of movement structures. This is particularly important in movements against oppressions in which the capitalist class exploits and fosters entrenched prejudices to divide the working class, for example through racism and sexism.
  5. Because of Australia's modern history as a European colonial settler state which brutally dispossessed, massacred, imprisoned and marginalised its original inhabitants and because of its continuing status as an imperialist nation, racism is a power weapon of division and manipulation used by the ruling class in this country.
  6. The capitalist class uses racism to scapegoat refugees and blame them for the pain and insecurity caused by the capitalist system and to justify imperialist wars of aggression and occupation in the Third World.
  7. Sexism and misogyny are also deeply entrenched in all class societies – although some important gains have been made through struggle This is because the oppression of women is institutionalised in the family system enables the transmission of private property and the perpetuation of class divisions from one generation to the next and allows the capitalists to abrogate social responsibility for the economic well-being of those whose labour they exploit.
  8. The family system imposes a social division of labour based on the subjugation of women and their economic dependence on an individual man, their father or male partner. Upon this material foundation, an all-pervasive sexist ideology is fostered by the exploiter classes. This portrays women as physically and mentally inferior to men, and biologically unfit for roles other than procreation and domestic labour. The low status of women in class society becomes the source of anti-woman violence, including rape, domestic violence and other forms of misogynist violence. It is this oppression of women that also underpins women's concentration in lower-paid traditionally "female" occupations and makes possible the super-exploitation of women's labour by the capitalist class.
  9. The oppression of women as a sex constitutes the objective basis for the mobilisation of women in struggle through their own organisations. While all women are oppressed as a sex, the effects of this oppression are different for women of different social classes. Women workers experience sexist oppression in its most acute forms and, unlike women of the propertied classes, have no interest in the maintenance of the ultimate source of that oppression — the private-property system.
  10. Socialists supports the construction of a mass women's liberation movement organised and led by women, and whose first priority is the fight to win and defend women's rights. However, if the women's liberation movement is to be successful, it must take up the demands of working-class women and involve them in the leadership of the movement. Only by fusing the objectives and demands of the women's liberation movement with the struggle of the working class and other progressive movements will the necessary forces be assembled to achieve the liberation of women.

Draft no-poaching agreement submitted by Socialist Alliance at September 15, 2013 leadership delegation meeting

Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative are currently exploring the possibility for greater unity potentially leading to a new united socialist party. While individuals are free to join whatever organisation they want, in order to build goodwill and mutual confidence while these discussions take place, the two organisations agree not to target members of each others' organisations for recruitment. In addition, the two organisations agree not to intercept people approaching or engaging with the other organisation's stalls at rallies, on campus, and at other movement events. [At the August 11 leadership delegation meeting it had been agreed that Socialist Alliance would draft this agreement for the next meeting on September 15. However, Socialist Alternative was not prepared to discuss the draft no-poaching agreement at that meeting.]