Revolutionary Socialist Party holds first congress

By Allen Myers

The first congress of the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) was held in Sydney over the June 6-8 long weekend. Sixty-two delegates and observers came from Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Geelong, Adelaide and Perth, and from several overseas locations, for three days of analysis, discussion and planning of future activities. The congress discussed and adopted resolutions and/or reports in five areas: the international political situation; Cuba-Venezuela solidarity; Palestine solidarity; the Australian political situation and campaigns and party-building perspectives. It also amended the RSP’s constitution and began a discussion on updating its program.

The RSP was established a year ago as a fusion between the Leninist Party Faction, a minority that had been expelled from the Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP), and Direct Action, a group of left activists in Victoria who had left the DSP in 2006.

The global economic crisis framed the reports and discussions at the congress. The crisis is a classical overproduction crisis, not the product of insufficient bank regulation, said Linda Waldron, the reporter on the international situation. Since the end of the second World War, capitalist governments have sought to prevent or mitigate recessions by expanding credit, but each new crisis has required greater amounts of credit. At the same time, conditions of overproduction and declining profit rates have driven capital to seek profits by speculating in financial markets.

Now capitalist governments are seeking to counter the crisis with even larger handouts to big business. They intend to make working people pay, both directly and indirectly. In the imperialist countries, with the exception of France, the working class’ ability to resist attacks has been eroded by years of class-collaborationist misleadership by union bureaucracies.

In Australia, the Rudd Labor government has continued shifting the balance of class forces in favour of the ruling class. While the instability of capitalism might spark a revival of class struggle at any time, the union bureaucracy is seeking to divert any resistance into safe class-collaborationist channels. Kathy Newnam, reporting on the Australian political situation, pointed out that Australian nationalism is central to capitalism in this country and is being deliberately fostered by union misleaders. “We cannot alter the objective political situation”, she noted, “but this does not mean that we are limited to commenting on political developments ‘from the sidelines’. Our actions, our initiatives and the alliances that we build can set an example of how to struggle.”

Against Australian nationalism, the RSP champions revolutionary internationalism, in particular solidarity with the Cuban and Venezuelan revolutions. The congress reaffirmed that solidarity with these two socialist revolutions is the RSP’s number one national political campaign priority, adopting a report by Marce Cameron, the party’s national organiser.

The delegates also adopted a report, given by Kim Bullimore, setting solidarity with Palestine as the RSP’s second national campaign priority. RSP members were heavily involved in helping to organise protests against Israel’s December-January invasion of Gaza, and the report projected participating in the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The report noted that this issue is becoming something of a dividing line in the Australian union movement, with the most reactionary bureaucrats seeking to mobilise support for Israel.

Internationalism was also the theme of the congress public meeting, held on the Saturday night. RSP national committee member Max Lane was joined by three international guest speakers who described the political situation and the socialist movements in their countries: Nelson Davila, the Venezuelan charge d’affaires in Australia; Lindsey Collen, a member of the central committee of Lalit in Mauritius; and Zely Ariane, national spokesperson of the Political Committee of the Poor-People’s Democratic Party (KPRM-PRD) in Indonesia.

Also attending the congress was Lalit central committee member Cindy Clelia. Representatives from the Cuban and Vietnamese consulates attended the congress and gave greetings on behalf the Cuban and Vietnamese Communist parties. Greetings were also presented via internet phone hookup by Heryk Rangel, a leader of the youth wing of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, who will be conducting a speaking tour of Australia in August. Written greetings were received from the Communist Party Of India (Marxist-Leninist Liberation), the Philippines Partido ng Manggagawa (Party of Labour), Socialist Party of Malaysia, the Revolutionary Communist Group (Britain), the editorial board of Socialist Resistance (Britain), the Red-Green Alliance (Denmark), the Pioneer Group (Hong Kong), and US socialist Barry Sheppard.

In his party-building report, national secretary John Percy said that the congress, coming a year after the RSP’s foundation, “establishes the base on which we can build”. But the RSP is not really a “new” party, he added. It is the political continuation of the DSP before its opportunist degeneration, and of the Socialist Workers Party (the DSP’s predecessor). Percy noted that there were a series of encouraging achievements in the RSP’s first year: the fusion between the LPF and DA; the publication of 12 issues of Direct Action; the establishing of branches in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, with another to follow shortly in Perth; and the recruitment of a dozen new members.

These accomplishments occurred in an overall political climate that is still marked by a very low level of labour militancy, and a similarly low level of campus activism. However, there are still struggles around particular issues that make it possible for revolutionary socialists to work with and talk to people who are thinking about radical politics, and to lay the foundations for a bigger and stronger revolutionary movement when changed circumstances bring broader layers into motion. The confidence and enthusiasm of the members present was indicated, among other things, by the raising of $25,000 in pledges to support the production of Direct Action over the next 18 months.