'New period of left unity launched'?

The first issue of the Socialist Alliance’s Green Left Weekly for this year, dated January 20, carried an article headlined “New period of left unity and struggle launched”. The article quoted SA member Dave Kerin as saying that the seventh national conference of the SA, held January 2-5, with some 220 participants, signified that “the Socialist Alliance becoming a true alliance of a very broad cross-section of views that are of the historic left”.

Readers of the article could easily be forgiven for thinking that perhaps the original seven socialist organisations that participated in the formation of the SA in 2001 and which had left it by 2007, had rejoined it. Or that other organisations “of the historic left” in Australia, which had never been part of the SA, such as the Communist Party, had decided to affiliate. But no such developments had occurred.

In reality, the only significant “left unity” development registered at the SA conference was the decision made the previous day by the 24th congress of the Democratic Socialist Perspective — which until December 2003 was known as the Democratic Socialist Party — to, as the GLW article put it, “merge its work and resources fully into the alliance and to cease operating as a separate organisation”.

Since the end of December 2003, the DSP has presented itself as “a Marxist tendency in the Socialist Alliance”. At its one-day congress on January 2, the DSP voted to become a “non caucusing tendency of opinion” within the SA, but elected a “national steering committee” to meet to “facilitate the merger of the DSP into the Socialist Alliance”.

Several weeks after the GLW article appeared, the minutes of the SA conference were posted onto the SA website. These reported that 11 people were elected by the conference to the SA’s national executive, all but one of whom had only three days earlier been members of the DSP — making it clear that claims that the SA has become “a true alliance of a very broad cross-section of views that are of the historic left” are either the product of self-delusion or deliberate and shameless puffery.