Campaigning for international solidarity in 2011

After assessing 2010’s political activities, members of the Revolutionary Socialist Party at its December congress adopted an outlook for this year emphasising consolidation and building across the range of those activities.

The RSP is a small party, and the scale of its activities had been quite modest, but also quite varied. Despite small resources, a lot had been done. Activities had varied too from city to city, where resources as well as opportunities differed. It was clear that no major political campaigns had yet emerged with a nationwide or even partly national scale. Interventions by RSP members to help build different campaigns, while trying to win support for its ideas, reflected that variety and unevenness.

Australian imperialism

International solidarity featured prominently in both 2010 activities and 2011 projections. Australia is an imperialist country, and the Australian capitalist class views the world and the region through imperialist eyes. In Australia, it tries to encourage racist and xenophobic sentiments among working people, hoping to win acceptance for imperialist behaviour in the Third World, whose inhabitants it hopes will be seen as inferior, failed peoples not worthy of solidarity. For the RSP, international solidarity is both a way to support progressive struggles outside Australia and to intervene within Australian politics by fighting against the ideological campaigns and the political, war and economic policies of Australian imperialism.

Members had been active during 2010 in international solidarity, and plans were made to continue this. It was possible to identify two general types of activity: in solidarity with socialist revolutions and in solidarity with progressive struggles for social justice and national liberation.

Venezuelan revolution

The explosion onto the scene of the Venezuelan revolution and the working class’s winning of power there set one major priority for the RSP. Socialist revolutions have been rare in the last few decades, and the unfolding and strengthening of the Venezuela revolution should be cherished and defended by all socialists. It is a gruelling process, with the Venezuelan capitalist class not yet destroyed and still actively pursuing counter-revolution, even though deprived of  state power. The United States has remained aggressive, recently trying to appoint a hostile US politician to the post of ambassador, which the Venezuelan government has rejected. The US armed forces continue to build bases encircling Venezuela, especially using Colombia.

Making this revolution even more significant is the strategic alliance that has been built between Venezuela and Cuba. Solidarity with the Venezuelan revolution requires solidarity with the Cuban revolution and vice versa. The RSP has put effort into building a Cuba-Venezuela Solidarity Club on the University of Sydney campus, which organised a successful activist brigade to Cuba and Venezuela last July. The club also carried out a range of activities on the campus, and club members contributed articles to the RSP newspaper, Direct Action, which carried articles on the two revolutions throughout the year. Films and forums on Venezuela and Latin America were also organised in Melbourne and at the University of Western Australia and Australian National University.

The congress decided to consolidate this work and build it up wherever resources were available, working together with other activists with the same goals. RSP members would help build the 2011 Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network brigade to Venezuela and would work with sympathetic academics about the possibility of an academic-oriented conference. Where there were interest and resources for continuing to build campus clubs, that would continue. RSP members would remain active in Australia Cuba Friendship Societies in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

The RSP also took an initiative to hold seminars on the anniversary of the Vietnam Moratorium, inviting activists from the ’60s to speak. Seminars took place in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Perth. The seminars were accompanied by an extensive poster exhibition. In 2011, solidarity work with the Vietnamese revolution will continue, with prospects for a campaign around compensation for the huge damage done to Vietnam by Agent Orange. The possibilities of pursing this through a new organisation will be first investigated in Sydney, where the largest of the Vietnam seminars took place.

Palestine and the boycott campaign

Around the world there is increasing solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom manifested in support for the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign (BDS). In the United States and Europe a broadening range of groups are building campaigns for boycotts and other sanctions. In Australia, the first national conference on BDS was held in Melbourne in November. A wide range of activists from different groups were involved. RSP members are strong supporters of this project, and RSP members will be working hard with everybody to build successful BDS campaigns during the year. This will include an anti-apartheid week on campuses during the first half of the year. There are Palestinian solidarity groups in most states, and RSP members who have been helping in these will continue that work.

This campaigning has enormous potential to grow during 2011. Already several unions have adopted pro-BDS positions, as have the NSW Greens and the Marrickville Council in New South Wales. BDS activists have already carried out actions against Israeli cosmetics and chocolate businesses in Australia, symbolic actions to raise awareness, as well as protests outside Caterpillar, which has contracts with the Israeli military.

The anti-dictatorship revolts in Tunisia and Egypt have already led to small solidarity actions being initiated by various groups in Brisbane and Sydney. This is another element of support for radical change in the Arab world and an end to repression there - at the heart of which stands the oppression of the Palestinian people.

Indonesia and Timor Leste

In 2010 the RSP hosted a speaking tour by an Indonesian activist, Vivi Widyawati, from the Committee for the Politics of the Poor-People’s Democratic Party (KPRM-PRD). Widyawati visited Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. The RSP also contributed to the discussion of progressive Indonesian politics through the Australia Indonesia Solidarity Group in Melbourne. The congress decided that in 2011, the RSP would work with the KPRM-PRD to organise activist tours to Indonesia, where students and workers from outside Indonesia can meet and discuss with women’s movement, trade unionists and student activists. These would be coordinated with similar tours to Timor Leste, organised jointly with the Socialist Party of Timor. It is hoped this will inspire more people on campuses and in unions in Australia to become active in supporting the progressive and left movements in these countries.

RSP members have already visited Indonesia and East Timor since the congress to begin organising these tours, which it is hoped will get under way by the middle of the year. Another RSP activist has also visited the Philippines, and there may be a possibility of working with left forces there, such as the Workers Party, in the same way.

South-East Asia remains a significant area for Australian imperialism, both working by itself and as an ally to the United States. Greater cooperation between genuine radical forces in the region will prepare the ground for good solidarity campaigning when the need arises.