[The following article was first published on the Socialist Alternative website on 10 December 2012.]
As part of an ongoing unity process, Socialist Alternative and the Revolutionary Socialist Party held end of year fundraising parties in a number of cities over the weekend. More than 300 people came to events in Melbourne, Sydney and Perth to discuss the project of revolutionary unity and to raise nearly $8,000 for next year’s Marxism 2013 conference.
Last week also saw the launch of a meeting space in Brisbane, which will be the new home for the united organisation. The space in West End hosted a panel discussion on Brisbane’s radical history, with speakers including historian Carole Ferrier, Aboriginal activist and Socialist Alliance member Sam Watson, union militant Bob Carnegie and RSP member Jon Lamb.
The get-togethers were an opportunity for comrades from different traditions and with different histories to discuss, in an informal setting, how to overcome past differences and unite revolutionaries in Australia in a single organisation.
Below we publish a speech given by Socialist Alternative member Jorge Jorquera in Melbourne on Saturday night.
Gathering the revolutionaries
Thanks to everyone for coming tonight.
Any gathering of rebels and revolutionaries is a good thing. When it involves people previously at odds it’s a better thing. And when it brings together an even larger number of people who think capitalism isn’t the final word, then we have some real cause to celebrate.
How did we get here?
There were many conversations, much rethinking, a lot of weighing up but none of that could have avoided some decisions that in the end required a certain leap of faith. This is nothing new for socialists. After all anyone who wants a revolution needs to take some risks and be willing to lean on history.
But it still takes confidence in your own views and a good dose of humility. Of course there has to be some real common ground. Most people here have probably kept up with at least a bit of the discussion that has been going on. The shorthand term for the common ground that SA & the RSP and a growing number of individual socialists are finding, and that is being discussed in Socialist Alliance, is the idea of revolutionary unity.
It’s worth saying something about this term. First of all it’s not about comparing credentials or character. Fundamentally it’s about perspective. In essence, we are coming together in an organisation that wants to fight. We want to bring together all the comrades who want to prepare and build the sort of organisation that can be front and centre in every struggle – and there will be many more emerging – organising, providing practical and tactical leadership and arguing for socialist ideas.
On the latter point – this is often too easily dismissed as sloganeering. But the reality is that no radical change has ever happened without a pedagogy of revolution. We may not always use the R word but without an argument for revolution, movements and people are naturally drawn to reformist conclusions and resignation.
More than ever – in a world where as Frederic Jameson commented "It is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism" – we sorely need to paint a picture of socialism and revolution. Propaganda is a more complex but also more central aspect of revolution than it was in Lenin’s time. We have to champion history and combat the “depthlessness” of contemporary political debate and culture, with the language of revolution.
If we don’t do this we will be left behind the rebellions already brewing. Worse still we may be outflanked by the radical language of the far right – which as we know all too bitterly from the past, was never cowered by the language and tactics of reform.
In some respects, the ideological retreat of the last three decades has made the left more timid than the average rebel.
Like in a growing number of places, the challenge seems to be appearing more clearly: Building a revolutionary left for whom mass work is the strategic compass, who can find the tactics to cohere a revolutionary leadership of this work and build a revolutionary cadre. It sounds quaint but is no less true.
I hope and think that we have taken some initial steps in this direction. We urge you all to be part of this process.