[The following is part of a report issued by the editors of Socialist Alternative during their December conference.]
On the first day of Socialist Alternative’s 2012 National Conference in Melbourne, delegates have overwhelmingly voted in favour of continuing and deepening the process of uniting the revolutionary left in Australia.
By a margin of 81 for to 2 against, delegates endorsed the National Executive’s proposal to fuse with the Revolutionary Socialist Party. The motion to endorse the fusion read:
Conference supports merging with the RSP and empowers the NE to carry through the merger.
The basis for unity is agreement on a socialist program for Australia today: for revolution; for a Marxist party; against imperialism; against all forms of oppression; against the capitalist state and for workers’ power.
The merger will not actually take place until around the time of the Marxism 2013 Conference next year, when the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) will hold a congress to vote on ratifying the fusion. But we anticipate that the collaboration between the two groups that has begun in recent months will deepen as we move towards uniting in a single organisation.
This weekend’s conference was the culmination of several months of lively discussion and debate within Socialist Alternative about the prospect and terms of uniting with the RSP. A considerable number of documents were submitted to our pre-conference discussion bulletin putting various points of view, and branches around the country had numerous meetings debating out the issues, culminating in the election of delegates to conference.
Some members had expressed concern about fusing with a group from a different political tradition to the International Socialist current in which Socialist Alternative has its origins. But by the time of conference there was an overwhelming majority in favour of the process of attempting to unite with other revolutionaries on the basis of a straightforward revolutionary Marxist program dealing with the challenges of fighting for socialism in Australia today.
The conference also voted to endorse a new Constitution and statement of General Principles, which will shortly be available on our website.
Our previous constitution was written when the group was formed in 1995, immediately after we had been expelled from the International Socialist Organisation. At that time we were a much smaller and more loosely organised group – the rewrite of the Constitution was in order to bring it up to date to reflect the real practice and nature of the organisation today. The Constitution was adopted, incorporating a considerable number of amendments from delegates.
The new General Principles, along with the “Aims and Objectives” section of the Constitution, are designed to help define the core politics of the organisation. They put forward an unambiguously Marxist point of view, without being narrowly the outlook of one particular Marxist tradition.
In the session on unity with the RSP there was a lengthy debate on whether to vote on a motion “That Socialist Alternative reaffirms its analysis of all countries in the world today as capitalist. Their relations of production are characterised by greater or lesser degrees of private and state capitalism.” Conference voted overwhelmingly (78 for, 3 against) to support a motion from the floor that a vote on this question not be taken, as it could only be read as a signal that the organisation was hostile to people joining who did not agree with us on these questions.
After this vote, an amendment to the statement of General Principles that proposed to define the Stalinist regime in Russia as “state capitalist” was withdrawn.
Delegates also voted on a proposal to expand and upgrade the National Committee – which is the highest decision making body of the organisation between conferences. Delegates endorsed a proposal that a number of former RSP members be co-opted onto the National Committee as soon as the merger process is complete.
Aside from fusion with the RSP, the Conference also discussed the broader process of attempting to reach out to and regroup with revolutionaries in Australia. Reports from branches across the country indicate that a sizeable number of people are now in closer touch with the organisation as a result of this process. Across the country several hundred people who are not members of Socialist Alternative attended our end of year events, and are to various degrees involved in discussions about the project of left unity.
Conference also had a substantial discussion about the unity talks taking place between Socialist Alternative and the Socialist Alliance. Delegates voted unanimously to support a motion that:
Our approach to the Socialist Alliance is necessarily quite different to our approach to unity with the RSP. The RSP is a self-declared Marxist organisation with which we are seeking unity on a revolutionary basis. In contrast the Socialist Alliance does not have a Marxist program and you don't have to be a revolutionary to join it.
Nevertheless it is worthwhile engaging with the Socialist Alliance in order to clarify whether unity is possible. Conference empowers the NE to continue with the discussions we have begun with the Socialist Alliance.
Socialist Alternative will send a leadership delegation to the Socialist Alliance Congress in Geelong in January, and we anticipate being able to work more closely with them and move towards a greater common understanding, which we hope can end in a united organisation.
It was also reported to Conference that Socialist Alternative and the Socialist Alliance have just reached an agreement whereby Socialist Alliance will be involved in the Marxism 2013 conference. A joint statement on this will be available on our website soon.