The Socialist Party held its annual National Conference on August the 6 and 7 at Trades Hall in Melbourne. The event played an important role in analysing the current political climate so that the party can prepare for the period ahead.
Kat Galea kicked off the conference on Saturday morning, with a session titled ‘Prospects for world capitalism and the class struggle’. Having just come back from a school organised by the Committee for a Workers’ International in Belgium, Kat reported on the main political processes taking place internationally. She argued that Australia does not exist in a vacuum, and the only way to defeat the organised forces of the global ruling class is to organise working class people against them internationally.
Europe, including Britain, has been the centre of struggle and currently has huge potential for socialist ideas to become more mainstream. The vote for Britain to leave the European Union was a vote against the establishment. While we are internationalists, we do not see the EU as a progressive force. It is a bosses’ union used to advance profit interests.
The British Labour Party has been transformed in recent months with a huge influx of members. Hundreds of thousands of people are looking for socialist solutions to the crisis. The crises continuing to develop around Europe, such as a looming Italian banking crisis, were also discussed.
In the US the two anti-establishment figures, Sanders and Trump, have polarised the political landscape. While ultimately squandered by Sanders, the enthusiasm around his campaign showed that if people are given a progressive outlet they will use it.
The consciousness in the US, however, is confused. Socialists need to intervene in the struggles that are unfolding in order to help people draw fighting conclusions. Ben Convey summed up the first session which provided the overall backdrop to the weekend’s discussions.
After lunch, Conference discussed the domestic situation in Australia in the aftermath of the federal election. The session was introduced by Meredith Jacka and summed up by Anthony Main. They argued that we are moving into a new period, with economic issues likely to become more important to working class people.
Two areas around which struggles will potentially emerge are higher education and housing. The major parties are in agreement to some extent about cuts to higher education, while housing stress is becoming more intense by the day.
Over the past 30 years, working class people have lost many of the traditions of struggle, so they will need to be re-learnt. If we are patient, there will be many opportunities to build movements that can win reforms now, while fighting for a different society.
Amy Neve then led a discussion on the need for a revolutionary party. A revolutionary party is a crucial tool needed to transform society along socialist lines. We have seen plenty of revolutionary opportunities throughout history, but things have too often failed because of a failure of leadership. The aim of this session was to generalise those experiences.
David Elliott summed up the discussion, arguing that a party like ours needs to be consciously built. While the period we have come through has been somewhat difficult, the period ahead will be easier terrain for socialists.
Sunday started with Triet Nguyen and Jeremy Trott speaking about building our organisation in the year ahead. They argued that we need to not only build the party by recruiting new members, but also focus on the political development of our current membership.
Raising the political level of the party will give members the confidence to take on roles in the struggles that will unfold. Members outlined both opportunities and challenges for the year ahead, and discussed how to best grow and strengthen our organisation.
On the Sunday afternoon, Conference voted on a number of resolutions, including the main political document that the outgoing National Committee produced in the lead up to the event. A new National Committee was elected to lead the organisation until the next Conference in 2017.
Overall the entire weekend was a great success. Alongside the highly productive political discussions, more than $6000 was raised from pledges and fundraising activity. This money will help to finance our work in the year ahead, with part of the money going to the Committee for a Workers’ International, to support our sister organisations in other countries.
By Socialist Party reporters