120 people paid to attend the first ever Socialist Party Summer School at Melbourne’s Trades Hall last weekend. With its success, we plan to make this an annual public event to start off the political year, with our party Conference being held during the winter.
The first session on the relevance of Marxism in the 21st century was lead-off by Marxist academic Andy Blunden, followed up by SP’s Councillor Stephen Jolly on the state of the class struggle in Australia today. The discussion during both sessions was lively and there was general agreement with SP’s perspectives.
After lunch on the Saturday, 100 people packed in the Trades Hall bar for the ‘Great Debate’ between the Labor Party (ALP State Organiser Nathan Murphy), Greens (ex-Councillor and almost Senator David Risstrom), Socialist Alliance (Geelong Trades Hall Secretary Tim Gooden) and SP (SP National Organiser Anthony Main) on “Who represents workers politically? Do we need a new workers’ party?”
Neither the ALP or Greens were able to get around the fact that as parties that see no alternative to capitalism, every time they get into power they have to carry out a neo-liberal programme of spending cuts, privatisation and user pays. The Socialist Alliance, like SP, agreed workers need a new mass party. However as it was merely an alliance of already established small leftwing parties, and had no mass union or community base, it became a ghetto of the left and failed to make an electoral breakthrough. Now it is just the Democratic Socialist Party in another name.
There was a lot of support for SP’s call for a new workers party built around common work between left wing individuals, unions, public housing resident organisations and parties like SP. We will continue this debate in the movement and look at any initiatives we can take to push it along. As long as workers’ have no mass party they will remain disenfranchised and open to political domination by right wing ideas.
The last session on Saturday was on your rights in today’s Australia, lead-off by prominent left wing lawyer Rob Stary. He successfully outlined the important new anti-democratic legal changes to our right to organise and resist without paralysing people into fear and inaction. He strongly agreed with SP’s perspective that mass defiance is the only way to defeat or make useless these new laws.
On Sunday SP member Greg Bradshaw reported on the recent Hong Kong anti-WTO demonstrations which he attended with three other comrades from Australia and Sweden. This was followed by the session on the class struggle in Malaysia with Comrade V. Selvam of the PSM (Socialist Party of Malaysia) who gave a left wing history of his country and reported on the exciting work of his party. He was presented with two books by SP after his talk. Comrade Selvam will be meeting union and community leaders this week in Melbourne as well as speaking at rallies and mass meetings with SP.
After lunch Aboriginal leaders Gary Foley and Denise Lovitt spoke about the struggle of parkies on Smith Street, Collingwood and at the March Commonwealth (dubbed ‘StolenWealth Games’ by Aboriginal activists) Games in Melbourne. Gary also attacked the right wing ideas of the black bourgeois leaders like Noel Pearson who want youth to essentially assimilate and become little capitalists rather than fight for social change, jobs, and decent health standards for their people.
The last session was lead-off by Dave Kerin, Convenor of Union Solidarity. This was a very practical discussion around how we act today on picket lines, generate greater community support and deal with right-wing and hesitant union leaderships. Some important practical ideas came out of the debate.
Overall the summer school was a great success and we raised lots of money in our bookshop and through donations to the party. We were all fired up for the new political year where we expect a big attack from the Howard government and his big business backers.
By Socialist Party reporters