In early October the Socialist Party held its annual Socialism event in Melbourne. With guest speakers via video link from across the world, we gained a greater insight into international developments and how our sister organisations across the globe have intervened in local issues to great effect.
To begin the discussions, Paul Murphy, who is a Socialist Party member of the European Parliament from Ireland, spoke to us from Turkey. He elaborated on the fragile state of the European economy and the struggles that have broken out on that continent.
Kshama Sawant, from Seattle in the US, also spoke in the first session where she is challenging 16-year incumbent Democrat Richard Conlin for Seattle City Council. In 2012 Sawant won a historic 29% of the vote with over 20,000 votes as a Socialist Alternative candidate against Democratic WA State House Speaker Frank Chopp – the highest vote for a socialist in decades.
The following day, Mel Gregson reported back on the highly successful community campaign currently being waged against the Napthine Liberal government in Victoria on the issue of the proposed East-West Tunnel.
From humble beginnings 5 years ago, involving a cross section of locals against the hugely expensive and unnecessary tunnel, to a cohesive community campaign which has largely politicised those involved with it. The Socialist Party has been instrumental in making the arguments which have pushed the campaign towards one of direct action. This has resulted in tangible gains and a government on the back foot, although the campaign still has a long way to go.
We also linked up with Marcus Kollbrunner in Brazil. He spoke of the recent huge protests against rising bus fares, which of course were only the catalyst amid widespread unrest. Brazil is one of the most unequal countries in the world, whilst the government wastes billions of dollars on such things as the FIFA World Cup.
Marcus also regaled the inspiring story of the teachers’ strike in Rio de Janeiro which currently been running for 46 days. Despite police using tear gas against protestors, the teachers’ strike has gained the support of tens of thousands of people as it has become the latest rallying point for public discontent over public services and police brutality.
Katerina Kleitsa from our sister party in Greece reported to us about the economic crisis in Greece and elaborated about the rise of the fascist group Golden Dawn who recently murdered the prominent rapper Killah P. After his murder, massive demonstrations were held across the country, even in some towns where there hadn’t been a protest for years. This mass movement of ordinary people against Golden Dawn pressured the government to make the arrest of the fascist group’s leader and some members.
The last speaker of the event was Weizmann Hamilton who joined us from South Africa. Weizmann gave a mesmerising summary of the 2012 Marikana massacre of 34 mining workers and the complete and utter failure of the ANC to address chronic poverty and sky high youth unemployment in South Africa.
South Africa is one of the most unequal countries in the world (just below Brazil!). Tens of thousands of homes are without electricity and running water whilst 12 million people go to bed hungry. The corruption of the triparte (ANC, trade unions and Communist Party) was exposed in the Marikana massacre and people are looking for change and a proper workers’ party. This culminated in the formation of the Workers and Socialist Party (WASP) which has a steadily growing membership base and is in a healthy position to make an impact in the next election.
In amongst the international speakers and Mel Gregson, we also heard from local Socialist Party members Chris Dite, Kirk Leonard, Anthony Main and Stephen Jolly. Enlightening discussion ensued and participants came away from the event feeling inspired by a myriad of international perspectives on struggle and the way forward for socialist change.
By Simone Howard