Socialist Party members from across Australia were in Melbourne over the weekend of October 1, 2 & 3 for the 2010 Socialist Party National Conference. Comrades new and old gathered from Perth, Sydney, Newcastle, Adelaide and Melbourne for a weekend of discussion and debate.
On Friday night Anthony Main led off the first discussion on capitalist crisis and class struggle internationally. The causes and effects of the world economic crisis and the perspectives for struggle were discussed at length.
Anthony explained that capitalism is not just facing one or two problems but a series of crises. There is no prospect of the world economy returning to ‘boom times’ in the short term and it is probable that that the economy will suffer a ‘double-dip’ recession.
A drawn out economic downturn will mean that most countries will introduce harsh austerity measures. Already we have seen the working class respond to these cuts with mass struggles in a number of countries. This is set to increase as economic, political and social instability will be the hallmark of the period ahead.
On Saturday morning founding members of the Socialist Party Stephen Jolly and Robin Hohl spoke about the history and ideas of the Socialist Party. 2010 marks 25 years since the foundation of the party in Australia.
Originally called Militant, the organisation used to work as a tendency within the Labor Party before Labor shifted sharply to the right. Robyn and Stephen spoke about the many battles party members had been involved in from the Richmond Secondary Collage occupation to the current work of members in the UNITE union. The struggles, victories and lessons of 25 years work were discussed and learnt by a new generation of young members.
Saturday afternoon saw the discussion turn from the past to the present as Mel Gregson spoke about Australia’s new minority Government. While Australia has missed out on the worst of the economic downturn this situation is not likely to last.
Australia faces problems in the property sector and with the banks, but most of all the great white hope of China and the mining industry is resting on very weak foundations. The ability of the Australian economy to come through unscathed a second time around is now out of the question.
The recent federal election showed that people are fed up with the politics of the major parties. Voters flocked away from Labor and the Liberals leading to an increase in votes for the Greens.
On paper the Greens are seen as more progressive than Labor. While the Socialist Party sees the Greens vote in a positive light, we warn that their lack of a political and economic alternative will force them to cave into big business pressure once in office. Therefore the Socialist Party’s call for a new workers party retains all its validity.
On Sunday morning the conference discussed the situation in Greece. David Suter gave an analysis of events in the past 12 months. More than anywhere else on the globe Greece has been the focus of attention for socialists and as well as capitalists!
Southern Europe is like a test tube for what can be expected in many other parts of the world. Greece shows that working people will fight back in response to cuts and redundancies. The lessons learned in Greece will be invaluable for socialists the world over – including in Australia.
As we head into uncertain economic times it is vital that socialists have a thorough understanding of the crisis. Flowing from this we will be able to more accurately assess what’s required to achieve social change. The 2010 Socialist Party National Conference went some way towards enhancing our understanding and comrades left with much more confidence to intervene in the upcoming struggles.
By Adam Hemsley