Fwd (GLW): DSP, ISO agree on Socialist Alliance perspectives

Alan Bradley alanb at SPAMelf.brisnet.org.au
Sun Feb 11 05:13:47 MST 2001

The following article appears in the current issue of Green Left Weekly

DSP, ISO agree on Socialist Alliance perspectives

Following the January 25 call by the Democratic Socialist Party for a
socialist electoral alliance to contest the coming federal elections, a
formation meeting on February 17 has been convened jointly by the DSP and
the International Socialist Organisation (ISO), the two largest socialist
parties in Australia. These groups will propose Socialist Alliance launches
in a round of large public meetings in all major cities.

A joint discussion paper put forward by the DSP and ISO states that it is
urgent that a Socialist Alliance should stand candidates ``to offer an
alternative that Labor is not''.

``On a range of issues such as the GST, education and health, Labor is
offering far less than what traditional Labor voters want'', the paper

The DSP and the ISO support an electoral alliance of socialist parties and
unaffiliated socialists supporting a common action platform. This platform
should not seek to be a summary of the commonly agreed upon policies of all
the left groups and individuals in the alliance but rather ``a platform of
campaigning slogans'' around which extra-parliamentary mass movements can
be build ``in opposition to the neo-liberal offensive by the capitalist
ruling class''.

In their joint proposal, the ISO and the DSP agree that the Socialist
Alliance should not be neutral on the choice between a Liberal or a Labor
government in the coming election.

``The primary thrust of the campaign must be anti-Liberal, with the aim of
mobilising opposition to the Howard government's main attacks on the
working class and other oppressed groups while making a positive case for a
socialist alternative.''

They also agree that the Socialist Alliance should preference Labor Party
candidates over Liberal and National party candidates where the alliance
stands candidates and will call for supporters to ``vote Labor'' where
there is not a socialist, Greens or progressive candidate. Where the
Socialist Alliance calls for a first preference for a Greens or progressive
candidate it should urge that second preferences go to the ALP.

Membership organisation

The DSP and ISO also agree that the Socialist Alliance should be a
membership organisation that seeks to reach out beyond the membership of
participating parties. Any individual who broadly agrees with the aims and
objectives of the alliance and agrees to participate in the non-sectarian,
co-operative spirit of the alliance should be eligible to join.

The two initiating parties are agreed that the Socialist Alliance should
operate on the basis of democratic decision-making, accountability of
representatives and leading bodies but should also promote a constructive
atmosphere at all its meetings and be mindful of the consensus around which
unity is possible.

``We can confidently predict that we will have hundreds of activists
queuing up to join a Socialist Alliance supported by the main active left
groups'', said John Percy, national secretary of the DSP. ``The public
meetings to launch the Socialist Alliance could be very big. They will be
historic meetings that few activists will want to miss.''

Radical constituency

Underlying this broad agreement between the DSP and the ISO is a common
recognition that there is a significant, radical minority actively fighting
the prevailing neo-liberal or economic rationalist political orthodoxy.
Even larger numbers of people, while still passive, are sick of the big
business-first shared agenda of the major parties.

This has been shown quite dramatically in the thousands who turned out for
the three-day S11 blockade of the World Economic Forum in Melbourne last
year. It is also demonstrated in numerous community campaigns against the
corporate-first agenda.

These developments have given the left in Australia a new confidence and
the Socialist Alliance proposal is just one of the initiatives taken after

Another major initiative was the launching of M1 alliances, focussed on a
plan for mass blockades of the stock exchanges and other corporate targets
on May 1 in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Hobart and Perth.
Organisation for this ambitious mobilisation is already well underway.

But isn't the radical constituency that braved a massive police presence at
S11 totally disdainful of parliamentary politics?

It probably is to a significant extent, and that is a good thing. Both the
DSP and ISO believe that radical change will not come about through
parliament. The kind of electoral intervention they support is one which
seeks to use parliamentary elections to promote the mass
extra-parliamentary mobilisation against the corporate tyranny that hides
behind so-called parliamentary democracy.

The Socialist Alliance should stand on a platform of total opposition to
the corporate profit-driven neo-liberal/economic rationalist agenda of
social austerity, privatisation and deregulation. If its candidates get
elected to parliament they would use their position to promote the mass
campaigns that can defeat the attacks.

A sustained mass campaign of total opposition to the ruling-class offensive
can bring together the forces to replace capitalism with a socialist
society, based on co-operation, democracy and ecological sustainability.

Percy, a veteran of the anti-Vietnam War movement, explained: ``Within
parliament socialists should strive to block any measures that advance the
corporate-first agenda. The Australian Democrats are proud of their
‘responsible' role but the Socialist Alliance should promise the opposite:
maximum obstruction to the capitalists' agenda.

``But fundamentally we want to be part of an anti-parliamentary election
campaign. One which does not say, ‘vote for us and we will fix things for
you through parliament' but exactly the opposite. Some of yesterday's
radicals may think that this is far too extreme for the Australian public
but they are increasing out of touch.

``There is a sea of angry discontent with the corrupt, corporate-profit
driven political system. It's got the major parties worried. But if the
left is not prepared to act decisively and in unity, then more of this
discontent is going to be manipulated by the populist right.''

S11 indicated a new opening for the radical left, but to take advantage of
this serious left activists recognise that they have to be able to work
better together. We don't have to hide the fact that there are still some
important differences within the radical left but we have to learn to
better deal with these differences in a constructive manner.

``We are committed to an anti-sectarian, co-operative way of working,
looking to build unity rather than discord, seeking to work positively,
encouraging the notion of alliances and ensuring that any debates are
conducted in a positive manner without personal attacks'', says the joint
DSP-ISO position paper.

While common election leaflets, posters, and how-to-votes could be produced
by the Socialist Alliance, the two groups agree that all alliance partners
should be free to publish their own material, outside of Socialist Alliance

The establishment of a broad, inclusive and united Socialist Alliance will
mean members having to exercise self-discipline in promoting their
distinctive political positions and identities within the Socialist
Alliance. Only by putting what unites us in the Socialist Alliance first
will we attract candidates and active supporters well beyond the existing
membership of the organised left.

[Peter Boyle is a member of the DSP national executive. Visit the DSP web
site at <http://www.dsp.org.au>.]

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