[Marxism] Socialist Voice: Solidarity conf in Australia draws more than 400 participants

Stuart Munckton stuartmunckton at gmail.com
Wed Oct 17 19:54:02 MDT 2007

Solidarity Conference in Australia Draws More Than 400 Participants

By Roger Annis

Melbourne, Australia—The four-day Latin America and Asia Pacific
International Solidarity Forum drew to a close here on October 14 with
a session devoted to "Building Links, Strengthening International
Solidarity." It was a spirited end to the conference that echoed the
themes of solidarity and struggle for societies of justice and
equality that marked proceedings throughout.

More than four hundred delegates from 21 countries attended the Forum.
There were 12 plenary sessions and some sixty workshops held. Topics
included in depth-looks at the political situations in Latin America
and Asia/Pacific and presentations on political strategy by the
political parties and movements represented. Among the political
parties or currents that gave presentations to the forum were the
Democratic Socialist Perspective of Australia (DSP), the
 Bolivarian government of Venezuela, the Peoples Democratic Party of
Indonesia (PRD), Laban ng Masa (Struggle of the Masses) of the Philippines,
the Labor Party of Pakistan (LPP), the Zapatista-inspired "Otra campaign" of
Mexico, and indigenous-led popular movements of Bolivia and Chile.

Some of the more interesting sessions that this writer attended were:

The plenary, "The Venezuela Revolution and its Global Impact". The
Chargé d'Affaires of the Venezuela embassy in Australia, Nelson
Davilas, gave a stirring report on the achievements and perspectives
of the Bolivarian government. Ric Reyes of Laban ng Masa spoke of the
profound hopes that the Venezuelan revolution and its political
alliances are opening up for the oppressed peoples of the world. There
were also many workshops that took a detailed look at the political
situation in Venezuela.

"The revolutionary perspectives of the Labor Party of Pakistan." The
LPP is a 3,000-member party whose influence and size is growing.
"Building progressive alliances with Islamic organisations. " This
workshop featured very interesting, and differing, outlooks by the PRD
and LPP.

"The West Papuan people's right to freedom and independence. " This was one
of many plenaries and workshops that examined the struggles of
indigenous peoples in Asia/Pacific and Latin America.

An important organizer and participant in the conference was Australia
Asia Worker Links, a long-standing solidarity organization that
facilitates links between unions and working people of the different
countries and regions of Asia. The largest attendance at a conference
event was the 250 people who jammed the session on October 12 that was
the highlight of that group's program, the plenary entitled, "Workers
struggle, global fight." The session was chaired by the International
Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Alison Tate, and
drew dozens of seasoned fighters from Australia's embattled union
movement. Speakers gave moving presentations of workers struggles
today in Columbia, Vietnam (yes, there are strikes and struggles in
Vietnam!), Australia, and the Philippines, among others.

The other organizers of the conference were the DSP-led Asia Pacific
International Solidarity Conference, the Australia-Venezuela
Solidarity Network, the Bolivarian Circle of Australia, the Latin
America Solidarity Network, and the antiwar group Unity for Peace. The
Forum received the endorsement and financial support of more than a
dozen trade unions. Opening greetings were delivered by Brian Boyd of
the Victoria Trades Council.

A dramatic backdrop to the conference proceedings was the October 14
call by the Liberal Party government of John Howard for a federal
election. The government is hated for its deep attacks on working
people, including the country's indigenous population, and its
partnership with the U.S.-led "war on terrorism." Early polls point to
a victory for the Australian Labour Party. Many class conscious
workers will be casting a ballot for the DSP supported Socialist
Alliance or for the Green Party.

Two days before the election call, Howard made a deathbed conversion
to "reconciliation" with Australia's indigenous peoples. He said that
if his government is re-elected, he will hold a referendum vote on an
amendment to the Australian constitution that give a symbolic
recognition of Australia's indigenous peoples. The amendment would not
grant rights, and Howard remains opposed to compensation to the
"Stolen Generation," the indigenous children that were forcibly taken
from their families and sent to residential schools to lose their
national identities.

The conference drew participation from the small but growing section
of Australia's labour movement that looks to socialism and the class
struggle as the way forward for their struggle and for humanity.
Canadian participants to the forum took part in conference sessions or
separate AAWL or Socialist Alliance events that brought us into
contact with these workers and we were deeply impressed. Scores of
such workers have joined the Socialist Alliance across Australia. They
and others are battle-tested workers and unionists who have much to
teach workers in North America.

There was a creative tension throughout the Forum proceedings that
resulted from the differing political outlooks of its sponsors and
organizers. Plenary sessions on Latin America gave more presence to
anarchist-inspired critics of the Venezuela and Bolivian governments
than to supporters. This is due, in no small part, to the fact that
journalist and writer Eva Golinger, an important voice of the
Bolivarian Revolution, had to cancel her appearance due to an
emergency in Venezuela.

The politics of the Cuban Revolution were not featured strongly at the
Forum. This was not for lack of efforts to do so.

Organizers of the Forum from the DSP are pleased with its outcome. The
party has organized "Asia Pacific International Solidarity Conference"
gatherings in recent years whose sponsorship was much more limited.
This year's "forum" was an effort to reach out to broader forces,
including in the labour movement. The party will evaluate its
experience in the coming weeks and publish reports and its evaluation
in Green Left Weekly.

"The free market is perfectly natural... do you think I am some kind of
dummy?" - Jarvis Cocker

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