Socialist Alliance (Australia)

Socialist Alliance (Australia)

The Socialist Alliance was founded in 2001 as an alliance of socialist organisations and individuals in Australia, initiated by the Democratic Socialist Party and the International Socialist Organisation along with 6 other founding socialist organisations, to create greater left unity in the aftermath of the successful protest of the World Economic Forum in Melbourne on September 11-13, 2000.


After its formation, the Socialist Alliance grew to a point where most of its members were not members of any of the affiliate organisations. In response to this, the Democratic Socialist Perspective and many non-aligned members argued successfully at successive national conferences for measures to take the Socialist Alliance in the direction of becoming a united socialist party. Other affiliates preferred to adhere to the alliance's original direction: a broad left-wing electoral front.

In late 2003, the Democratic Socialist Party resolved to became a "a Marxist tendency in the Socialist Alliance", renaming itself the "Democratic Socialist Perspective" as a step towards turning the Socialist Alliance into a "Multi-Tendency Socialist Party".

At the 2005 National Conference particularly sharp political differences were expressed. These centred on: the extent to which the Socialist Alliance should criticise the Australian Labor Party; whether the organisation should have a formal relationship with newspaper associated with the Democratic Socialist Perspective, Green Left Weekly, as a step towards Socialist Alliance itself having its own newspaper; and whether non-aligned members should have an automatic majority on the organisation's national executive. Following this conference three of the leading members of a "Non-Aligned Caucus" and most of the active affiliate organisations gradually withdrew. The "Non Aligned Caucus" was an ad hoc grouping of SA members who weren't aligned to any affiliated organisation [ which formed] in the lead up to the 2003 conference of the Alliance.

The Socialist Alliance published a quarterly journal, "Seeing Red", the last issue of which came out in March 2006. The newspaper Green Left Weekly regularly runs a Socialist Alliance column called "Our Common Cause", and the Brisbane local newspaper [ The Westender] has also run a column written by the Socialist Alliance.

Election results

The Socialist Alliance first campaigned in the 2001 federal election, however candidates were listed as independents on the ballot as its application for electoral registration was suspended when the election was called early. Despite this, it received over 25,000 votes for its 2001 Senate campaign in Victoria and thousands of voters across the country took the opportunity to vote for a socialist candidate for the first time.

The Socialist Alliance has also run candidates at several state and council elections as well as the 2004 federal election. Some results were promising. In the 2003 Moreland City Council elections, two candidates exceeded 4%. In an election in the Melbourne suburb of Boroondara, a Socialist Alliance candidate won over 12% of the vote (in the absence of an Australian Labor Party-endorsed candidate).

Other results have been numerically disappointing, however. At the 2004 federal election the alliance received 0.11% of the primary vote (13,305 votes) overall, while it has polled around 2% in individual seats. In the 2007 NSW election, the Socialist Alliance received 0.4% of the primary (15,142 votes), almost triple what it received in 2003. In the 2007 Federal election the party's vote declined to the background level of "independent" candidates.

Political Activity

Due to its unusual structure (as a broad alliance, rather than a politically homogenous group) the Socialist Alliance places more emphasis on campaigning activity than on expounding on one particular "form" of socialism as do many other socialist groups, although affiliates and non-aligned members continue to put forward and argue for their own politics.

Some of the main political campaigns which the Socialist Alliance is involved in include:

Anti-WarThe Socialist Alliance, its affiliates and members have played a leading role in the campaigns against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, helping to organise protests against the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the "war on terror" and the attacks on Muslims and civil liberties. The Socialist Alliance does this alongside other groups and individual activists in local community peace groups and in broader coalitions like the Stop the War Coalition in Sydney.

Workers' RightsThe Socialist Alliance orients strongly towards struggles in the union movement, and is heavily involved in this area. In line with its criticism of the ALP's role in the holding back and bureaucratising the union movement, the Socialist Alliance encourages workers and unions to break with Labor and to set up a "new workers' party".

In 2005 and 2006, the Socialist Alliance organised successful trade union "fight-back" conferences, in response to the Federal Government's "WorkChoices" legislation, attracting hundreds of union militants and members of other socialist groups. The Socialist Alliance continues to campaign against WorkChoices, including as part of the Your Rights At Work movement, and criticises the ALP's industrial policy for not returning enough rights to workers, calling it "WorkChoices-lite".

Notable Socialist Alliance trade union leaders include Chris Cain, Western Australian State Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia; Tim Gooden, secretray of the Geelong Trades and Labour Council; and Craig Johnston, former Victorian State Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union, who was jailed for 9 months in 2004 after an industrial dispute at Johnson Tiles in 2001.

The EnvironmentThe Socialist Alliance also campaigns heavily around environmental issues, most notably climate change, helping to organise the 2006 Walk Against Warming rallies in some cities, and [ producing detailed policies] on combating climate change which have been created through [ an open wiki process] with broad membership input.. In the lead-up to the 2007 Federal Election the environmental website [ VoteClimate] rated Socialist Alliance environmental policy #1 (ahead even of the Greens).

The Socialist Alliance argues that no solution to the crisis caused by global warming is possible without overthrowing capitalism, and criticises so-called "market mechanisms" such as carbon trading as being unworkable, profit-driven and reinforcing capitalist relations.

Indigenous RightsThe Socialist Alliance has played an important role in recent campaigns for justice for indigenous Australia, particularly around the inquiries into the deaths-in-custody of TJ Hickey in Redfern and Mulrunji Doomadgee on Palm Island. In the case of Mulrunji, leading indigenous activist, academic and Socialist Alliance member Sam Watson played a key role in organising the protests that led to the re-opening of the inquiry.

The Socialist Alliance has also played a central role in the response to the Federal Government's "Intervention" in the Northern Territory, helping to organise the February 12, 2008 protests outside Parliament House in Canberra.

Anti-racism and Immigrants RightsThe Socialist Alliance has been able to build growing support among some ethnic community sectors in urban Australia such as among Somali youth and from within the Latin American community. In the latter case, the Alliance has been an active supporter of the revolutionary process in Venezuela and is affiliated to the [ Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network] .

Public ServicesThe Socialist Alliance is a strong advocate of quality public services, calling for increased funding for public education, healthcare, housing and transport. In NSW, Socialist Alliance is also playing a central role in the [ current campaign] against electricity privatisation planned in that state, alongside the Greens, unions, ALP members and community groups.

The Socialist Alliance is also involved in a number of other campaigns, including: LGBTI rights, civil liberties and democratic rights, as well as local issues and international solidarity campaigns. Unlike other socialist groups in Australia, the Socialist Alliance has managed to maintain branches outside of the major cities, including in Wollongong, Newcastle, Armidale, Geelong, Lismore and on the Gold Coast, although these are generally smaller than the city branches.

Active affiliate organisations

*Democratic Socialist Perspective (formerly Democratic Socialist Party)
*Resistance (affiliated in 2003)

Inactive affiliate organisations, and organisations which have not formally disaffiliated

*Worker-Communist Party of Iraq in Australia
*Workers League
*Workers Liberty
*Chilean Popular and Indigenous Network (affiliated in 2004)

Former affiliates

*Socialist Alternative (withdrew in the initial stages)
*Socialist Democracy (disbanded in December 2005)
*Workers Power (left in April 2006) [ [ Yahoo! Groups ] ]
*International Socialist Organisation (left in January 2007)
*Freedom Socialist Party (left in March 2007)


External links

* [ Socialist Alliance]
* [ Green Left Weekly]
* [ Socialist Alliance slideshow]

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