Thursday, 4 October 2012


Hopefully this is a little easier to read...

Update on the Australian left

Against the backdrop of Labor's cave-in to the right on offshore detention of refugees, the whole political establishment using the September 15 #muslimrage protest to whip up Islamaphobia to a level not seen since the Cronulla roots, and the defeat of equal marriage laws for LGBTIQ couples in the Tasmanian and federal, the Australian left has been making some steps forward that
I think it's worth looking at in a little depth.

The mainstream response to the September 15 Muslim rally in Sydney has been predictably depressing. Even supposedly progressive forces like the Greens have wholeheartedly joined the conservatives in condemning the 'bad Muslims' who protested against the film, Innocence of Muslims. Under duress of raids, arrests and threats to increase charges against protesters, Muslim community leaders have likewise joined in the condemnation, rather than highlighting the reasons Australian Muslim youth feel alienated - racism in our society and our participation in wars of occupation against Muslim peoples.

However, there has been a good raft of left responses to the incident and the resulting Islamaphobia. Both Green Left Weekly and Socialist Alternative have run pieces from eyewitnesses highlighting that it was the police, not the protesters, who initiated the violence. This had been substantiated by an SBS report; however, it didn't stop Queensland senator Brett Mason from attempting to pass a motion to condemn Green Left for reporting it. Green Left TV responded with an in-depth report on the issue, featuring researcher Mohammad Tabaa and activist and independant political candidate from a neighbouring electorate to mine, Rebecca Kaye.

A sign-on statement of progressive community leaders and campaigners has started to pick up steam today. However, I've noticed the popularity of the anti-demonstration liberal responses like Peter FitzSimmons's amongst the secular left in the Arab world. We have to understand the context of struggle between revolutionary and counter-revolutionary forces to determine what real gains for democratic struggle and the working class will be won from the Arab Spring; the strategy of both the film-makers and imperialists and the political Islam movements winning elections in the last year is to encourage the revolutionaries to be sidelined by the cultural divide, and we must oppose that however we can wherever we are. For us in Australia, that means standing in solidarity with the Muslim community and doing our best to prevent another Cronulla riot from ever happening.

Looking at the left itself, a little bit of sussurus had been sweeping the internet since Jorge Joquera's announcement that he would be joining Socialist Alternative (btw, get a better search function for that website!). Although he is just one activist, the fact that her is a former leader of the DSP, and active in Cuban solidarity when Socialist Alternative subscribes to the theory of state capitalism, means it's been a significant signal.

In the aftermath, there's been some important steps towards the kind of constructive collaboration Dan Dimaggio talked about that I mentioned in my last post on this topic - the Revolutionary Socialist Party is discussing merging with Socialist Alternative, while the Socialist Alliance and Alternative have also announced the possibility of closer collaboration. These groups have slightly different backgrounds; the RSP split from the DSP, the largest group which initiated the Socialist Alliance, over the question of whether or not the DSP should dissolve into the Alliance after other organised left tendencies pulled out. This eventually happened in 2010 (some figures are sceptical of the reality of this, but my answer is myself and probably half of the other leaders of the Alliance were never in the DSP; I wrote more about this in my earlier posts). The RSP argued that an explicitly Marxist organisation was still necessary, rather than an organisation aimed at forming a broad anti-capitalist pole; this seems a little more in line with the goal of the Alternative project, which likewise prioritises the direct importance of winning revolutionaries to Marxist politics on the level of ideas.

The possibility of these groups coming together in some sort of project or around some points of unity (perhaps Socialist Alternative's Marxism 2013 conference) is at the moment in the air, and a lot of figures on the internet and in the broader campaigning left have been asking me about this in recent weeks, whether we are just being recruited by Socialist Alternative or if there's a deeper regroupment going on here. I can't say how genuine or deep any of these moves will run, but for now I'm somewhat optimistic. I think some of the ideas Derwin/Dimaggio outlined seem more likely to come to fruition for us here - joint events at conferences, joint speakers, cross-publications, etc all seem possible right now. Perhaps a broad "organisational" agreement for these groups is possible somewhere in the future, but there's still competing theories about What Is To Be Done being advanced that seem, to me, to preclude that possibility - For The Moment...

The experience of the recent NSW council elections has also been a step forward for the left. Housing Action, a joint ticket between the Communist Party of Australia, Socialist Alliance & independant left activists, achieved a decent showing, forcing incumbent mayor Clover Moore to respond to the issue of investment in and maintenance of public housing. Although I wasn't directly involved in the ticket's decision making, from all reports the process of sitting down and hashing out what policy all involved could agree upon was the easiest part of the project of all. And out in Auburn, the Battler coalition of progressive candidates has gotten Tony Oldfield of the CPA elected on the back of consistent community campaigning against a radioactive waste dump first brought in by Labor.

Lastly, I recently attended the EduFactory conference at the ANU in Canberra. One participant described it as the largest gathering of the anti capitalist student left she'd seen in around a decade - with all of the 100+ conference participants (who spoke at least) articulating that the neoliberal drive for cuts, rationalisations and restructures on campus must be opposed. Plans have been established to further link up the different campus struggles and potentially launch national campaigns around future attacks on our education.

We live in interesting times...