Socialist Alliance Conference in Australia

CPI(ML) Politburo member and AIPWA Secretary Kavita Krishnan was the keynote speaker at the People’s Power in the “Asian Century” seminar in Sydney, Australia on June 7. The seminar was held as part of the Socialist Alliance’s 10th national conference on June 7-9.

Around 250 people from various states in Australia attended the conference, where Kavita Krishnan spoke about the experience of struggles against capitalism, misogyny and sexual violence in India. She argued strongly against the tendency in the Western media to talk about gender violence as though it was a result of the ‘backward’ culture in places like India, Pakistan or Afghanistan. Instead, she argued that the gender violence in these societies should be discussed in conjunction with the terrible crimes against women in advanced capitalist societies – such as, for instance, the recent massacre of women by a man in California. She spoke of how capitalism and neoliberal economic policies are complicit in violence against women in India as well. Drawing from the Indian experience, she argued strongly for revolutionary socialists and communists to intervene positively in movements against rape and rape culture. India witnessed such a movement post December 16th, while in Australia last year, there was a similar movement following the rape and murder of a woman, Jill Maegher, in Melbourne.

Other speakers at the Conference included S Arultchelvan “Arul” from the Socialist Party of Malaysia, Sonny Melencio from the Party of the Labouring Masses in the Philippines and Thai pro-democracy activist and commentator Giles Ji Ungpakorn, via video link, and Shamikh Badra, an activist from Palestine. These speakers explored politics in Asia today and the impact of the developing people’s power movements, including on countries like Australia. Another speaker was research scholar Kevin Lin who gave a presentation on labour struggles and workers’ strikes in China. Farooq Tariq, leader of the Awami Workers Party in Pakistan, was unable to attend due to his Australian visa being granted too late.

The conference was opened by a greeting by Murri leader Sam Watson, the Socialist Alliance spokesperson for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander affairs, who, on behalf of the Conference, acknowledged that the land “always was, always will be Aboriginal land,” stolen from the Aboriginal people.

The Conference took place at a time when massive protest marches are taking place all over Australia against the anti-people budget introduced by the right-wing Liberal Government there. There have also been powerful protests against the Australian Government’s racist policy of detaining and deporting refugees. Recent protests have been spurred by the killing of a Kurdish refugee from Iran, Reza Barati, by a racist mob at an Australian detention centre, and by two recent instances of self-immolation by desperate Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka, who were refused asylum.

Following the People’s Power in the “Asian Century” seminar were two days of debate and decision-making for Socialist Alliance members. A panel called “Our lives are worth more than their profits”, featuring Sam Watson, Socialist Alliance Councillors Sam Wainwright and Sue Bolton, as well as TAFE activist Sarah Hathway.

The Sydney premiere screening of the new documentary, Radical Wollongong was held on the Sunday, followed by a Latin American solidarity evening on the Sunday night, co-hosted by the Sydney Latin American Social Forum.

Venezuelan Ambassador Nelson Davila was a special guest at the conference. He delivered a powerful address on the need for solidarity with the Venezuelan people following the recent adoption of sanctions against Venezuela by the US government.

Over the weekend, Socialist Alliance delegates voted on several resolutions dealing with international and Australian politics, adopted a new policy on electoral reform, and on the next steps in strengthening the work of the Alliance.

The resolutions on international politics condemned the intervention of the EU and US in Ukraine, condemned the recent coup in Thailand and condemned the Australian government’s recently changed position on the Palestinian occupied territories, such as East Jerusalem.

The conference elected a new National Executive and Susan Price and Alex Bainbridge were elected as Socialist Alliance national co-convenors. Members of the newly formed Socialist Alliance youth wing, Resistance Young Socialist Alliance, met during the conference and elected a national leadership, with Angus McAllen and Sarah Hathway elected as Resistance national co-convenors.

(with inputs from a report by Susan Price in the Green Left Weekly, June 14, 2014)

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