Developing the common socialist voice

An open letter to Australian Socialist Alliance members and affiliates

We write as non-aligned members within the Socialist Alliance. We consider it urgent to respond to the six month debate over progressing the move from an electoral alliance toward a multi-tendency socialist party. There is no particular set of proposals that frames our intervention. We have not sought to formulate a common view on what may resolve the historical, theoretical and programmatic differences among affiliates currently barring this development. However we do feel it is important to bring a non-affiliate membership perspective to bear. We are 'non-aligned' and thus have come to the alliance project from a diversity of individual views, perspectives and experiences. The single thread that unites us in our diversity is that we have joined the alliance because of the promise it holds for developing the common socialist voice so urgently required. An electoral alliance has been a good first step and the dividends of that unified demonstration have been realised in terms of our successful exposure in the wider political landscape. While there have been obvious gains in ongoing alliance political work since establishment, more needs to be done to consolidate and expand this success. This cannot be achieved if our collective resources and commitment, particularly from the affiliates, remain centred on a parliamentary election cycle. It is evident from the debate thus far that there is resistance among most affiliates to pursuing the opportunity of socialist regroupment the alliance offers. This is disappointing because the conditions for developing a strong, unified socialist voice in this country have not been better for many decades. Australia is in the midst of the first clear cut imperialist war since Vietnam. The Labor Party has never been so alienated from its working class base and there is a substantial break to the left, as evidenced by the dramatic growth in green support. It is difficult to fathom what more political encouragement affiliates require. The alliance needs to rise to this historic opportunity and the challenge it presents right now - not wait for some mythic future moment when the conditions spontaneously become 'just right'. In some respects socialist regroupment through the alliance is already underway. Over half the membership is not aligned to any particular tendency. Nevertheless, for a socialist regroupment to be effectively realised and prosper it has to be undertaken with the integral involvement of the revolutionary affiliates. We recognise differences cannot be papered over. Program debates have to be had, theoretical perspectives clarified and the integrity of principled differences preserved. This is to be welcomed as part of the strength and vitality of a growing socialist organisation, rather than seen as a basis for political and organisational paralysis. Non-aligned members are not persuaded by affiliate concerns of the alliance being dominated by any one particular tendency. For affiliates to abandon the terrain of debate for socialist regroupment on the basis of caution, or worse, on the basis of historical circumstances long past, will be to realise precisely a de facto single tendency domination. As long as the alliance retains its current character as a democratic organisation, where a consensus building activist culture and the force of the better argument prevails, the case for retaining separate party organisational structures by affiliates rings hollow. Who are affiliates expecting to reach within the politically advanced sections of the working class that does not include current non-aligned members of the alliance? We urge affiliates to present their case and negotiate their terms for retaining the organisational and programmatic integrity of their tendency. This must occur within the context of an alliance functioning as a single and united socialist voice, whatever the current limitations, given the differences we all bring to the alliance. Moreover, it must occur with the full ongoing participation and resources of the affiliates in order to advance the growth of the alliance. This is the only available guarantee for realising a socialist regroupment with a revolutionary dynamic. With a democratic and organisationally united socialist voice non-aligned members will stay the course, and more will come. United in struggle, Lesley Hayes, Alastair Greig, Paul Kringas, Ian Shepherd, John van der Velden, Michael Morphett