I was born in 1951. I was in my early teens when the American war in Vietnam started to become news. I just missed out on being old enough or exposed directly enough to be fully caught up in the 60s radicalisation, but it was the 60s all the same that framed the picture of the world that I gazed upon and eventually engaged with. The 60s was a period of multiple, myriad, kaleidoscopic, even hallucinogenic angles of gaze and questioning. Engagement with social and political realities exploded with militant protest movements, subversive culture and the sharing of songs hitherto without voices.
The contemporary world economy has become more highly integrated than ever before. Supply chains for complex products can sometimes span dozens of countries. Yet the benefits from this global production system still fall mostly to the capitalist rulers of just a handful of rich, imperialist countries. As a result of their monopolistic position in global production and world trade the imperialist societies have secured levels of wealth, income and social development immensely higher than all other countries – the so called “Third World”.
Around the world there is heightened awareness of the dangers to the human habitat from global warming. The assessments of climate scientists increasingly express a sense of urgency that carbon emissions be reduced immediately. More and more people understand the threat. Polls show stronger understanding of the threat and a demand for governments to act to reduce carbon emissions. In some countries government action has already made significant progress; in others, sections of business are resisting or slowing down the process.
The early 1990s, after the collapse of the Stalinist regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, were a time of capitalist triumphalism. Capital’s academic hirelings proclaimed ‘the end of history’, an absurdity nevertheless repeated in popular media. Really existing capitalism had been proven to be all that was possible, declared those who benefited from it. Socialism, along with the Soviet Union, was dead.
Speaking at a rally in Florida in May 2019, United States President Donald Trump told his supporters, “We won’t back down until China stops cheating our workers and stealing our jobs. And that’s what’s going to happen. Otherwise, we don’t have to do business with them. We can make the product right here, if we have to, like we used to.”
Volume 1 of this history, focusing on our tendency’s origins and the early years of Resistance and the founding of our party, was published in early 2005, and I had already drafted the outlines and taken some notes for Volumes 2 and 3. But shortly after publication, a major political struggle broke out in the Democratic Socialist Party. This is not the place to recount that struggle and its aftermath, except to mention that those of us in the minority in that struggle were expelled from the DSP and, in 2013, united with Socialist Alternative just before the opening of its Marxism conference in Melbourne.
A fine, mild Saturday afternoon in October 2015 was a suitable day to remember the late John Percy. As 4pm approached, the building at Addison Road Community Centre was almost full and would soon be standing room only.
The John Percy memorial event marked the conclusion of John’s posted collection exhibition that graphically documented the history of the movement.
Many people visiting Glebe any time during the last 25 years would have seen a man standing on Glebe Point Rd selling a socialist newspaper. In fact, he had been selling socialist newspapers since the 1960s, every week and at all major demonstrations in whatever city he was living in.
John Percy, veteran socialist, died on August 19 in Sydney, aged 69. He was a co-founder of the revolutionary youth organisation Resistance and the Socialist Workers Party, later the Democratic Socialist Party.
John, together with his brother Jim, began his political career as a student activist at Sydney University in the mid-1960s in the growing movement against the Vietnam War.
We said goodbye to John yesterday afternoon. Around 100 gathered in the restored Art Deco ambience of a room in Erskineville Town Hall to hear reflections on John Percy’s life from his family and from those who had worked with him over his 50 years of activism.