Building the DSP in 1999-2000

The Activist – Volume 9, Number 2, 1999
By John Percy

[The general line of this report was adopted by the 18th Congress of the Democratic Socialist Party, held in Sydney, January 5-10, 1999.]

The year 1998 has been a very eventful and successful year for the DSP. It’s been memorable enough to say that we’re in a new period. But what are the period’s new features?

Nature of the new period

At this conference we’re reaffirming the general line of the perspectives resolution adopted at our party conference two years ago. We haven’t presented a new document. We’re still in basically the same framework of a Coalition government, with the working class yet to recover from 13 years of Laborism and Accord-induced retreats. But there have been some significant changes in the objective and subjective factors that overlay that basic framework:

  1. The Asian-international capitalist economic crisis. Already, at least, it’s dealt an ideological blow to the capitalist mystifications about their system.
  2. The upheaval in Indonesia, leading to the overthrow of Suharto, and continuing challenges to Habibie and the army. This highlights the centrality of our solidarity work, and the big success of the Asia Pacific Solidarity Conference at Easter.
  3. The rise of racism and the One Nation Party, and the special impact of the Resistance high school walkouts against racism. This has opened up a new political situation and a greater political profile for us on the left.
  4. There’ve been some very initial signs of trade union resistance, most importantly, in a couple of areas where we can have a modest impact. The MUA struggle saw a promising mobilisation of solidarity, resulting in a defeat for the wharfies, but now giving rise to rank-and-file stirrings. The Workers First victory in the Victorian AMWU resulted from genuine worker involvement in their union.
  5. Other areas of our work have advanced also campus work, the unexpected strength of our political position in the anti-nuclear campaign, the potential in the women’s movement, and an organisational strengthening.
  6. There’ve been some significant steps forward in the international process of socialist renewal, with modest growth, clarification, or regroupment by some parties, and potential for taking further steps in coalescing a non-sectarian, collaborative, international network of socialists.

Taken together, these advances justify our characterisation of it as a “new period”, all proportions guarded of course. We’re not at a whole new “stage” of capitalism; we’re not in a situation where old tactics are not applicable; and it’s not yet a situation where we’re qualitatively dominant on the left.

But there’ve been enough important developments and stirrings in 1998, nationally and internationally, to make us optimistic that the worst years of left decline have come to an end.

The international capitalist economic crisis

International capitalism has entered a period of incredible instability and uncertainty, and even capitalists like Soros and their ideologues are recognising the dangers. They think some minor even major adjustments have to be made, but we know the irresolvable contradictions of capitalism are the cause of their crises, as the international report yesterday explained.

We’re not preaching economic catastrophe, but this global capitalist economic crisis does help remove some illusions:

  • Illusions about capitalist permanence and stability;
  • Illusions that “globalisation” has strengthened capital to the extent of overwhelmingly weakening workers’ possibilities for resistance;
  • The collapse of the “Asian miracle” has removed illusions of a special Asian road out of underdevelopment;

The Russian disaster has shown that life under capitalism is not so hot! It’s the end of the period of smug bourgeois triumphalism following the collapse of the Soviet Union. They can’t stop the string of articles from Russia along the lines of: “Capitalism has failed us.”

State bailouts of banks and financial institutions, the panic surrounding the hedge fund collapse, sudden punitive protectionist measures, all expose their myths of the all powerful “free market”.

The Asian economic crisis has spurred on the political crises in the region, in Indonesia, South Korea, now Malaysia, and the full impact is yet to come. The Indonesian mass struggle will be crucial. It’s raised the political importance of our Asia-Pacific solidarity work to a new level.

The Asian developments and the international capitalist economic crisis are already impacting on Australia. When it bites deeper of course, there’ll be more active response from wider layer of workers. But it’s helping us expose the politics of the mainstream parties, and is starting to change the social vanguard, our periphery. It gives us greater opportunities to build the party and Resistance. We’re entering a period of upheavals, and have to prepare for both the economic and political crises.

The Resistance high school walkouts against racism

The magnificent Resistance high school walkouts against racism were the most dramatic developments within Australia in 1998. Such walkouts weren’t new. There have been walkouts by high school students before, initiated both by us, and others.

But these were special. They had an unprecedented national spread and coordination. They inspired actions in other towns, large and small. They resulted in 600 recruits to Resistance, and more than 1000 others on our mailing lists.

The media impact was tremendous. The profile of Resistance soared. We received more media than at any time in our history. There were stories in practically every newspaper, on every TV and radio station. At least half the population would have been exposed to Resistance in some way.

The reactions and non-reactions of the rest of the organised left to the walkouts were revealing. They gritted their teeth, hoping to ride out the storm. Non-sectarian activists were effusive in their praise. The most sectarian, such as Militant in Melbourne, tried to sabotage it.

The tasks ahead of us in 1999 are to build on these successes in all ways we can:

  1. Do them again. If we don’t have the perspective of doing high school walkouts ourselves, other tendencies will jump in. So we shouldn’t be complacent.
  2. Entrench them in our history, and the left milieu history. We’ll produce a pamphlet on them, a booklet of the media coverage, a video of the TV coverage, use the images in ads.
  3. Learn the lessons of them, so we can extend the example to other areas. Their success was the result of our past work, organising among young people and high school students throughout our history, and building an initial base among youth. The actions demonstrated yet again the potential of youth to radicalise, to take action. That’s not a new lesson, but it was powerfully reinforced.
  4. But our central task is recruiting, consolidating, and educating the resulting high school members and other members and contacts. Most branches have already seen excellent gains in new cadre, but we know there are so many more potential recruits to be made in 1999.

The profile and standing of the party

Our Resistance high school success, and our new expanded profile, has significantly shifted the balance of forces on the left further in our favour. We’d been making steady gains in the ‘80s and ‘90s, and this registers it definitively.

Other events and campaigns have contributed too. The year began with our “150 Years of the Communist Manifesto“ educational conference. Many comrades think it was the best educational conference we’ve ever had.

Then we had the fantastic Asia Pacific Solidarity Conference. It was excellent for our comrades, for our solidarity work, and for the impact on the rest of the left.

Our weight on the left has certainly increased. If we were able to do a composite chart comparing us and other left parties from 1970 to 1998, it would look very dramatic. It’s not just the demise of the CPA, although that’s the crucial change. There’s been a steady growth in our profile and impact.

No single political opponent has the range of interventions that we do. Who has the national spread? Who dominates with paper sales? Who publishes the most left books and pamphlets? Who runs left bookshops, and has public headquarters? Who has the most extensive left websites?

Our perspectives resolution, adopted two years ago, pointed out that “The relative strength of the DSP within the organised left puts us in a better position today to win the political leadership of the radicalising workers and students that will emerge out of struggles against the Howard government.” The last two years has widened the gap.

The challenges facing us

We have to be creative, and constantly on the lookout, so we’re able to reap the benefits of our excellent work in 1998 and our greater experience.

The challenge of the next period is to turn the high school successes in 1998, and Resistance’s increased profile that resulted, into lasting gains. Certainly, we have to extend the high Resistance profile into the party area, and the role of elections will be important here. And we have to translate the high profile into much greater cadre strength, and a central priority is consolidation and recruitment. We hope that our dominant position on high schools will flow on to a much stronger campus base.

The good work we’ve done in the last year or two puts us in the position to play a greater leadership role. There are new opportunities, but we must work harder, act like serious revolutionary Marxists, certainly put aside petty, personal interests, and irrelevant squabbles, and implement the main tasks presented to us.

With this report we’ll be reaffirming the perspectives of the party-building perspectives report to the October NC plenum, and I’ll summarise the main points here.

Firstly, in October we proposed that “Resistance builds on its already strong profile, and takes it further by having a very visible Resistance section in Green Left Weekly“. The move was designed to address many of our needs:

  • It should increase the sales participation of the new Resistance comrades. It should increase their identification with the paper. It’s designed to give a qualitative boost to the confidence of high school comrades in selling the paper.
  • Hopefully it will also help arrest the fall in the sales rate.
  • It will help make the public connection between Resistance, Green Left Weekly, and the DSP.
  • It will force the more intensive political development of Resistance comrades. Hopefully they’ll read the paper more. And more comrades will have to write for the Resistance section.

Well, we took this step, and the results from the first five issues are very encouraging.

The Resistance magazine had a very positive impact during the special sales week. There’s clearly been greater involvement of Resistance members and high school comrades in writing, and selling. We’ve had more clipoffs. (Details of this will be in the Resistance-building report and in the propaganda tasks and organisation report.)

Nature of Green Left Weekly

Green Left Weekly, and now the Resistance section as part of it, is essential for building the party, and integrating all our party-building and political tasks. The role of Green Left Weekly sales in building and retaining cadres is especially essential in a political situation like we face in Australia today.

The very act of selling is a commitment of time and effort that helps steel our comrades. And the fact that it’s a public act, a statement of opposition to the status quo, sets us apart from the capitalist consensus, helps us resist cooption.

The centrality of the paper means that all party leaders have to be exemplary in leading in selling our press, and we have to improve in this area.

Last year’s Adelaide free speech victory is especially significant. We shouldn’t underestimate it. We have to play up every victory, even little ones, and this was an important one. It sets an important precedent, our right to sell Green Left Weekly in public places, and is similar to the right won to leaflet on Melbourne’s streets during the campaign against the Vietnam War. Adelaide branch waged a magnificent campaign, winning wide support and many friends.

Green Left Weekly has been very much a dual paper. It’s been both an effective party paper and a very successful reach-out vehicle. One measure that always impresses me is the thriving letters page, with its tremendous weekly feedback, debate, and participation. Compare the old Direct Action, or any other left paper now or in the past – there’s nothing like it.

We’ve been pushing in recent years for more sharply focussed political articles, and open socialist articles and columns, and raising the DSP and Resistance profile higher in the paper.

But it’s not necessary to make a change of statement that Green Left Weekly is “the paper of DSP and Resistance” as has been suggested for us to get extra gains. Comrades should be explaining that now when talking to customers anyway. And we can certainly reap any of the benefits of being a party paper without explicit wording on the masthead.

Also there’s the question of the necessary legal separation, the security question.

We want to keep Green Left Weekly as both a broad paper and a party paper, we get gains both ways.

Branch responsibilities for copy

But all comrades and branch leaderships need to take a more consciously interventionist approach to branch copy, in the context of our increasing weight in the Australian left and the responsibility being thrust on us for leadership of all campaigns.

At present, what gets sent in is largely random, not politically prioritised. Articles should actually cover the most important aspects of the campaign or action.

Green Left Weekly and NO [National Office] full-timers cannot substitute for comrades on the ground who know what the main issues within a campaign or debate are, how to best argue the points. Branch comrades have to see the Green Left Weekly article as an essential component of their intervention, and a polemic if necessary.

Branches need to implement the proposal adopted at the last conference that the direction of weekly copy is assigned to the branch secretary or organiser, or else to a member of the party executive.

The party can learn a lot from Resistance in this regard. In order to get the Res magazine off the ground, Resistance had to assign branch organisers to copy direction and put a lot of thought and organisation into deciding on and getting the articles we most need written each week.

We also have to improve the educational content of Green Left Weekly. With Resistance growing so healthily at present, and all branches struggling to meet all the educational needs of new members, Green Left Weekly has a bigger role to play in Marxist education.

We would like to initiate a more frequent Marxist history or theory page in Green Left Weekly. More party members will need to contribute, agreeing to write a feature article on a topic that they have studied thoroughly or want to learn more about.

We also need to use our calendar better. Most other left organisations make better use of our calendar than we do. Often the calendars only barely reflect the real activism in most cities. The compiling of the branch calendar is a political, not simply an administrative task. Each week it should bring together all aspects of the branch’s work (recruiting, event building, sales, fundraising, etc.). Responsibility for the content of the calendar should be assigned to each branch’s copy director.

Green Left Weekly is a leadership tool for our tendency. Through it we orient our periphery on all political issues. Thus there’s an increased importance of subscriptions, regular readers, to build that broad periphery of supporters.

Leadership party and Resistance

A second proposal at the October NC plenum, resulting from Resistance’s successes and higher profile, was to “both shift the weight of leadership for our tendency more towards Resistance, and at the same time increase our overall investment in our full-time apparatus”.

We’ve made some moves in this area already, and want to plan more. We’ve assigned an extra comrade in the Resistance NO, with a specific responsibility of coordinating the Res mag section of Green Left Weekly. And after the conference we’ll have an extra comrade in the DSP NO who is also part of the Resistance leadership, helping with coordination of Indonesian solidarity, and our publications program.

In a period following on successes, facing the possibilities of bigger breakthroughs, there are extra responsibilities on party and Resistance leaders. Party leaders have to help train Resistance leaders; Resistance leaders have to begin acting more as party leaders; more tasks open up and we all definitely have to be leaders. So we have to be conscious of how to lead, how to build a team leadership, how to build collaboration across generations, across varied experiences. And to take on these extra and new leadership responsibilities without individualistically focussing on leadership per se, but on the tasks, the needs, the responsibilities.

We especially have to be conscious of fostering comradely relations in the party and Resistance today. Put politics in command, not in the way Mao used this adage, but think politically, not personally. Sometimes there are questions of method involved, which start to entrench bad political habits.

Avoid dogmatic views, absolutes, especially on questions of tactics. Stepping back, removing the personal input, can give a sober perspective to those “nevers” and “alls”.

And remember what sort of party we’re building, a democratically functioning thinking and acting machine. Be conscious of how we conduct debates and handle differences in the party. We should encourage comrades to raise their differences and uncertainties to reach the right course, and to fully understand Marxist theory. The Activist remains open for discussion on theoretical and historical questions, as well as reporting on experiences in implementing our adopted perspectives and tasks.

The tremendous dedication, commitment, and sacrifice shown by every one of our comrades warrants respect and comradely relations from all of us. We’re still so few, we need all the comrades we have, we can’t waste cadre, all that investment in training and experience. We addressed this at the last NC, how to retain comrades, prevent attrition. At the individual level, it’s the responsibility of all of us, to help the comrade next to us stay on the field. We all have to take responsibility for training new leaders. Information and skills should not be privatised!

Consolidation through responsibility

Thirdly, we projected encouraging a range of new party units, “so that everyone has the chance to lead and learn through leading”. We need to expand the positions of responsibility, and train a whole new generation of leaders, through:

  • Campus Resistance clubs.
  • High school Resistance clubs.
  • Dividing branches.
  • Locality party propaganda teams, election committees, on-the-way-to branches.
  • Functioning, intervention-oriented fractions.
  • Regional expansion.

All branches complain about too few comrades for all the tasks we have on our plate. That’s true, and will be true until after the revolution. But at the same time, there’s frequently blockages to leadership development because capable new comrades are not being challenged sufficiently. And we’re also partly losing leaders and experienced comrades because we don’t provide enough responsibilities to challenge them.

Comrades should consider rising to the challenges of new branches, and transferring to strengthen the smaller branches.

Where we’re at with our party nuclei in Lismore and Rockhampton will come up in the discussion from the comrades involved. But by the end of the year we’d like to see fully functioning branches in all those places.

We also need strong campus clubs, which can stand on their own feet, and maybe campus branches in the future.

One assignment that seems to have been dumped in recent years is visiting contacts in person. We need to give more comrades that experience. We’ve tended to substitute administrative, secretarial solutions. And the good moves, the more aggressive recruiting to Resistance off stalls, for example, has partially supplanted other recruiting.

It can be seen as just another task for already over-stretched executives, and falls off the bottom of the list. But recruiting, one-on-one recruiting, is such a central need, a central part of branch and individual activity, that it needs priority organisation.

Marxist education

Fourthly, we proposed making “Marxist education a central priority for comrades and branches. We all have to look for ways to strengthen our education work, collectively, and individually”.

We have a comprehensive educational program planned. It’s now a matter of giving sufficient attention to education so that the party gains the full benefit.

Educational seminars are scheduled for the Anzac Day long weekend in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, and Adelaide. In January 2000 we’ll have a major educational conference, with international guest speakers, along the lines of our 150 Years of the Communist Manifesto conference, which we’ll build widely, get our contacts and periphery to.

We have our extensive class series the introductions to socialism, to the basic ideas of Marxism and our party’s program, to our resolution on Feminism and Socialism, to the Marxist classics. Perhaps we can prepare more extensive guides for tutors.

We also want to encourage branch educationals on Marxism where they don’t presently occur, not just classes and seminars, with full participation by the branch, and more comrades giving talks.

Comrades need the widest reading and understanding, on Australian and international labour and socialist history, on debates on socialist theory, on the political weaknesses of other currents. It’s essential for the long haul.

Propaganda offensive

Fifthly, we projected “our own stepped up propaganda offensive – a publications program and publicity offensive. We need the educational resources for our expanded periphery, for our new recruits, and for our cadres”.

Recent NC reports have stressed the importance of our propaganda and the possibility for increasing our publications program. We have an ambitious list: a series of the Marxist classics (and the first of these, the Communist Manifesto book is being printed now); our own pamphlets and books, for which we’ll assign comrades the time to write and complete projects. Our recent experience indicates this expanded publications program can even be financially viable in the medium term. The propaganda tasks and organisation report will go into the details. Since Comrade Farooq [Tariq] has been here we’ve discussed even more ambitious joint publishing projects.

Our propaganda offensive increasingly covers various forms of other media that are new to us. We’ve had radio programs before, but the excellent use comrades in Melbourne are making of 3CR needs to be copied. We’ve used videos frequently in the past, but this year we want to systematise it better, take full advantage of our extensive video library, and produce and distribute more of our own documentaries. Our World Wide Web sites and email lists that have expanded so much this year have a regional reach and an international reach. We’re ahead of the rest of the left on these areas and need to expand them further, linking them all to our central tool, Green Left Weekly.

Socialist leadership

A sixth area can be headed “winning socialist leadership”. In the October NC party-building perspectives report, we said: “Our strategic task is to build the party, a party that can unite and mobilise the working class and its potential allies in a struggle for power. We have to win socialist leadership of the masses in struggle.”

We pointed out that “Actions in our own name, once we do them, and especially once we succeed so well, seem so natural. The gains for both the anti-racist movement and ourselves from the Resistance national high school walkouts are so overwhelming.”

Local community marches also helped break through the roadblocks of fake “united front” committees. A major gain of our Resistance high school actions is that they legitimised socialist political activity.

Some false conceptions on united front work that we’ve shed were outlined at the October 1997 NC meeting. Militant’s document attempting to defend their actions on August 28 entrenched their mistakes, and our reply, published in The Activist, draws out the lessons.

But having broadened our options, and shed one schema, let’s not institute another one. Actions in our own name are a useful tactic, raising our socialist profile is important, suburban actions have been useful. But they’re not a way to hide from battles we have to engage in. We still need united front work in many campaigns. The swamp is still there, and we can’t retreat to the desert.

Election campaigns

A seventh important arena for party building in this period is our electoral work. Election campaigns are important for raising the party profile, and building on from the heightened Resistance profile (no easy way through a name adjustment!).

We want to use our election campaigns to hang out the socialist banner. We’re not presenting ourselves as just the “best activists” on each and every issue, as we sometimes have retreated to in the past. We have to present our socialism as a working class, fighting stance, a class position, not just a collection of radical, liberal issues.

There was no dramatic shift in our federal election results, fairly modest, averaging just under 1%. But we did make some progress in reaching out to our periphery through the campaign, with much greater Green Left sales and contacts on the booths, greater involvement of supporters. We still haven’t tapped all the huge potential in donations, support and recruitment. Branches should have drawn up their balance sheets of October 3, with a full checklist of lessons for the next elections.

The New South Wales state election is on March 27. Our campaign will be decisively bigger than any other left campaign, with possibly 8-10 lower house seats, and an upper house team. It will be working class in its pitch. We’ll counterpose a nationalisation demand to their privatisation push. We’ll have youth candidates, promoting the Resistance team on the Democratic Socialist ticket. It will be a two-track campaign, trying to maximise our votes, but the prime orientation will be to our periphery and supporters, reaching them, meeting them, mobilising them, and recruiting them. We’ll organise local marches again, perhaps in Marrickville or Ashfield.

Our election campaigns have been important in further widening the gap with others on the left.

Name change suggestions

During the pre-conference discussion proposals have been raised to change our name to the “Socialist Party”. Among the arguments for this move are that we should “assume the posture of the leadership role that we know we will have to fight for in the next period”, and that it’s “simpler”.

Although we have won an improved position on the left, we have not yet won dominance. We can’t pretend we’re the only socialists, that we’re the vanguard. (It hasn’t exactly worked all that well for British Militant since they changed their name to the Socialist Party.) And we’re still not out of the political period where we have to differentiate ourselves from the Stalinist legacy. It would be unwise to call ourselves “communist”.

In the future we might want to use a change of name to mark a qualitative advance or fusion. But if there aren’t very good reasons to do it, we’d sacrifice and suffer a lot.

We’d be back to square one with the modest progress we’ve made with raising our profile. (There were some costs changing from SWP to DSP, you still run into old supporters who haven’t caught up with the change.) There’d be many technical problems and costs, extra hassles with registrations, reprinting much of our propaganda, etc.

It’s good to continuously think and challenge our habits and practices, to look for projects, search for openings. But any change has to be for the better.

Our organisational strength

It’s been a momentous year, and an extremely successful year for us. It’s also been a good year for our party-building tasks. We’re qualitatively better positioned to implement our projections and to respond to new developments.

We’ve made good progress on our financial campaigns since our last conference. We’re stronger now than at any time in the past. This is a result of comrades’ commitment, the serious attention we’ve given to finance, and the proper organisational methods. The hard work and persistence of comrades in recent years is paying off. Our debt is no longer increasing, it’s getting paid off, as part of our budget last year, and planned for this year. We had a successful 1998 fund drive, allowing us to increase our target for 1999 by a modest $5000.

We’ve benefited from the rising value of our properties. This has kept our head above water in the past; now it could give a decisive boost to our financial security. There’s a possibility of buying or renting a more central Brisbane office, with scope for a bookshop with passing trade, and through selling the existing property eliminating a large proportion of our commercial debt.

Over the last 15-20 years, there’s been little change in the actual numerical strength of the party. But Resistance membership and periphery is probably bigger than it has ever been.

There have been big changes in our relative weight. And there’ve also been gains in the solidity, strength of the party, the commitment of its cadres.

There’ve also been big gains in the accumulated experience and wisdom of the party, partly reflected in the consolidation of our leadership. And there’ve been increases in our profile and periphery.

We must translate all these assets and gains of recent years into recruitment. We need a more conscious approach to recruitment. Sometimes we pass up opportunities. This should be our main goal and measure of our success in the next two years a bigger party numerically.

Balance sheet of our experiences with Militant

Next I want to give a brief balance sheet of our experiences with Militant and the CWI. Our unity discussions with Militant that began in 1996 didn’t go far, but were revived at the end of 1997 by Steve Jolly’s new approach to us after their fusion with Solidarity and Communist Intervention had blown up. We agreed to pursue it. We spelt out the key question of loyalty, and what relationship with the CWI/British SP, in discussions in May, and documented it in our June 23 letter to Militant.

Their reaction to our clear presentation of our views and norms on international relations was silence. Presumably London told them that it was not on.

Then came our high school successes and the media explosion, which certainly threatened them. Their reaction was the thuggish attempt to sabotage August 28 in Melbourne.

Their manoeuvring with unity and their actions on August 28 have caused problems in their ranks. Some of their members are joining us. Others seem to have become less active. Could there be further gains for us? Hopefully we can provide a constructive political framework for other former Militant members who risk getting disillusioned with politics.

There are obvious lessons: don’t lie to your members, and don’t manoeuvre. [James P.] Cannon was right, “don’t play with unity”. It’s one more demonstration of the pitfalls of sect-like toy internationals, which so often wreck the development of a party that they can’t control.

We can also draw a partial balance sheet of our relations with the British Socialist Party (and the CWI which it directs). They had some healthy trends, led some impressive struggles, had many committed activists. Their weaknesses included an Anglo-centric economist position on Ireland, and probably insufficient attention to Marxist education. Out of the Labour Party, they opened up, put out feelers to other left currents. Over the last two years, we started developing relations with them, and invited them on to the Links board.

But in the last year or two, just as we were trying to develop relations, they seem to have dropped their opening out approach. Their politics, and the dynamic of their conception of an international, has led them to very sectarian interventions, in Pakistan and in Indonesia, here in Melbourne, and it looks like in Scotland and Liverpool too.

The documents from the comrades in Pakistan expose the absolutely outrageous level of interference and factionalising by London in the affairs of the LPP. Many visits, months spent factionalising, brazen interventions, thousands of pounds spent.

In Indonesia the CWI visitors crudely went about attempting to split the PRD, trying to entice members with promises of trips to Europe, exhorting them not to report back to PRD leaders about discussions they might have, trying to force adoption of schemas for action bearing no relation to Indonesian realities.

Scottish Militant Labour has taken a decision to unite with other forces into a Scottish Socialist Party, against the will of London. They were already more open than the leadership in London, and had a real base of support in Glasgow. Although Taaffe has done a U-turn and now recognised the former Scottish Militant Labour members as a second CWI section in Britain, it’s unlikely they’ll remain long in the CWI. Their newspaper is now the paper of the new formation, expanding from eight to 12 pages, and much improved. We should be able to continue having comradely relations with them.

Lynn Walsh wrote asking to be taken off the Links editorial board (on grounds of insufficient collaboration!) saving us the trouble of doing it formally at a Links meeting.

In October Taaffe expelled the regional committee of the Merseyside (Liverpool) Socialist Party. There’s also a split in Manchester branch, the formation of a socialist women’s organisation based on the former women’s commission of Militant, and disaffection elsewhere.

The CWI World Congress in November rejected the PLP’s appeal against expulsion, but the Scottish and French supported them (they’d better watch out!), with several others indicating sympathy but unwilling to vote against London.

They’ve clearly reverted to a sectarian factional course in their international work, which looks as though it’s been spurred on by their decline in England and Wales, and reinforced by the major setbacks they’ve had in Pakistan and Scotland, and more recently Liverpool.

Our attempts at closer collaboration over the last few years have given us a clearer picture of their weaknesses, the sectarianism that inevitably results from their international functioning, and their one-sidedness. Militant UK could survive and prosper while they were inside the Labour Party. Perhaps they only needed one tactic. Outside the Labour Party, political life was much more complex, and although quitting the Labour Party was the right thing to do, they haven’t been able to grow into a rounded, flexible party, and reverted to sectarian solutions in face of difficulties. They also seemed unable to properly come to terms with the defeats suffered by British workers in the ‘80s, with unreal projections of an easy leap to a mass party.

More material and assessments are becoming available from their former groups and disaffected or expelled members, which will be useful for us to analyse and discuss.

International perspectives

There are enormous possibilities and responsibilities with our international work. The international capitalist crisis, with its deepening social crises and contradictions, provides new political openings for the left. But let’s not delude ourselves either, the working class, the left, is weak. Old left parties are still declining. The new parties, or the healthily renewing ones, are still small. But there has been progress.

The international work report to our conference two years ago was optimistic enough to describe a “turn” in the situation, given the diversity and intensity of our developing international work. There’ve been even more encouraging developments in the last two years. We’ve had a wealth of international experiences, contacts, conferences, and discussions.

The APSC that we projected from our conference two years ago was a fantastic success. As we assessed at the June NC plenum, the conference significantly expanded our international links and contacts, with the ideological regroupment aspect eventually looming a lot larger than anticipated. It put other parties in touch with each other. Our solidarity work has been greatly enhanced. The conference established the Asia Pacific Institute, and the Asia-Pacific Women’s Solidarity Network, which we have to follow up further.

The conference led to increased respect and recognition internationally for the DSP, and helped the consolidation and expansion of Links magazine. It expanded our prestige and authority in Australia, and helped other areas of our work, such as trade union solidarity. We’re increasingly respected as a serious, non-sectarian revolutionary organisation.

The report also noted that “the success of the APSC, the huge expansion of our range of international contacts and friends, the increasing respect for Links magazine, all these are a vindication of our international work. They’re a vindication of the actual work comrades have put in, here in Australia, and on visits and at conferences. But most importantly, they’re a vindication of our political approach to our international work. The narrow projects aren’t succeeding. Our approach has been bearing fruit in recent years.”

Prospects for renewal

The best prospects for renewal recently have been in the Third World – Asia above all it seems, although that’s perhaps just where we are, and what we know most about.

In Indonesia we’ve seen the rapid growth of the PRD in a very explosive situation. In the Philippines the last six years of splits in the communist movement, and rethinking and regroupment, is finding form in the Socialist Party of Labour of the Philippines. In Pakistan the Labour Party Pakistan has grown from a few dozen comrades to a party of almost 1500 in a few years, in difficult and dangerous circumstances. In Sri Lanka the NSSP has good prospects.

In India the CPI-ML [Liberation] is growing, and developing a revolutionary and non-sectarian practice. In Nepal, the CPN-UML has an enormous mass base, and is having to come to terms with splits and debates and the prospect of government. There’s a huge diversity of revolutionary Marxist forces in Bangladesh. In South Korea there’s a strong militant union tradition, without a Marxist party being formed from it. The turmoil in Malaysia could enable the Malaysian People’s Party to renew its ranks. New militant organisations have formed in East Timor.

And as a result of the APSC and our other solidarity work we’ve developed contacts with most other countries in Asia, either broad struggle organisations, or small nuclei of militants.

But the last few years have seen some very exciting developments in Europe also. In Italy, with the breakaway of the right-wing Cossuta current from the PRC, the FI current is more part of the majority leadership, and with Bertinotti moving to the left, there’s the prospect of the PRC becoming a more militant active party. In France, the LCR and Lutte Ouvrière joint election platform is registering 6.5% in the polls, and if this holds up for the European elections in June, it could significantly change the political landscape and possibilities not just in France but across Europe.

There’s also the United Left in Spain, the new Scottish Socialist Party already mentioned, and non-sectarian developments in Norway, Finland, Greece and elsewhere, the electoral successes of the PDS in Germany, the SP in the Netherlands.

Leaders of the FI like Francois Vercammen are excited by these and other developments. They see the possibility of a broader and stronger left network beyond the narrow confines of the FI. They are debating the possibility of replacing their FI Congress due in late 2000 with a broad world congress that actively involves other left currents in Europe, Latin America, parties like us in Asia. They were very impressed with the APSC.

We obviously think we should encourage such a positive initiative. They’ll be debating it at their International Executive Committee meeting in February, and our NE has decided that we should have party representatives attend and support it. Eva C and I will be going to Europe for that and other meetings and discussions.

Such a congress in 2000 could be extremely significant, given the array of parties that might back it already, and the larger numbers that could be drawn in. There are also likely to be other conferences in 1999 and 2000. The Lambertistes have called an international workers conference for San Francisco in April 2000. There’ll be the yearly Sao Paulo Forum, and the regular NELF meetings. There’ll be narrower gatherings the “International Leninist Current” has called an Anti-Imperialist Summer Camp in 1999. Perhaps the Cubans will initiate a broad conference. We’ll also want to intervene in many of these other conferences, but the FI-initiated one has perhaps the most potential to develop into a broad, non-sectarian, revolutionary Marxist gathering, that takes the process of international socialist renewal and regroupment forward.

What are our needs? Do we have any next steps to propose for 2000? One option would be to project our own conference, try a repeat of the APSC, or something with a different angle that can both attract the international left and our periphery here. But we think we should concentrate on building our January 2000 conference as a big Marxist Summer School, and set aside resources for international travel so that we can intervene adequately in the other international conferences that are being planned in 2000.

But we would like to make our own contributions to the international debates and discussions about regroupment, by initiating the drafting of a document, in conjunction with our close collaborators. It could be projected as a manifesto for 2000, for propaganda use here, and for distribution at international conferences. We have already asked comrades from Indonesia, Philippines, and Pakistan to collaborate with us on such a document. We’ll also try to involve others in the discussion as it progresses.

Principles of international collaboration

The possible content of such a document was outlined at the June NC plenum, the political basis for the next important stages in the realignment and renewal of the international workers’ movement. We suggested four points as a basis for the next stage of international realignment.

Firstly, revolutionary Marxism: we’d argue for a Marxist socialist renewal. We reaffirm the revolutionary potential of the working class, and a Marxist analysis of capitalism. We take up all struggles of the oppressed women, gays, environment but reaffirm the centrality of class struggle.

Secondly, a Leninist party, a revolutionary socialist renewal is needed. The touchstone is still going to be a positive assessment of the October Revolution and Leninism. As long as there’s agreement on revolutionary Marxist perspectives, including the key question of the October Revolution itself, important historical questions, and the lessons of the last 70-80 years, can be fruitfully discussed. We don’t have to insist on a common interpretation of Stalinism, for example, as the starting point for discussion among revolutionaries today. An assessment of what went wrong in the Soviet Union has to take place within a framework of revolutionary Marxism. So we emphasise the need for a revolutionary party, a democratic centralist party as built by the Bolsheviks, and learning from the experiences of that party led by Lenin.

Thirdly, we’re for a socialism that’s democratic, for a healthy, creative, non-dogmatic application of Marxism. We’re against applying old recipes irrespective of time and circumstance, and against scholasticism, treating Marxism as texts to be studied and dissected, but not applied. We reject sectarianism, allowing old battles, history, and organisational inertia to prevent new essential unity. We want to promote unity based on one’s analysis of current political and economic reality, and agreement on what to do next.

In this framework we raise questions of democracy, now, in the movement, and in the future, under socialism. Our socialism has to be a democratic socialism, an active involvement and participation of workers in the running of society.

Fourthly, we have a clear position on what should be the international relations between revolutionary Marxist parties, both in general, and in the present conjuncture. This question is increasingly important.

The centralisation that was necessary at one particular emergency for the Communist International is in general unhealthy, it doesn’t assist the building of strong parties, with real team leaderships, able to think for themselves. This centralisation, Cominternism, even with Lenin and the Bolsheviks, is a hindrance.

Certainly, today we don’t need new Moscows, Beijings, or Paris, New York or London centres, narrow “internationals” based on one-party hegemony (often in the worst cases led by a cult figure). We don’t need clones and commissars. We end up with a multiplicity of false internationals that automatically contribute to factionalism. That’s been the terrible experiences of Cominternism under Stalin, it’s also been the Trotskyist experience, and the experience of Maoist “internationals”.

This method leads to unthinking acceptance of directives. It leads to narrowness, when independent, creative thinking is needed. It leads to a sect outlook, a toy international, with the view that they are the only revolutionaries in the world.

For our times and circumstances we definitely need relations between parties that are multilateral, relations based on mutual respect and non-interference, no factional meddling, emphasising solidarity, comradely collaboration, useful discussions, and learning both ways, and non-selfish help where it’s possible.

We need a framework where we can have comradely debates, a real international discussion. Links magazine is a partial step in that direction.

What should not be in such a document? Certainly, it shouldn’t dream of setting global tactics. Diverse situations require a whole variety of party-building tactics in different countries. This was and is a frequent mistake of international sects, they universalise their tactics. We also shouldn’t attempt to spell out all aspects of revolutionary strategy. Agreement can be reached on the broad strategic perspectives, and other questions can continue to be debated and tested out.

The document could also include a preamble summarising the world political situation, the international capitalist economic crisis, and the crisis of leadership of the working class.

What sort of international network?

It’s worth stressing again our long-term goal, to rebuild a revolutionary international. But for this to succeed will take big new working class victories to realign the political vanguard around the world. So in this period our international approach has to include both reaching out to all sorts of forces, as we’ve been doing, as well as the process of ideological clarification and political differentiation, without cutting ourselves off from any healthy processes through burying ourselves in or prematurely constructing artificial internationals. We need to assist, collaborate, discuss through an international network of socialist parties.

But at the same time, we stress once again the absolute necessity of working to build strong, democratically centralised, politically homogeneous Marxist parties. Any other approach to party building won’t work. You’ll never build a capable party and educate a cadre in Marxism. And you won’t be able to advance the development of a revolutionary international, either at the broad networking stage required today, or respond to the sharper needs of the class struggles of the future.

We’ve sometimes characterised a fault of the FI as lacking a firm democratic centralist party-building approach at the level of parties, yet insisting on a rigid, narrow international structure. We urged a reversal strong democratic centralist parties, linked in a broader network.

Of course, where there are real possibilities of regroupments, alliance and recomposition at a national level, or the possibility of winning mass forces through temporarily working in broader formations, not needing to raise your own flag, such tactics should be flexibly pursued.

With positive steps towards regroupment at an international level also come dangers. It can lead to confusion about what’s needed at a national level well-organised parties still. It can even extend to rejection of party-building and Leninism altogether. We haven’t seen any successful anti-Leninist “new socialism” experiments. All they’ve done is provide an excuse for less commitment or a drift to the right.

And there’s the opposite danger, a formally correct desire for a party-building approach at the national level can blind to the possibilities of international regroupment and renewal, prompting a clinging on to a narrow sectarian “international”.

What actual activity, projects can international activity consist of today? The sectarian internationals are clear: propagate the one true program; build a group of acolytes in each country; smash other parties or currents that have political differences or don’t accept the diktats of the central guru. Some of the activities of such fake internationals can give their adherents the illusion that they’re actually doing useful international work, that they’re internationalists. But it’s just the opposite.

Real internationalism would involve such activities as:

  • Genuine international solidarity (not hypocritical solidarity designed to carve out your own little faction);
  • International collaboration and exchanges, in a spirit of parties helping each other, including helping newer or weaker parties to stand on their own feet, and think for themselves;
  • Information exchange, through news magazines, news services, websites that help and promote all parties in the network;
  • Collaboration on projects like publishing ventures;
  • Political discussion and debate, for the purpose of clarity, but not fake votes on resolutions.

Much of this we’re doing already, although we’re not part of any “International.” In the year ahead, we can do more, as the network of parties able to collaborate in a non-sectarian way grows, and we find ways to promote more intensive and productive political discussions.

Links magazine will continue to provide a forum for discussion and exchange of information and views for parties all around the world. But it will be increasingly important in furthering the collaboration and common political thinking of this developing network, especially in our region.

A basis for growth

Our progress in the ‘90s has given us a relatively bigger role and bigger responsibilities. Our victories this last year or two have laid the basis for even greater advances in 1999 and 2000. Our party-building tasks are clear:

  • Our socialist profile and propaganda tasks through Green Left Weekly and Resistance magazine;
  • Shift the weight of our leadership further to Resistance and strengthen our apparatus;
  • Consolidate our cadre through spreading responsibility and expanding party units;
  • Prioritise Marxist education;
  • Step up our publications program and propaganda offensive;
  • Win leadership as socialists, raise our profile;
  • Wage ambitious election campaigns;
  • All these lead to our primary responsibility, recruit and build the party;
  • Finally, we have increasing responsibilities to help with the international process of socialist renewal, including drafting a document with close collaborators to intervene in the international debates and take the renewal process to the next stage.

These are proposals that will allow us to respond to the new period, build on a great year, and answer the new challenges that are being tossed up to us.

Reporter’s summary

1998 was a great year, a momentous year for us politically. And we characterised it as ushering in a new period, perhaps a turning point in the class struggle. This conference will perhaps be looked back on as a very important turning point for the party.

This is a summary of the party-building report and discussion and our perspectives, but it’s also a summation, an assessment of the conference as a whole. It’s been a packed six days and still there was not enough time. (Perhaps we need an extension for a day – anybody want to move that?)

Trish C will be giving a report on the overall statistics and registrations of the conference after this, but I always try and keep my own tally of the discussion and the contributions in the discussion. Over the six days so far, there’s been 204 comrades’ contributions in the discussion, more than 45% of those by women comrades. And many of us might feel physically exhausted from it, especially those who found the time to engage in a soccer game every day, or the late night party goers around the pool, but we will all leave here mentally and politically rejuvenated.

And what an immense amount we’ve achieved! There’s theoretical advances and gains in our understanding that we have achieved – the report on the international capitalist economic crisis; the adoption of the report and Theses on the Class Nature of the People’s Republic of China.

There’s all the political assessments and exchange of experiences of our work, on the Australian political situation, on our trade union work, our women’s liberation work, our anti-nuclear work, our student work, our high school work, our election campaigns and so on.

Then there are the plans for the implementation of our work, the detailed discussion in fractions and meetings.

There are the debates we’ve had over perspectives. We’re a pretty homogenous party, we haven’t had many differences in recent years. You know, an outsider coming along would think “god, this is flat, everybody agrees with these perspectives”, and so sometimes we look forward to having a hammer-and-tongs debate, and it is really good. I’m not advocating that comrades come up with weird views just to have a debate, but there is a lot of value in a sharp debate, and the sharp debate over our student work was extremely valuable for us.

Certainly, it led to greater clarity on our work there and extending into other aspects of our political work, it led to much greater clarity and confidence. It also demonstrated to me, and I think to all the others who were observing and didn’t actually participate in that debate, the confidence and capabilities of our young comrades who are leading our work.

Then there are all the organisational and party-building tasks that we outlined and refined. We enter the new year better organised, we start our fighting fund with a magnificent $86,000.

There are all the educational needs we addressed at this conference. We crammed in many talks and classes. I haven’t received reports from all, but the feedback I have so far is that they were extremely useful.

Finally, last but not least at this conference, we’ve achieved an international strengthening – the discussion and planning of our international solidarity; the inspiring presence and participation of representatives of our fraternal parties; the instructive and uplifting talks and greetings that they brought and the proposals for concrete collaboration, taking the process of socialist renewal to a new stage. All these results for our international work as we go forward from this conference are extremely important.

And there was much more that we achieved and experienced – meeting up with new comrades, renewing old friendships and acquaintances; having fun and sending ourselves up and sending the system up more. All that has always been an essential part of our conferences.

At our conferences we achieve so much, but that’s how we operate as a party. We’re a small party and we achieve so much, we do so much. For our small size, our friends and our opponents marvel at it. “How do you do it? How do you produce a paper like that every week? How do you produce Links? How do you do all the interventions? How have you built such a strong party and you’re still so small?”

And we’re fairly open about our size, although it blows people away when they sometimes meet up with us for the first time, as was the case with the Japanese Communist Party when they came here in April, they couldn’t quite believe it.

How do we do it all? Can we do it? Are we overloaded? No. Our answer from this conference is, No!

The conference has to an extent relived the past year, we’ve gone through it – and what a year! A number of comrades have hammered off “this is what we’ve done, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang”, and it does blow you away. We’ve listed it and added up all the things we’ve done and all the things we’ve achieved. And were there things we shouldn’t have done? No. We learned through them all; we gained through many.

Resources and priorities

But it has been an issue underneath sometimes, a stated worry or an unstated worry, as in the student work debate. Do we have enough resources, are we using our resources effectively enough? The student debate was the most intense on this, but it was useful, even inspiring, and that debate helped focus our thinking and led to greater clarity. It demonstrated the strength of our new developing youth leadership.

But the resources question, the priorities question, which underlay some of the contributions in the student work debate is really at the core of what we are presenting to the conference as a whole and how we’re aiming to integrate it all in the party-building perspectives report. We’re proposing to maximise our resources through almost every section of the report:

  • To increase our resources through spreading the responsibilities, the whole question of the smaller units, which we’ve discussed at past NC meetings and at this conference.
  • To increase the leadership strength, through having our youth cadre take more leadership responsibility.
  • To make more efficient use of our time, our energy and our resources, by raising our socialist profile, doing things in our own name, and that also helps with the educational process, it all feeds back into each area.
  • To increase the resources available through strengthening ourselves organisationally, with a stronger financial base.
  • To intensify our educational work, to get more from our cadres and to retain them for the long haul.
  • To continue our engagement in the varied campaigns, to learn more, to get training in more practical ways, to have a rounded education.

Even our proposals for international work have an element of maximising our resources, sharing the load. And of course we know the role, the essential role of Green Left Weekly in integrating all of our work.

The interconnection of all our party-building tasks has to be fully appreciated. And the integration of our political and organisational work has to be hammered home once again as well.

I’m not saying choose, select, though of course we do that all the time, in every situation, but our aim this year is to do the lot, to achieve all the tasks and all the perspectives we have set ourselves. Small branches, of course, they do have to select, they do have to prioritise, but nationally, as a whole, we are implementing all these perspectives, all these ambitious projections that we’ve set. They’re integrated and they’re connected.

Leading and educating

Also, it’s an assessment of the period. There has been a change, that’s what we’ve said, there has been a change in that advances are possible. We have to lead, we can’t avoid leading in this period and we’re going to continue to lead in this period. It’s not a “circle the wagons” type of period, we are moving forward on all fronts.

However, sometimes we have to, as individuals, do a sort of individual circling of the wagons, to take time to read, to study, to write, to go to the party school, as some comrades will be doing immediately after this conference. Education, reading, study, should be an ongoing, essential component of every comrade’s political life. We can’t sacrifice this, but we also reaffirm and stress the interconnection of our interventions and our political work and our education work.

We learn so much from our real political interventions, our engagement in the anti-nuclear campaign, in the anti-racist work. It forces us to develop a clearer understanding via debates with others and debates inside the party. Our ongoing need to address current politics – and we are so much more engaged in current politics than we’ve ever been – forces us to delve back into our theory and into the history of our movement, the history of the working class movement.

Our discussion on China and the need to take a clearer position on what exactly is the class nature of the state in China forces us to read, to study the whole revolutionary history of the Chinese Communist Party, and also to delve back and discuss, to read about revolutions this century.

Our assessment of the international capitalist economic crisis that is spreading should force us, and it’s forced some of us but not enough of us, and inspire us to read, to re-read Marx and Lenin and Mandel, to get a better understanding of how this rotten system works.

It is a question of time, yes, but directed reading and study is a help to our day-to-day work. Also, educational reading should be counterposed to submitting yourself to drowning in the crap. Reading, learning, studying history and the Marxist classics can be relaxing and rejuvenating.

There’s a lively, exciting political discussion ahead of us. The Activist is open, as we mentioned in the report, on theoretical and historical questions and for conveying comrades’ experiences in activity. There’s an international discussion that we’ll be part of, firstly with our closest collaborators and also with the wider socialist network we’re in contact with. Our views on China, our Theses, our reports and articles will be studied keenly. The discussion in Links is going to get much more constructive and engage more with other forces.

At the June National Committee meeting, we’ve indicated we want to have a special report on the elections, I think we’ll have a special report on our international work too, because that is going ahead at quite a pace.

Listening to the conference discussion and seeing, looking at the comrades assembled here, the actual new young cadres, you have to feel the absolute need to emphasise the importance of youth leadership and responsibility, the centrality of that in our party in the past and even more so in the period ahead.

We have talked a bit about a transition of leadership, but thinking it over, I think that’s the wrong word that we’ve used from the past and we don’t need to use it now, because none of us should be thinking about retiring. But what we are doing is expanding the leadership through all these excellent comrades coming on and taking responsibility, taking hold of the reins, so that we can achieve more.

So we’ve got to do all that we can to ensure that all the youth comrades, all the new young leaders of the party feel that they do own the party and can fully participate and lead. And again, you can note that higher level of confidence and youth leadership experience that we’ve seen reflected in this conference through comrades’ experiences and activity. Most exciting, we see the talent and the commitment of the even younger layer of our high school comrades, 17 years old, 16, 15, 14, 13, already they’re confident and experienced leaders. Imagine these comrades getting another year’s experience under their belt in a whole range of struggles. Another two years and our 15-year-old comrades will be very experienced comrades indeed.

I’d like to reinforce once again the points that were made in the report and in the discussion about the importance of smaller units, and I endorse the pleas from some smaller branches, or some nuclei not yet branches. Consider, comrades, can you transfer? Are you in a position to go there and help strengthen those smaller branches, those smaller units?

And I endorse Peter Boyle’s point, yes, we need almost a levy, because we can see the potential gains for the party nationally and for all the comrades involved who take on those wider and harder responsibilities. Just as an example, in Rockhampton, Brett K was there on his own, now there are three of them within a year. Imagine if we could extend that to the whole of the party, if everyone of us recruited two more, that would solve so many problems, that would make us so much stronger. We’d be very confident of achieving all the tasks we have ahead of us, and more, we’d be very confident of making a socialist revolution.


Well, this was a very internationalist conference. That was a key aspect of the conference, and we’ll look back on it as an important turning point in our international work. In the discussion of the party- building report, comrades didn’t take up any assessment of Militant or our CWI experiences. Perhaps that’s correct, that’s behind us, we’re in a totally new period now. But there also was hardly any discussion on the important new stage in international renewal and collaboration either. There was little discussion, but I don’t think that meant comrades weren’t inspired and confident of the course we’re embarked on here.

We should fully grasp the significance of this, of what we have done with this conference. It could be seen as historic to future generations in the party. In a way what we’re doing is just recognising some of the actual international work we’ve been doing, but it is correct in a way to also talk about it as getting to a new stage of the renewal process.

In the coming months, we and our close collaborators will be working on drafting a document. There’ll be many drafts, many exchanges, many emails going back and forth, and that will be good for all of us, educational and strengthening for all of us.

We’ll be attending different conferences and meetings. We’ll be going to Europe, going to Pakistan, the Manila comrades will have their congress, we’ll be doing more work with the PRD.

We’ll be doing joint publishing projects.

We plan to have the next issue of Links out by the end of April and it will be coming out regularly, there’s so much to put in it, so much of our international work that has to be reflected in that next issue of Links.

And we’ll see the results of this international work very clearly. Certainly, others on the left here and internationally are going to be remarking on it and going to take note. As I said, we’d like to project a report on our international work at our next NC meeting.

I’d like to stress the two aspects again of our international work which has been a feature that we’ve put in a number of reports at NCs and conferences about what we’re trying to do in this period. We’re trying to reach out and at the same time, we’re trying to engage in a process of discussion and clarification. And the document we’ve projected helps with both those aspects and bridges the two. We are going to continue to bring together a closer and more extensive network of socialist parties in the region, and we’ve taken wonderful steps at this gathering. And we will be taking it in a more concrete form in some of the discussions with parties that are here immediately after the conference.

But at the same time we want to be able to continue to do all the broad reachout work we have been doing in the ‘90s. We don’t want to replace that. So in a sense it is not a new stage but we have got a new element on top of that, perhaps stage isn’t quite the right word. What we want to do with this international work is collectively, with our closest collaborators, to involve more in our network of close collaborators. We want to share out the tasks, the range of tasks, on the international front reaching out to new forces helping break down old sectarian ways of relating between socialist parties. We want to share a range of projects and sometimes that can be a useful division of labour.

We want to share and collaborate in the coordination of international solidarity, especially solidarity with the Indonesian revolution. Here Resistance and the DSP in 1999 have to allocate resources up and down the line for ASIET and Indonesia solidarity work: to mobilise our own comrades; to mobilise more ASIET activities and activists; and also to recruit and educate with our socialist perspective from that milieu.

All set to grow

Nine key points were reaffirmed in the conclusion of this report. Many of those points have been strengthened or received confirmation or benefited from further good ideas during the course of discussion:

  • On Green Left Weekly there were many excellent ideas;
  • On our youth leadership, I think that was very clear through the student discussion;
  • Responsibility through organising more units, I think the discussion and understanding of the need for that was strengthened;
  • Marxist education was stressed many times during the conference;
  • Our publications project has received a further boost with the possibility of a joint publishing program with comrades in Pakistan and elsewhere;
  • The possibilities and the need for socialist leadership were reinforced;
  • Experiences from our election work were generalised;
  • The next stages in the international renewal processes have been set out clearly;
  • And finally there were ideas about and further recognition of the centrality of recruiting, the absolute importance of recruiting, the absolute importance of the party growing in the year or two ahead. That is our goal in 1999 and the year 2000, we want a qualitatively bigger party. In those next two years, so that for the next conference we can come here and say we have broken through. We have been at roughly the same size for such a long time; this period marked that breakthrough.

All the elements are in place: the objective situation in Australia and internationally; we know what to do; and also our infrastructure our organisational strength is there. We are doing most things right and as a result of that we are in a position to grow.

But let’s do it. Let’s take that final step. Let’s build our bases and let’s grow. So that we have got more units at the end of these two years. So that we consolidate our Resistance profile and recruit that milieu. So that our nuclei become branches. So that our high school recruits and contacts consolidate into Resistance members. So that our Resistance comrades all join the party. So that our periphery is consolidated into more DSP members and into more Green Left Weekly subscribers.

We go from here reinspired, rejuvenated with greater clarity and determination. We have prepared ourselves for the coming two years, building on the fantastic experience of 1998. I’m convinced that we will reap all the benefits of our work in this past year and in our previous years, and that we do have a fantastic period of growth and success ahead of us in all political spheres.

The Activist was as the internal discussion bulletin of the Democratic Socialist Party