Report on the Draft Perspectives Resolution

The Activist - Volume 6, Number 11, 1996
By Doug Lorimer

[The following report was presented to the October 5-7, 1996 National Committee plenum.]

The National Executive's draft perspectives resolution has two major elements to it. The first part of the resolution presents an analysis of the Australian political situation, focusing in particular on why there has not been a generalised fight back by the working class against the Howard government's Thatcherite offensive. The second part concerns the party-building perspectives and main tasks for the party that flow from the Australian political situation and from the stage we are at in building a revolutionary workers' party.

Much of the material in the National Executive's draft perspectives resolution is based on reports discussed and adopted by previous National Committee meetings. The political analysis and line contained in the resolution has already been presented in the reports discussed and voted on at this plenum. So this report will not deal with these. Rather it will explain the nature and purpose of the draft resolution.

The main purpose of the resolution is to propose a political line to guide the party's work over the next one to two years; that is, between the party's 17th National Conference in January next year and our 18th National Conference – which must be held no later than January 1999.

The resolution is aimed at providing a clear focus for the pre-conference discussion and for achieving maximum clarity within the party on what our line and party-building perspectives should be in the coming period. The resolution has therefore been deliberately written to draw out the major elements of our analysis and perspectives as simply and briefly as possible.

This is a departure from our past practice. Past conference resolutions on the political situation and our perspectives and tasks have been much longer documents, which tended to restate many of our programmatic positions and our general analysis of world and Australian politics. In part, this was a hangover from the traditions of our Trotskyist past: the Trotskyist parties generally don't have a complete program, a single document which presents their general analysis of the conditions, line of march and tasks of the proletariat's struggle for socialism. Each congress's or conference's main resolution must therefore not only provide an analysis of the current political situation and set out the main party-building perspectives and tasks for the coming period, but restate many of the party's programmatic positions (usually reaffirming adherence to the 1938 Transitional Program). This resolution assumes a knowledge of the general analysis of the world economic and political situation, and of Australian society and politics, contained in the party's Program.

Past resolutions on the political situatiuon and our perspectives have also been written with the intention explaining our views to contacts and sympathisers. The result is a resolution that has a lot of historical detail, explanatory material and argumentation in it, as well as being very general about our party-building perspectives.

This resolution is not intended to explain and popularise the broad range of our views to our contacts and sympathisers. It is intended for the pre-conference discussion and vote by party members prior to the election of conference delegates, and for vote at the party conference.

It is therefore written to be comprehensible to the great majority of the party's membership. The great majority of party members did not join last week and have more than a new member's knowledge about the party's programmatic positions, our previous analyses and perspectives. Where new members do not understand things in the resolution, these should be explained by more experienced comrades during the pre-conference discussion. That's one of the reasons why we have an extensive period of pre-conference discussion.

Of course, educating new members in our programmatic positions and history is not the main purpose of the pre-conference discussion. Its central purpose is to enable the party to achieve the maximum clarity and agreement on our line and perspectives before we elect delegates to the party conference.

At our last party conference, held in January 1995, we did not have a perspectives resolution. Our general line and party-building perspectives had been decided a year earlier, at our 15th National Conference, where we also adopted a resolution on ``The Capitalist Austerity Drive and the Current Tasks of the DSP,'' as well as a revised version of the party's program. The central issue facing our 16th National Conference, held two years ago, was whether or not to reaffirm our strategic perspective of building a revolutionary cadre party as well as our tactical orientation toward newly radicalising youth – both of which had come under challenge from a minority based in the Perth branch.

The key task facing our 17th National Conference is to decide what the change from 13 years of Labor government to an overtly Thatcherite Liberal-National Coalition government means for our party-building tactics. This is the central question that the draft perspectives resolution seeks to answer.

The National Executive is not proposing that the resolution be included in a platform to be presented by the NC as the basis for election of conference delegates. Indeed, we are not proposing that the NC issue a platform. Instead, we recommend that the NC authorise the National Executive to issue a platform closer to the date when delegates must be elected. The NE feels that it is too early in the pre-conference discussion focus to decide what should constitute the political basis for the election of conference delegates. However, the National Executive does propose that the National Committee approve the draft perspectives resolution for submission for vote by all members in the branches prior to the election of conference delegates and for vote by the delegates at the party conference. In doing so we are foreshadowing that this draft perspectives resolution, if approved by the NC, will constitute the core of any platform issued by the National Executive.

In discussing and voting on the draft resolution, comrades should bear in mind that we are seeking clarity on and agreement with the general line of the political analysis and party-building perspectives set out in the resolution, not with the formulation of every particular sentence. Of course, comrades who agree with the general line of the draft resolution may think that a change in the formulation of a particular point in the resolution will help achieve greater clarity on that point. Or, comrades may think that additional points need to be included in the draft resolution to clarify its general line. These are legitimate grounds for proposing amendments. However, comrades who disagree with the general line of this resolution should present a counter-resolution, rather than propose amendments to this draft resolution.

  • The Election of the Howard Government and the Perspectives of the DSP
  • National Committee Draft Perspectives Resolution for the 17th DSP National Conference

What the Coalition victory means

1. The election of the Howard Liberal-National Party Coalition government on March 2, 1996 reflected growing discontent within the working class, particularly among its lower-paid, less secure sections, with 13 years of ALP-imposed austerity measures.

Howard's charge that the Labor government had served the "sectional interests" of "minorities" at the expense of "the battlers" (read: white, Australian-born workers and petty proprietors) struck a chord with many white, Australian-born workers, resentful at the erosion of their living standards by the ALP.

2. The massive majority of seats won by the Coalition in the House of Representatives led to a consensus within the ruling class that it was politically possible to sharply intensify the austerity drive against the working class as a whole through the implementation of a directly Thatcherite agenda of:

  • massive cuts to social welfare and education;
  • large-scale reductions of employment in the Australian Public Service;
  • acceleration and extension of Labor's program of privatisation of public services, and;
  • structurally weakening the trade unions through the introduction of harsh new anti-union laws, erosion of the award system and promotion of individual workplace contracts.

The ruling class correctly judged that acceptance of the ideological justifications for neo-liberal policies and the capitalist austerity drive by the ALP leaderships of organised labour and the other social movements, combined with 13 years of institutionalised class-collaboration between these leaderships and the Labor government, had significantly improved the prospects for implementing such policies without immediately provoking a militant fight back from the working class as a whole, or any significant section of it. This assessment was strengthened by the role of the ALP in containing and defusing a potentially powerful fight back by organised labour in Victoria in 1993 that was in response to the implementation of a similar Thatcherite program by the Kennett state Coalition government.

Bi-partisan foreign policy

3. In the field of foreign policy the Howard government has continued the drive initiated by the Labor government to seek privileged access for Australian capital to the markets, sources of raw materials and cheap labour of the countries of South-East Asia by forging a close relationship with the repressive pro-imperialist governments of the region. Like its Labor predecessor, the Coalition government has laid special emphasis on cementing its political, military and economic alliance with the Suharto autocracy in Indonesia, at the expense of the democratic movement in Indonesia and the national liberation movement in East Timor.

The Howard government has also reaffirmed Labor's policy of maintaining close military cooperation with the United States. While the Coalition has presented its support for the US-Australia imperialist military alliance more aggressively than the Keating Labor government, this policy enjoys the bi-partisan support of both major capitalist parties. This was dramatically illustrated by the uncritical endorsement of Washington's September 3-4 military attacks on Iraq by both the Coalition government and the ALP "Opposition."

Right-wing ideological offensive

4. Having concealed key elements of its Thatcherite agenda from the electorate, particularly its goal of massively reducing and privatising major parts of the public social welfare system, the Coalition has accompanied the implementation of its policies with an ideological offensive aimed at creating the political climate for acceptance of its agenda by the majority of the population.

With the active support of the capitalist media, the Coalition has sought to create a popular consensus for its general policy initiatives by arguing that "everyone" has to make sacrifices in order to reduce a "black hole" in the federal budget, inherited from the Labor government.

The initial success of this enterprise is illustrated by the fact that while substantial majorities express their opposition to particular spending cutbacks announced by the government, this opposition is passive and goes hand in hand with majority acceptance of the government and the capitalist media's claim that the budget cutbacks have been "fair."

In order to limit solidarity within the working class as a whole for those sections of the population that will bear the brunt of the Coalition's expenditure cutbacks – the unemployed, immigrant workers, Aborigines, tertiary students, retired workers – the Howard government and the capitalist media manufactured scandals about "welfare cheats" and retailed unsubstantiated allegations of corruption in ATSIC.

5. The ability of the Howard government to obtain public acquiescence to its attack on tertiary education and social welfare programs has been enhanced by:

  1. The inability of the ALP to offer any alternative to reducing the budget deficit such as increasing taxes on the banks, big corporations and their wealthy owners.
  2. The failure of the ALP to mount an ideological counter-offensive to the government's arguments, since it shares the Coalition's profits-first policy framework.
  3. The promotion by major sections of the capitalist media of the nakedly national chauvinist and racist views of ex-Liberal Party member Pauline Hanson. Neither the Coalition nor the ALP have vigorously opposed Hanson's views. To the contrary, Howard himself has given them backhanded endorsement by claiming that this shows his government has created a climate in which "people can talk about certain things without living in fear of being branded as a bigot or as a racist."
  4. The lack of any credible voice with mass influence to publicly challenge the general framework of the government's neo-liberal austerity program. The ALP, the Australian Democrats and the ACTU have confined their "opposition" to complaints that the Howard government's measures are "too harsh" and its cuts to spending are "too deep." They have not voiced fundamental opposition to the general direction of the government's policies. While the two Green senators have voiced such opposition, they are totally dependent upon a hostile capitalist media to get their views known to a mass audience, and have consequently been marginalised in the public debate.

6. Where the most potential for active resistance to the Howard government's policies exists – among higher education staff and students, among APS employees, and within the union movement as a whole – it has sought to limit this resistance by:

  1. Appealing to the prevalence of opportunist tendencies within the working class, i.e., to the willingness of most unionists to sacrifice the long-term interests of the working class as a whole to the short-term interests of a minority of workers. For example, by offering voluntary redundancy packages the government won active acceptance among a significant minority of CPSU members for its cuts in APS staffing levels, ideologically disarmed and disoriented a majority of CPSU members, and provided an excuse to the CPSU bureaucracy to avoid organising a serious, APS-wide campaign of industrial action against the job losses.
  2. Promoting the idea that individual workers can achieve more in terms of wage rises through direct negotiations and individual contracts with employers than they can through the trade unions. This appeal strikes a chord with substantial numbers of workers, both non-unionised and unionised, due to the widespread disenchantment with the trade unions as a result of 13 years of collaboration by ALP union officials with the Labor government's erosion of real wages and working conditions and the accompanying class-collaborationist line promoted by the labour bureaucracy, i.e., that workers will be better off if capital and labour work together as "partners" rather than struggle against each other as adversaries.
  3. Appealing to the widespread acceptance of neo-liberal ideological nostrums that "the market" is the most effective and lowest cost means of delivering all goods and services, that privatisation of social services offers greater "choice" to "consumers," and that users of public services should be expected to individually pay for all or at least a substantial part of them. The promotion of these neo-liberal arguments by the ALP while it was in government has made it easier for the Coalition to win public acceptance for its policies, many of which, like the increase in HECS and the universal application of up-front fees for post-graduate courses or the raising of public housing rents to market levels, are simply extensions of measures introduced or planned by the Labor government.
  4. Appealing to patriotic sentiments and respect for bourgeois legality. In the wake of the August 19 events at Parliament House in Canberra, government ministers sought to discourage the unions from holding any further protest rallies by claiming the ACTU organised a "riot" on August 19, and that such events are "un-Australian."

The ALP's response

7. The ALP's response to the Howard government's Thatcherite offensive has been crucial to the government's ability to contain and fragment resistance by the unions and other social movements. In order to regain electoral credibility with those who will be the victims of the government's offensive, the parliamentary Labor Party (PLP) has voiced its opposition to the harshest of the government's measures. But by affirming its support for the austerity program implemented by the Hawke and Keating Labor governments and rejecting the idea that it should vote against the Howard government's first budget, the PLP has assured big capital that it agrees with the general framework of the Coalition government's agenda of neo-liberal austerity measures.

8. The main line of the PLP's criticisms of the Howard government is purely tactical, and pitched toward rewinning the support of the ruling class and its media; that is, the Coalition's means of implementing the capitalist austerity drive will provoke "industrial unrest," and that this can be avoided through the re-election of a Labor government armed with some form of class-collaborationist pact with the unions.

To make this argument credible to the ruling class, the PLP must distance itself from industrial action taken by the unions and at the same time enter into another Accord-type agreement with them. Furthermore, for the ruling class to seriously consider supporting the return of a class-collaborationist Labor government there would have to be an upsurge of industrial struggle that is sufficiently costly to the capitalists to make them lose confidence in the Howard government's Thatcherite approach, but which does not lead to the pro-ALP class-collaborationist union bureaucracy losing control over organised labour.

However, 13 years of institutionalised class-collaboration with the government and the employers have led to a massive erosion of class-struggle consciousness and mobilising capacity within the unions. The union bureaucracy knows that any sustained campaign of industrial action will require the emergence of a significant layer of class-struggle militants within the union structures – a development that could pose a serious challenge to its control over the unions.

Response of the trade-union officialdom

9. The response of the ACTU leadership to the election of the Howard government has been a combination of rhetorical bravado, appeals to employers to continue with the arrangements and class-collaborationist practices built up during the Accord years, and a campaign to lobby the Democrat senators to amend sections of the government's Workplace Relations Bill.

As part of this lobbying exercise, the ACTU organised highly stage-managed public protest rallies on August 19. The Canberra rally escaped the control of the ACTU leaders and the police brutally attacked an attempt by the majority of demonstrators, led by organisers from the CFMEU and militant Aborigines, to enter the Parliament building. In response to the torrent of media vilification heaped on the attempted occupation, the ACTU leaders set out to dissociate themselves from this action by demonstrating their craven servility to bourgeois legality, publicly condemning the occupation attempt and informing on the CFMEU organisers to the police.

10. There is no motion by any significant layer of officials away from the general framework of class-collaborationist politics that has dominated the trade-union movement throughout this century. The trade-union officialdom is overwhelmingly composed of self-seeking careerists who view the interests of capital and labour as fundamentally harmonious, not antagonistic. The political and economic policies advocated by the class-collaborationist current in the union officialdom seek to promote the expansion of Australian capital at home and abroad, while trying to ensure that their social base within the working class – a minority of relatively privileged workers – are cushioned from the capitalist austerity drive.

Today the domination of the class-collaborationists within the union officialdom has reached the point of almost total monopoly. During the 13 years of Labor government the minority of union officials who based themselves on the spontaneous class-struggle sentiments and traditions of the union movement were either absorbed into the class-collaborationist bureaucracy or, as was the case with the leadership of the Builders Labourers Federation, lost their official positions through union-busting operations conducted by the government and the ACTU.

11. The Howard government's Thatcherite attack on the union movement, which aims to remove the legal support it has enjoyed under the arbitration system and thus accelerate the decline in union coverage that the ACTU's class-collaborationist Accord with the Labor government initiated, has led to tactical divisions within the union bureaucracy.

The Howard government's anti-labour offensive not only runs counter to the general interests of the working class as a whole, but also to the immediate economic interests of many of the relatively better-off workers. Some sections of the union bureaucracy are fearful that failure to resist the Coalition's attacks may make them vulnerable to electoral challenges. They are therefore willing to countenance militant industrial action so as to increase pressure on the government and the bosses to make some accommodation with their particular unions. Most of the union bureaucracy, however, is hostile to anything but the most token and sporadic use of industrial action. They fear that any sustained battle with the employers will weaken their own positions by encouraging the emergence of class-struggle tendencies within the union ranks.

Despite such tactical differentiations there is hardly even a crack in the solid wall of class-collaborationist politics behind which the national officialdom of the trade-union movement hides from real battle with the employers and their governments.

Pervasiveness of bourgeois electoralism

12. The trade unions remain the most powerful organisations of the oppressed. The refusal of the labour bureaucracy to mobilise the power of the unions to resist the Howard government's offensive against working people – and the attacks of the Labor government before it – has weakened the ability of other social movements to fight back. But the most serious obstacle to building a fight back within all the social movements is the pervasiveness of bourgeois electoralism among the leaderships of these movements.

Promotion of bourgeois electoralism is one of the prominent aspects of class-collaborationism practised by the union bureaucracy. The bourgeois electoralist orientation of the class-collaborationists within the trade-union and other social movements is crystallised in their support for liberal bourgeois parties such as the ALP and the Australian Democrats or middle-class left-liberal electoral formations like the Greens. However, this is only the most obvious manifestation of their bourgeois electoralist approach to politics.

The class-collaborationists reinforce the hold of electoralist illusions on the workers. They do not explain that the relationship of class forces – which is decided by the clash of class forces in the workplaces, in the streets, and on the battlefields of war – determines what the bourgeois politicians must respond to. Instead, they preach that bourgeois elections and lobbying bourgeois politicians are what politics is all about. When all is said and done, they argue, what determines the course of the government and the society is which politicians are elected.

As a result, the class-collaborationists present the political importance of the unions, other organisations of the oppressed and mass actions primarily in their ability to help elect those parliamentary candidates most likely to promise concessions to working people. The organisations of the oppressed are reduced to pressure groups on those holding or seeking public office. Invariably this leads to the aims and actions of the organisations of the oppressed being subordinated to the electoral needs of the bourgeois politicians they seek to curry favor with.

13. Over the last 13 years the bourgeois electoralism of the class-collaborationist leaderships of the environment, Aboriginal, and feminist movements led them to become increasingly dependent upon the financial support and political patronage of the ALP government, and to be absorbed into the bureaucratic structures of the capitalist state. With the change of government, the liberal middle-class lawyers, academics and professional lobbyists that Labor flattered and promoted as the leaders of these movements now find their ability to influence government policy dependent upon hostile conservative ministers. Incapable of breaking with their lobbyist orientation, these leaders have proved to be impotent in leading any organised public resistance to the Howard government's attacks upon the causes they claim to represent.

The student movement has mounted some resistance to the government's attacks, with several relatively large nationally coordinated rallies in the lead-up to the Howard government's first budget. However, the ALP-led peak student organisation's orientation toward lobbying government ministers during the years when Labor was in office has eroded the continuity of organising skills within the student movement, limiting its capacity to mobilise university students against the Coalition's attacks. And where they have not engaged in outright sabotage of the efforts of campus activists, the ALP officers of SRCs and the National Union of Students have failed to throw the resources at their disposal into building and helping to nationally coordinate the campus-based activist committees that are the most effective organising vehicles for a sustained fight back.

The class-struggle alternative

14. Independent mass political action is the alternative to the class-collaborationists' course of subordinating the interests of working people to the framework of class-collaboration and bourgeois electoralism. Independent mass political action is not an electoral strategy. Rather, it is a strategy to advance the self-organisation and collective mobilisation of the ranks of the working class and its potential allies (students, small farmers, middle-class professionals) in struggle in the workplaces, schools and universities; in the streets; and in the electoral arena. This consistent class-struggle course can be followed only by breaking with the illusion peddled by the ruling class and its labour lieutenants that the problems confronting working people can be resolved through the bourgeois electoral system.

In Australia today the number of workers and students who consciously adhere to and advocate a consistent class-struggle strategy of independent mass action are a tiny minority, most of whom are organised in the Democratic Socialist Party.

15. While we are the largest group on the left, the small size of our organisation reflects an objective fact about the level of development of political consciousness among the workers and students of this country; that is, while the broad masses are discontented with the direction society is headed in, nervous about the future and alienated from official bourgeois politics, they remain politically inert and ideologically enslaved by the bourgeoisie. This fact cannot be overcome by the subjective actions of a few hundred revolutionary-minded militants.

We are too small to alter the course of the class struggle directly. We cannot call into being massive street marches or a gigantic strike wave. What we can do, and what we must do, is respond to events and work within the alignment of class forces that confronts us with the goal of strengthening our Marxist cadre force.

Our tactical orientation

16. Strengthening our organised nucleus of Marxist cadres has been the central task facing us since the founding of our party a quarter of a century ago, and there are no tactical rules on the ways and means to accomplish this. What tactics are best employed to achieve this strategic task depend upon:

  • The objective stage of the class struggle.
  • The social forces in motion.
  • The degree of radicalisation or conservatism of the working class and its potential allies.
  • The size and experience of our own forces.

Many different tactics have been used in the history of our movement: fraction work inside the ALP, entries into broad left-ward moving formations, regroupments and fusions with other organised socialist forces, etc. In the late 1980s and early '90s, for example, we explored to the full the possibilities of a regroupment into a broader left-wing party first with the Communist Party, then with the Socialist Party, and finally with the Greens. None of these attempts came to fruition: the CPA turned away from the unity process and dissolved itself; the SPA reaffirmed its sterile Stalinist dogmas; and the Greens decided to exclude organised socialists from their ranks in order to more easily pursue their goal of competing with the Democrats for the support of liberal middle-class voters.

17. Today our tactical orientation is to directly recruit to our tendency newly radicalising youth and to transform them, through education in Marxist theory and practical experience in the mass movement, into professional revolutionary propagandists, agitators and organisers. While the broad masses remain politically apathetic, inert and imbued with bourgeois ideology, the deepening social and ecological problems generated by capitalism and the declining prospects for future generations of workers continue to generate a radicalised layer in high schools and on university campuses who are receptive not only to revolutionary socialist ideas but to becoming activists in the revolutionary socialist movement. Central to our ability of recruit these radicalising youth is the party's close collaboration with and active support for Resistance.

Main tasks of the party

18. We can expect the opportunities to win university students to the revolutionary movement will be increased by the Howard government's cutbacks to higher education funding and its drive to force students to pay higher HECS charges and up-front postgraduate fees. Our main task among campus students in the coming period is to gain important bases of members and political influence on at least one university campus in each city where we have a party branch, to consolidate these bases, and to make ourselves the main left-wing force on those campuses.

19. Since our last national conference we have recruited a number of high-school activists and in several cities we have established a broad, but loose, periphery in this arena. The main task of our work among high-school students is to consolidate the membership gains we have already made, to organise a national network of high-school student activists that is able to conduct on-going political work within the schools, and to achieve the not impossible task of making Resistance the leading political force among radicalising high-school students.

20. In the coming period our main task in the unions is to establish ourselves as the leading component of a broadly based current of class-struggle militants in the Community and Public Sector Union, where we have our largest concentration of members. Already, our initiatives in presenting a realistic perspective of resistance to the Howard government's attacks on APS workers have inspired a layer of hitherto silent militants to reject the capitulationist policy of the class-collaborationist leadership of the CPSU. Key to transforming the pockets of spontaneous class-struggle sentiment within the CPSU ranks into an organised current is increasing the numbers of conscious class-struggle activists in the union. Expansion of our national CPSU fraction through further colonisation and, most importantly, through recruiting the best of the existing militants in the CPSU to our ranks is a priority for the party in the coming period.

Another, though less central, priority is to give systematic organisation to our work in other unions where we have some concentration of members.

A major weakness for the party's work in the unions is our small representation in relatively more strongly organised "blue-collar" unions such as the CFMEU, the AMWU, and the CEPU. In order to overcome this we must seize every opportunity to conduct solidarity activities with struggles waged by workers in these industries and to develop collaboration with the best militants in the "blue-collar" unions. Patient and systematic work leading to recruitment of TAFE apprentices and trainees will also be key to increasing our representation within these unions.

21. Over the last few years growing public awareness about the repressive nature of the Suharto regime in Indonesia and its brutal occupation of East Timor has increased the potential to draw young people into action in opposition to the Australian ruling class's alliance with the Suharto dictatorship. This potential, however, has been stymied by the lobbyist orientation, narrow focus and conservative perspectives of the leaderships of the traditional East Timor solidarity committees. A major priority for our work in the coming period is to broaden the membership of the network of ASIET committees; to help ASIET increase its influence within the trade unions, on campuses and in the high schools; and, through our own propaganda and our work in ASIET, educate supporters of the East Timorese struggle for national self-determination about the political centrality to this struggle of the movement for democracy in Indonesia.

Propaganda nucleus

22. While our goal is to build a mass revolutionary workers' party capable of leading masses in struggle, we recognise that we are not such a mass party or anything approaching it. We are the propaganda nucleus of such a party. This means that all our activities are propagandistic in their goals, that is, aimed at reaching out to radicalising militants with our ideas and winning them to our ranks. It means that we put priority in our activity, including in the mass movement, on explaining and popularising our ideas through producing and distributing magazines such as Links, a broad range of educational pamphlets and through seeking to win the widest readership that we can for our most effective propaganda tool, Green Left Weekly.

A central task for the party in the coming period is to increase the level of weekly participation of our members in the distribution of Green Left Weekly, to expand the paper's subscription base and increase the political authority of the paper among activists in the trade-union and other social movements, particularly those we are actively working with.

The leadership time and financial resources that go into producing Green Left Weekly, Links and our educational pamphlets are not well spent unless we organise ourselves to put these educational tools to work to increase our collective effectiveness as revolutionary activists. Branch executives should organise to make political discussion and educational work a regular aspect of branch activity. When major line articles on new questions or events appear in Green Left Weekly it should be normal in the party to organise a discussion in the branch. Classes should be organised around articles in Links and around the educational pamphlets produced by the party. This will also help the party make more effective use of the national resources we devote to the production of these educational materials.

23. While we are too small to directly alter the objective political situation by calling into being mass struggles, this does not mean that our role is limited to commenting on events from the side-lines. We can initiate modest-sized actions that can set an example to broader forces of how to struggle. Where these actions raise issues and demands that connect with the concerns and sentiments of the broad masses they can have an impact on the class struggle by forcing the labour bureaucracy, the capitalist media and the bourgeois parties to address these issues and concerns.

Moreover, the majority of radicalising workers and students will only be won to a class-struggle perspective as a result of their exposure to Marxist propaganda drawing out the lessons of their own experiences in struggle. Our propaganda work is therefore most effective if we are actively involved in the mass movement. However, our central goal in the mass movement is to explain, popularise and win support for our ideas, including our ideas about how to advance and win struggles, and to attempt to show in practice the correctness of our ideas by demonstrating our capacities as organisers and leaders of real social and political struggles.

Recognising that we are still at the stage of being a propaganda group and that all our activities have a propagandistic goal is not just a matter of being conscious about the objective limits of what we can do as a party. It is also key to understanding what types of actions are a priority for us. That is, we put a premium on actions – rallies, public meetings, street marches, strikes and strike support activities – that address the issues which are politically central to the tasks and line of march of the working class in its struggle for socialism; that have the potential to draw broader forces into independent mass political action; that, therefore, provide us with opportunities to win radicalising elements to our class-struggle strategy and to recruit, educate and train them as Marxist cadres. And in those actions we put a priority on explaining and popularising our ideas through maximising the distribution of our propaganda tools – leaflets, broadsheets, pamphlets, but above all, Green Left Weekly.

Change in relationship of forces on the left

24. There has been a striking change in the relationship of forces within the radical movement since the last federal Coalition government. Under the Fraser government of the late 1970s the radical movement was dominated by the social-democratic left in the ALP and its allies in the Communist Party. Today there is a partial vacuum on the left, resulting from:

  1. The incapacity of the labour bureaucracy and the various liberal-reformist leaderships of the other social movements to break with bourgeois electoralism.
  2. The collapse of the social-democratic left as an identifiably separate force on the Australian political scene owing to its uncritical support for the Labor government's neo-liberal austerity program and its withdrawal over the last decade from involvement in extraparliamentary struggles to immerse itself in the bureaucratic machine-politics of the ALP.
  3. The destruction of the Communist Party due to its support for the class-collaborationist alliance between the labour bureaucracy and the ALP government.

25. Owing to these circumstances, and the still small size and influence of the revolutionary left, the initial struggles against the Howard government will be disconnected and fragmented instead of being programmatically and organisationally coordinated through the influence of any single leadership.

However, unlike the situation under the Fraser government, these struggles will arise in a context in which we do not have to confront the hegemonic domination of a relatively large pro-ALP left-reformist party. 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.

26. In the wake of the dissolution of the old Communist Party, the organised left consists of ourselves and a range of smaller petty-bourgeois leftist sects, all competing for the allegiance of unaffiliated young radicals. In this context, mobilising broad forces in independent mass political action requires bringing together a diversity of elements in united-front type coalitions aimed at building a broad base for mass action on specific issues directed against the Howard government. Because of our relative strength within the organised left and our understanding of how to apply united-front tactics, our party can play a crucial role in initiating and holding together such united-front type coalitions.

Joint action, however, does not entail the suspension of political differentiation and polemical struggle against our petty-bourgeois leftist opponents. To the contrary, we must be continually on the alert for concrete situations in which to effectively counterpose to their false ideas, positions and methods the proven program and methods of Marxism.

Main themes of our agitational work

27. In the coming period the party's agitational work should be conducted around the following issues and demands:

  • Against the Howard government's cuts to and privatisation of the public sector.

No to the corporatisation of the CES! No privatisation of Telstra! Tax the rich!

  • For the restoration of free tertiary education.

Abolish HECS! Abolish up-front fees! Increase education funding!

  • For full-time jobs at decent wages for everyone seeking full-time employment.

For a 32-hour work week at 40 hours pay! Restore full wage indexation! No discounting of apprentices' and trainees' wages for time spent at TAFE or in on-the-job training! Defend and expand the public sector!

  • For defence of women's rights.

Repeal all anti-abortion laws! Restore and expand government funding of community child-care centres!

  • Against all anti-union laws

. Repeal the Workplace Relations Act!

  • Against the racist attacks on Aborigines and Asian-Australians, and national chauvinism against non-English speaking immigrants.

Restore and expand ATSIC's funding! No racially-discriminatory immigration laws! Paid leave for English-language study classes!

  • For protection of the environment.

Stop all uranium mining! No woodchipping of old-growth forests!

  • Against the Howard government's support for the Suharto dictatorship.

End all military ties with Suharto! Release all Indonesian political prisoners! Free East Timor! Grant asylum to all East Timorese refugees!

The party should be ready to utilise every opportunity to work with other forces to build protest actions around these issues and demands.

28. Agitation around these issues and demands should be supplemented with propaganda for:

  1. The class-struggle strategy of independent mass action, including the need for a mass workers' party that seeks to organise working people to fight for these demands not only in the electoral arena but in the workplaces, universities and schools, and in the streets.
  2. General propaganda explaining that the root cause of the big social problems confronting working people today – unemployment, declining wages and social services, sexism, racism, environmental degradation, etc. – is the capitalist system of production for private profit, and that the fundamental solution to these problems lies in the socialist transformation of Australia.

International collaboration

29. The DSP has always sought to develop collaboration with class-conscious workers in other countries. Our long-term goal is to rebuild a mass revolutionary international. However, we recognise that major progress toward this goal depends on new victories in the class struggle that draw together the proletarian vanguard forces throughout the world. In the meantime, the development of international collaboration between socialists can best be advanced through internationally co-ordinated solidarity actions and through internationally co-ordinated discussions of views and experiences.

In order to help facilitate such discussions, the DSP has initiated and provided leadership and financial resources to the production and circulation of the Links magazine. In the coming period we will seek to consolidate and expand the international circulation of Links, to increase the range of revolutionary organisations involved in the project, and to make greater use of the magazine to promote theoretical and political clarity within the international left.

30. Over the last few years we have developed close collaboration with a new generation of class-conscious workers in Indonesia. Since our last national conference these comrades have established themselves as the vanguard force in the rising worker-student movement for democracy in Indonesia. Partly as a result of this, they are now subject to severe repression from the Suharto autocracy and are forced to work "underground."

Our party has a special responsibility to assist in every way we can the development of the worker-student movement for democracy in Indonesia and its class-conscious vanguard. The Australian ruling class, through the Howard government and the Labor government before it, has forged a strong alliance with the Suharto regime and its military apparatus. This alliance has been driven by the relative weakness of Australian capital in relation to its imperialist competitors. Australian capital's ability to gain privileged access to Indonesia's natural resources, markets and cheap labour and to plunder the oil and natural gas of Indonesian-occupied East Timor is dependent upon the maintenance of a close relationship with an authoritarian regime in Indonesia.

Victories won by the movement for democracy in Indonesia not only help alter the relationship of class forces in Indonesia to the workers' advantage, they also help to weaken Australian capital. Every advance made by the workers in Indonesia in their struggle for democracy directly helps to strengthen the working-class movement in Australia.