Socialist unification in Australia


Bob Gould

After a considerable time of debilitating splits on the far left in Australia, which have taken place in the context of problems presented by new political developments locally and globally, the first significant socialist unification for many years has taken place.

Three groups in the International Socialists tradition, the International Socialist Organisation, Solidarity (a group consisting some people who split from the ISO and Socialist Alternative a few years ago) and the Brisbane-based Socialist Action Group, which split from Socialist Alternative a few years ago, unified at a conference on the weekend of February 2-3.

The united organisation will be known as Solidarity.

I’m reliably informed that the conference proceeded in a serious way with little acrimony.

This reduces the number of IS-tradition groups in Australia to two: Solidarity and the extremely propagandist Socialist Alternative.

The general framework of the common orientation, which was the consensus of the conference, is based on electoral support for the Greens and then Labor under the preferential system and a broader united front tactic towards the ranks of the Greens, the trade unions and the Labor Party.

In my view, this unification is the healthiest development on the far left in Australia for quite a few years in the small world of the far left.



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11 Responses to “Socialist unification in Australia”

  1. Ozleft Says:

    Reposted from Marxmail:

    Once again I’m guilty at biting on Gould’s bait – but really! Some Australian State Cap cloneoids get together and the high priest of bullshit says this is the most significant regroupment development in many years! Guru Bob has only annointed this as big only because DSP evil-doers are not part of the picture.

    Rohan G

  2. rohan home of the horse lords Says:

    Rohan G needs to take his pills, anyway surely this is the most significant left regroupment in Australia for some years because it is the only left regroupment since the Socialist Alliance collapsed into a narrow DSP front group in 2005. Which other left regroupment has taken place in that time?

    (Note: I am a member of this new group).

  3. Wombo Says:

    I think Rohan’s response is perhaps a bit over the top, but then, Bob’s post says “many years”, rather than “some”. It is not a great leap to assume that this is because of Bob’s known antipathy towards the DSP and anything they touch, and not least the Socialist Alliance because no matter how much Bob bad-mouths it, it refuses to go away.

    For what it matters, I think the new unification of SAG, ISO and Solidarity is a very good thing, and a long time coming. I don’t think that the emphasis Bob puts on it is entirely proportionate, however, although time will tell.

    The biggest problem we face here is the fact that Bob, and the various (or I should say “both” now) IST groups continue to peddle the idea that the Socialist Alliance is somehow a DSP “front-group”, that it doesn’t (or barely) exist(s), that the figures that Bob somehow gets hold of are cooked up and that there is some kind of weird conspiracy by the DSP to lie about them (as if we didn’t have better things to do than concoct stats to befuddle Robert J. Gould), etc.

    Perhaps most insulting about this approach is that is ignores, and discounts out of hand, the many independent socialists and activists who make up the majority of the Socialist Alliance, and who in many cases lead it in our campaigns.

    But it is true, no other left regroupment has taken place in that time, and it is certainly worth commenting on. Let’s hope that in the future we can also comment on the healthy collaboration between the new Solidarity and the Socialist Alliance (as well as other, broader forces).

  4. rohan home of the horse lords Says:

    Wombo speaks at least some sense. I happen to have been one of the independent members in the Socialist Alliance at one point.

    I have also seen the statistics that Gould talked about, they clearly point to a massive decline in alliance activity. Unlike Gould though I don’t believe they have been substantially faked for the factional purposes of Peter Boyle. It is likely that in some cases they misrepresent the real situation due to different local leaderships interpreting the category of ‘active members’ differently and due to poor record keeping in some branches. The leaders in these places probably just estimated (optimistically) rather conducting a detailed survey.

    On the whole though the figures point to the Socialist Alliance declining by about 50% since 2004 (numbers of candidates, number of election helpers, number of lealfet distributed, amount of moneys raised and number of votes).

    About 6 months ago I went to a public meeting hosted by the socialist alliance. In attendence was myself and a comrade also in the new Solidarity group. Plus two young recruits to Resistance, one long term non-aligned member of the alliance and 9 long term members of the DSP. Whenever at a demonstration there is a Socialist Alliance contingent I don’t see anyone in it other than the DSP and Resistance (OK occasionally there are some other people in the SA contingent but still overwhelmingly DSP).

    In terms of working with the DSP/SA, well we do do that but I can’t see the difference between the DSP and SA. The DSP members may sometimes identify as SA but are clearly DSP. I few non-DSP SA activists remain but they don’t appear to organise any of their activity via the SA.

    The key is to orientate to the real struggles of the day, and not delude ourselves over the real state of affairs.

  5. Ozleft Says:

    Reposted from Marxmail:

    Bob Gould:

    “The general framework of the common orientation, which was the consensus of the conference, is based on electoral support for the Greens and then Labor …

    In my view, this unification is the healthiest development on the far left in Australia for quite a few years…”

    Why doesn’t this surprise me?



  6. Ozleft Says:

    Seems to be a bit of whistling in the dark going on over at Green Left.

    Routine comments about what a good thing the unification is, followed by attempts to dismiss the new group.

    The Green Left posters seem to be citing a figure of 35 for ISO nationally when it’s fairly obvious ISO has more than that just in Melbourne, and has others in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane and Canberra.

  7. Duz Says:

    The 35 figure was quoted to me by a member of the new organisation as what the ISO itself claimed (and he was skeptical that it was even that much). I’m not whistling (actually, I can’t whistle, as a matter of fact).

    Now it may well be that this is an underestimation (particularly as it would give Solidarity an enormous proportion of the membership), but I was just relaying what was told me – by someone who probably ought to have some idea.

    I wonder how “it’s fairly obvious” that the ISO has (had) more than this just in Melbourne. I’m not in Melbourne, and neither (presuming this is still Bob speaking) are you. So that makes what is “obvious” a bit harder to ascertain.

    By way of comparison, the ISO had a national gathering in Sydney a couple of years ago, at which there were only 40 people, some of whom were the general public. Obviously this wasn’t their entire membership, but it is indicative.

  8. JS Says:

    Just to clarify statistics: the ISO had about 80 members before the fusion, although a figure of about 35 present during the conference seems fairly accurate. The Melbourne ISO branch claimed 40 members, although the membership there is generally older and more passive than in Sydney.

    My calculation is that in total there were perhaps 80 people present at the height of the conference on Saturday. We are yet to make a calculation about the total membership of the fused organisation.

  9. Viola Wilkins Says:

    In the tradition of the ‘Comical Party’ (what’s my line this week ?) ie Communists split along Moscow Peking or National Independence lines alas socialist sectarianism is alive at least during electoral campaigns…

    We are told that Solidarity is to give electoral preferences to Greens, then ALP
    and thus NOT to the Socialist Party who have the only socialist Councillor in Oz
    or the Socialist Alliance ie the Democratic Socialist party;
    nor the Socialist Equality Party ?

    To the growing religious organisations “out there” in the suburbs and towns your competing socialist splits and then fusions just encourage their followers to further damn the secular as they get on with their recruiting.
    Be aware that the old crooks and splitters of the DLP got the ALP preferences in the last Victorian State election like Family First got ALP preferences against the Greens. Rabid right pushes like the Exclusive Bretheren continue to be a worry…The Xtian right agenda is not just across the Pacific but here too alas

    Bump Me Into Parliament eh ?

    The extra-parliamentary Autonomist and Anarchist tendencies of the social change movement are in dialogue about an Oceania

    Meanwhile wage slavery grinds us all up and exploitation is gobal and ecologically destructive; the employing class do not have to push the divide and rule much these days when the “radicals” automatically separate from each other.

    Union Solidarity did a lot of good work last year and attracted the less sectarian of the Left. For many rank and file and community activists that may continue to be worthy of their time and energy.

    It’s fun to work on holidays, or when the day is done;
    Why should they pay us overtime for having so much fun?
    For having so much fun my boys, for having so much fun.
    Pay overtime would be a crime for having so much fun. Ohhh…

    Ohhh, put it on the ground, spread it all around
    Dig it with a hoe: it will make your flowers grow

  10. Ozleft Says:

    There’s a statement on website of Socialist Worker, the magazine of the ISO.

  11. followers Says:


    Socialist unification in Australia | Ozleft

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