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Uniting the Socialist Left: the Australian Experience

An interview with Peter Boyle. Peter Boyle (pictured right) is National Secretary of the Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP), a Marxist tendency in the Socialist Alliance in Australia. He was interviewed by Socialist Voice co-editor Roger Annis.
Over the next six months, in the lead-up to a DSP congress scheduled for January 2010, members of the DSP are going to have a serious discussion about party-building perspectives. How do we best build on the gains we have made through the DSP and the gains made through the Socialist Alliance? We’ll be involving Socialist Alliance members who are not members of the DSP in this discussion. It will be public...
SV: The Australian left founded a project of left unity and activism in 2001. Can you describe the early years of that project and what it achieved?

PB: The Socialist Alliance was formed in 2001 on the back of great optimism about the prospects for left revival in the wake of the rise of a movement at that time against capitalist globalization. Some 20,000 people had participated in a three-day long blockade of a summit of the World Economic Forum in Melbourne the previous year. That was Australia’s “Seattle” [1] and it was followed up on May 1, 2001 with mass blockades of the stock exchanges in all the capital cities of the country.

The formation of the Socialist Alliance was just one of a number of initiatives at the time to take this political momentum forward. While it has not had a smooth road since then, the Socialist Alliance is the only one of these initiatives surviving today in Australia. Regroupment projects inspired by anarchist ideology and attempts to create local social forums all proved short-lived.

The Socialist Alliance experience has been shaped by the ebbs and flows of the social movements. It became clear after the forward momentum of the post-Seattle anti-capitalist movement was cut off - after the failure of the global mass movements to stop the 2003 invasion of Iraq - that we were overoptimistic in 2001. We have seen movement retreats since then. But there have been some advances, too.

We should also see the connections between the global wave of anti-capitalist sentiment a decade ago and the new rise of anti-capitalist sentiment today: one builds on the other.

SV: What political forces initiated Socialist Alliance, and what new forces have been won to it?

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