The weekend of May 6/7/8 saw members of the Socialist Party from all around Australia gather at Trades Hall in Melbourne for the annual National Conference.

As socialists, we meet regularly to discuss issues and participate in the decision making of our party. We also had an international guest along, Kevin McLoughlin from the Socialist Party in Ireland. Kevin kicked off proceedings giving an outline of the economic crisis in Europe, the uprisings in the Middle East and the overall world situation.

The people of Egypt and Tunisia have seen how much power they truly have, and their actions have inspired others. They’ve left the terrorists isolated, and shown clearly that the way forward is mass democratic struggle. The US government and it’s allies, through their lethal intervention in Libya, have sent a warning: imperialism intends to call the shots. And yet, the message that people draw from the mass movements is far more powerful.

At the same time, the economic crisis that began in 2008 (though its roots go far deeper) continues through Europe and America. European governments expect growth to come from austerity measures, but with little money invested in production, they will only deepen the crisis. The cuts that governments are forcing onto the public sector are raising opposition from amongst the people of Europe, and our comrades overseas are busy helping to organise this opposition with a socialist programme.

Stephen Jolly led the discussion on perspectives for Australia. Our economy has been insulated from the global crisis, partly because of the mining boom powered by Chinese manufacturing and construction. But this situation is no guarantee of stability. Both China and Australia are seeing massive property bubbles, and the collapse of those bubbles could set off further economic instability. Meanwhile, Kevin Rudd’s proposed mining tax would have seen an extra $60 billion in public money over the next ten years. Rudd intended to spend it on tax cuts for businesses, but if that wealth was democratically controlled imagine what that money could have done to improve education, healthcare, welfare, or investment in renewable energy?

It’s only a fraction of the boom we’d have if we nationalised the large mining corporations, under the control of workers. Instead, the wealth from the mining boom is frittered away in private profits. The mining boom won’t last forever – once it’s gone, it’s gone. And in place of a mining windfall, the Australian government is gearing up for a round of public sector cuts. Debacles like this illustrate the superiority of socialist ideas in economic management.

Other sessions at the conference included a detailed overview of the situation in the Middle East and North Africa and two sessions on party building. At the conclusion of the conference we agreed on a number of resolutions including one which will see the establishment of a second branch in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.

We have a lot of work ahead of us; to demonstrate the strength of socialist ideas, and to involve people in taking back their unions and communities from capitalist interests. The main theme throughout the conference was that the relative quite will not be maintained in Australia forever. Under the surface the situation in Australia is quite unstable and conditions are being prepared for major class battles in the future. Our task is to build an organisation that can organise people to fight back and take direct control of their workplaces and communities. The 2011 Conference was a small but important step towards this goal.

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