cwi: international conference – Anti-war and anti-capitalism in Australia

Building the cwi in Australia in 2003

cwi international conference.

Niall Mulholland gives highlights of the campaigns of cwi sections during 2003. The report is taken from written contributions from cwi sections that were presented to the 21-26 November meeting of the International Executive Committee (IEC) of the cwi, held in Belgium. cwi online

Anti-war and anti-capitalism

We have experienced a fairly unique period in Australia in comparison to the other imperialist powers that participated in the Iraqi war. Unlike both Bush and Blair, Australian Prime Minister John Howard has ridden high since the Iraqi war ended. He has obviously been helped along by the fact that there were no Australian casualties in the war and also that he was faced with an extremely ineffectual Labour opposition. This gave Howard the opportunity to undertake a colonial-style intervention into the Solomon Islands, during the summer, with very little domestic opposition.

Due to this lull in the movement the Socialist Party decided to use this period to concentrate on basic class issues, like the attacks on our health system (Medicare) and the defence of rights of casual workers.

We predict that Howard’s ‘good times’ will be short-lived. He has plans to attack the working class on issues like health, education and industrial relations.

The apparent economic boom that Australia has experienced relative to other major economies has rested on a housing boom, low interest rates and a binge in consumer borrowing. It is clear that the housing bubble is close to bursting and interest rates could soon be on the rise. A change in the situation may only be around the corner.

Of course, we have not forgotten about the broader issues of war and globalisation. The SP had a magnificent intervention when Bush visited Australia in October. This saw a revival of the anti-capitalist protests of recent years.

The Central Melbourne Branch of the SP is mainly made up of working class youth and active trade unionists. The youth in this branch are currently running the ‘Unite Campaign’ – aimed at organising casual workers. The branch does regular stalls in the inner city and takes part in all city protests.

We also have a comrades working in the construction union (CFMEU), as both shop stewards and rank and file activists.

The Northern Melbourne Branch developed from the main Melbourne branch. We decided to try and build in the working class area of Preston in the northern suburbs. The new branch has been meeting locally for approximately six months and doing regular stalls at the Preston Market weekly. This branch is the backbone behind our ‘Medicare campaign’ – aimed at fighting the Federal Government’s attacks on our health system. We have been well received in this area, selling plenty of papers and meeting some good contacts.

Ballarat is the third largest city in Victoria State. Since last year we have developed a close relationship with local activists in this region

Sydney is the largest city in Australia. The SP branch does paper sales and participates in protests. We have a significant union base; we have a full time organiser in the NUW, a full time organiser in the CPSU, a shop steward in the CPSU, and a shop steward in the PSU.

The SP now has a presence in in Newcastle, a major regional city in New South Wales. We do regular paper sales at the University of Newcastle

The Perth branch has a good presence in the city and a high profile. Branch discussions are marked out by their high political level. The comrades are involved in broad range of work, ranging from work in the teachers’ union (AEU), student work and campaigning along side the Aboriginal community. Branch members do regular stalls in the city.

We have recently begun a new SP group in Adelaide. A printer, who is a shop steward in his union, joined the SP.

The SP paper is currently produced every two months. It consists of 12 pages, with front and back, as well as centre spread, in full colour. It sells well but we are always trying to improve. We are working hard to introduce a ‘paper culture’ into the party, especially amongst the youth. We are also trying to ensure as many people as possible become involved in the production of the paper (writing, layout, photos etc,).

We have put a lot of work into our website in 2003. It is now very modern looking and gets updated almost daily. It carries all our latest articles, as well as a selection from other sections of the CWI, and the best of the capitalist press.

Our email lists are also very popular. We now have several hundred names on them. An organisational report goes out weekly to SP members.

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December 2003