Jorge Jorquera: Why I have joined Socialist Alternative in Australia
I spent many years building the Democratic Socialist Party and its predecessor the Socialist Workers Party, having joined at the height of the student movement in the mid 1980s, writes Jorge Jorquera in Socialist Alternative. Prior to that I had been a Labor Party member and an activist in the Chilean community and supporter of the Movement of the Revolutionary Left MIR. The last few years, after the failure of the Socialist Alliance, I have spent trying to rebuild something on the revolutionary left, most notably the Revolutionary Socialist Party.
I have always been a party person, never having seen the point of lone efforts when it comes to changing the world. But in recent years I have also experienced in living colour, all the sectarianism, opportunism and tribalism that turns so many leftists off party politics. It’s easy enough, in the relative comfort of the advanced capitalist countries, to be deterred and prefer the option of waiting around for someone else to do the hard work of building an organisation. It’s not an option I can live with.
Sometimes there just isn’t a viable option. And the experience of building small groups that project themselves as something much more than they are, also didn’t really end up satisfying.
I have spent the last few months talking to comrades in Socialist Alternative and have been convinced that they are really thinking through these things.
Of course there are old differences of opinion and they have to be weighed up. Most importantly for me, I remain a supporter of the Cuban revolution. But this is a secondary question in the current global and Australian context. Sure, everything is connected and there is a real discussion to be had about revolutionary strategy in the Third World countries. But this is a discussion, like so many, that the whole left has to have anew. Revolutionary and anti-imperialist movements don’t have the options Moscow previously provided. You can’t build any sort of “stable” state capitalism any more than “stable” workers states in one country.
And about “rethinking”. For the revolutionary left this has usually been synonymous with opportunism. It sure has been the veil for that many a times. But like any good Marxist knows, it’s what you do, not what you say, that matters most.
Right now the test is pretty simple by my reckoning. Marxists have to build – and let’s not say rebuild – a pole of attraction for the growing number of people who think capitalism is fucked. Problem is that in most parts of the world this isn’t translating into sustained mass activity. This would require high levels of (mass) organisation and the whole spectrum of politics is affected by a crisis of political organisation.
So we come back to a problem the revolutionary left is quite familiar with. How do we build an organisation around ideas without dissolving into a sect? Engage in action, is the standard reply. But that’s harder the smaller you are. And if you think action means playing tootsies with a few remaining reformists in the labour movement, then you’ll end up like the old Stalinist left, expunged. There is no easy answer.
Let’s just say we have a window of opportunity in Australia. The left organisations that represented the greatest continuity with the past have all but disappeared. We should grab the chance to carve out a new clean road forward. Built on our own new mistakes.
What’s certain for me is that revolutionaries have to stand up and be counted – preferably in the same organisation. Right now the organisation to be in is Socialist Alternative. It’s the one organisation in Australia profiling revolutionary politics and prioritising the theoretical discussions of Marxism that need to be put upfront in this period.
There’s no organisation that fits all but if you join in the struggle you can help try build one.