Daniel Taylor: why I am joining Socialist Alternative
I became a Marxist in 2003, when Marxists were providing the only plausible and interesting accounts of the invasion of Iraq that were also unequivocally on the side of the oppressed, writes Daniel Taylor in Socialist Alternative.
But I remained politically inactive for eight years, in part due to prejudices about the nature of the organised left in Melbourne, which I viewed as sectarian, unrealistic, and theoretically backward.
Now, after a year of actively working in the Melbourne left, I have decided to join Socialist Alternative.
For the benefit of any other unaffiliated leftists who are seeking a political home, I will offer a brief account of my motivations, in the hope that they will join me in helping to build this organisation.
I was drawn into political activity at Occupy Melbourne. It was my first time speaking to active and organised leftists. I made friends in many of the different socialist and anarchist traditions, but was immediately impressed by the seriousness, energy, and commitment of Socialist Alternative’s members.
Despite many theoretical disagreements, I was also surprised by their willingness to engage with alternative interpretations of Marxism, which went far beyond the theoretical narrow-mindedness I had believed to characterise the group.
As Occupy Melbourne degenerated post-eviction into inane bureaucratic struggles and conspiracy theories, Socialist Alternative helped to organise a successful and inspiring community picket at the Baiada plant in Laverton, and later the Marxism 2012 conference, a stunning convergence of leftists from almost every imaginable tradition and grouping. Both of these events indicated (in very different ways) the organisational talent and dedication of the group’s activists, as well as their commitment to engaging constructively with the broader left. This made a deep impression on me at the time.
In mid-2012, La Trobe University was targeted for massive cuts to its Humanities faculty. I was involved in the anti-cuts campaign from the very beginning. It was immediately obvious that without the presence of the La Trobe University Socialist Alternative Club, there would have been no substantial resistance to the cuts. As it was, the Socialist Alternative members worked tirelessly to coalesce, energise, and organise the independent students and staff who opposed the cuts, leading to a campaign that was an inspiration to student activists even internationally.
At this point I began attending public meetings hosted by Socialist Alternative. Speaking to members, I found that them to be experienced and knowledgeable activists from whom I could learn much, and who were eager to improve their practical and theoretical understanding through open and comradely debate. This culture cannot be understood adequately through the organisation’s official publications. I was delighted to experience it and soon felt that I had found a political home.
I have many theoretical disagreements with the interpretations of Marxism that are most widespread in Socialist Alternative (as well as other groups on the left).
Previously I had thought that it would be impossible or impractical to advocate unorthodox positions within SA. Now that the Revolutionary Socialist Party are successfully concluding a merger with Socialist Alternative, bringing with them their own distinct interpretation of revolutionary socialist theory, I am confident that I can continue to defend and develop my own ideas.
But now I have gained a milieu of confident, independent-minded Marxists who will challenge my thinking in a constructive and comradely way. I look forward to learning together with my new comrades, gaining from their vast experience as militants on campuses and shopfloors, and hopefully coming to contribute something to the impressive organisation they have patiently built over many years.
Australian workers are under sustained attack from a ruthless and cocky ruling class. It will not be long before capitalist production in this continent will again enter into crisis. Revolutionary socialists must begin preparing themselves now.
I have spent a long time sceptically considering whether any existing organisations provide a worthwhile framework in which to prepare. I am convinced that right now Socialist Alternative is far and away the best organisation in which to learn and experiment with radical politics. The quality of their membership is evidence enough.
I encourage any inactive and unaffiliated leftists to begin having conversations with Socialist Alternative members and to seriously consider joining me contributing to the best thing going on the Australian left.