Australian Socialist Alternative conference: In the service of imperialism
26 April 2017
Socialist Alternative’s “Marxism 2017” conference, held in Melbourne from April 13-16, represented a milestone in the party’s integration into the imperialist war drive of the United States and its allies, including Australia, against Russia and China.
The event was attended by a heterogeneous crowd of several hundred people—mainly university students and what comprises the Melbourne middle-class “left” milieu—attracted to Socialist Alternative’s protest and identity politics. Over four days, more than 90 sessions were held on an eclectic array of topics, with no unified political analysis, aimed at attracting the largest number of people with multiple and divergent political interests and outlooks.
The conference was held against the backdrop of a qualitative escalation in the 25-year global war drive by the United States, backed by Canberra, aimed at offsetting its historic economic decline with military might. The eruption of US imperialism is now bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war. On April 6, the Trump administration launched cruise missile strikes against the Russian-backed Syrian government, dramatically heightening the danger of a clash between US and Russian military forces. In Asia, it has raised tensions to fever pitch by threatening pre-emptive war on North Korea, an ally of China. On April 13, the day of Socialist Alternative’s opening session, Washington dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in history on Afghanistan, in a clear warning to its rivals everywhere.
In the face of these events, the gathering issued a full-throated defence of US imperialism and explicitly denounced any fight to build an anti-war movement of the working class.
Speaking at one of the final and most well-attended panel sessions, entitled “Syria, the left and imperialism,” Corey Oakley, editor of Socialist Alternative’s Redflag web site and magazine, summed up the organisation’s perspective: “In 2003, in the Iraq War, the last major war involving Australia, we had covers on our magazine which said ‘smash American imperialism.’ That was Socialist Alternative’s line. That was the line of most of the left. The main thing was, America is an imperialist power that is seeking to dominate the Middle East, [and] it needs to be stopped …”
Today, Oakley asserted, “the situation is very different.” He bemoaned the fact that “on the broader left, there’s still very much a mentality that the United States is in all circumstances the main enemy, and not to be trusted.” This, he insisted was a “facile” and “childish” position.
The implication was clear: for Oakley and Socialist Alternative, US imperialism is not the main enemy, and it is to be trusted. This emerged most sharply when Oakley spoke on Syria, where the United States…