Socialist Alternative (Australia)

Socialist Alternative (often abbreviated as SA) is a Trotskyist group in Australia formed by a split from the International Socialist Organisation in 1995. [" [ What's left of the left soldiers on] " The Age, May 1 2002. Accessed June 10, 2007] They are characterised by a strong focus on recruitment on campuses and at demonstrations.


Socialist Alternative is mainly composed of students active in their student unions, with emphasis on university-based political campaigns.

Socialist Alternative have held regular meetings to discuss current events and Marxist theory and usually employ an energetic postering campaign to advertise them, particularly on inner-city campuses and in the surrounding suburbs. Their regular discussions focus on the relationship between political ideas and every day life, such as consumerism and living in a consumerist society. These discussions double as recruitment opportunities for new members. Socialist Alternative hold a national educational conference called "Marxism" each Easter weekend (formerly known as "Marxism Today"). [" [ Marxism 2009] " Socialist Alternative website, Accessed: September 21 2008.]

Socialist Alternative has involved in several left-wing protests against Israel, the Iraq War, campaigns for the rights of refugees, the right of women to access free abortions on demand, the right of same-sex couples to marry, in anti-capitalism and anti-globalisation demonstrations and against the operation of the Jabiluka uranium mine.

Members of Socialist Alternative are identifiable during protests due to the red flags they usually carry in their contingent or "red bloc" (see [] ). This distinguishes them from other Marxist organisations in Australia who normally carry placards.


Socialist Alternative began amongst a number of Melbourne ex-members of the International Socialist Organisation (ISO), after they were expelled from the ISO in 1995, following a lengthy debate about perspectives for building its membership. This was part of a broader debate in the International Socialist Tendency (IST) about the nature of the political situation and how socialists should respond, which resulted in splits in a number of countries, including New Zealand, Greece, Germany, Canada, South Africa and France, and the expulsion of the United States ISO from the IST.Fact|date=June 2007

Socialist Alternative briefly joined the Socialist Alliance, which grouped together the Democratic Socialist Perspective {DSP), the ISO, and some smaller left groups and individuals. However Socialist Alternative dropped out primarily because it opposed the strong emphasis the Socialist Alliance put on running in parliamentary elections which they saw as counterposed to building activism on the ground.Fact|date=June 2007

Socialist Alternative was a primarily Melbourne-based group up until around 2003, when it experienced a considerable growth in membership across Australia. Socialist Alternative is still stronger in Melbourne than any other city but has also grown considerably in Sydney. A small group of ex-Socialist Alternative members in Sydney joined a socialist group named Solidarity, which was started by former members of the ISO.

Socialist Alternative publishes a range of books and pamphlets. Recently a number of members produced a book analysing Australian capitalism, [ "Class and Struggle in Australia"] , edited by Rick Kuhn and in April 2007, "The Labor Party: A Marxist Analysis" was published by Mick Armstrong and Tom Bramble. In September 2007 Socialist Alternative published a new book by Mick Armstrong "From Little Things Big Things Grow: Strategies for building revolutionary socialist organisations". Socialist Alternative also publish a monthly magazine called "Socialist Alternative", which is sold on stalls at university campuses on city streets and at demonstrations.

One member of Socialist Alternative, Rick Kuhn of Australian National University, won the internationally renowned Deutscher Memorial Prize in 2007 for his book "Henryk Grossman and the Recovery of Marxism".

Beliefs and ideology

Socialist Alternative claim to be committed to avoiding the grand pretensions that they say characterise much of the left. While not a member of the International Socialist Tendency, Socialist Alternative remains committed to the ideas and positions associated with the "International Socialism" tradition of Trotskyism which saw the Stalinist states of Russia, Eastern Europe, China, Vietnam, North Korea and Cuba as being in no sense socialist but forms of state capitalism, where workers were exploited by a bureaucratic ruling class. Socialist Alternative has links with a number of other groups which were previously part of the International Socialist Tendency, such as the US International Socialist Organization, the Internationalist Workers' Left in Greece, the International Socialist Organisation in New Zealand and, in France, Socialisme International.

Socialist Alternative analyses the world in terms of the political and economic ideas of Karl Marx, the 19th century philosopher. Consequently, members of Socialist Alternative believe that today's capitalist world economy needs to be overthrown by means of a socialist revolution, in which the workers or proletariat will unite to overthrow their employers, the bourgeoisie, who control the means of production. Socialist Alternative's activities are therefore attempts to mobilise workers and students in order to facilitate such a revolution, which they believe will result in an end to worker exploitation. Socialist Alternative also believe that as a result of a socialist revolution, phenomena such as racism, sexism and homophobia will eventually disappear.

Socialist Alternative supports the right to self-determination of Australia's Aboriginal people and opposes the recent intervention by the Howard Government in the Northern Territory. [" [ A long overdue apology. Now compensate the stolen generations and end the NT intervention] " by Luke Wilson and Sandra Bloodworth, Socialist Alternative, 125, Accessed: September 21 2008.] Another distinctive position of Socialist Alternative which separates them from much of the rest of the Australian left is their opposition to the Australian intervention in East Timor. [" [ In Depth: East Timor] " by Chris Haan, Socialist Alternative, 79, Accessed: September 21 2008.]

Socialist Alternative is also known within Australian student politics for its hostility towards John Howard and his conservative former government.Fact|date=June 2007 Other targets of Socialist Alternative hostility are the "ruling class" of the United States and its President George W. Bush, and the Australian Labor Party for its unwillingness to vehemently oppose business. In particular Socialist Alternative are highly critical of the Labor party's new industrial relations policy which they see as simply a watered down form of WorkChoices. Socialist Alternative also accused the government of Australia and the United States of waging a racist war against Islam in general. Fact|date=August 2007


Allegations of Antisemitism

In 2006, Socialist Alternative supporters at Melbourne University were involved in a number of confrontations with Jewish students. In an article published by "The Age" on September 4, 2006, members of Socialist Alternative were reported to have disrupted a visit by the Israeli ambassador . There have been several incidents on Melbourne campuses, some reportedly involving Socialist Alternative" [ Jews in fear of hardline uni groups] " by Barney Zwartz and Adam Morton, The Age September 4, 2006. Accessed June 10, 2007] . According to "Australian Jewish News", a writer in the Socialist Alternative has claimed that “Zionism... agrees with Nazism that Jews have to be walled-off from Non-Jews” and Israel’s existence is racism [" [ Report on antisemitism in Australia] " Australian Jewish News.] .

Socialist Alternative members argue that they are anti-Zionist, but not anti-semitic, drawing a distinction between anti-Zionism and Anti-Semitism. According to many Jews, this is a way for anti-semitic groups to voice their views without being branded as racist. " [ Opposing Israel is not anti-semitic] " by Patrick Weiniger, Socialist Alternative, 79, Accessed: September 21 2008.] . However, SA claims that its goal is to "demolish the lies upon which the racist state of Israel was built, and argue for the only real solution to the Middle East conflict - a single secular, democratic state in historic Palestine, one in which Palestinians and Jews can live in equality and peace." Socialist Alternative maintains that Israel does not represent Jews, but simply claims to do so. Moreover Socialist Alternative points out they have Jewish members, including Dr Rick Kuhn. One member, Vashti Kenway, is reported to have said that: "We take a firm stand against all forms of racism" (Students Against War and Racism, Socialist Alternative member) established." [ An unholy alliance] " By Barney Zwartz and Adam Morton, The Age September 4, 2006. Accessed June 10, 2007]

Controversy over campaigning tactics

The group has become renowned in many universities for its aggressive tactics,including the use of megaphones and leaflets and going into lectures to announce their campaigns. Fact|date=March 2008 Socialist Alternative have been known to drown out political viewpoints that diverge from their own, in political forums, with loud repetitive chanting of slogans. They argue that this is a valid political tactic, as the viewpoints they seek to silence already get heard excessively through the media. [" [ Hack Notes: Shouting Down Abbott] " audio report on 2JJJ February 16. 2006. Accessed June 10, 2007] .


External links

* [ Socialist Alternative (Australia)]
* [ Socialist Alternative and the ISO – Perspectives for Socialists ] September 2002 SA document discussing the group's history.
* [ International Socialist Organisation (Australia)] ISO Website
* [ Socialist Alternative (1995 -)] Reason in Revolt: Source Documents in Australian Radicalism. Accessed June 10, 2007.

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