Open letter to Solidarity

Socialist Alternative recently received a letter initiated by students in Solidarity. While claiming to be for a broad left ticket in the upcoming SRC elections at Sydney uni the letter outlined an attack on Socialist Alternative, seeking to justify our exclusion from a broad left electoral coalition.
What is particularly concerning about both the letter and behaviour of members in Solidarity is that it appears as if Solidarity regards its main enemy to be another group on the left.
For a socialist group that claims to be for a “genuinely united Left on campus that seeks to work together in building campaigns against the Rudd government’s policies”; Solidarity’s efforts to exclude Socialist Alternative seem to be more fitting with the practices of red baiting expected from much more right wing forces on the campuses.
Despite Solidarity professing to be for “the cooperation of left forces” to help build a “wider left alternative and strengthen the student and social movements” we cannot help but conclude that Solidarity is organising what amounts to be a sectarian campaign against a perceived rival on the left.
Socialist Alternative’s original call for a united broad left ticket stems from the dire need to rebuild our SRCs and student movement more generally. Student unions across the country have been decimated by VSU and have largely failed to take a serious stand for student rights in the face of university admin and government attacks.
Only a united left can mount the kind of challenge to the government that Solidarity says it is committed to.  Contesting the student union elections for control of important bodies like the SRC is part of mounting this challenge. We need SRCs prepared to be part of this challenge through vocal and defiant campaigning.
Surely a genuine commitment to the cooperation of the left and strengthening the student and social movements would mean a willingness to work with Socialist Alternative, the largest left group on the campuses. Refusal to do so suggests the sectarian motivation of Solidarity’s actions.
At a time when left unity will be crucial in standing up for student rights and withstanding attacks from university administrations and the government, Solidarity’s behaviour is disastrously divisive.

Comradely,
Socialist Alternative

Response to Socialist Alternative

We thank you for your reply to an earlier letter signed by Solidarity students, independent activists and students from the Labor left.
Unfortunately, you have failed to address any of the substantive issues raised by this letter. Left unity is not something simply cobbled together for an election. It is something we must always be working towards through the process of building the student and social movements.
Socialist Alternative’s isolation on campuses is a direct product of its own abstention from this process and its almost singular concern with self-promotion. This is the group that engages in ridiculous abuse of other activists —calling people “racists” for daring to disagree with them during debates about the way forward for the NT Intervention campaign for example.
Your contribution to Sydney’s recent education National Day of Action was to bully your way onto the platform, abuse Labor left speakers, and then refuse to participate in the march, which you called a “pro-government rally”—so much for your concern with uniting the left.
Your initial approach to the Sydney University environment collective about elections reflected the same sectarianism—arguing for a “left ticket” to run on an anti-Labor basis and wrest control of the SRC away from the Labor left students.
As our letter stated: “Many [Labor] members disagree with the Rudd government on a lot of issues, or are hostile to their whole neo-liberal policy orientation”. Many Labor left students have played an important role on the activism on campus this year. Genuine dialogue and joint mobilisation with these students is a crucial component of rebuilding the left.
SA now say they would be willing to participate in a ticket with Labor left students. It would be a little more convincing if the offer came with a repudiation of your previous attempt to exclude Labor left students or a review of your destructive behaviour. We suspect the shift has more to do with worry about possibleloss of SA’s office bearing positions within the SRC.
There must be a clear break with the sectarian practices of the past and a demonstrated commitment to using the process of elections to build up the strength and capacity of existing movements on campus.

Solidarity Editors

Stimulating Education

In an otherwise excellent article,  (Solidarity #16), Tom Barnes has missed the middle component of Federal Labor’s stimulus spending, between the cash handouts and longer term infrastructure projects.
This is the “Building the Education Revolution” $14 billion, spent on school halls, playgrounds. libraries and science blocks across schools across the nation. For education financing, this investment can only be parralled with the establishment ofuniversal public schooling at Federation (early 1900s).The mid term employment of these projects is highly visible with contractors installing at a school down each readers suburb right now.
However the end outcome of this funding is similar to the concluding analysis provided by Tom. The funding ends in 2011 and is heavily front loaded. Also, like the much touted laptop program, the money, while welcome and needed in most government schools, is not the main provider of productivity in the education sector.
In education, teacher provision from pre school to year 12, increasing face to face learning for all students across backgrounds, as well as employment of support aides and professions, are prime determinants.
Rudd’s education revolution has always been heavy on spin, with any spin offs, educational or economic, less than what his supporters expected and deserve.

John Morris
President, Canterbury-Bankstown Teacher’s Association

More lock-out history

Further from Carl Taylor’s article on the great coal lock out of 1929 (Solidarity #16), I recommend readers get along to an exhibition currently on display at the Trades Hall in Sydney.
The exhibition commemorates 100 years since the 1909 Broken Hill lockout, which saw BHP close the pits on unionised mining workers refusing to accept a pay cut in a time of economic downturn. Thousands battled police on picket lines in a five month struggle to defend their conditions. The exhibition is currently touring around the country.

Ian Rintoul, Ipswich

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