The Socialist Alliance was founded in 2001 as an alliance of socialist organisations and individuals in Australia, initiated by the Democratic Socialist Perspective and the International Socialist Organisation along with 6 other founding socialist organisations, to create greater left unity in the aftermath of the protest of the World Economic Forum in Melbourne on 11–13 September 2000.


Soon after its formation, the Socialist Alliance grew to a point where most of its members were not members of any of the affiliate organisations.[1] In response to this, the Democratic Socialist Perspective and many non-aligned members argued successfully at successive national conferences for measures to take the Socialist Alliance in the direction of becoming a united socialist party. Other affiliates, particularly the International Socialist Organisation, preferred to adhere to the alliance's original direction: a broad left-wing electoral front.

In late 2003, the Democratic Socialist Party resolved to become a "a Marxist tendency in the Socialist Alliance", renaming itself the "Democratic Socialist Perspective" as a step towards turning the Socialist Alliance into a "Multi-Tendency Socialist Party". This move was supported by some 75% of conference delegates at the SA's national conference that year,[2] " although other affiliates remained opposed.

At the 2005 National Conference particularly sharp political differences were expressed. These centred on: the extent to which the Socialist Alliance should criticise the Australian Labor Party; whether the organisation should have a formal relationship with the newspaper associated with the Democratic Socialist Perspective, Green Left Weekly, as a step towards Socialist Alliance itself having its own newspaper; and whether non-aligned members should have an automatic majority on the organisation's national executive. Following this conference three of the leading members of a "Non-Aligned Caucus" and most of the active affiliate organisations gradually withdrew. The "Non Aligned Caucus" was an ad hoc grouping of SA members who weren't aligned to any affiliated organisation which formed[3] in the lead up to the 2003 conference of the Alliance.

In January 2010, the Democratic Socialist Perspective voted to merge into the Socialist Alliance, in effect ceasing to exist as an affiliate organisation.

It is a registered party on a federal level,[4] and annually maintains[5] electoral registration in New South Wales [6] and in Victoria.[7] This would give an indication of the size of the organisation as federal registration requires 500 members,[8] Victorian registration requires 500 members in Victoria,[9] and 750 members are needed for NSW registration.[10] However, this only reflects paper (not active) members.

For one year the Socialist Alliance published a quarterly journal, Seeing Red, the last issue of which came out in March 2006. The newspaper Green Left Weekly regularly runs a Socialist Alliance column called Our Common Cause, and the Brisbane local newspaper The Westender[11] has also run a column written by the Socialist Alliance.

Election results

The Socialist Alliance first campaigned in the 2001 federal election, however candidates were listed as independents on the ballot as its application for electoral registration was suspended when the election was called early. Despite this, it received over 25,000 votes in the federal election.[citation needed]

The Socialist Alliance has continued to run candidates in federal, state and council elections. In the 2004 Moreland City Council elections, two candidates exceeded 4%.[12][13] In a council election in the Melbourne suburb of Boroondara, a Socialist Alliance candidate won over 12% of the vote (in the absence of an Australian Labor Party-endorsed candidate) in Cotham ward.[14] Results for Boroondara City Council Elections 2004, Cotham ward. Victorian Electoral Commission. URL accessed on 28 February 2011.</ref>

Voting in other elections was not so strong. At the 2004 federal election the alliance received 0.12% of the primary vote (14,155 votes) overall,[15] and failed to reach 2% of the vote in individual seats. In the 2007 NSW election, the Socialist Alliance received 0.4% of the primary (15,142 votes),[16] almost triple what it received in 2003,[17] but in the 2007 Federal election the party's vote declined to the background level of "independent" candidates.

The 2008 Victorian local government election results were more positive, however. The Socialist Alliance polled almost 19% in the Stoney Creek ward of the Melbourne municipality of Maribyrnong,[18] and polled over 10% in all wards bar one that it contested across the state.[19]

In October 2009 the Socialist Alliance won its first election when Sam Wainwright was elected for the Hilton Ward of the Fremantle City Council.[20][21]

At the Australian federal election, 2010 the Socialist Alliance received 0.08% of the lower house vote and 0.26 of the Upper House vote.

Political Activity

Due to its unusual structure (as a broad alliance, rather than a politically homogeneous socialist organisation) the Socialist Alliance places more emphasis on campaigning activity than on expounding one particular "form" of socialism as do many other socialist groups, although affiliates and non-aligned members continue to put forward and argue for their own politics.[citation needed]

Some of the main political campaigns in which the Socialist Alliance is involved include:

Anti-War & Civil Liberties

The Socialist Alliance, its affiliates and members played a central role in the campaign to stop the attacks on Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003,[22] and remains active in the campaigns against these, and other, wars. Socialist Alliance members are also active in promoting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel.[citation needed]

Socialist Alliance is also active in its opposition to the "war on terror", to the racism against the Muslim community it claims this causes, and to government policy on civil liberties.[citation needed] Socialist Alliance members helped to organise the protests in Sydney against APEC in 2007,[citation needed] and the visit of Pope Benedict XVI in 2008, in the face of increased police powers that were heavily criticised for violating civil liberties.[23][24] The protest against the Pope was criticised by rival organisation Socialist Alternative as "counterproductive", "elitist" and "anti-religious".[25]

The Socialist Alliance conducts this work alongside other groups and individual activists in local community peace groups and in broader coalitions like the Stop the War Coalition - Sydney[citation needed] and the Gaza Defence Committee.[citation needed]

Workers' Rights

The Socialist Alliance orients towards struggles in the union movement. In line with its criticism that the ALP is holding back and bureaucratising the union movement, the Socialist Alliance encourages workers and unions to break with Labor and to set up a "new workers' party".

In 2005 and 2006, the Socialist Alliance initiated and helped organise trade union "fight-back" conferences,[26][27][28] in response to the Federal Government's "WorkChoices" legislation, attracting hundreds of union militants and members of other socialist groups.[29] The Socialist Alliance was involved in the campaign against WorkChoices, including as part of the Your Rights At Work movement, and against the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC).[citation needed]

The Socialist Alliance is highly critical of the ALP's industrial policy for not returning enough rights to workers and for retaining the ABCC, referring to the new system (Fair Work Australia) as "WorkChoices-lite".[30]

Notable Socialist Alliance trade union leaders have included Chris Cain, Western Australian State Secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia; Tim Gooden, secretary of the Geelong Trades and Labour Council; and Craig Johnston, former Victorian State Secretary of the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union,[31] who was jailed for 9 months in 2004 after an industrial dispute at Johnson Tiles in 2001.[32]

The Environment

The Socialist Alliance also campaigns around environmental issues, most notably climate change, helping to organise the 2006 Walk Against Warming rallies in some cities[citation needed], and producing detailed policies[33] on combating climate change which have been created through an open wiki process[34] with broad membership input. Since the 2007 Federal Election, the environmental website VoteClimate[35] has rated Socialist Alliance environmental policy #1 (ahead of the Greens).[36]

Socialist Alliance members also helped to organise the [37] Climate Action Summit[38] in Canberra on 31 January - 1 February 2009, and is involved in building the new national Climate Action Network[39] that grew out of that summit.

The Socialist Alliance argues that no solution to the crisis caused by global warming is possible without overthrowing capitalism, and criticises "market mechanisms" such as carbon trading as being unworkable, profit-driven and reinforcing the capitalist relations that caused the pollution to begin with.

Indigenous Rights

The Socialist Alliance has played a role in recent campaigns for justice for indigenous Australia, particularly around the inquiries into the deaths-in-custody of TJ Hickey in Redfern[citation needed] and Mulrunji Doomadgee on Palm Island. In the case of Mulrunji, leading indigenous activist, academic and Socialist Alliance member Sam Watson played a key role in organising the protests that led to the re-opening of the inquiry.[40]

The Socialist Alliance also opposes the Federal Government's Northern Territory intervention, and helped to organise the 12 February 2008 protests outside Parliament House in Canberra.[41]

Anti-racism and Immigrants Rights

The Socialist Alliance has been able to build growing support among some ethnic community sectors in urban Australia such as among Somali youth and from within the Latin American community.[citation needed] In the latter case, the Socialist Alliance has been an active supporter of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela and is affiliated to the Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network.[42]

Socialist Alliance members have also been involved in the struggle for refugee rights, opposing mandatory detention of illegal immigrants, and calling for Australia to pursue a more humane policy on refugees.[43]

Public Services

The Socialist Alliance is an advocate of quality public services, calling for increased funding for public education, healthcare, housing and transport. In NSW, Socialist Alliance is involved in the campaigns against privatisation planned by the State government (for example electricity[44] and prisons[45]), alongside the Greens, unions, ALP members and community groups.

The Socialist Alliance is also active in a number of other campaigns, including LGBTI rights,[citation needed] women's liberation[citation needed] and in various social justice campaigns,[citation needed] as well as around local issues and international solidarity.[citation needed] The Socialist Alliance maintains branches outside of the major cities, including in Wollongong, Newcastle, Armidale, Geelong, Lismore and on the Gold Coast.[46]


Other political organisations on the Australian far left have criticised the Socialist Alliance project. Socialist Alternative, for example, contest that a sustained mass radicalisation had been born out of the anti-capitalist movement or that a significant layer of disillusioned ALP voters are willing to join a socialist electoral program.[47] Socialist Alternative also criticises the Socialist Alliance for what it perceives to be an over-emphasis on electoral work.

Upon its resignation from the Alliance, the former International Socialist Organisation accused the Democratic Socialist Perspective of what it deemed "disastrous decisions" such as declaring the Alliance a multi-tendency socialist party and adopting Green Left Weekly as the official paper, which the ISO saw as alienating other Alliance members and affiliates.[48]

The Revolutionary Socialist Party (who formed in 2008 as a split from the DSP over debates about the Socialist Alliance) accused the Alliance project of remaining "heavily dependent on the DSP’s political and organising efforts and fundraising." The RSP also (incorrectly) claimed that only the DSP remained an affiliate of the Alliance by 2008.[49]

Active affiliate organisations

Inactive affiliate organisations, and organisations which have not formally disaffiliated

Former affiliates

Notable members




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