Inside Socialist Alternative Monash

A recent anonymous article in edition 1.24 of Lot’s Wife accuses the Socialist Alternative (SA) club at Monash of a whole array of things, ranging from the slanderous to the hilarious. It is a flagrantly right-wing critique of a serious left-wing group, dressed up in the language of social justice and trauma.

For people who aren’t familiar, SA is the largest socialist group in Australia. We play a key role in organising the protests to free Palestine, rallying against the far-right, sexism, racism, and LGBTI+ oppression, freeing refugees, and every other social justice question. We are revolutionaries that think capitalism can’t be reformed, that it has to be overthrown. That Stalinism has nothing to do with socialism. That racism, sexism, LGBTI+ oppression, and all other forms of oppression all stem from capitalism. We oppose imperialism, and think we need popular struggle to fight back against the capitalist class. We try to convince people of those things and more, because we want to build the left to fight for socialism and human liberation. I am an active member of SA at Monash, and am proud to have played some role in building our club and national organisation into the dynamic, intellectual, impactful organisation that we are today. 

After starting with an outrageous disclaimer that the piece may “elicit memories of traumatic experiences”, the piece walks through some of the supposed horrors our club has committed.

First, we stand accused of “manipulating student leftists to join [our] cause… [which is] gaining a seat in the Victorian Parliament”. If I were just trying to gain a seat in the Victorian Parliament, I would have joined the slimy, aspiring politicians in one of the two Labor Party factions on campus, or maybe even the Greens Club. We are revolutionaries that don’t lower our horizons to whatever crumbs the capitalist class and its servants in the Labor Party are willing to offer. On the other hand, hell yeah we want a socialist in parliament. Unlike the major parties, we don’t want a seat in parliament to build our careers and line our pockets. We participate in the Victorian Socialists electoral project because it would be great to have a radical agitator in parliament to denounce the system and its lackeys. We don’t think change can come through parliament, but we do think the platform can be used to build struggle and expose politicians. Who (besides the author) wouldn’t want a radical alternative to the bullshit of the major parties. 

Besides that, there are a whole series of superficial right-wing critiques. It is alleged that some of our “members appear to be drawn to the group more for social enjoyment”. In reality, our club is probably the only club or society on the entire campus that is not just about socialising. Our club is for left-wing students horrified by the crimes of capitalism around the world, and motivated to do something about it. The author does their best Peter Dutton impression and accuses us of being dole bludgers: the “hypocrisy of criticising the government while exploiting its benefits” . The argument that ‘you critique society, and yet you participate in it’ is a tired right-wing trope, an argument that even Ben Shapiro has stopped using. The article also astutely notes that we have a “membership fee”. This makes us like every other political organisation in the world.

Besides these weirdly specific allegations, the article’s basic contention is that SA is problematic because we 1) want to recruit new members; and 2) have political arguments we make to the world. These are the most basic premises of left-wing organising, and on both of these fronts, we are guilty as charged.

Of course we want to grow! Anybody remotely serious about challenging capitalism agrees that we should grow the socialist left, and the fact that the author rejects this demonstrates that they are not. We fight for our politics, and try to convince people of our arguments, because we take the project of radical change seriously. We want to convince other left-wing people that they shouldn’t just passively think left-wing things, but should be active, organised socialists. 

Over the last few years, we have thrown ourselves into every progressive movement, and had a real impact on politics in this country. We led the counter-protests against far-right transphobe Posie Parker, which got arch-conservative freak Moira Deeming kicked out of the Liberal Party. Our student members helped organise the student strikes for Palestine, which in Melbourne were the largest school strikes in the world. We called a rally of 20,000 people against the overturning of Roe vs Wade, and multiple rallies of up to 60,000 people against the Government’s handling of the 2019 bushfires. Anywhere you see protests for progressive issues, our group has probably had a hand in them.

Beyond that, our worker members have led inspiring strikes around the country. At University of Melbourne, Monash, the University of Sydney, and RMIT in particular, our members have pushed for staff strikes, and organised important student contingents. Our comrades in Mint My Desk led an impressive series of walkouts, and at Knauf Plasterboards led a victorious industrial campaign as lead delegate. We further Marxist theory for the 21st century in the Marxist Left Review, a globally leading Marxist theoretical journal, and print Australia’s biggest socialist newspaper Red Flag. We think you need to understand the world in order to change it.

In the five years that I have been a member, Socialist Alternative has roughly doubled in size across the country. If you are someone that is sick of watching the horrors of capitalism unfold in front of you, and want to get serious about activism, join us. We are the largest and most vibrant socialist group in the country for a reason, you might like what you see!

Luka Kiernan

The author Luka Kiernan

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