The Q’s You’ve Always Wanted To Ask: Socialist Alternative
When you hear the term ‘radical student revolutionaries’, perhaps one group comes to mind. Socialist Alternative are often at the forefront of various student campaigns and are a fixture of student participation in protests. These activities have gained the group quite the reputation on campus. Whether you have been approached on campus to sign a petition, buy a copy of red flag, or marched alongside the collective at rallies, you’ve probably heard of them. The Vertigo team had the opportunity to interview a member of UTS Socialist Alternative to hear about their approach to student activism first-hand. Here are the questions you’ve always wanted to ask a member of SALT:
Could you briefly outline the mission and purpose of your organisation for our Vertigo readers?
Socialist Alternative is the largest revolutionary socialist organisation in Australia. We exist to build resistance against the injustices of capitalism, exploitation and inequality due to war, environmental destruction, racism and other forms of oppression. Ultimately, we believe a workers’ revolution is necessary to demolish the capitalist system and replace it with socialism; a society run by the workers’ democratic organisation of product-ion. Today, that means promoting any resistance to injustice and oppression that helps mobilise students and workers. At UTS, we’ve been key activists in the campaign against job cuts on campus. We’ve promoted the rolling demonstrations against the Israeli apartheid in solidarity with the struggle to free Palestine. We have organised UTS students to join the Black Lives Matter demonstrations and the protests against Mark Latham’s trans-phobic bills to name just a few of the campaigns our club is involved in.
“The most significant difference between Socialist Alternative and other political forces at UTS is that we’re for a revolution against capitalism.”
What are the most significant differences between your values and the values of other political bodies existing within UTS?
The most significant difference between Socialist Alternative and other political forces at UTS is that we’re for a revolution against capitalism. A revolution isn’t on the cards in Australia any time soon, but that idea of radical change shapes how we approach activism, here and now. So we’re not for sucking-up to the university administration, lobbying the government, campaigning for the election of the Labor Party, working for NGOs or trying to diversify the ruling class — we’re for mass action, protests, militancy and workers’ strikes. That’s why we’re constantly promoting protests for different progressive causes most days of the week — change doesn’t come through parliament, it’s on the streets and in the workplaces.
Who is the force behind the organisation? How does your leadership system work?
Members of Socialist Alternative are socialist activists who agree with the politics of revolutionary socialism. They are members of their trade union or campus union and are active in building progressive campaigns and attending demonstrations. We’re a democratic organisation that has an elected leadership at a national and campus level who are responsible for coordinating our activist work. We don’t want to simply talk shop with no real activism, or just have a few members off in the corner reading Lenin. We’re all proud of our radical democratic culture that’s about the members of SALT (Socialist Alternative) engaging in both theory and activism.
Activism has arguably become a more ubiquitous part of youth culture over the past few years, especially since the BLM movement. What are some similarities and differences in how you approach activism now, versus when you first started?
Capitalism in 2021 is a system that has undergone a series of crises which have led to a revival of mass protest and rebellion. Even a few years back in 2019, growing inequality led to uprisings around the world from Hong Kong, to Chile and Lebanon. Last year, the pandemic showed just how twisted the system is with leaders around the world prioritising the economy over public health, and billionaires getting richer while the poor get poorer. Black Lives Matter in particular was the largest uprising in the US since the Civil Rights movements and that mass struggle has spread reverberations everywhere, including in Australia. People can see that the system isn’t broken, it was built this way. Young people are participating in mass protests about the climate, racism and inequality and are more open to radical critiques towards the police, the state and capitalism. We really believe we need to rebuild a left in this country that’s ready for the next big rebellion, because it’s not enough to be against this or that injustice, the whole system needs to go and that is going to take organisation.
“People can see that the system isn’t broken, it was built this way. ...the whole system ...”
What are your current main objectives and activities?
The socialist club is currently focused on building solidarity with the struggle for a free Palestine and preparing for the Socialism Conference in Sydney in September. A few of our members will be speaking at the conference on radical union and anti-racist history and all of our members will be heading along to the first national gathering that the radical left has been able to host since the pandemic began.
If you could make 3 major changes within UTS, what would they be? Would these be your long-term goals?
We’re currently facing some of the biggest changes on higher education in a generation, with the government increasing fees for humanities last year, the funding cuts this year and at a campus level, hundreds of staff facing the sack. The UTS social- ists will continue to fight the Vice Chancellor’s austerity agenda on campus as ultimately, we want a student movement that can win a free and fully-funded public higher education sector.