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In March, the Spartacist League of Australia (SL/A) and Bolshevik-Leninist (B-L) held a joint Fusion Conference with the purpose of forging a revolutionary nucleus in Australia. The fusion and documents resulting from it are the consummation of months of joint political work and represent a refounding of the SL/A, Australian section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist). This process was a continuation of the struggle to re-arm the ICL and speaks to the programmatic vitality of our renewed tendency.

The struggle to forge a fighting Australian section was kickstarted by a visit by leading international cadre prior to the ICL’s Eighth International Conference (see Spartacist No. 68). This visit was part of the fight to revive the SL/A, which had politically collapsed along with the rest of the ICL in 2020. Visiting comrades initiated discussions with B-L which resulted in the latter’s invitation to the International Conference and the joint reorientation that resulted from it (see “Greetings from Bolshevik-Leninist of Australia” in Spartacist No. 68, page 15).

Through this reorientation, it became clear that it was necessary to repudiate much of the SL/A and B-L’s historic approach to questions ranging from Laborism to Australia’s place in the world—central questions to understanding the fundamental tasks for communists in this country. This is why the Fusion Conference marks a departure from our old program and a refounding of the SL/A. The launching of Red Battler speaks to the need to channel the fighting spirit of the Australian proletariat in a revolutionary direction. It marks a decisive break from the politics of the SL/A’s previous paper, Australasian Spartacist.

Fusion and reorientation has truly been two sided, with comrades intervening in each other’s organisations to advance the struggle for a revolutionary program. Comrades from both sides of the fusion were elected to the leading bodies of the refounded SL/A. The following is an edited version of a presentation on the significance of the conference by C. Bourchier to a recent ICL International Executive Committee plenum.

Hello comrades. Firstly, I should say it is with my deepest pleasure that I am here today presenting as a member of the Spartacist League of Australia. To have reached where we are now, to have forged this small but fighting Marxist nucleus in Australia, has not been a quick and easy process. But it has been well worth the effort. This fusion and the programmatic refoundation of the SL/A, we believe, will serve as a lightning rod to the rest of the left and the workers movement of Australia.

To understand why, it is important to take a step back and look at how international developments have been expressed in the Australian political terrain. The relative stability of the Australian liberal order, even compared to other Western powers, is manifest in the state of the workers movement and the left. In the period following the collapse of the Soviet Union the left, if they did not liquidate outright into Labor or the Greens, flailed around in the orbit of liberalism—each organisation fighting to be the best and fiercest radlib critic.

Much of the left openly gave up the task of breaking workers from Labor, simply declaring the party bourgeois and lobbing liberal criticism a shade apart from the Greens—who they increasingly orientated towards. The left offered little more than a fight to smooth the rough edges. They criticised Labor for the excesses of its pro-capitalist program while never challenging the heart of the liberal order itself. This kept the organised working class solidly attached to their misleaders, who preached that this liberal order was necessary for the prosperity of the nation as a whole. As in many other countries, the workers movement in Australia put up little serious opposition to this course of sawing off its own legs.

With the liberal order crisis free, and the relative prosperity of significant parts of the proletariat and petty bourgeoisie stable if not improving, the political justification for the existence of many left groups seemed increasingly thin. The post-Soviet period saw the Communist Party dissolve outright and the Democratic Socialist Party disintegrate into the “eco-socialist” “broad left electoral bloc,” Socialist Alliance—exhausting themselves within a creation of their own making. The left whittled away, becoming increasingly insular and detached from the working class.

It is no surprise that today the largest nominally socialist group is Socialist Alternative (SAlt), an organisation which survives off drippings from the fringe of campus liberalism, recruiting just enough to cover its losses. This amoeba strategy of growth until a distant revolutionary epoch was the consistent thread among the entire left, the SL/A playing faux-orthodox foil to SAlt’s flagrant opportunism. But if you are unwilling or unable to intervene as a revolutionary factor, to play a decisive role in the class struggle, what else can you do but hope to get a few crumbs of recruitment sitting in the peanut gallery watching as the struggle unfolds before you?

As one can imagine, this has not been a winning strategy—it is the origin of the small and scattered state of the left in Australia today. Throughout the preceding period, it has split further into dozens of tiny sects, the total number of groups only declining due to the smallest ones dissolving. For those remaining, it became a game of who could tread water best until more exciting times arrived. SAlt love to brag about being the most successful at eking out an existence, gloating at the likes of the SL/A who were seemingly on the verge of aging out.

Recent years have seen a new generation of leftists wanting to break out of the contemporary left’s pathetic state. But they too only sought new ways to position themselves in the hope of one day being lucky enough to ride a predicted wave of impending class struggle. Instead of fighting for a revolutionary opposition to the liberal order—the one thing needed to escape this tangle—they only sought a new niche within it.

The Revolutionary Communist Organisation (RCO) is one example. It believes that by sharing maximalist rhetoric and a lowest common denominator program, the left can unsplinter itself, and from there a revolutionary party can sprout. In this sense, B-L was the RCO’s faux-orthodox foil. B-L’s solution was to bring to the working class a combination of orthodox formulations and trade-union militancy, which would magically break the working class from their Laborite misleaders and raise a revolutionary pole. Build it and they will come! But how could this have taken place without driving a wedge between the proletariat and the union bureaucrats, without demonstrating in practice a revolutionary program for the struggles of today?

Well, those are the very questions that plagued the last two years of B-L’s existence. B-L thought the crisis of the left was largely due to their detachment from the working class. In fact, this detachment is the result of the left’s programmatic impotence—which B-L could not explain. Despite these new groupings correctly recognising the failure of the “established left,” they fell into the same pitfalls and were damned to repeat the same mistakes.

Today American hegemony is increasingly showing its wear and tear. Unsurprisingly, the left, unable to put forward revolutionary opposition to the liberal order in its zenith, is unable to do so as this order is breaking down. The workers movement remains wedded to the Labor Party, which is fully committed to Australia’s role as deputy to the American empire’s war drive. In response, the left can only cry out in disgust at the Labor Party’s belligerency, while playing critic to the left Laborites who remain firmly in a bloc with their war-hawk brethren.

Australia’s stability will end in flames sooner or later. Threatened with this, the left has only held on tighter to the strategy that has brought them to this pathetic state in the first place. This path only provides the union bureaucrats left cover to keep the working class on a trajectory which promises crisis and war. In this context, it is clear that our recent conference stands in stark contrast. The fusion has laid down, for the first time in decades, the groundwork for planting a revolutionary pole in Australia: revolutionary opposition to a liberal order in decline.

Towards collision

Let us start with the “Lucky country in denial” document which roots Australia in the world order described in “The breakdown of U.S. hegemony & the struggle for workers power” (see Spartacist No. 68, September 2023). That is, it demonstrates that Australian capitalism is heading towards the same essential crisis as the rest of the world. And that in spite of all the liberal rhetoric of being able to avoid trouble overseas, Australia is on track to be plunged right into it. The document does this not through abstract assertion of capitalism’s inevitable collapse but by laying out precisely how the global crisis is being refracted in the Australian context.

Key to the document is that it approaches the society around us from the perspective of how to intervene as a revolutionary factor, and is thereby rooted in the changing class forces. Only by doing this is it able to materially demonstrate how and why Australia’s stability is built on a foundation of sand. That stability is contingent on two forces which are fundamentally at odds and heading towards collision: the success of Australia’s big brother and the growth of China. Thus, the document demonstrates that to pursue its interests the American and Australian ruling classes must intensify the war drive against China. Such a path promises nothing short of ruin for Australian capitalism.

And why are the Australian capitalists seemingly so happy with this course? Viewed in isolation, Australia’s role in the war drive against China appears almost bizarre. Why is a country, whose prosperity is due to mineral trade with China, not only willing but eager to pursue economic kamikaze in a war against its biggest trading partner? The reason is simple: playing lackey to the U.S. is the foundation of Australian capitalism. The Australian ruling class is a prime benefactor of U.S. hegemony and in fact has everything to lose with its decline—it is completely dependent on the U.S. alliance. This is why it has been so rabid in its defence of the American empire even in decay, from AUKUS to Israel and Ukraine.

If you are not clear on this, you can only respond with confusion to Australia’s war moves. Many little Australian nationalists on the left use the prospect of economic kamikaze to argue that it is irrational for Australia to play this role. This forces them into the position of pathetically begging the Australian capitalists to realise that they are somehow acting against their interests. At its extreme, the position classifies Australia as some kind of semicolony oppressed by the American boot, with the Australian ruling class needing to overthrow their Yankee yoke.

Then there are those whose confusion results in an inverse response, changing reality to fit their analysis of Australia as an independent, ambitious imperialist power. Solidarity, for example, make the bizarre argument that Australia is dragging the U.S. to war against China. B-L and the SL/A both bent into similar contortions. They used a rigid one-dimensional understanding of Australia as an ambitious imperialist power to transform “the main enemy is at home” from a revolutionary call to a moral dogma.

To be sure, the SL/A did on plenty of occasions denounce the U.S. alliance, spout off against the jackal nature of Australian capitalism and mock the impossibility of a “non-aligned” little Australia. But far from approaching a struggle against the U.S. alliance as the core of revolutionary opposition to the Australian bourgeoisie, the SL/A in practice treated the two as juxtaposed. In the 1970s when the CIA overthrew Whitlam, the SL/A polemicised against others on the left by arguing that stating this simple fact was a capitulation to Australian nationalism. While the SL/A later dropped this specific polemic, it doubled down on this trend throughout the 80s and onwards. For a long time it was an unwritten rule that writers of Australasian Spartacist had to combine the simple call for “U.S. bases out of Australia” with “not one person not one cent to the Australian military”. As if an additional demand was needed to give you sufficient revolutionary cred to permit criticism of the U.S. alliance.

All this left the SL/A completely disarmed to deal with the central pillar of Australian capitalist rule. Treating opposition to the U.S. alliance as separate to opposition to the Australian ruling class, and crying nationalism if this demand was ever centred as a key point of struggle, only put us in the camp of not just the American imperialists but of our own ruling class, whose foundation is a lackey relationship with U.S. imperialism.

In truth, the only way to challenge the Australian ruling class and its strategy is to make the struggle to smash the alliance central to our program. Such an orientation is vital not out of a moral obligation to denounce imperialism but out of the fundamentals of the fight against the enemy at home. In this sense, the main document’s approach to Australia as a “junior link in the chain of American finance capital” should be seen as a break from our old framework, one which has allowed us for the first time to put forward a revolutionary challenge to the foundation of Australian capitalism.

Only by having these pieces in place is the document revealed as a polemic against Laborism. The course of Australian capitalism is clear. The liberal order is heading toward catastrophe, but it is core to the Australian ruling class’s interests that it continues to fight to prop up U.S. hegemony. This is why the Labor government implements the policies it does. To keep capitalism afloat, Labor will do anything to keep the lucky country lucky, which means defending American hegemony to the bitter end. Labor aren’t doing bad things because they’re mean cartoon villains, they are simply pursuing the interests of a ruling class which increasingly has only one path to solve its woes.

Thus, at every turn, the utterly reactionary policies of the Labor Party arise from its commitment to the interests of capitalism. From here the necessity of revolutionary opposition to the ruling class becomes clear; also clear is the utter futility of the reformist strategy of pleading for the ruling class to change course. Only by rooting ourselves in the material reality of this country, not just of capitalism in the abstract but Australian capitalism in this historical period, can we demonstrate to the working class that the coming crisis can either be solved in the interests of the capitalists or the workers.

The second part of the document shows how utterly reactionary the COVID lockdowns were in this country. For Australia’s liberal order they were a crisis measure in the interests of the ruling class. The left, unable to grasp the class interests behind the lockdowns, completely capitulated to liberalism and were unable to put forward a working-class perspective against them.

Understanding why the lockdowns played out the way they did in Australia is not just for the historical record. Australia’s lockdowns were among the most draconian and long-lasting in the world, a testament to the ideological strength of this style of nanny-state liberalism. But liberalism pushed through these measures at significant cost to its ideological capital. Today, post-COVID entropy has begun to set in. Explaining exactly what unfolded in Australia during the pandemic, and why it did, serves as an important weapon against liberalism, and against the left which completely capitulated to the capitalists’ response and have drawn no lessons.

Later sections of the document demonstrate how B-L’s joint interventions with the SL/A were a stark break from the incapacity of the left to challenge the liberal order and its Laborite lackeys. These sections demonstrate how the seeds of the SL/A’s refounding were already planted in the months preceding it. The importance of both the “Chuck ’em Out” call and the anti-Albanese Yes campaign was that they were able to pose a way forward for the workers movement while exposing the liberals as roadblocks. Our interventions on AUKUS and the Voice laid the groundwork for the conference of the refounded SL/A. Before it, we could only understand the dynamics and class interests at play as they applied to specific episodes. Our refoundation generalises and broadens the lessons of those interventions, and vindicates them as examples of how to advance the workers movement at critical moments.

Whitlam to Keating and beyond

Important strides have also been made in our understanding of the Whitlam, Hawke and Keating governments. Beginning with “How the Whitlam government paved the way for neoliberalism”, and to be continued in an additional document on Hawke and Keating, we are mapping out how the trajectory of the ruling class has led to the present juncture. These documents serve as thorough polemics against left Laborism both in power and on the streets—demonstrating how the neoliberalism of Hawke/Keating was a direct result of the unresolved crisis of the Whitlam government.

The Whitlam document provides a revolutionary account of what actually was at stake during the 70s and into the early 80s. It shows how a militant proletariat was able to bring the country to an impasse, but under Laborite misleadership were not able to resolve it on their own terms. The left trade-union militancy of the period provided no solutions and could only exacerbate the crisis. Unable to seize power in its own right, the stalemate between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat continued until Hawke’s Labor government provided a political solution in favour of the capitalists, coopting the organised working class through the Accords. The document ultimately demonstrates the bankruptcy of Laborism, especially the left Laborite trade-union militancy of the Whitlam era and beyond. The core problem with Whitlam wasn’t that he was insufficiently militant and encouraged workers to stay at home after he was deposed. Even if he did mobilise the working class this would have solved nothing. Without a revolutionary program the organised proletariat would have remained stuck in a stalemate as it was in reality throughout the Fraser years, until Hawke’s election.

The SL/ANZ of the time was unable to recognise this, and as such its ability to intervene as a revolutionary factor was totally incapacitated. Australasian Spartacist advocated for general strikes, raised transitional demands, and called for revolution and a revolutionary party. But the SL/ANZ program was abstracted from the specific dynamics of capitalism and the class struggle at this particular time and place.

If you read the articles of the time with this in mind the SL/ANZ’s confusion is clear. It could preach against Labor in the abstract, against capitalism in the abstract, but when it came to demonstrating to the working class Laborism’s utter bankruptcy as the crisis unfolded, it failed—not just in the critical moment of Whitlam’s dismissal but in the decade afterwards. Unable to comprehend the crisis, let alone lead the working class towards a political solution to it, the SL/ANZ could only fight to be the most militant wing of economist trade-union Laborism.

A prolonged period of revolutionary opportunity passed the SL/ANZ by without a fuss, and the conclusions it drew from this were profoundly deforming on the organisation. Drawing the correct lessons from this period arms us going forward, in stark contrast to the rest of the left which repeat mistakes of the past.

Everyone on the left can rant and rave about how bad Labor was under Hawke and Keating. From SAlt to the SL/A, they all loved to mouth off how bad Labor was and is. But none of them could grasp the fundamental continuity between Whitlam and the neoliberal Laborism he paved the way for. Neither could they understand exactly how Hawke solved the crisis of Australian capitalism in the interests of the bourgeoisie. The left could not offer a way forward for the working class, their criticism amounting to little more than nostalgic reminiscing over the good old days of the Whitlam era stalemate. Hawke was able to point to the untenable Whitlam/Fraser period and use it as blackmail to gain working-class compliance with economic reordering and the Accords, which dramatically increased union subordination to the state.

Hawke and Keating’s program presented itself as the only alternative for a working class which would otherwise need to face an Australian Reagan or Thatcher. And so the proletariat, exhausted by decades of trade-union struggle resulting in diminishing gains, remained hitched to Laborism—which the left, the SL/A included, had no response to.

As for the SL/A, allowing an entire historical period to pass it by in the previous decade manifested in a defeatist and insular program which dismissed the Australian working class as a bunch of wife-beating white racist pigs. This was conceived of as a way of being hard on Laborism, but in practice completely surrendered the task of breaking its grip on the working class. Intervening with such a program could only repel the bulk of the working class, reinforcing the SL/A’s assessment.

Failing to seize on a key period of revolutionary intervention, and drawing all the wrong lessons from it, the SL/A concluded that due to the “piggish” nature of the working class there was little potential for revolutionary awakening—barring massive external shocks such as untold economic catastrophe or the loss of a hypothetical counterrevolutionary war against a socialist Asia.

The importance of correcting this course cannot be lost. Taking on the Accords required confronting the whole ruling class and the neoliberal regime which is dependent on tying down the organised proletariat. Defying the Accords with trade-union militancy alone could only leave you exposed, like the BLF, to repression and smashing.

“Enlightened” imperialist nation building

The “Multiculturalism and the liberal order in Australia” document deals with a key plank of modern Australian liberalism. It demonstrates not just in abstract phrases but in materialist analysis the utterly reactionary nature of multiculturalism. This document shows how the development of Multicultural Australia out of White Australia did not happen as the product of some moral awakening but as a result of changing capitalist demands as the ruling class became increasingly dependent on Asian immigration and trade.

Multiculturalism arose out of the necessity of the Australian ruling class to “engage” and “enmesh” with Asia internally and externally—providing it an ideological framework to strengthen the grip of the liberal world order. The document makes a powerful case not just for the need to oppose multiculturalism, but for the fact that this fight can only be waged with the positive counterposed program of proletarian internationalism.

As immigration increased, the ruling class wielded multiculturalism to ideologically cohere new strata of immigrants behind the bourgeoisie. In this sense they could have their cake and eat it too—new imported labour which would in fact compete with the non-immigrant population to be the most loyal to the bosses’ cause. This is the reactionary nature of multiculturalism. It is a weapon of the bourgeoisie, not to divide the working class as the old SL/A used to say, but to unite the working class behind Australia’s liberal order!

Today liberal multicultural hegemony is beginning to break down alongside the decline of U.S. hegemony. Unable to pose a revolutionary break with multiculturalism, the left can only respond with even more hysterical liberalism, a path which promises disaster for the working class.

It is clear that what is needed is not a constant campaign to smooth multiculturalism’s rough edges but rather to drive a wedge against its ideological cohesion. Isolated arguments exposing the “hypocrisy” of multiculturalism (from the unequal treatment of minorities under lockdowns to attacks on refugees) amount to arguing that the bourgeoisie is insufficiently committed to multiculturalism. But far from “exposing” the inconsistency and falsity of multiculturalism, racist inequalities are not only reconcilable but are fundamental to liberal multiculturalism—the ideological axis conditioning passivity and acceptance of oppression.


In the SL/A, alongside all sections of the ICL, we must continue the struggle to break from old frameworks and fight to be a genuinely revolutionary factor. Doing this requires that the section continues to intervene as a revolutionary force on the left. Already in the months preceding our conference we have made serious headway. Our struggle to plant a revolutionary pole in the Voice referendum had to cut through the false polarisation of society at large but also the false polarisation that existed within the SL/A for years on the question of Aboriginal land rights. One side supported land rights by tailing liberalism, while the other attempted to reject liberal tailism by renouncing the struggle altogether. Our Fusion Conference represents a significant step towards forging ourselves as a revolutionary weapon, but is only one of many steps we will need to continually take.

Since the Conference this revolutionary framework of the refounded SL/A has already been put into action with our statement on Palestine and united-front effort. We could not seriously grasp the necessity of centring the fight to break the American connection until we had gone through the struggle of producing these conference documents. The initial reaction of a supporter of the League for the Fourth International to our united front is testament enough to this—denouncing us as little Australia nationalist anti-Americans. But is the alliance with the U.S. not the axis which ties Australia to the Zionist onslaught? Is struggling to break the American connection not central both to advancing the Palestinian movement and to striking at the heart of Australian capitalism? By trying to paint themselves as “oh so revolutionary,” the opponents of this call put themselves in the opposite camp, alongside the liberal defenders of U.S. imperialism and its Australian lackeys.

As for the united-front campaign itself, we have already drawn interest from broader sections of the Palestinian movement than we’d previously been able to reach. People are frustrated at the movement dwindling; many of them are well aware that the alliance is the reason for Australia’s support to Israel. Our united-front campaign provides a strategy to break through this impasse, to put up a counterposed program to the liberal speechifying on stage week after week. Furthermore, our revolutionary pole within this united front provides a path to achieve this demand, demonstrating the necessity of a break from the U.S. lapdogs in parliament and those who maintain a bloc with them.

Of course, this is just the beginning. As the situation for the Palestinian movement becomes increasingly dire, the necessity of our call shows itself more clearly. There are plenty of avenues to push forward. As U.S. hegemony enters deeper crises, and when Australia’s liberal order finally does get that rude awakening, we will be in a good position. We have hit the ground running, and in times like this will definitely need to keep at it. We are now well equipped to do so. This is the significance of our Fusion Conference. Thank you.