The Guardian March 1, 2000

Left unity, progressive unity it's time!

The Progressive Labour Party under the title of "Towards a Progressive 
Alliance" convened a one-day conference of progressive parties and 
community groups in Sydney last weekend. It brought together 
representatives of a number of political parties and community 
organisations, including some trade unions. Upwards of one hundred people 
took part.

Matt McCarten, Director, NZ Alliance Party attended and spoke of the New 
Zealand experience and while warning against simply attempting to copy the 
NZ "model" advanced some excellent principle on which to build 
relationships between different organisations.

There is a widespread understanding developing of the necessity to overcome 
differences between left and progressive organisations and individuals if 
the offensive by the conservative forces in Australia is to be turned back. 
This process of co-operation and unity is also to be seen in the 
international trade union movement with the growing of solidarity actions 
on issues held in common. Just recently a trade union conference was held 
in Canberra which brought together a number of unions from other countries 
to discuss the common struggle against the transnational Rio Tinto. We are 
all aware of the role played by many overseas trade unions in support of 
the Maritime Union of Australia in its dispute with Patrick.

There seem to be some principles that could be adopted which would be 
helpful in creating a productive climate among organisations and 
individuals. In the past the CPA has put forward some ideas on this 
question which are worth repeating as prospects for more joint action 

1. That every organisation and the individuals involved must approach 
others on the basis of equality, mutual respect and honesty.

2. There must be consultation at each step of the unity process to ensure 
agreement on policies, tactics and actions.

3. An atmosphere must be created in which the results of agreements and 
steps taken are frankly discussed and evaluated. Mistakes will be made 
which should be recognised and corrected during the course of work.

4. Agreements by co-operating organisations must be reached by consensus. 
Voting should be resorted to only as a last resort and be limited to 
procedural matters.

5. Where agreement is not reached on an issue, this issue should be put 
aside with each organisation free to express its view on the issue using 
its own facilities.

6. Once agreements are reached, all organisations help to popularise and 
carry them out.

7. Ideological differences should not stand in the way of co-operation on 
issues held in common.

8. A contest of ideas between co-operating organisations is natural and 
inevitable. This contest or any criticism of one organisation by another 
should be stated in a manner that does not undermine the unity achieved on 
agreed issues but should contribute to clarity and to strengthening the 
developing unity.

9. Each organisation is free to publish its views and carry out activities 
in support of its own policies that are not the subject of agreements.

10. Discussion and agreement at leadership level be backed up and deepened 
by cooperation at all levels of the organisations involved.

Even such principles need to be discussed among cooperating organisations 
and agreed to or modified as well as working out the issues upon which 
there is fairly widespread agreement.

Some of the current hot issues are:

* defeat of the GST and the adoption of a progressive tax system;

* opposition to privatisation;

* support for Medicare and the maintenance and strengthening of the public 
hospital system;

* free public education;

* repeal of anti-trade union laws;

* full-time work for the unemployed and all who are available for full-time 

* women's equality and rights;

* recognition of and land rights for indigenous people;

* multiculturalism and opposition to racism;

* protection of the environment;

* an independent foreign policy, no involvement in foreign military pacts.

There are very few left and progressive parties, community organisations 
and individuals who would not give these issues a tick. However, it is not 
simply a question of someone preparing a list but discussing them, getting 
agreement and also working out what can be done about them.

It is a good time to make progress on the all-important question of unity. 
As the trade union slogan has it: United we stand, divided we beg!
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