Socialist Equality Party (Australia)
The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (Australia)

Capitalist breakdown and the founding of the Socialist Equality Party

1. The founding congress of the Socialist Equality Party, the Australian section of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), takes place in the aftermath of the founding congress of the SEP in the United States and in conjunction with founding congresses being conducted by the sections of the ICFI in Europe and South Asia. The ICFI, the world Trotskyist movement, is the only political party seeking to provide the international working class with the program and organisation necessary to overthrow the outmoded capitalist system and ensure the future development of humanity on the basis of international socialism. These common initiatives are the response of the ICFI to the breakdown of world capitalism ushered in by the global financial and economic crisis that began in 2007–2008 and the new period of wars and revolutionary struggles that has opened up. They are grounded on the historical lessons of the strategic experiences of the international working class extracted by the international socialist movement over more than a century of struggle.

2. All the contradictions that wracked the capitalist system in the 20th century and gave rise to mass unemployment, fascism and war have reached a new peak of intensity in the opening decade of the 21st. Assuming ever more malignant forms, these contradictions derive from the irresolvable conflict between the global economy and the nation-state system and between socialised production and the private ownership of the means of production. They have created the objective conditions for the overthrow of capitalism by the international working class.

3. The same contradictions underlie the new dangers posed by climate change. These dangers cannot be seriously tackled, let alone resolved, within the framework of the capitalist system, where corporate profit dominates over human needs and the conflicting interests of rival nation-states make impossible the rational re-organisation of the world economy.

4. The predecessor of the SEP, the Socialist Labour League (SLL), was founded as the Australian section of the ICFI in 1972. The ICFI’s orientation to the resolution of the crisis of leadership of the working class, and its principled struggle against Stalinism, reformism and petty-bourgeois radicalism, won to its ranks workers and young people in Europe, the US, Asia and Australia who had been radicalised by the revolutionary upsurge of the working class in the 1960s and 1970s. Now, almost four decades on, the founding of the SEP is being undertaken to meet the tasks posed by a new period of revolutionary upheaval.

5. The strategy of the SEP is grounded on the objective logic of the world crisis of capitalism. Its fundamental task is to politically prepare the working class, develop its socialist consciousness and build a new mass revolutionary party. This will only take place in opposition to the various petty-bourgeois tendencies that seek to subordinate the working class to the decaying and treacherous trade unions, and the remnants of the social democratic and Stalinist apparatus, and thereby to the capitalist order itself. The open disavowal by the French Pabloite organisation, the Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire (LCR), of any connection with a revolutionary socialist program, its rejection of Trotskyism and repudiation of internationalism in order to dissolve itself into the so-called “New Anti-Capitalist Party” (NPA), is being heralded by all the organisations of the petty-bourgeois ex-“left” as their model.

6. Throughout the history of the Australian workers’ movement, the Labor and trade union bureaucracies, together with the various ex-radical organisations, have promoted the myth of Australian exceptionalism as a counter to the development of socialist consciousness. In the latter part of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th, they characterised Australia as the “workingman’s paradise”, where the laws of the class struggle did not apply. Today, in the midst of the greatest economic and financial crisis in three-quarters of a century, the illusion is once again being promoted that Australia is “exceptional” and has “weathered” the storm. While the first phase of the global financial crisis that began in 2007–2008 has passed, neither the world economy nor Australian capitalism can return to the past. A vast “restructuring” of economic and class relations is underway on a global scale that will propel the working class into political struggle. In its perspectives resolution The World Capitalist Crisis and the Tasks of the Fourth International, published in 1988, the ICFI made clear the tasks posed by the coming upheavals: “[N]o struggle against the ruling class in any country can produce enduring advances for the working class, let alone prepare its final emancipation, unless it is based on an international strategy aimed at the worldwide mobilization of the proletariat against the capitalist system. This necessary unification of the working class can only be achieved through the construction of a genuine international proletarian, i.e., revolutionary, party. Only one such party, the product of decades of unrelenting ideological and political struggle, exists. It is the Fourth International, founded by Leon Trotsky in 1938, and led today by the International Committee.”[1]


The World Capitalist Crisis and the Tasks of the Fourth International, Perspectives Resolution of the International Committee of the Fourth International, Labor Publications, Detroit, 1988, pp. 7–8.