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Ram Seegobin on Asia Pacific International Solidarity Conference (24-28 March 2005)

17.04.2005

Ram Seegobin's 9 April Report-Back to Lalit members on his participation in the Asia Pacific International Solidarity Conference in Sydney was divided into 5 sections:
1 The way the conference was organized, and who were present.
2 The political content of the sessions.
3 The program of his visit to the Democratic Socialist Party Perth Branch (after the Conference).
4 About the DSP itself, and about the Socialist Alliance it is part of.
5 Positive outcomes or possibilities because of his participation in the Conference.
This was followed by a questions-and-comments session. Ram also brought back two interesting books (both of them a "Volume One") launched during the Conference, one a History of the Democratic Socialist Party in Australia by John Percy and the other The History of the Socialist Workers Party in the USA by Barry Shepherd. He also brought a gift from the DSP of a number of basic Marxist texts as well as back numbers of the theoretical magazine, LINKS.


1 Ram said there were around 350 participants present each day, and, because some people could not come every day, this meant a total of 500 people who attended. In response to a question at question-time, he estimated about one third were women. Those present were from 20 different countries, with the delegations from Asian countries being large. There were ten plenary sessions in all, and about 80 smaller workshops, which were on every imaginable political subject. Ram commented that the Conference was very politico-political, in the best sense of the words, and had no tendency towards NGO-type apologies for politics. He said he made interesting contacts for Lalit with people and organizations from Asia, the USA, New Zealand and Europe. A number of people he met knew Lalit militants or about Lalit. Barry Shepherd and Caroline Lund were in the American SWP with Evelyn Bibi, who later became a founder member of Lalit de Klas, which became Lalit. Terry Townsend had attended a talk given by Ram and Lindsey Collen at the WOSA offices in Johannesburg in South Africa in 1994. Jon Lamb and Kathy Newman had already met Ram, Lindsey and Alain Ah-Vee at the World Social Forum in Mumbai in 2004. Ken Davis, DSP member, had met a number of Lalit members when he visited Mauritius some years back.
Ram also mentioned the very interesting Public Talk on the eve of the Conference given by Stan Goff of the Bring the Troops Home movement in the USA.
There were rosters of members responsible for all the organization, and someone who had just been chair could easily to serving coffee in the next session.


2 The first plenary session at which Ram spoke was on Wars of the US Empire, when he spoke on the need to attack the military bases on an ongoing basis and not just oppose war when it actually broke out. He of course introduced people to the history and present situation of the struggle to close down the base on Diego Garcia, reunite the country, and get proper reparations for the Chagossians. He later spoke at another plenary on the Future of Socialism, when he emphasised two things: the need to move from defensive struggles to counter-attack, and the importance of interpreting the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Other plenary sessions were on: Capitalist Globalization, Rebuilding the Anti-War Movmement, Venezuela, Lessons from the US Defeat in Vietnam, Another Australia is Possible, The World Social Forum and the Struggle against the Neo-Liberal Order, What Comes After the Non-Aligned Movement, Conclusions.

Ram also spoke at three workshops. One was on Left Perspectives in Mauritius, which he said he was surprised at how well attended it was. Another was on Left Groupings on a Regional Basis and the third on Internationalism and the Internationals.

Ram said he had attended the workshop on the Women's Movement which was very interesting, with strong criticisms of the "gender equity" line that has been masquerading as feminism in recent years. The main thrust was the need to attack patriarchy. He said, however, that there was a tendency amongst some of those present not to expose clearly enough the role of organized religion in women's oppression.

Between sessions Ram did a Radio Interview, which he said was just like going to Radio Plus or Top FM here, and an interview for the next Green Left Weekly.


3 In Perth Ram stayed with a port worker and was taken round by a supply teacher. He gave a talk to the DSP militants in Perth, who he enjoyed meeting. He also met a group of Aboriginal Women who are organized against police brutality. He spoke about JUSTICE in Mauritius that Lalit members helped set up. Ram also met a Palestinian Group, who were very interested to know about Alain Ah-Vee and Ragini Kistnasamy's visits of solidarity to Palestine. One of the people present had been in Palestine just prior to Alain's participation in the protest march along the wall. On his last evening, he went to an event organised at a left café: his talk on the history of the struggle against the military base on Diego Garcia was followed by a film (Control Room) on the role of the media in the invasion of Irak. Ram told people that we knew Scott Ludlum of the NO US BASES network. They already knew about Scott's work opposing the US "Sea Swap" form of military base in Perth.


4 Ram described the very organized headquarters of the DSP in Sydney, and then how they have branches in the other cities. The nearer cities could send big delegations to the conference, but those in Perth and Darwin, for example, faced very expensive plane fares.

Ram said he was impressed by how informed and well-read many of the young DSP members were, and was also impressed by how conscious all the members were of the difficulties of the strategy of the Socialist Alliance that they were involved in.


5 Ram said he thought there would be interesting outcomes. First, Lalit will now be able to perhaps have a closer relationship with the DSP, itself. Then, other parties in a part of the globe we were unfamiliar with are now in contact with us. On a different note, Lalit's emphasis on attacking military bases, as part of the anti-war movement, made some big leaps forward. Stan Goff announced at the end of the conference that he had been convinced, and would raise it with his organization. He now believes that it is reasonable to Bring the Troops Home, not only from the battle front, but also from the bases. His web-site has already reflected this since his return. (Just type Stan Goff and you will get his web-site). Lalit has since Ram's returned informed the NO US BASES network about the work on base closures at the APISC.

Ram also said that the APISC was very much like a successful and much larger version of what had been the original idea of Lalit and WOSA when we set up the South East African Forum.