Socialist Alternative raises red flag; Ex members expose all

Words by ex members who wish to remain anonymous

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For many young left-wing students, Socialist Alternative (SAlt) appears to be the shining solution to the global inequality and systematic class issues found in our capitalist society, and on a surface level, I can’t blame them for thinking so. As a former member myself, I also thought along these lines. However, after going through the initiations, the group indoctrinations, and the cult-like manipulation, it becomes increasingly clear that under the surface, Socialist Alternative is nothing but a “family” (not unlike the Mansons) who employ cult-like methods to manipulate other leftists into joining their ranks. Within their newly recruited members, they destroy all sense of free though and debate, while restricting any opposition to their extremist agenda. Don’t be fooled: Socialist Alternative is dangerous.

Difficulty in leaving:

There was an extreme difficulty in leaving Socialist Alternative. Almost immediately after I messaged the Adelaide Branch Seniors to advise I was no longer interested in being a member, many Socialist Alternative members promptly blocked me online. Other members began commenting on my Facebook posts criticising my political views, as I deviated from the organisation’s accepted, mandated beliefs. It was extremely toxic, and very difficult to escape from. Even today, members will see me in the street and say things to draw a reaction from me. Once you leave, they turn on you.

Useless internal grievance process:

Based on my experience, there is an ineffective internal grievance procedure, especially against a senior member. From what I remember, if you experience any grievance against a member, you are encouraged to advise another senior member. However, after I experienced such grievances myself, I reported them, and no action was ever taken. They promptly ignored all criticism in order to maintain social order within the group.

Policies of the organisation are ‘top down’ rather than ‘bottom up’:

The policies and positions of Socialist Alternative are essentially discussed between the senior members in “Leadership Meetings”. In these meetings, the senior members get together and form policies and positions on political issues. Then, once the senior members have decided on policy, they advise the rest of the party on what position you must take. There is no room for debate or discussion around ideas or opinions. Either you accept the decision of the senior members, or you aren’t a member.

There is no room for dissent from the mainstream policy position of the organisation:

The organisation requires all members to agree and conform to the same principles or keep quiet about any disagreements. If you vocally oppose an opinion or belief, you are shunned and begin the process of members isolating you from the group.

Experience of threats and intimidation against members:

I personally have experienced threats and intimidation after speaking out at branch meetings. One such example was at a meeting regarding an anti-Nuclear Fuel policy in South Australia. I am personally for Nuclear Energy, which is strictly opposed to what Socialist Alternative preach. I was told to not attend the meeting by a senior member, and when I did attend they told me I am not to raise my hand, speak, or partake in the discussions. Being a young teenager, I agreed to stay silent as their intimidation was quite effective against me.

Criticism for prioritising family and other commitments over the work of the organisation:

I was not only criticised for prioritising family and my other commitments, but was actively shamed for it. I remember how members would message me with passive-aggressive messages threatening my membership if I don’t dedicate every free moment to the organisation.

Taboo words and values that you cannot express in the organisation:

The list of words you are unable to say when a member of Socialist Alternative numbers in the hundreds. I was shunned and verbally abused by a member, Lawrence, for saying, “Catching a bus to Adelaide from my house is a bitch of a journey”. After being a member for so long, your entire vocabulary begins to change, to mould into what is accepted within the organisation, else you face abuse and/or discipline.

SAlt also encourages cult-like behaviour:

You were required to spend your free time selling newspapers wherever you were (even in high schools). We were actively encouraged to vandalise property through stickers, posters, and markers to promote the organisation and their conferences (i.e. Marxism Conference in Melbourne). You were required to share certain articles on your social media, tag certain members in your comments, and argue with right-wingers whenever the opportunity arose. In the first few meetings you attend, the senior members begin testing you to see how you react to certain situations, even conducting role-playing scenarios to see how you respond to conflict on the streets with a Liberal or Labor member. These are just some examples of the cultist behaviour I experienced in Socialist Alternative.

Exorbitant membership fees:

Membership dues were debited weekly, and the exact amount depended on your living situation. I personally was an unemployed high school student, so my dues were $5 a week. My friend was a university student and their dues were $14 a fortnight.

The organisation did not properly address a case of sexual assault:

A member was sexually abused by her ex-boyfriend, both were members of Socialist Alternative at the time. The victim spoke up to the senior members and was ignored multiple times. After continually bringing it up, and threatening to go to the police, the senior members had a meeting regarding the accusations. They asked the abuser to quietly leave the organisation, and they refused to speak any more of the issue to the victim. The victim left within a matter of weeks after being ignored and isolated by the senior members. The victim now has a severe hatred against Socialist Alternative for not taking her seriously, still involving the abuser in events, and then isolating her from the group after speaking out.

SAlt leadership is chosen by itself:

There are about 6 senior leaders in the Adelaide branch of Socialist Alternative. The leadership was selected over time by other members of the leadership whenever they found someone who fit their criteria. The roles and duties of the leadership was to instruct the foot soldiers to go out and sell Red Flag newspapers, to organise reading groups, to enroll in student elections, and to decide Socialist Alternative policy.

I would just like to say that being a member of Socialist Alternative for almost 2 years has brought me nothing but shame and regret. The constant passive aggressive messages, the isolation and shame I was given for not conforming, and the fear I still get walking down Rundle Mall on a Friday evening when they are selling their papers, has honestly changed how I view the far-left. On the outside, they look like a student group who preach free speech and equality for all, but when you look behind the curtain, it becomes clear it’s a cult who are fixated on dismantling Australian society, controlling its members, and abusing all those who disagree with their views.

Written by

Adelaide University student magazine since 1932. Edited by Nicholas Birchall, Felix Eldridge, Taylor Fernandez and Larisa Forgac. Email us at onditmag@gmail.com

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