13710Joshua Boyle blasts his bugle again
- Feb 9, 2005Joshua Boyle blasts his little trumpet again
By Bob Gould
About a fortnight ago Dick Nicholls put his name to an extraordinary
Third-Period-type article about the Labor Party in Green Left Weekly.
One feature of Nicholls's article was that it was a clear violation of
the implicit protocol between the DSP and the other affiliates of the
Socialist Alliance, who are expected to support GLW, that GLW would
only have major line articles on contentious questions that embodied
the Socialist Alliance agreed view.
Clearly Nicholls's call for the Labor Party to go out of business
forthwith does not fit that protocol. I'm reliably informed that the
ISO are pretty angry about the way the Nicholls article breaches the
I posted a criticism of Nicholls on the GLW discussion list more than
a week ago. Nicholls put a small post on Green Left saying he'd reply
to me in due course, but no reply has appeared.
In the interim, about a week ago, Peter Boyle posted the vintage piece
attached, which expresses everything that is bad about the DSP
leadership approach to Laborism.
The first feature of Boyle's outburst, which is so contemptuous of the
reader that he doesn't even correct it, is that Boyle's proposition is
In a convoluted way he says no Labor governments have ever done
anything for the working class.
Even the most limited student of Australian history knows that's a
lie. What about the introduction of child endowment by the Lang
government in NSW, what about the introduction of workers compensation
I won't bore the reader, but there are literally hundreds of reforms
introduced by Labor governments, usually against the strenuous
opposition of the conservatives.
Boyle is talking obvious nonsense. A curious aspect of this is that no
one on the GLW list has challenged Boyle in the five days since his post.
Even in very recent times, despite the general shift of Laborism to
the right, there have been a number of reforms by Labor governments.
The NSW government and its then industrial relations minister Jeff
Shaw, steered through both houses industrial relations laws that met
the full demands of the trade unions.
Labor in NSW a few years ago also steered through the Parliament the
reform of the Upper House, which turned it from a bastion of reaction
into a democratic house elected by proportional representation, which
led to the election of Greens members to that house.
The Victorian Labor government recently brought in proportional
representation in its upper house, also making possible the election
of Greens. It also introduced proportional representation in local
government elections, making possible the election of Greens and
socialists such as Steve Jolly.
In saying that Labor governments have never done anything for the
working class, Boyle is talking rubbish, and it's difficult to believe
that he doesn't know it.
The question must be asked: why choose this moment for such an
extravagant attack on Labor?
Given the tendency in far left organisations to be removed from the
actual stream of life, and to get carried away by the heat generated
in small rooms (referred to by Trotsky), Marxists should keep a copy
of Lenin's Left Wing Communism handy.
One can open a copy of this work at almost any page and be rewarded,
and this paragraph, from page 73 of the Bookmarx edition is
particularly relevant to Boyle's outburst.
"The surest way of discrediting and damaging a new political (and not
only political) idea is to reduce it to absurdity on the plea of
defending it. For every truth, if "overdone" (as Dietzgen senior put
it), if exaggerated, if carried beyond the limits of actual
applicability, can be reduced to absurdity and is even bound to become
an absurdity. That is just the kind of backhanded service the Dutch
and German lefts are rendering the new truth that the Soviet form of
government is superior to bourgeois democratic parliaments."
The most immediate problem facing the Australian labour movement and
working class is the imminent assault of the Liberals, come July, on
the state industrial relations systems. In particular, the Liberals
are threatening to abolish the state systems, and that must be
resisted by the labour movement.
An effective resistance should be modelled on the broad labour
movement approach in the MUA dispute a few years ago, which combined
the unions, community activists and many on the far left in effective
resistance that led to defeat of the Liberals' plans.
The same kind of flexible, active, militant united front is an obvious
necessity on a national scale in resisting the Liberals' industrial
It's quite likely that the leadership of the unions and the state
Labor governments will vacillate somewhat in this situation, but the
left ought to try to stiffen them up by the use of flexible tactics,
rather than denouncing them for "inevitable betrayal" before the
battle is even joined.
Boyle and the DSP leaderships' extravagant abuse of Laborism is, in
this context, completely reactionary in relation to the task at hand.
Boyle reduces working class politics to a lunatic conspiracy theory
when he says: "this difference makes it the capitalist that
specialises in duping a large section of the working class into
supporting it". This curious, contemptuously uncorrected, sentence is
at the heart of Boyle's and the DSP leadership's current madness.
The grip of Laborism on the left of Australian society is reduced
crudely to Labor duping the working class. If that was the core of it,
the problem would be easily solved. The working class would respond to
the correct ideas presented by the DSP. You've only got to state that
proposition for the obvious flaws in it to jump out and bite you.
The grip of Laborism on the Australian working class is a real,
historic, material force. It's based, in reality, on the association
of Laborism with all the reforms introduced by Labor governments at
different times, that Boyle baldly asserts don't exist.
Socialists are unlikely to make any headway at all in combating the
grip of Laborism by extravagant and untruthful pure propaganda of the
Significant sections of militants are certainly disaffected with
Labor, but they're hardly likely to take notice of socialists who tell
them obvious and outright lies.
Boyle should study the above paragraph from Left Wing Communism every
morning before he goes to work.
Before the DSP went crazy on the question of the Labor Party in 1984
it shared with most Trotskyist formations a reasonably realistic view
of the sociology of mass labour parties and the need for strategic
intervention in them. In fact, a couple of articles from the early
years of the DSP about the sociology of mass labour parties, and
strategic questions relating to them, stand the test of time as useful
statements of the problems facing Marxists in the labour movement.
In 1984, however, the DSP dumped all that realistic sociology in
favour of pure metaphysics about the fundamental nature of political
Once again, I can't really understand why they say and do what they
say and do. Why does Boyle tell obvious lies about the history of the
labour movement, and why does he belt out this rubbish when the need
of the moment is mobilisation for a united front against the Liberal
Once again, the only possible explanation is that the extravagant
anti-Labor rhetoric relates mainly to the internal problems of the DSP.
DSP membership has fallen to 265 or thereabouts, and hard copy sales
of Green Left Weekly to about 2000. Clearly there is difficulty,
partly as a result of the leadership's Third Period political line, in
persuading the members to persist in primarily internal and exotically
overseas-focused political activity.
It obviously has less and less to do with reality.
The DSP puts an enormous amount of effort into developments in Latin
America, many of them good and worthy. Nevertheless, this
extraordinarily narrow focus on Latin America, for instance, tends to
remove the DSP membership more and more from the reality of Australian
I make this modest proposal to the organisers of the coming
Asia-Pacific Solidarity Conference, which has a stream on the
Australian labour movement. Why not have several serious forums in
this stream with different and opposed points of view, responsibly
presented, on these vexed tactical questions in the broad Australian
Peter Boyle's post
>>There is nothing progressive about the ALP. And as Humphrey McQueenargues, in its entire history not a single ALP government could in any
way be described as a government for the working class. Every single
ALP government sought to serve and preserve capitalist rule. It is
100% a capitalist party but one with a historic relationship with the
trade union officialdom. This difference makes it the capitalist that
specialises in duping a large section of the working class into
supporting it. However the consistent and aggressive support for the
neoliberal agenda by all ALP governments (state and federal) over the
last two and a half decades has further broken down the mistaken
belief that the ALP is party for the working class. Most of what
remains of a working class electoral loyalty to the ALP is based on
the no longer confident hope that a Labor government might be a lesser
evil and a hatren of the Coalition. The only good reason socialist
have to call for a vote for an ALP government is to facilitate the
further erosion of that mistaken belief. Support the bastards like the
rope supports a hanged man's neck.
- << Previous post in topic Next post in topic >>