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14498Re: Demise of the English Socialist Alliance

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  • bobgould987
    Mar 1, 2005
      Dave Riley and Peter Boyle say black is white yet again about the
      Australian Socialist Alliance

      By Bob Gould

      The discussion between Nigel Irritible, from the Irish Socialist
      Party, and Peter Boyle and Dave Riley about the dissolution of the
      British Socialist Alliance has been surreal on the Boyle-Riley side.

      The British SWP, recognising political reality and having a new
      venture to promote, the electoral formation Respect, has wrapped up
      the British Socialist Alliance and mobilised sufficient votes to do
      so. That was possible because the SWP was by far the dominant force in
      the British Socialist Alliance.

      Nigel Irritable, a factional opponent of the British SWP but a very
      careful commentator, has given an account of the developments from his
      group's point of view and very cautiously drawn inferences about the
      Australian DSP and the Australian Socialist Alliance.

      This has generated a furious response from Riley, the essence of which
      is that the British SWP and the British Socialist Party are terrible
      sects but his own outfit, the DSP-cum-Socialist-Alliance, is
      impeccably non-sectarian and no parallel at all can be drawn between
      the DSP and the British SWP.

      In Riley's latest contribution, today, he heaps abuse on Nigel
      Irritible for his view that initiatives for socialist regroupment
      ought to depend on an estimate of the current conjuncture. Riley makes
      the completely voluntarist assertion that the vital thing is to
      continue with a venture like the Socialist Alliance independently of
      the conjuncture.

      That assertion encapsulates the current political strategy of the
      DSP-Socialist Alliance.

      It's a rather unfortunate moment for the DSP to be arguing that point
      with Nigel Irritible. The small Socialist Party in Melbourne, led by
      Steve Jolly, managed to get about half a quota of about 7 per cent in
      an election in Melbourne, and get a councillor elected by a judicious
      preference swap with Labor.

      Jolly and the Socialist Party at least take their independent
      electoral activity seriously and campaign intensely. The far larger
      DSP conducts a routine electoral campaign in WA, obviously without
      actually doing much at all, and gets a vote that is statistically
      negligible. That in a state where the DSP-Socialist Alliance is the
      only significant far left group.

      Boyle's contribution to the discussion can be reasonably described as
      the Potemkin Village approach. He baldly makes assertions about the
      DSP-Socialist Alliance influence, a number of which are unproven and
      some of which verge on the delusional.

      The reality of the Socialist Alliance at the moment is that there is
      intense tension between the DSP machine control and all the other
      affiliates. It's also a fact that many of the independents have
      departed from the Socialist Alliance, discontented with the DSP's
      mechanical control of the formation.

      There's also a bit of dispute going on between the ISO and the DSP
      leadership about Green Left Weekly. This dispute arises from the way
      the DSP has rammed organisational support for GLW down the throats of
      the other affiliates and many independents.

      The DSP is fighting very hard for GLW to become the paper of the
      Socialist Alliance while retaining DSP leadership control of GLW.

      The ISO, which reluctantly had to acquiesce in GLW being the de facto
      paper of the Alliance, is quite properly agitated about the way the
      DSP's eclectic political line is belted out in GLW, and it quite
      properly takes issue with Dick Nichols' sectarian article about Labor
      (Nichols' reply to me on that article, which he promised, has not
      appeared five weeks later). The ISO also objects to the DSP's views on
      Che Guevara being published in the Common Cause section of GLW, which
      is supposed to be reserved for the views of the Socialist Alliance.

      The parallels between DSP conduct in the Australian Socialist Alliance
      and British SWP conduct in the British Socialist Alliance are quite
      striking. It takes Boyle and Riley, who belt out anything that suits
      them to try to divert attention from this problem.

      Boyle makes bald assertions about the powerful influence of the DSP
      and the Socialist Alliance and their organic alliance with militant
      unionists in Victoria and WA.

      He presents as evidence for this great influence of the DSP on
      militant union officials the fact that some union officials take a
      bundle of GLW, which they leave on their office counter. How many
      unions would that be? Three or maybe five? Courtesy bundles of left
      papers is an old, and in a way quite a good, tradition, but many more
      unions used to do that with the papers of the old CPA and the paper of
      the Maoists, Vanguard.

      To present that as political influence is, to anyone who knows
      anything about the dynamics of the labour movement, verging on the

      The really pernicious thing about GLW at the present juncture is the
      automatic presumption of Labor and trade union betrayal over the
      Howard conservatives' attack on the unions, and the struggle against
      those attacks.

      GLW validly points to the dangerous implications of a defeatist
      statement by ACTU leader Greg Combey, but it ignores the more
      combative statements of people like AWU leader Bill Shorten, and it
      completely ignores the meeting of the six state and two territory
      Labor ministers, which decided unanimously to totally reject and
      resist in every legal way, attempts to transfer state industrial
      relations powers to the federal government.

      That's one of the issues at the heart of the current crisis.

      The coverage of this crisis in GLW has a defeatist undertone and
      avoids the political necessity of mobilising the maximum labour
      movement united front, including the state Labor governments, against
      the Liberal assault.

      The political reason for this is obvious. The only dimension the DSP
      can allow is things like mass delegates' meetings. A broad united
      front approach would require marching separately but uniting with
      Labor, and that can't be tolerated in the DSP's increasingly dangerous
      alternative universe.

      When will reality penetrate the self-satisified world of Boyle and
      Riley, who routinely substitute the interests of their sect for the
      broader needs of the labour movement?

      In addition to that, why would anyone in the Socialist Alliance, or
      anywhere else on the left, other than DSP and its non-party Bolsheviks
      such as Riley, have the slightest interest in promoting GLW, with its
      current deadly ultraleft political line in the labour movement?

      Once again, people should read Jack Lang's account of the crisis of
      the industrial relations crisis of the conservative Bruce Page
      government in the 1920

      I hear on the grapevine that Humphrey McQueen is quite interested to
      have a discussion on electoral and other questions facing the
      Socialist Alliance at the planned Asia-Pacific Solidarity Conference.
      For my part, I repeat my call to the DSP: why not have serious
      tactical discussion at that conference?
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