15167Re: CPGB/SA controversy
- Mar 16, 2005---Dave Murray was reputed to have written on the UK left list:
> The decline of the Socialist Alliance has been going for a longtime now.
> > Their active membership is only 300-400 (and falling rapidly).Many of us should know by now that Dave Murray can't help himself so
> > claim of 1200 is based on the number of members it takes to get
> > electoral registration here in Australia.
we tend to be indulgent with his rages. So lets' put aside all the
personal abuse stuff he thows at me.
But within this vociferous rant he does struggle to make at least
one polemical point: that the SA isn't really as big as I claimed it
I in fact clearly referred to the SA's paid up membership and
proffered an estimate as it isn't always a straightforward task to
quantify what the actual membership is at any one time . At no time
did I equate that figure with the status of a mass party (as Murray
seems to think I did). The SA is presently a small political
But I did discuss the Alliance's moderate attainments relative to
the size and influence of the small far left groups by themselves
competing with one another as is their historical want.I also
referenced that achievement along the political time line of my own
experience going back 35 years.
However since the Alliance has only been going four years it is
difficult to locate the long term decline he insists the SA is
suffering from even though we are supposed to have an active
membership of "300-400(and falling rapidly)."
I raise this point as this was the very same charge, leveled in
another forum, in protest against my interview with the Socialist
Unity Network. I am amazed at Dave Murray's acumen because I doubt
that there are many (if indeed any)people in the SA who can
confidently arrive at such a figure. I don't claim to be one of
The Socialist Alliance is a disparate grouping which does not comply
to the same rules of cohesion that appy to the various small
Marxian caucuses. That's one of the many advantages it has other
the standalone partyish model. People co-exist at different levels
within the SA. Some are committed Marxists, others are totally new
to politics. Some attend branch meetings/some don't. A section of
the membership may be regular demonstrators attending any number of
rallies and marches each year; others prefer to work in their trade
union or give financially to the project and limit their input to
handing out on polling day. In fact, the Alliance pretty much
reflects what it currently is: a political formation in transition
from electoral coalition to multi tendency socialist party. And if
you read your Green Left Weekly or Alliance Voices you'll note that
the nature and pace of that transition is precisely the issue in
dispute within the SA.
The Alliance is a very complex political phenomenon which is
difficult to get a handle on. Even collecting statistics from its
far flung branches is quite a challenge. You can kiss all your crude
schemata good bye, because the SA proceeds at an uneven pace and
seems to hold to its own trajectory formatted between the electoral
weight of the Greens and the continuing decline in ALP support. To
make matters more difficult to comprehend, the nature of the
Alliance varies from locality to locality even varying significantly
within the one broad metropolitan area.
In the current Green Left Weekly David Glantz will tell you that his
inner Melbourne branch of Wills has 98 members and these 98 members
do this and that. But he doesn't tell you that around 30 of those
are members of SA affiliates who are concentrated there. This ratio
is not replicated elsewhere in the country...fortunately.
Of the 17 at my branch meeting tonight -- one of three branches in
inner Brisbane -- 4 were members of affiliates and the rest were
variously active in different aspects of the SA's work here.Two had
joint membership with the Qld Greens and one had travelled 90
minutes by car from the Sunshine Coast to attend. My branch's
membership is about 30 -- give or take a few --I think. So 17 of
them turn up to a branch meeting -- I think that makes for a pretty
good return for a Wednesday night call out.
We have a problem in the SA that out initial growth in branch
numbers has relied on the branch building inputs of member
affiliates -- primarily the DSP but also the ISO in a few places --
and now we are beginning to rely on people without that political
experience to charter and create branches in areas where we have a
few members but no formal branch. Something like 20% of SA members,
I understand, are resident OUTSIDE branch areas in regional centres.
This problem is so significant that last year we had to publish a
branch building DIY manual for use in these far flung localities. So
that now we are looking toward new branches being established at
some stage soon maybe on the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane and
the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. This last year branches were
chartered on the Gold Coast and in the rural Victorian centre of
Centres like these have no history of organised socialist activity
either never or since the halcyon days of the CPA(which may be the
case in the Blue Mtns).
At our national hookup last weekend we endorsed changes to reduce
the administrative burden that branches have to fulfil under the
various electoral acts that govern us. As we free branches up more
so that they can better network with their members, we also hope to
establish more district wide caucuses so we can more effectively
organise our movement interventions.
What we are doing --part by intention and part by default -- is
create various forums members can employ to relate to the Alliance
At stake, no doubt, is how many of our members are activated to do
political work. On that point I totally agree with Dave Murray. But
we are not here talking about his Socialist Party but a very
different formation with a lot more going for itself. Not only are
we much bigger in real terms, but we do indeed have more activists
and can boast of a reasonable cross union implantation. And it is
still early days -- that's the most amazing aspect of the Alliance
existence so far. We have been going only four years and just two
years navigating toward a multi tendency socialist party. And we are
doing that within the confines of the factional circumstances I
outlined in the interview.
- << Previous post in topic Next post in topic >>