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15167Re: CPGB/SA controversy

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  • dave_r_riley
    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 long
      time now.
      > > Their active membership is only 300-400 (and falling rapidly).
      > Their
      > > claim of 1200 is based on the number of members it takes to get
      > > electoral registration here in Australia.

      Many of us should know by now that Dave Murray can't help himself so
      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.

      Dave Riley
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