15202Re: CPGB/SA controversy
- Mar 16, 2005Lies, damned lies and statistics. More on the Boyle-Riley Potemkin village
By Bob Gould
The vitriolic committeeman Peter Boyle, in his latest post, pours out
his usual bile against Bob Gould and extends it to a sweeping assault
on the ISO, which he asserts belligerently will be steam-rolled in a
big fight if it uses any of Gould's argument or even if it persists in
opposing the DSP's proposals.
He blurts out some half statistics, as does Dave Riley in his recent
post. These statistics are ambiguously presented, but nevertheless
let's take them as a starting point.
Boyle says the Socialist Alliance has 1200 paid-up members, or
thereabouts (a big drop from the 2000 that used to be claimed in the
early days of the alliance).
Accepting Boyle's fitures and extrapolating from the relative
populations of Australian cities and regions and from what is publicly
known about the Socialist Alliance in various states, the shape of the
alliance may look as follows: 50 in Brisbane, 15 in rural Queensland,
15 in the NT, 50 in Perth, 10 in rural WA, 30 in Adelaide, 10 in rural
SA, 30 in Tasmania, 50 in the ACT, 30 in Newcastle, 10 in Wollongong,
20 in rural NSW, 10 in Geelong, 20 in rural Victoria, which means
there have to be about 500 in Sydney and about 400 in Melbourne to
reach Boyle's putative total of 1200.
Sydney is the area where I live. There are ostensibly, or have been,
the following Alliance branches in this city: Eastern Suburbs, Sydney
Central, Marrickville, Bankstown, Parramatta (now Auburn), Blue
Mountains and Northern Suburbs.
The Blue Mountains and Northern Suburbs branches have closed, the
Auburn and Bankstown branches get attendances at meetings of 15-20 and
the other three branches have had very small attendances since
Christmas, partly because the DSP members have been throwing their
energies into the coming Asia-Pacific conference and next Sunday's
antiwar demonstration, and the ISO members have been concentrating on
the antiwar demonstration and several local peace groups.
I have attended two or three Sydney-wide Socialist Alliance meetings
for interesting overseas speakers held in Sydney's Gaelic Club, and
all the meetings I have attended had about 75 people at them, mostly
DSP and Resistance members, although Green Left Weekly, with its 30
per cent inflation principle for such meetings, has always claimed
attendances of 100.
In my experience, the DSP always inflates claims of attendance at its
own events. Even if you accept the DSP claims, and factor in that not
all members attend meetings, it's hard to see how the Socialist
Alliance could have 400-500 members in Sydney.
I don't doubt that such members may exist somewhere, probably as
signatures on a form, who have been signed up to get the alliance
registered with the Electoral Commission. That kind of political
cultivation of a periphery by socialists is a legitimate form of
The DSP, in particular, has always done that fairly systematically. In
the early 1990s it used sign up former members and Green Left
subscribers as Green Left supporters, etc, etc.
The Potemkin village aspect arises, however, when Boyle and Riley
present these figures as evidence that the Socialist Alliance is a
powerful political current in the labour movement and a serious mass
competitor to Labor (the "second party of capitalism" as the DSP calls
it), and the Greens.
Such crazy rhetoric is meant to persuade DSP-Socialist Alliance
supporters that they are still relevant despite the political
isolation that flows from their false perspective and to present
themselves to friends overseas as a much more influential political
current in Australia than they really are.
Riley's self-serving piece is only one side of the story about
Brisbane. I'm informed that the activists in the Inala branch have
sent out letters saying that unless others start attending the
meetings they'll fold the branch, and so it goes.
There's nothing wrong with socialists working their hardest at
political outreach agitation. The political problems arise when this
activity is conducted around an ultraleft, Third Period political
perspective that is ultimately self-defeating.
It's also crazy to present an energetic socialist outreach agitation
as an existing serious mass alternative to Labor and the Greens.
The bombastic, chronically politically insulting committeeman Peter
Boyle is now extending to the ISO the habitual abuse with which he
treats me when I argue the point with the DSP, and I wonder with some
interest what this portends.
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