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15202Re: CPGB/SA controversy

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  • bobgould987
    Mar 16, 2005
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      Lies, 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
      political activity.

      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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