15856Re: Barry Sheppard's political memoir ofthe US SWP,1960-88
- Apr 1, 2005In response to Norm Dixon and others
By Bob Gould
Norm Dixon wrote:
>>Perhaps comrades should try to get hold of the latest Links and readLund's article directly rather than going on the say-so of Gould, who
see everything written through the prism of defence of the social
democrats' monopoly of `labour movement' politics.>>
Norm Dixon is a mild-mannered, pleasant-enough bloke, but he becomes a
raging leopard in cyberspace sometimes. It's not my fault that, for
quite sensible reasons associated with trying to promote hard-copy
sales of Links (with which I have no quarrel) the DSP chooses not to
put Links up on the web until they've exhausted the possibility of
I understand why they do that. Nevertheless, it puts someone like
myself, who wishes to take up the issues raised in the article, at a
The article that I wrote a couple of days ago, which is available in
full on Ozleft http://members.optushome.com.au/spainter/LundMiah.html
(with pointers to it on Green Left and Marxmail), speaks for itself.
I was at considerable pains to give an accurate and fair summary of
the views expressed by Lund and Miah in the article, and Barry
Sheppard verbally. That will be demonstrated when those interested
manage to get the article that's discussed, one way or another.
My alternative would have been to scan the whole thing into a web
page, which I chose not to do, in deference to the legitimate desire
of the DSP to get some sales for their magazine. In fact, as in the
instance of John Percy's book and Barry Sheppard's book, I've got them
plenty of publicity for their publishing project. They ought to thank
me for that, really, but I doubt that they will, given the heat rather
than light that they tend to generate when having a discussion with me.
Norm says that my account should be discounted because I, in his
words: "on the say-so of Gould, who see everything written through the
prism of defence of the social democrats' monopoly of `labour
Norm here is slandering me on two levels. Firstly, a debate as to
whether it's a sensible tactic in current conditions to place primary
emphasis, tactically, on splitting or decertifying existing unions in
the hope of creating new ones, does not hinge at all on one's view of
tactics towards Social Democracy, unless you are required to initially
agree with the standpoint of the DSP, Sheppard, Lund and Miah on these
matters, which is an extremely peculiar standpoint.
That is why I went to considerable pains to give a careful historical
overview of these issues, in the US, Australia and internationally, so
readers can form a view for themselves in some historical framework.
Does Norm say that my article lies about the views advanced by Lund
and Miah? That's what he implies, and he should come out and say so,
and try to justify that view rather than beating around the bush.
The second level on which Norm slanders me is his bald statement that
I defend a Social Democratic monopoly of politics. I've spent my whole
political life challenging the conservative Social Democratic monopoly
of politics, often from within the labour movement.
Associates of mine have been, and are, active in a number of rank and
file projects challenging assorted trade union bureaucracies, on a few
occasions with quite spectacular success and on a number of occasions
without success, and in some situations without success at the level
of winning positions but with considerable success at influencing
industrial outcomes from the rank and file level.
Several associates of mine have spent the larger part of their lives
in such activity, and Norm is well aware of that.
The difference between us is that I have in recent times constantly
challenged the zany, now 20-years-ongoing Third Period ultraleftism of
the DSP leadership in relation to the official labour movement, which
is now by far the longest Third Period binge in the history of the
Australian labour movement, and probably any other labour movement.
I don't want to press this too far, because I'm well aware of the
current conflicts within the leadership of the DSP over strategic
matters to do with the Socialist Alliance, in which two currents are
battling for hegemony and possibly in this conflict Norm is one of the
good guys, so to speak, who puts on a very belligerent posture in the
public arena for reasons basically to do with the current internal
conflict in the DSP leadership.
That brings me to the question of the extremely enigmatic post by Doug
Lorimer on Green Left Weekly
drawing attention to the letters and statements of Cannon, gathered by
George Breitman's group in a pamphlet, Don't Strangle the Party
The question clearly raised in Lorimer's post is whether the modern
DSP functions internally more or less on the basis of the 1965 US SWP
organisational resolution, or the more civilised, political and
elastic conception advanced by Cannon in expressing his misgivings?
Last year's expulsion of LF from the DSP would suggest that the first
alternative prevails currently in the DSP.
This is also suggested by the fact that the current argument in the
DSP leadership is generally confined to the leadership, although it's
possible that the argument is extending more generally into the DSP
membership, which would be a healthy development, in my view.
In any case, I'd make the general point, particularly to Norm, who
isn't such a bad bloke intrinsically, despite his bellicose
cyber-presence, wouldn't it be far better to express a clear view, and
engage in the debate on the industrial issues raised by Caroline Lund
et al (and given de facto recognition by the DSP leadership), rather
than making easily refuted inferences that I'm distorting their views?
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