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18828Re: Fightback and Socialist Alliance conferences

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  • bobgould987
    Jun 16 8:17 AM
      By Bob Gould

      Peter Boyle makes a point of throwing diplomacy to the wind and saying
      what he really thinks about all the other organised groups in the
      Socialist Alliance.

      He starts by asserting that Bob Gould advises the opposition groups in
      the Alliance, which while flattering is simply untrue.

      A couple of the people in the Socialist Alliance who oppose the
      practices of Boyle's organisation are in fact friends of mine but the
      notion that I advise them is pretty stupid. They're quite capable of
      working things out for themselves, and everyone knows that.

      Boyle's rhetoric gives me an unpleasant sense of deja vu. It's
      strikingly reminiscent of Stalin's rhetoric in the 1930s. Pretty well
      anyone in the Soviet Union and the Soviet Communist Party who
      dissented from Stalin's rule was dubbed a Trotskyite, and many were
      killed for this "crime", when of course they weren't Trotskyists at
      all. The term Trotskyist became a term of abuse to justify doing
      anything at all to hapless oppositionists.

      Boyle's accusation that Bob Gould is some kind of adviser to the
      disparate oppositionists in the Socialist Alliance has the same
      flavour as Stalin's use of the term Trotskyite.

      Happily, Boyle doesn't hold state power and doesn't have the material
      force to do much to his opponents, consistent with his extravagant
      rhetoric, and in the age of the internet it's possible for critics of
      the theory and practice of Boyle's organisation to spread their views
      widely, and there's little Boyle can do to stop that.

      It's worth examining what Boyle actually says. All the groups, other
      than the DSP, that founded the Socialist Alliance are, in Boyle's
      view, obstacles to its development and therefore must be crushed
      politically.

      The second group of leaders of the Non Aligned Caucus, who replaced
      the first group who fell out with the DSP, have now also fallen out
      with the DSP, and they have also become non-persons in Boyle's
      cosmology: hopeless sectarians (according to the DSP leadership), to
      be treated with contempt.

      There's no room for any sentiment here. One might have thought that
      Lalitha Chelliah, Raul Bassi and Louise Walker might have been given
      some civilised thanks for their year's activity in the NAC and the SA
      leadership, but there's no hint of that from Boyle. They've become
      critics of the DSP on some questions, and the most contemptuous tone
      is adopted towards them by Boyle, despite past close associations.

      Why are we surprised? That kind of treatment is par for the course
      among the jumped-up committee-people of the sub-Leninist,
      sub-Zinovievist, sub-Cannonist DSP leadership.

      Once again, as I write this, a sense of deja vu intrudes. That's
      exactly the kind of political behaviour that used to be practised by
      the now-defunct CPA leadership over the many years in which I was an
      articulate leftist oppositionist to that organisation.

      If you fell out with the CPA you became a non-person and you had to
      fight very hard to maintain your political identity on the left.

      The CPA leadership behaved very similarly to the way Boyle and the DSP
      leadership do now. They were sheer artistes, as Boyle is now, at
      turning black into white. Just as Boyle does now, as they were trying
      to do in some oppositionist or critic, they'd accuse their opponents
      of being sectarian towards themselves.

      The significant difference, however, between the CPA and Boyle's
      formation is that the CPA was deeply implantated in the labour
      movement and so the CPA's anathemas could do quite a lot of damage to
      its critics.

      Similar behaviour from the DSP leadership, the second or third time
      around, however, verges on farce. The DSP leadership doesn't have
      anything like the political power and influence in the labour movement
      that the CPA had. It's a modest-sized sect, its anathemas are
      irritating but they don't do much damage except to the DSP itself.

      Boyle conjures up a picture of the small affiliates, the ISO and the
      Non Aligned Caucus being alienated from some independent members of
      the Alliance. Well, there may be a few such people left, but the
      figures don't suggest it.

      There were 113 accredited delegates at the Socialist Alliance
      conference, and about 100 actual voters. If you go through the list of
      delegates, it's pretty clear that the number of DSP members who were
      delegates is between 50 and 60, probably closer to 60. Between seven
      and 10 delegates were ultra-loyal DSP non-party Bolsheviks, such as
      former DSP members Dave Riley and Alex Miller. That doesn't leave much
      room for Boyle's rather imaginary genuine independents from whom the
      30 oppositionists are said to be alienated.

      Brother Boyle is pissing into the wind on this question.

      When you examine the major issues on which the whole argument hinged,
      and which obviously drives the DSP leadership, Nick Fredman gives a
      pretty clear indication of what the issues actually are.

      The ISO is a particular pain in the neck to the DSP leadership because
      it persists with its own newspaper and obstinately refuses to sell the
      DSP's paper. This is the crime, also, of the other affiliates and even
      of the Non Aligned Caucus.

      All the oppositionists are splitters and obstructive sectarians
      because they won't accept the hegemony of the DSP, sell Green Left
      Weekly and build the Alliance in the way demanded by the DSP: making
      sales of GLW the central focus of Alliance activities.

      When you consider the evolution of events in the Alliance, things fall
      into focus a bit. The small affiliates, the ISO and most of the
      independents signed on to what they thought was an electoral alliance,
      and what they possibly though was the very initial stages of a
      movement towards socialist regroupment after a period of very
      comprehensive political discussion between the various organisations,
      individuals and currents.

      At a fairly early stage in the process, the DSP used its
      organisational weight and the fact that its political decisions were
      made in private, and the DSP acted as a cohesive political force based
      on those political decisions made in private to impose its will on
      everyone else.

      The nitty-gritty of this development was the demand that all the
      others fall in behind the DSP paper, GLW, which essentially remained
      the paper of the DSP, containing the DSP leadership's eclectic but
      distinctive political line.

      The sheer chutzpah of the DSP leadership in demanding that adherents
      of other socialist groups sell GLW is rather breathtaking, really, and
      it's even more breathtaking that the DSP leadership can say with a
      straight face that the groups that won't sell GLW are sectarian for
      not doing so. The DSP leadership deserves some sort of award for
      political impudence and megalomania.

      The problem with all this is that the distinctive political culture of
      the DSP leadership is, to say the least, an acquired taste. There's no
      way in the world that it's possible to persuade the members of other
      socialist currents with a distinct political culture and tradition of
      their own to roll over and essentially join the DSP by selling its
      newspaper.

      The DSP may succeed in making the odd individual conversion from other
      currents, like some bloke in Brisbane from Socialist Alternative, but
      mass conversions from the other groups to the DSP aren't going to happen.

      The DSP leadership is driven by the fact that its political formula,
      combining ultraleftism towards the broad labour movement in Australia,
      with constantly mobilised euphoria about perceived revolutionary
      developments overseas, is having less and less impact.

      The readership of the hard-copy GLW is falling rapidly and the
      membership of the DSP is stagnant. Some quick fix from persuading
      members of the other groups to sell GLW is a bizarre chimera.

      No amount of bluster by Peter Boyle can disguise the obvious fact that
      the Socialist Alliance exercise has left the DSP leadership more
      isolated from other organised socialists than it was before it
      commenced the exercise.

      PS. The raw ruthlessness of the DSP leadership's push for unquestioned
      control of the Socialist Alliance is exemplified by what happened to
      the rather independent-minded left intellectual Humphrey McQueen, who
      has disagreed with the DSP leadership on its electoral tactics.

      Dick Nichols from the DSP made a bit of a show of nominating Humphrey
      McQueen for the national executive. Nevertheless, the DSP clearly
      didn't vote for him, as he wasn't elected. The DSP was so preoccupied
      with maximising the vote for its members and reliable allies, such as
      Alex Miller and Dave Riley, that it couldn't spare any votes for
      Humphrey McQueen, even though it was only necessary to get six or
      seven votes to be elected.

      McQueen, who is phlegmatic, stoical kind of bloke, must be still
      scratching his head with amusement at this turn of events. Nominating
      someone, but then not voting for them is an old device in the labour
      movement. The DSP leadership would make good ALP numbers crunchers if
      they turned their minds to it.
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