18828Re: Fightback and Socialist Alliance conferences
- Jun 16 8:17 AMBy 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
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
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
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
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
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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