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19526Re: What Bob Gould fails to mention

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  • bobgould987
    Jul 3, 2005
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      By Bob Gould

      The DSP leadership is trying to create a bit of space for itself by
      trying to whip up some animosity towards the existing mass movement
      against Howard's industrial laws, and its existing leadership, in
      seven of the eight states and territories in Australia and they're
      adopting an uncritical stance towards the leadership in Victoria,
      where they believe (it appears to me in a delusional way) that they
      have some influence on that leadership.

      The form this left-talking opportunism takes is some stupid
      flea-killing about the fact that the meetings in NSW didn't allow for
      amendments to the official resolution. What planet do these DSP
      demagogues live on?

      Quite clearly the leaderships of the trade union movement in all
      states, including Victoria, are, to some degree, Bonapartist
      bureacracies. They lead the struggle in the way they always have,
      looking a bit cautiously over their shoulder at the ranks (again
      including Victoria) hoping not to unleash forces that might sweep them
      away.

      The un-Marxist and opportunist DSP leadership makes the mistake of
      accusing all the existing labour movement leaderships outside Victoria
      of betrayal. This is monstrous Third Period Stalinist bullshit.

      As Trotsky pointed out about the bureaucratic leaders of the trade
      unions and Social Democracy in Germany in the 1930s, in objective
      terms the fact that fascism would wipe out the trade unions, from
      which the Bonapartist leaders made their living (and with which, to be
      fair to them, as Trotsky was, they identified emotionally) was a
      powerful objective factor providing a basis for a united front with
      them against fascism. Trotsky used the striking example of the
      notorious Social Democratic police chief in Berlin.

      Allowing for obvious historical differences, much the same applies to
      the trade union leaderships in Australia today, right and left.
      They're driven to oppose and fight Howard and his so-called industrial
      relations reforms by objective necessity.

      The top leaders, the middle ranks and the lower ranks of the trade
      union bureaucracy have all devoted their lives to the trade union
      movement. To the top and middle layers, the unions are also their
      living, so it's clear they have powerful material and emotional
      investment in defending the trade unions against Howard. That's
      obvious to anyone participating in and studying this emerging mass
      movement.

      These leaders do, however, have some bad habits, they engage in
      bureaucratic behaviour from time to time (not excluding the Victorian
      leadership) and all that goes with the territory.

      To try to make some artificial distinction that Brian Boyd in some way
      ran his show better than John Robertson, is vile demagogy, given the
      scale of the issues involved.

      It's also a bit sinister because it's becoming increasingly clear that
      the DSP leadership doesn't want to fight against the transfer of
      industrial powers from the states to the Commonwealth, which is the
      strategic core of Howard's agenda.

      The DSP leadership covers up its capitulation to Howard on this
      question with nasty leftist demagogy about how the state Labor
      governments are also neoliberal crooks, so the transfer doesn't
      matter. They're clearly ignorant of the history of this question and
      of how the existing industrial relation systems actually work.

      The ludicrous DSP attempts to whip up a scandal about Unions NSW's
      energetic bureaucrats avoiding amendments at the mass meetings is
      rubbish, politically speaking. What do the DSP leaders expect? Boyd in
      Victoria didn't run his show any differently, but he's exempt from
      criticism because he's perceived as an ally.

      Over many years, I've been involved with different groups of
      rebellious trade unionists fighting on a multitude of questions,
      sometimes winning and sometimes losing. On enormous matters of
      principle, such as the Accord, or explicit betrayals of industrial
      struggles, it's sometimes necessary to challenge bureaucracies from
      the floor.

      Sometimes, when the anger of the workers is great over a particular
      question, such challenges succeed, and close associates of mine have
      been involved in a few such incidents.

      But, of course, you have to choose very carefully when to challenge
      the way things are run. You only succeed when workers' sentiments are
      running hot against the platform. Sometimes it's also necessary to
      challenge, to make a sharp political point, knowing you'll go down at
      a particular meeting, and associates of mine have sometimes had to do
      that as well.

      But what you never do, if you've got half a brain industrially, is
      challenge on secondary, trivial questions, to make petty factional
      propaganda, which is what the DSP bunch is doing in NSW on this occasion.

      The overwhelming majority of the workers who attended those rallies
      and meetings were, at that stage, enthusiastic about the leadership
      they were being given, and detailed, essentially organisational
      arguments dreamed by the DSP to score a point off Robertson and Unions
      NSW, were incomprehensible to them.

      In this context, the whole DSP noise about this question is dopey
      factional opportunism. Happily for the workers of NSW, they hardly
      noticed. The DSP's largely verbal jumping up and down had no impact
      anywhere that I've heard about from the dozens of trade union
      activists I've spoken to over the past few days.

      The overwhelming feeling of everyone on the left that I've spoken to,
      except the DSP leadership, is one of enthusiasm and satisfaction at
      participating in such an obviously successful commencement of the
      campaign against Howard's attacks, and particularly against his
      attempt to smash up the state award systems.

      I admit my sample is a bit biased in that my dozens of trade union
      acquaintances are people concentrated in NSW, and many of them are
      people such as teachers, nurses, hospital workers and others, who
      despite their constant, ongoing conflicts with state Labor
      governments, clearly understand that the abolition of their state
      awards is the most direct threat to their livelihoods in their lifetime.

      Marce Cameron's left chatter about neoliberal state Labor governments
      cuts no ice at all with the union activists I know in the NSW public
      sector, who've been in industrial conflict with state Labor
      governments for most of their adult lives.

      Here I have to make a confession. Initially I favoured the idea of one
      big central rally, as against the central rally combined with the
      statewide meetings at 250 or so venues. It's clear that Robertson and
      Unions NSW favoured the decentralised formula because they weren't
      entirely confident, being realistic union bureaucrats, of how much of
      a mobilisation they might get on this occasion given the retreat of
      trade unionism in recent years.

      They opted for the regional approach as an exercise in mobilisation
      and consciousness-raising, and why is it necessary to attack their
      intentions in this? They were clearly looking for a formula to kick
      off the campaign with an initial educational emphasis. They came up
      with the Sky Channel formula in that spirit.

      In retrospect, they turned out to be as right as one can be in matters
      of industrial mobilisation, which isn't a precise science. In the
      event, successful mobilisations at 250-odd venues turned out to be an
      extraordinarily useful formula to get the campaign rolling.

      One has only to look at the roll-call across the state from the
      smaller to the bigger meetings to see a mass movement against Howard
      getting rolling in embryo. One feature of the local meetings is that
      everybody I've spoken to noted that nurses, teachers, municipal
      workers, and others on state awards, were a significant part of the
      mobilisations everywhere. That underlines the reactionary character of
      the DSP leadership's right-wing pro-Howard equals sign between state
      and federal industrial systems.

      Unlike the DSP leadership, I and the dozens of activists I've spoken
      to in the past few days celebrate unreservedly last Friday's
      mobilisation as the beginnings of a serious mass movement. Of course,
      it's obviously necessary to watch all the bureaucracies carefully and
      to nudge them in the right direction.

      The way to do this is through a serious united front approach that
      recognises the existing relationship of forces in the mass movement
      and eschews like the plague both the DSP leadership's flea-killing
      sectarianism towards the existing trade unions and their leaderships,
      and the DSP leadership's rightist capitulation to Howard over the
      transfer of state industrial powers to the federal government,
      dismissing this as a matter of no importance.
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