19526Re: What Bob Gould fails to mention
- Jul 3 8:14 PMBy 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
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
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
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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