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19597Re: What Bob Gould fails to mention

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  • ajamieson
    Jul 6, 2005
      I've been meaning for some time to take up Bob Gould's sanctimonious lectures to comrades in SA (and in particular the DSP) about tactics in the union movement. Obviously I could very well be accused by some of "stupid flea-killing" by taking a swat at someone with next to no influence in the union movement, but every now and then I like a bit of verbal sport.
      So Bob accuses us of "whipping up animosity against the union leadership in seven out of eight states"! Not one scrap of evidence of course, this is a frame-up (which, ironically, was a hallmark of Third Period Stalinists).
      Is it so "sinister" to suggest or argue for democracy in the union movement, in NSW or anywhere else? Doesn't that make piffle of your nonsense about Third Period Stalinism? In his same mailing, Gould claims trade union leaders are bureaucrats and have some bad habits - don't you think that these claims can also lead to a degree of animous? (Ah, but everyone knows Bob is not really serious in his opposition to ALP trade union leaders - at least in the not the right wing, Gould will tell you himself).
      Allow me to outline our approach in WA, which illustrates how our union comrades throughout Australia have helped build, dare I say it as an unrepentant " monstrous Third Period Stalinist", a real united front, very concrete and massive in its opposition to Howard's way. I'm sure other "flea-killing" comrades in other states can talk about the real contribution they have made in alliance with unionists who don't happen to as yet to agree with all we say in building the success of last week. (Of course we are small Bob, but this time we were able to exert a significant influence within the national agenda, which is perhaps why the DSP and SA independants get stuck in your throat).
      As in every union or community campaign that we have ever been involved in, we took the strategic approach of involving the masses (or as many we can mobilise) in their own destiny, come hell or high water. To do this we insisted on a democratic involvement of the masses. It meant appealing to all sectors who were opposed, even possibly opposed, to Howards proposed laws. And it meant on insisting on a massive show of public protest.
      Consistent with this our agitation were demands against the ruling class agenda of deregulating the labour market and its specific legislative laws Howard has begun to outline and promote.  
      Here in WA, the most concrete proposal turned up within this strategic framework - a call for a mass delegates meeting of unionists and a rally/strike on June 30 coming from Victoria. We knew of this because of the agitation of SA independents and the DSP in Victoria were pushing for, of which we are proud, (and Gould makes makes no mention of at all.)
      The first public meeting UnionsWA called was on April Fools Day, where around 100 union delegates met and heard a good detailed report of Howards agenda. There was only one DSP/SA member and MUA delegate, who argued for a mass delegates meeting and rally on June 30 along the Victorian lines. And to be honest it was met with indifference , a "good idea" but the overwhelming sentiment was for unions to orient to organising members.
      Did we then howl about an "obvious" sellout, and sit on our collective arse and pat our sectarian backs and expose the rotten union leadership? Look at the record, Bob. Our next step was with Chris Cain going to the media and publicly argued for the case for a mass delegates meeting. It was a cause also taken up by an embattled AWU state secretary facing elections and then the UnionsWA Executive decided to endorse a mass delegates meeting for June 1. It was obvious to all the pressure was building.
      A call for a rally for June 30 to coincide with Victoria was a fortunate "accident". Even six weeks before, many within UnionsWA thought the ACTU line of public education vs, a public display of opposition should hold sway. Obviously a time for a public display of sectarianism according to Gould's "exposure" of DSP politics. But no, no public criticism in specific terms (read the record Bob). We publicly stated the ACTU proposals had merit but never went far enough (read the record Bob).    
      From the mass delegates meeting on June 1, attended by at least 2,000 unionists, the anger of the ranks was publicly palpable . I'm sure it made all feel comfortable that June 30 was going to be a runaway success. Did the DSP and independent SA comrades then search for something to hang Dave Robinson and the UnionsWA from the nearest rafters from?
      OK, we could have pushed for a lot more control from the ranks over events, as we subsequently tried on June 30 with the speakers platform,  but if the rally itself out pushed things further to get more involved, then that to us was critical.  For the first time since the Third Wave legislation in the mid nineties, there was a united response by all the union movement in WA, a public and massive response to the ruling class. And I will give full credit to UnionsWA, its secretary, Dave Robinson and all officials for the use of UnionsWA resources to the unfolding campaign.
      Of course our comrades argued for what we thought could have been better utilisation of resources. We weren't arguing against the predominent ACTU line of appealing to other community organisations and perhaps thought  the June 30 speaker list was weighted the wrong way, but all we all concentrated in making June 30 a huge protest. More power to the UnionsWA's arm for carrying this through.
      Will this continue - do we have a secret agenda of sabotaging what has already been achieved. Did we ever promote the "Third Period" line of claiming Dave Robinson and the Labor Party are the main enemy? We must have somewhere, according to Gould's feverish schema - that we are the die hard sectarians, indeed the main enemies from within the union ranks.
      Not at one time, never, have we taken a sectarian position (let alone "Third Period Stalinist "line) towards UnionsWA or even the Labor Government. In fact we praised Gallop for allowing public servants to take paid time off to attend the June 30 rally and  demanded Carr, Bracks, Beattie ought to do the same. Whover built, even in their own way, opposition to Howard and let the masses moblise was OK by us. Tell me Bob, what did you do, or Ed Lewis or your other suckholes on the Ozlleft loop do? Honestly?
      Were the strategy and tactics of independent SA members and the DSP absolutely principled or just abberation from our "Stalinist" line? Can we expect wholesale purges in our ranks led by Big Bad Bolshie Bovver-Boy Boyle that also characterised the "Third Period" in the 1930's? Is there even a hint of dissatisfaction in our approach from the DSP leadership? The only frame-up trials we have learnt to expect come from Bob Gould and his cronies.
      Frankly, we know of no other way to fight Howard effectively. Mass, independent, democratic mobilisations of the working class and their allies are our bread and butter. That is one the first things I learnt when I joined the socialist movement 35 years ago.
      But Gould thinks he has a better method. Apart from telling us to clam up about the misleadership of the ALP, out from right field comes a remarkable claim that the DSP has "capitulat[ed] to Howard over the transfer of state industrial powers to the federal government" ... "which is the strategic core of Howard's agenda."
      Gould thinks a legal challenge on federal vs. state rights to Howard is the central axis of the fight against the deregulation of the Australian labour market (which is the ruling classes real and pivotal aim). No one in the union movement, not even the right wing - who believe Howard would probably win the legal arguments under the corporations power of the Commonwealth anyway, is pursuing this line. Forget about the hundreds of thousands who marched last week who are looking for a concrete lead to defeat Howard - but give the QC's a brief - what a brilliant tactician our bookshop owner is turning out to be.
      Could it be that Gould is taking his cue directly from State Cabinets in various states? Surely not from disgruntled Liberal and National Party MP's?
      Listen very carefully, Bob, nearly everyone in the union movement believes the argument over state vs. federal awards is not one of principle but tactics. I'll even give Greg Combet his due, I think he, the militant section of the union movement and the DSP and SA comrades have no differences here. If state awards can get better conditions and rights for union members then we would argue for inclusion. And vice versa. No difficulty here for unionists of any stripe - and please, Bob, no finger waving about how bad Howard is compared to the various states. But please also don't give us lectures about how good Labour state governments are to working people either!
      A final word to Gould about his condescending lectures to comrades in SA and the DSP, some of whom have fought huge battles within the union movement at great personal costs including facing jail, fines, sackings, being fingered as militants to the boss etc. 
      In your self-professed vast experience of the Australian union movement it may well be true that you once shared a platform with the secretary of the Felthatters Union, or shook hands with the president of the Bicycle and Pennyfathing Industrial Workers or that you personally know "dozens" of union members, but that doesn't make you wise at all about strategies and tactics that can be used to advance the cause of socialism amongst working people. That you have a right to express your point of view is understood, but a little intellectual honesty and humility wouldn't go astray.
      But then again, I suppose we (at least those wo are getting a little crusty,) look back on a life of involvement and would all like to say we made some impact no matter how big or small. Pity is, in your case most are carving your headstone already with words like "He helped at one stage pass the revolutionary baton on but ended up a Labor hack with a peculiar penchant for attacking the left." And yet you blithely continue to dig your own grave.
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