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21908Re: Marrickville by-election

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  • bobgould987
    Sep 19, 2005
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      By-elections in NSW and Mark Latham's book. How the DSP sect views the
      world

      By Bob Gould

      Many of my associates on the left scratch their heads in amusement,
      and ask me why I waste so much time arguing with the bloody mad DSP?
      However, old habits die hard, and the DSP's increasingly dogmatic and
      opportunist sectarianism is such an extreme example of how a Marxist
      sect can evolve that it is worth some discussion.

      I am reminded of the great Marxist E P Thompson's book about William
      Blake, in which Thompson rediscovered the extraordinary revolutionary
      dissenting religious sect led by Lodowick Muggleton, which persisted
      for nearly 300 years and continued arguing the point, via reprints of
      Muggleton's pamphlets, with the Quakers with whom they had split 200
      years before. Thompson discovered the last Muggletonian in the late
      1960s, and eventually deposited the archives of the Muggletonian
      church in a British Library.

      I don't suggest that the argument between me and the DSP sect will
      last 300 years but once established, sects can be very persistent
      little animals. Who knows whether our arguments will be discovered by
      some latter day Thompson in a couple of hundred years.

      First of all I will comment on Sue Bull's unpleasant and rather mad
      outburst against Laborism in Green Left Weekly, September 21, 2005.
      Sue Bull says that she will scream if another union leader tells her
      that she should vote for the ALP. That cry from the heart is
      unintentionally revealing. Sue Bull operates in Victoria and the DSP
      adopts a strikingly uncritical stance towards the militant union
      leaderships in Victoria.

      There's nothing wrong at all with general support for the militant
      union leaderships in Victoria. Nevertheless, as is obvious to all,
      they are thoroughly entrenched in the ALP and labour movement politics
      in general in Victoria, which is clearly a problem for the DSP,
      because the militant union leaderships obviously don't take the
      slightest bit of notice, practically speaking, of the DSP's
      independent electoral project, other than in private diplomatic asides
      to DSP members. That's obviously the basis for Sue Bull's rather
      insulting general assertion, obviously directed at union left
      laborites in Victoria that: "The longer we put this project off, the
      more we drive ordinary people into cynical anti-political isolation
      and paralysis…"

      The implication is pretty clear: unless you join the DSP's electoral
      project you are a traitor to the interests of the working class.
      That's the psychology of the DSP sect in spades.

      Further she says: "Working people didn't just vote for Howard in the
      last election because they thought he was a great bloke or they are
      all selfish."

      Again we have the lunatic world view of the self-righteous,
      self-interested, metaphysical and idealist Marxist sect. What a
      bizarre slander on the bulk of the ordinary working class, ethnic
      communities and the oppressed. In the election she is talking about,
      the Labor vote after preferences was 48 per cent, and this vote was
      heavily concentrated in the most blue-collar working-class areas,
      particularly in areas where recent NESB migrants (who are a large part
      of the blue-collar working class) are concentrated (this has been
      extensively documented in research by the Monash Institute for
      Population Studies). The Labor and Green vote is also concentrated in
      addition, in a secondary way in areas where the new social layers of
      workers with tertiary education live, such as Canberra, the inner-west
      of Sydney and other places.

      The DSP, which was abusing Mark Latham last year when he led a
      relatively leftist and populist election campaign, has suddenly
      discovered he has a good side; the good side from their point of view
      being his narcissistic and self-absorbed literary assault on the trade
      unions and the whole of the labour movement. All they are really
      interested in is moralising sectarianism towards the mass labour
      movement, and Latham's gratuitous abuse suits them down to the ground.

      Sue Bull says something else very revealing: that "a real opposition …
      and it can't rise like a phoenix out of the stinking carcass of the
      ALP". (Sue Bull tries to establish her proletarian credentials rather
      like Mark Latham, by using a mass of what she thinks is demotic
      abusive language. Well, of course, some of us use slightly colourful
      language in speech, but to write it down without editing it is the
      real mark of a literary demagogue. Sue Bull should read Lenin on
      language and Trotsky on cultured speech!

      Putting aside Sue Bull's bizarre language the essence of her argument
      is spectacularly metaphysical and unscientific. Serious electoral
      alternatives to existing mass reformist parties in stable countries
      have rarely been built purely by propaganda. The mass reformist
      parties in, for instance, Australia, New Zealand, Germany and Norway
      are extraordinarily resilient formations. The significant centrist
      group in Germany that has just emerged to the left of the Social
      Democrats is partly a split, to use Bull's colourful language, "from
      the stinking carcass" of the German Socialist Party, combined with the
      rump of the equally stinking carcass of East German Stalinism.

      At the end of the day, in Norway, New Zealand and Australia, even mass
      electoral formations such as the German Left Party and the German
      Greens, the New Zealand Greens and the New Zealand Maori Party, and
      the Australian Greens are forced by the logic of their situation to
      form some kind of bloc with the mass labor parties, against the
      reactionary parties of the right.

      None of the practitioners of left politics, other than the DSP can
      afford the mental luxury of placing as the DSP does, an equals sign
      between the labour parties and the conservative parties as the "two
      parties of capitalism". The DSP's posture doesn't work sociologically,
      politically or strategically and everyone but the DSP can see that,
      even despite the increasingly hysterical language, taken over partly
      from Latham, used by the DSP about labourism.

      It's fascinating to note that the DSP's coverage in Green Left Weekly
      of the dramatic shift to the right in the tory camp, with the
      emergence of Opus Dei as a major player, was minimal, and only rated a
      mention of a couple of lines in another article by Margaret Gleeson
      overwhelmingly attacking the Laborites.

      THE MARRICKVILLE BY-ELECTION

      I worked for the ALP on election day, for three or four hours at the
      Newtown booth, where I usually work and my slogan for the day was
      "Kick Howard, vote Labor". It seemed to me fairly important in all the
      circumstances for Labor to do well in the three by-elections to
      strengthen the pressure on the State Labor Government to continue and
      deepen its opposition to Howard's attacks on the trade unions.

      Several acquaintances of mine, one member of the IS, and one member of
      Solidarity, worked for the Greens on the same booth and their
      rationale was that a Green vote would exert pressure on the state
      government on issues like the industrial demands of teachers. I have
      different electoral view to them, obviously, but we were able to argue
      the point in a civilised way.

      In electoral terms the Socialist Alliance was completely incidental in
      the Marrickville by-election. Its 1.5 per cent probably included about
      1 per cent of conscious votes, and the other .5 per cent were probably
      accidental, including the bottom-up donkey vote and the hundred or so
      random votes achieved by completely unknown independents.

      In the event, the Labor vote held up surprisingly well, when you
      consider that there was no Liberal candidate, and almost all the tory
      voters, who are quite class-conscious in their own reactionary way,
      went to the Greens. In my view of electoral politics, both the Labor
      vote and the bulk of the Green vote, ie, minus the Liberals, are a
      left vote and I favour a tactical united front between Labor and the
      Greens.

      I choose to work in the Labor Party, as do quite a few other Marxists,
      socialists and left wingers. Some Marxists, socialists and left
      wingers work in the Greens and I have no quarrel with their tactical
      decision either.

      For obvious reasons one works hard for the mass electoral formation on
      the left that one chooses to work in. In ALP circles I argue the case
      against a virulent anti-Green sectarianism that stems from fierce
      electoral competition, but I still work hard for the ALP. That's part
      of the deal of being in the ALP. Also at a personal level I feel more
      at home amongst ALP activists, most of whom these days are on the
      left. They often seem to me to be a bit more savvy and realistic about
      political processes than many on the far left, and many in the Greens,
      but that's a personal preference, and I have no quarrel with
      socialists who feel more comfortable in Green circles. At the end of
      the day the critical question is the united front, particularly in the
      face of Howard's assault on the trade unions.

      While both the Labor vote and the core Green vote are left votes, they
      are differently composed sociologically, and the Marrickville results
      demonstrate this. The pattern of the voting, booth by booth, in
      Marrickville suggests that the Green vote is a much more affluent
      tertiary educated and Anglo-Celtic vote. The Greens these days
      achieve a majority around my shop in North Newtown and Erskineville
      where the housing is very pleasant and expensive.

      As you go down the hill into Marrickville proper, the Green vote is
      highest in the booth covering the area around Newington College. As
      you move down into central Marrickville with cheaper housing and a
      largely ethnic blue collar working class population, the Labor vote
      soars. If you go to the leafy, expensive, pleasant restored housing in
      Stanmore, the Green vote soars. If you cross Crystal Street, where the
      cheaper housing begins, and there are high concentrations of ethnic
      blue collar workers such as Portuguese people, all the way to Dulwich
      Hill, the Labor vote soars.

      The Marrickville electorate is a fascinating patchwork of communities,
      ethnicities, social layers and voting patterns, but by and large the
      Green component of the left vote is much more affluent and the Labor
      component is much less affluent. The booth by booth electoral results
      amply demonstrate this. (The Socialist Alliance vote more or less
      follows the pattern of the Green vote, although on an infinitely
      smaller scale.)

      To sum up – Marxists and conscious Socialists are a very small
      political force in current conditions. Any materialist assessment of
      the strategic situation facing Marxists in Australia dictates a major
      strategic orientation towards the Labor-trade union continuum, and a
      secondary orientation towards the now well established Greens
      electoral formation. Independent socialist electoral activity is of
      little value in the face of the need for a serious orientation to the
      major formations. All recent political developments in Australia
      underline this general point. Idiot moralizing about Laborism of the
      sort that comes from the DSP sect would make Lenin and Trotsky turn in
      their graves.
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