25312A response to Dale Mills and Norm Dixon
- Jan 16, 2006Poor diddums: a response to Dale Mills and Norm Dixon
By Bob Gould
First of all to Dale. You say I said three things about you that are
untrue, but you decline to nominate them. You should tell me what they
are so I can correct them, if what you say is true.
The only things I can think of that I said about you are that you were
a legal monitor at some demonstrations. I've seen you doing that, and
it's important work. I also said you had been around the DSP for 20
years or so (allowing for the fact that you had been overseas for some
of that time). Is that untrue?
I can't for the life of me think of a third thing, unless you resent
me echoing Alan Bradley's point that if you haven't met any left
Laborites you should get out a bit more, which is obviously a
rhetorical political statement by both Bradley and myself, rather than
any reflection on your personal temperament. If you're sensitive and
take it as a reflection on your personal temperament, I withdraw it.
I was making, and so for that matter was Alan Bradley, a political
point that your initial posture of being naive person who has never
met a leftist Laborite was obvious demagogy, a point that you now
reinforce by saying that you were in the Militant Group in the British
You then change your ground from asking who are prominent left
Laborites to the basically sectarian point: what makes them left if
they don't agree with you, and you summarise the whole DSP Third
Period ultraleftism by demanding that anyone in the Labor Party
establish their leftist political credentials according to your
crackpot schema before you'll collaborate with them.
That, of course, is the absolute core of selective DSP sectarianism.
The tiny cadre group puts the political credentials of anyone in the
labour movement who dares to disagree with the DSP through the wringer
of their scrutiny before they'll have anything to with them. You're
really demanding agreement with your maximum program, which
politically speaking is quite mad.
The reality of Australian politics is that the small groups of
revolutionary socialists of any sort are always battling to get any
kind of hearing from the infinitely larger group of people on the left
who support the Laborites and the Greens.
In that kind of situation, most revolutionary socialists recognise
that the actual relationship of forces is what matters. They don't
demand, like the DSP, that the mountain come to Mohammed.
The mind boggles at the notion of all the assorted leftists around the
labour movement having to establish their credentials with Dale Mills
and the DSP before they're acceptable. That kind of approach is the
distilled essence of sectarianism.
Then we get to Norm Dixon. After a few days of one of his Third Period
sectarian orgies, yelling scab, scab, scab at a large number of
leaders of the labour movement, he suddenly realises the error of his
ways, just a little bit, and demands that I and others give him a
rounded recipe book for how socialists should operate if they choose
to be in the ALP or the Greens.
Well, in due course, I'll try to discuss that question in a serious
way, despite the fact that I'm well aware that it's not a serious
question for Norm. But he has given me the opening and I'll discuss it.
However, before it's even possible to discuss that, it's necessary to
reinforce the points I have been making for a long time about the
necessary strategic approach to Labor and the Greens.
I have nothing against the DSP/Socialist Alliance organising
independently. I favour some independent socialist organisation.
But the posture he adopts towards Labor and the Greens, with constant
infantile denunciation, not just of the leaders but of the ranks, is
what I object to.
He treats people who choose to operate in the Labor Party with
hostile, arrogant contempt. (At least he's not quite as delusional as
John Tognolini, who thinks Steve Dargavel is a member of the Socialist
Alliance, when he is actually a long-standing and active member of the
Labor Party and a former Labor member of parliament.)
The DSP Boyle faction's arrogant contempt for Labor Party members of
all sorts constantly creeps in, even when Norm is trying to be civilised.
He talks about Michele O'Neil and Martin Kingham's membership of the
Labor Party as token. I'm sure they'll thank Norm for that observation
if some right-winger throws it at them at the next Victorian state
conference. What supreme and extraordinary arrogance is displayed in
this throwaway remark.
The Boylites can't comprehend people being left wing but having a
different strategic approach to the DSP. As far as I can see, Kingham
and O'Neil are very active in the Labor Party, politically.
Norm thinks that's all token and they're secretly somehow in love with
the DSP. Sectarians like the Boylites mistake the relatively civilised
diplomacy that Kingham and O'Neil adopt towards them, for agreement
with the DSP. Having yourself on about the civilised diplomacy of
others on the left to puff up your delusions about your influence is a
very dangerous way to proceed.
I've had very considerable experience over 50 years in the labour
movement. I've participated in successes and defeats, and I've done a
number of useful things, and I've made some political mistakes.
A discussion about how socialists might operate in current
circumstances in the Labor Party or the Greens seems to quite useful,
and over the next month or two I'll draw on my experiences to put
forward some ideas.
My short-term journalistic aim over the next week or two, however, is
to (speaking metaphorically and politically) drive a stake through the
heart of the Third Period sectarianism of the new Boylite leadership
of the DSP, towards Labor Party members and Greens, which Norm has
expressed so colourfully over the past few days.
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