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28090Re: [GreenLeft_discussion] Re: Socialist electoral tactics and the SA and Tasmanian elections

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  • Jonathan Strauss
    Mar 23, 2006
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      --- bobgould987 <bobgould987@...> wrote:

      > Alan Bradley calls my use of the term, agitator,
      > Gouldspeak

      > To my way of thinking the term is politically
      > honourable and expresses
      > a certain type of political activity.
      > I prefer the idea of effective agitators to the more
      > anodyne term
      > activist, which is sometimes used by modern
      > socialist sects.

      A brief response

      In general I agree with Bob Gould about the use of the
      term agitator. It would indicate, to use one
      definition, someone who worked politically mainly by
      taking a widely known fact to illustrate a single idea
      to the "masses", compared with a propagandist who
      would present "many ideas", to be understood as an
      integral whole by comparatively few persons.

      But Gould did not confine his comments to the
      presentation of a term. He wrote earlier (March
      21)about a supposed "dismissive attitude towards
      agitators" in the DSP as a result of it being
      "over-centralised". He also claims exists a paucity of
      Democratic Socialist Perspective members with
      histories of "independent industrial agitation",
      claiming that this is because of its "overemphasis on
      the homogeneity of the organisation [which] tends to
      choke the life out of independently minded agitators".

      This poses a series of questions:
      1. Independent of whom or what? Is agitation under the
      direction of a party, for example, necessarily a
      problem? Gould's example of Bolshevik agitators
      suggests not.
      2. Why is industrial agitation peculiarly relevant?
      Does this allow Gould to dismiss the agitation of DSP
      members in a range of social movements, in
      international solidarity and among students
      (especially notable in relation to high school
      3. Is the charge in its substance true? Does the DSP
      possess little history of industrial agitation? Gould
      knows, of course, that there are in fact both
      individuals and groups of DSP members who, working
      with others, have substantial histories of such work,
      have acquired some influence relative to their
      numbers, and have won various elected positions in the
      unions (despite the disadvantage of [almost?] never
      being appointed to positions of prominence), in at
      least several regional TLCs and union networks, and in
      a number of unions. The solidarity agitation,
      including through media production (GLW, Actively
      Radical TV, and so on) conducted by DSP members,
      should also be considered.

      Nonetheless, the DSP has emphasised the
      propagandaistic framework for its activities,
      including its agitational activity, and this concept
      has generally been implemented. Therefore, agitation
      is not its outstanding feature.

      The objection can be raised that the influence of the
      DSP, gained through its orientation, is small. Gould
      argued, however, that the Balmain Trotskyists remained
      few in number because of "objective conditions" and
      the existence of a subjective factor such as the
      existence of "high Stalinism". Haven't similar
      objective and subjective conditions affected the DSP's
      development (and also Socialist Alliance in the few
      years of its existence)

      Is the DSP's orientation itself the problem? Is it
      over-emphasis and over-centralisation, given the DSP's
      aim, which is to aid the development of the leadership
      of a movement capable of overthrowing capitalist rule?
      What has been the experience of the alternative
      course, which Gould illustrates through the activities
      of the Balmain Trotskyists, the work he has been
      involved in, and perhaps also that of the Socialist

      In all these cases the influence of such
      agitationally-oriented socialist activity has been
      relatively ephemeral or confined to one to two
      inner-city suburbs. Yet the development of
      revolutionary leadership would rather seem to need
      work conducted on a sustained basis and extending
      toward a national scope. This is what the DSP strives
      for through an orientation to cadre development.

      Jonathan Strauss

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