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3884An early call for left regroupment in Australia

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  • ozleft
    Dec 26, 2003
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      A call for the revolutionary regroupment of the Australian left

      Melbourne Revolutionary Marxists, September 1975



      By Bob Gould

      This survey of the Australian left was produced in 1975 by a small
      group, basically two or three people, who had been involved in
      socialist politics in Melbourne. It was published anonymously, but
      it's generally understood that it was mainly written by two people,
      one of whom became a union official for a time, while the other
      became a quite extraordinary oral historian, who over a number of
      year conducted about 100 interviews with communists and socialists,
      and deposited this important set of interviews in the Australian
      National Library.

      Despite its mildly pretentious tone, this small pamphlet is of great
      intrinsic historical interest. Many of the issues it raises remained
      problems for the Australian far left for the subsequent 30 years, up
      to the present time. Obviously, some things have changed. Some of the
      organisations have disappeared, particularly the Socialist Labour
      League, which after several years of intense activity, including
      publishing a bi-weekly newpaper for some time, imploded in 1985,
      about the same time that the British Workers Revolutionary Party
      collapsed. Bob Pitt's thorough political biography of WRP leader
      Gerry Healy explains most of the reasons for the collapse of the
      SLL/WRP current. The remnants of the SLL were subsequently
      incorporated into the Socialist Equality Party, and the newspaper
      Workers News was closed and incorporated in the World Wide Socialist

      The Socialist Workers Action Group went on to become the
      International Socialist Organisation, growing somewhat larger later
      on. But it went through several splits and reunifications and
      subsequent further splits, and the ISO tradition in Australia is now
      divided into three groups: Socialist Alternative, the ISO and the
      latest split-off, which produces a magazine, Solidarity. Some
      analysis of the ISO current is available in histories by Phil Ilton
      and Tom O'Lincoln.

      The Communist Party, which loomed so large in this document, was
      destroyed by its shift to the right during the period of the Hawke
      government's wages and incomes accord, and in the early 1990s it
      completely disappeared as a public political formation. It has been
      replaced by its cashed-up ghost, the Search Foundation, and the
      former Socialist Party of Australia, also mentioned in the survey,
      has taken over its name.

      Some of the groups mentioned in this survey have disappeared, while
      others have emerged, such as the Socialist Party/Militant Group,
      Workers Liberty, Workers Power, the Workers League, Socialist
      Democracy and the Freedom Socialist Party. All these groups are very
      small and are connected to international currents in much the way
      described in the 1975 survey.

      The political problem that the authors of this document described,
      which was the absence of cross-group discussion between the different
      traditions, persisted for the whole period since 1975, and still
      persists, despite the conjunctural existence of an electoral
      arrangement between some of the groups in the Socialist Alliance.

      The Democratic Socialist Party, (known as the Socialist Workers
      League in the 1975 survey), later initiated a regroupment project,
      the Socialist Alliance, which now is increasingly taking the form of
      a rebadged DSP, with the other affiliated groups either pushed aside
      or carried along for the ride.

      The regroupment called for by the authors of this document was not
      taken up by other left groups.
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