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49932Statistics on the Socialist Alliance

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  • bobgould987
    Jan 3, 2008
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      By Bob Gould

      I've just seen a very strange document, which has been sent out in the
      past week or so to all members of the Socialist Alliance. A friendly
      SA member gave me a copy because they think it's so weird. It's 17
      pages of statistical charts about the Socialist Alliance.

      In the world of eccentric documents this has to be one of the
      strangest I've seen in a long political life. It's clearly meant to
      buttress the claims of the Boyle leadership of the DSP that the
      activities of the Socialist Alliance are relatively successful, but on
      careful examination it does the opposite. It reminds me a bit of the
      fake statistics that used to be produced in Stalinist Russia about
      macro-economic planning.

      It's a bit hard to follow, some of it is obviously spectacular puffery
      to the point of being false. The person who passed it on to me made
      the observation that, in the area they are familiar with, the
      activity, membership, etc, bear no relation to what's claimed in the
      document. Nevertheless, the document is revealing, albeit with the
      caveats that must be placed on that kind of think, as for the alleged
      statistics of Stalinist macro-economic planning.

      In what is called the Socialist Alliance membership summary, curious
      categories are adopted: members and sympathisers, financial members,
      playing leading role, actively participating, mainly inactive, average
      branch meeting, frequency of branch executive, average public event,
      and main problems holding back branch growth.

      As an example, the first entry is for the ACT and Canberra, which is a
      reasonably representative part of the whole document. There are a
      claimed 35 members and sympathisers, of whom 20 are claimed as
      financial members, five are claimed as playing a leading role, 15
      actively participating, 10 mainly inactive, five attend the average
      branch (presumably the same five who play a leading role), frequency
      of branch executive meetings is zero, 15 attend the average public
      event (the frequency of which isn't indicated), and the main problem
      holding back branch growth is said to be leadership resources.

      Going further into the section of the document about the election
      campaign, taking the ACT as an example, 50 people are said to have
      worked on polling booths in 2004 and only 25 did so in 2007 (the
      puffery involved in these alleged figures is revealed partly by some
      of them are suspiciously rounded: 50 and 25, not 48 or 51 and 18 or
      24, etc).

      In the figures for the number of people said to have worked on
      election day, it's not spelled out how many hours they put in. Usually
      in DSP documents I've seen from time to time, the number of hours
      spent by members selling Green Left Weekly is meticulously documented.
      Nevertheless, the number of hours, even as an average, spent working
      on the booths isn't tabulated.

      Leaving aside the regions, when you go to the macro figures the totals
      are rather interesting. Members and sympathisers taken together are
      nominated as 1503, financial members are nominated as 741, members
      playing a leading role are nominated as 114, actively participating
      are nominated as 274, and mainly inactive are nominated as 234.

      When you get to the pattern for election day, the high point of the
      election process, the macro figures are nominated as 585 booth workers
      in 2007, compared with 842 in 2004, a rather large drop.

      The number of potential new members out of all this activity, from all
      sources, is nominated as 101in 2007, compared with 204 in 2004.

      At one point in the document, 98 non-members of the alliance are
      nominated as having worked on election day. If you subtract that
      number from the 585 said to have worked (without the number of hours
      nominated), that leaves 487 alliance members working on election day
      of a total financial membership claimed to be 741.

      When you take into account that the DSP claims 260-odd members, it
      seems not many non-DSP alliance members worked for the Socialist
      Alliance on election day.

      In the comments about problems facing each branch and area, there is a
      litany of complaints which, summed up, advance the proposition that
      what's really needed is more activism to overcome the many
      organisational problems.

      In sum, the alliance is claimed to be an organisation with 740-odd
      members, and of the people who worked on election day about 60 per
      cent appear to have been DSP members.

      Insofar as it's possible to believe these eccentric statistics, the
      basic proposition of the DSP minority is proved in spades. The
      alliance is about half as active as it was three years ago, the level
      of activity is lower, and it's quite isolated in society at large.

      Attempted statistics compiled by people who have a bit of an axe to
      grind, are brutal things.

      Also in the document, the Boyleites who compiled it analyse in rather
      caustic terms, similar to the terms I sometimes use about them, the
      electoral activity of the Socialist Equality Party.

      The tragic thing is that despite the essential features of the
      Socialist Alliance revealed in this document, the Boyleite
      perspectives will be rammed through by the majority at the current
      convention, which only goes to demonstrate Trotsky's point that if you
      get people in a small room, manipulate their emotions and stir them
      up, there's a chance they'll vote for anything.
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