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50033Re: DSP Congress reaffirms commitment to broad left regroupment

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  • bobgould987
    Jan 7, 2008
      This is the way a split happens: not with a bang, but but with
      constitutional and personnel changes (with apologies to T.S. Elliott)

      By Bob Gould

      As has been pretty obvious from the material posted on the web by
      supporters of the Boyle leadership, the DSP conference laid the basis
      for the expulsion of the minority in fairly short order.

      Major personnel changes took place at the congress. John Percy, one of
      the leaders of the minority, was replaced as president by Jim McIlroy
      from the majority, which suggests that the couple of remaining
      minority supporters on the full-time national office staff will
      probably be removed fairly quickly, if they haven't been, in practice,

      Peter Boyle, in reporting cautiously on the conference, makes a point
      that women have been promoted in the new leadership, but that's
      obviously just a figleaf for factional considerations.

      The nitty gritty of the event was the constitutional changes on the
      final day. Over the years leading up to the Boyle coup, the DSP had
      gradually relaxed its previously extreme Cannonism and for practical
      reasons dropped a few provisions directed against minorities.

      This trend has been reversed by the Boyle group, which changed the
      constitution to make it a political crime to even "canvass" minority
      views in public. Under that rubric almost any public expression of
      views by the minority could be used to get rid of them, and it almost
      certainly will be used in such a way at a time convenient to the Boyle

      A throwaway remark in one of Luke Weyland over-enthusiastic
      contributions on the web
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GreenLeft_discussion/message/49983 seems
      to indicate which way the wind is blowing. He makes reference to
      looking forward to reading the second volume of the DSP-Resistance
      history written by someone called Jim. There are three possibilities
      here: he has confused John and Jim Percy, he's communicating with
      Jim's ghost by some mechanism (a ouija board, perhaps), or more likely
      the task of writing the history has been taken from John Percy and
      given to Jim McIlroy.

      I've also been looking forward to the second part of John Percy's
      account of the history of the DSP with a view to arguing with him
      about his version of events, but at least John is in the position of
      having been in a central leadership role in the organisation from day
      one, and his version of events is worth arguing about, as I'll
      continue to do. I haven't quite finished with the first volume yet.

      The bizarre practice of changing the writers of party histories to
      suit the political exigencies of the day brings to mind the history of
      Stalinism. The first time around the Stalinist rewriting of Bolshevik
      history were tragedy, but the idea of the amiable but rather
      ineffectual Jim McIlroy writing a version of the history to suit the
      Boyle groups slides from tragedy to farce.

      The Boyleites have suddenly become ferocious enthusiasts for the
      Cannonism of Jim Cannon's middle years, and they do Cannon a
      disservice by seizing on him in this way. Cannon was a many-sided
      political and workers' leader. He made many mistakes but he was quite
      capable of correcting them after a while. (Louis Proyect's demagogy
      about dumping all of Cannon's books is excessive.) One is reminded in
      this situation of Cannon's prescient warning in 1965, Don't Strangle
      the Party
      http://www.angelfire.com/pr/red/usswp/dont_strangle_the_party.htm ,
      against a similar tightening of the rules of the US SWP, which laid
      the basis for its future degeneration.

      It's a pity the Australian DSP doesn't have someone of Cannon's
      experience and stature to issue a similar warning to the Boyleites.

      Anyone who thinks my version of the evolution of the Boyle bunch is
      too severe should carefully read Ratbag Radio Riley's account of the
      convention on his blog
      and Luke Weyland's comment on Riley's contribution.

      Coincident with all this the DSP has just published a short piece by
      Sue Bolton
      http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GreenLeft_discussion/message/50006 from
      India, where she attended the December congress of the CPI (ML).
      Bolton doesn't stint on self-praise, describing herself as "tirelessly
      interacting with a range of delegates" (give us a break).

      Bolton spelled out to an overseas audience the current line of the
      Boyle group, which was adopted at the DSP convention. Flying in the
      face of all political reality, she attributes to the DSP an enormous
      role in the defeat of the Howard government and the election of the
      Rudd Labor government. She says the major factor in this was
      industrial mobilisations in Victoria and WA.

      Well, healthy and useful as those mobilisations were, the DSP was only
      a marginal force in the fact that they took place, and whether they
      were a critical factor in the election outcome is very hard to
      quantify. In Victoria and WA, where those mobilisations mainly took
      place, Labor won few seats in the election. If fact, the only seat
      Labor lost, against the trend, was in WA.

      Where that sort of mobilisation wasn't so obvious, in NSW, Tasmania
      and Queensland, was where most of Labor's electoral gains took place.

      The Boyleites will say anything to exaggerate their own importance,
      and that is a very bad guide to Marxist politics.

      During the conference quite a few of the participants drifted through
      my shop, and the oppositionists seemed in reasonable spirits despite
      the battering they were receiving. Taken as a whole, although this is
      a subjective impression, the oppositionists are saner and calmer
      people than many of the majority supporters, although the majority
      supporters who drifted through the shop were also quite rational.

      Riley, on his blog, makes a hullaballoo about how the minority should
      be proper Leninists and shut up now, while the line is tested in practice.

      The difficulty with that proposition is that the Boyleites'
      perspectives are so out of context with reality that it's hard to
      perceive how the minority could put them into practice.

      The majority makes much about the Greens (which in Australian terms
      are very large small mass party that now gets 10 per cent of the vote
      to the left of Labor) being really no good at all because they don't
      have the full program of the Socialist Alliance.

      In Sue Bolton's report from India, another theme is developed: that
      the current student movement is no good either, because it consists of
      inward-looking left cliques, she says. This is an indirect attack on
      the minority, which places great emphasis on reviving Resistance, and
      it's also an obvious attack on the DSP's main propaganda group rival,
      Socialist Alternative.

      At the Australian student union conference in December, Labor Party
      supporters were the dominant force, and the Socialist Alternative
      bunch had a rather substantial 12 per cent of the delegates. There was
      one solitary delegate from the DSP at that conference. So, you see,
      the Boyleites say, the student movement is no good because it doesn't
      accept our leadership.

      I could go on, but there's not much point. A lot of the documents and
      comments speak for themselves. I'm still mulling over the weird
      statistical document from the Socialist Alliance, and I'm half-tempted
      to write a Mr Bean-style skit on it, with Mr Bean turning it upside
      down, this way and that, biting it, and eventually stamping on it, but
      that might be a little on the harsh side.

      To sum up, the DSP has now settled down to being a formation with the
      worst organisational rigidity from some of the saddest periods of
      Marxist history. The opposition will probably be driven out in a
      fairly short time, and the business about canvassing their views will
      be the pretext for the purge.

      The constitutional change prohibiting minorities from "canvassing"
      their views quite clearly would bar things like Max Lane's very
      cautious expression of his views on Marxmail a few days ago
      http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/marxism/2008w00/msg00009.htm .
      It's a clear declaration that disciplinary action will be taken
      against anyone who does anything similar.
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