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5387Re: Australian Socialist Alliance lurches dramatically to the Right

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  • ozleft
    Mar 24, 2004
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      SA lurch to the right: more on the question of Sydney City Council
      preferences

      By Bob Gould

      I'm not too worried by the offensive tone routinely adopted towards
      me by DSP leadership supporters. As Alan Bradley points out, I have
      been around for a long time, and I'm used to it. I would point out,
      however, that I'm pretty sharp with institutions and structures, but
      I'm generally careful not to imply personal ill will or bad faith to
      individuals.

      The tone adopted towards me, however, constantly implies some sort of
      bad faith on my part, and that, in fact, is the only level of some
      DSP leadership supporters' contributions.

      That kind of attack on me is par for the course, but I would point
      out that its constant use in that way is an indication of political
      bankruptcy on the part of the people who do it. No one, so far, on
      that side of the argument has even attempted to address the
      substantial arguments about the weight of structures, etc, and the
      class issues that are built into the argument about preferences.

      All you get is a stupid mantra: "Bob Gould supports the ALP".

      Paul Benedek lets the cat out of the bag by quoting Clover Moore's
      website, on which she praises herself for being the only person to
      vote against the Carr government's most recent workers' compensation
      legislation. It's clear from this that DSP leadership supporters have
      combed Moore's website for anything they can use to pretty her up as
      essentially a progressive figure.

      The fact that on broader political questions that is all they could
      find speaks volumes. Where did Moore stand on the Iraq war? Did she
      speak or march against the war? A big slice of the ALP in NSW did
      speak and march, including the deputy premier, and the leader of
      Labor's parliamentary wing has just announced, in a guarded way, a
      policy of withdrawing troops from Iraq, and the Liberals are
      attacking him for daring to do so.

      Where was Clover on Iraq?

      Two of the aldermanic candidates for the ALP in the City of Sydney,
      the two women who are in winnable positions are both relatively
      active members of Labor for Refugees. Where has Clover been over the
      past two or three years on the bitter and vexed question of refugees?
      And so it goes.

      It's not necessary in this situation to try to prettify the
      shambling, contradictory mass organisation that I describe as the ALP-
      trade union continuum. Prettifying it wouldn't work anyway, and it's
      not the point.

      The point in deciding preferences in this situation is what class
      forces are in play? Benedek asserts that the Laborites are on the
      nose with Green Left Weekly readers he meets. Well, that's a bit of a
      tautology, knowing Brother Benedek, they'd have difficulty getting a
      word in edgewise before he had told them how bad the Laborites were,
      and it would be a bold GLW reader who would disagree with him.

      Another way of looking at the class forces at work will emerge when
      the votes are counted on Sunday. The Labor team is the underdog, and
      it may well lose, but the social pattern of the voting, which will be
      relatively easy to unravel, will tell us volumes.

      In Sydney, the highest Labor vote will be in booths in the poorer,
      more blue-collar areas, such as the housing commission flats in Surry
      Hills and Redfern, and even further out in Beaconsfield, the still-
      proletarian parts of Alexandria, etc, etc. There will also be a
      particularly high Labor vote in the Glebe Estate public housing area.

      The more affluent other end of Glebe will be a hotspot for Moore and
      the Liberals. The Potts Point/Kings Cross area will also vote
      strongly for Moore and the Liberals. The pattern of higher or lower
      Labor or Moore votes will follow the income divides in the City of
      Sydney, and it will quite possible to discern the pattern. It always
      is for those who have eyes to see.

      The different social composition of the votes is a pretty important
      factor in where one should direct socialist preferences.

      HOW THE DSP, THE ISO AND THE SOCIALIST ALLIANCE ACTUALLY WORK

      In my recent long piece on Leninism and Zinovievism I tried to
      describe in some detail how public disagreement on even minor matters
      is strangled in Zinovievist political groups. This issue of
      preferences is a striking example of how that works.

      Peter Boyle now concedes that a number of DSP and ISO leaders and/or
      members opposed the preference decision. That's well and good, but
      the striking thing is that not one of them so far has felt
      sufficiently free to express that point of view even on the Green
      Left Weekly discussion list, or in the Socialist Alliance internal
      bulletins.

      One member of the ISO, who has been vocal on this question told me in
      conversation that initially he opposed the Clover Moore preference
      decision, but the ISO caucus met and decided in favour of it, and
      therefore he changed his position and played a substantial role in
      persuading the Central branch of the Alliance to preference Clover
      Moore. Presumably, something analogous took place in the DSP.

      At no point in the Socialist Alliance, apparently, has a horizontal
      discussion taken place outside the framework of the strict discipline
      of the two major Alliance components. In that kind of circumstance,
      obviously what happens is a kind of negotiation for a treaty between
      the leaders of the two groups.

      My overview of how the two groups work might be changed if there was
      some kind of public discussion of this modest issue, but on form so
      far that's unlikely to happen.

      It's all very well for Keiran to say the decision on preference
      doesn't lead to a sectarian attitude towards the ALP, but that's
      hopeful rubbish. Taking such a preference decision has the very
      practical effect of isolating the groups that do it, thoroughly, in
      the broader labour movement.

      Laborites tend to react very viscerally against people who give their
      preferences to politicians who most Laborites regard as essentially
      conservative. It's particularly ironic of Peter Boyle and the DSP
      leadership to be quite properly pointing to the progressive aspects
      of Latham's public announcement today on withdrawing troops from Iraq
      at the same time as the Socialist Alliance is deliberately isolating
      itself from the possibility of influencing Laborites in the city of
      Sydney, by this preference decision.
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