5387Re: Australian Socialist Alliance lurches dramatically to the Right
- Mar 24, 2004SA lurch to the right: more on the question of Sydney City Council
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
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
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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