5586The similarity between the American SWP-Militant and the Australian DSP-GLW in their approach to social-democrats in Spain and Australia.
- Apr 4, 2004THE SIMILARITY BETWEEN THE AMERICAN SWP-MILITANT AND THE AUSTRALIAN DSP-GLW
IN THEIR APPROACH TO SOCIAL-DEMOCRATS IN SPAIN AND AUSTRALIA
Richard Fidler springs to the defence of the DSP leadership, and accuses me
of demagogy, etc, because I cross-posted Boyle's vintage piece and Latham's
speech with my own comment. Well, I know the Australian DSP and Richard are
mates, politically speaking, but I assert that its Richard and the
Australian DSP leadership supporter whom he quotes, who are demagogic,
rather than me.
Richard and the other bloke are in fact being extraordinarily jesuitical in
trying to draw some distinction between the demeanor of the American SWP,
and the posture of the Australian DSP leadership about the Spanish and
Australian events. The thing that the DSP and the SWP have strikingly in
common, is the way they concentrate on the defects of the Spanish
social-democrats and the Australian Laborites, rather than on the very
material fact that the big mass parties of social-democracy favoring
withdrawal from any imperialist involvement, is a pretty large opening for
the forces opposed to any imperialist war.
Richard Fidler takes up Peter Boyle's proposition that the Laborites are
only opposing it from the point of view of traditional reformist laborism,
not from a revolutionary point of view. That's also the approach taken by
the American SWP and the Militant. It's a truism, with a touch of what Lenin
described so succinctly as 'scolding scoundrels'. Richard Fidler seems
shocked by the fact that Latham based his assertion about the bankruptcy of
the Iraq involvement on the routine intelligence briefing given to
opposition leaders in a so-called bourgeois democracy. What was striking
about this week's events in the Australian Federal Parliament, was not that
Latham had had such briefings, as opposition leader, but that he obstinately
drew his own conclusions from them, which were that Australian troops should
be withdrawn - which Fidler and Boyle are forced to acknowledge is driving
the "main battalions" of the Australian bourgeoisie, off their tree.
Its worth noting that that the Australian DSP's criteria for programmatic
criticism is extremely subjective. For instance, here in Sydney, in
preferencing a conservative populist member of parliament who kept the
Greiner Tory Government in office with her vote, and whose electoral support
comes from the richest postcodes in Australia, they abdicate all criticism.
In the case of Latham and the Laborites, however, their assault is
unremitting, permanent, and not very scrupulous. (An example of what I mean
is that a DSP supporter, on the GLW discussion list, Carl Kenner, made the
absurd and obviously false assertion that Australian Labor had supported all
imperialist wars, no-one attempted to correct him; Kim Bullimore put in a
knee-jerk post alleging that Labor in Bankstown was preferencing the
ultra-right, One Nation Party, when it was actually the Liberals who were
doing this. Bullimore then squared off for herself by asserting that her
mistake was made was because it was difficult to tell the difference between
Labor and the Liberals, both being 'neo-capitalist parties').
Richard Fidler asserts that Boyle and the DSP leadership are completely
correct in warning their members against having any illusions in Latham and
the Laborites. I'd submit to Richard Fidler, who's just been in Australia as
a respected guest of the DSP at their recent conference, the following: The
DSP membership need more lectures about the evils of Laborism like a hole in
the head. What they really need, is a few lectures, taken from the pages of
Left Wing Communism, about the contradictions of Laborism and the grip that
mass Laborism still has on the bulk of the left of society, including most
of the working class. That's the area in which the DSP is defective, and I
bet you saw that in full flight at the DSP conference.
All through the upheaval over the second Iraq war, the DSP leadership and
Green Left have adopted an ultra-sectarian attitude towards both the
leadership and the ranks of the mass Labor Party in Australia, which all the
blue collar unions are part of, and which gets the clear majority of the
working class vote. They've routinely attacked the occasional inconsistency
of the opposition of the Laborites to the Iraq war, which has been very
public, about which the Australian and international bourgeoisie have gone
ape-shit. An appropriate approach would have been enthusiastic support,
combined with trying to push this Laborite opposition further. But the DSP
leadership are incapable of that kind of approach. Typical of this approach
has been the official ideologue of the DSP, the ubiquitous Peter Boyle who
has talked about the 'conga line of suckholes' supporting Latham about a
dozen times on various web discussion lists. The DSP leadership chose
consistently to take a line that the ALP's opposition to the Iraq war was
not real opposition, and that the Laborites really supported the war,
despite the obvious evidence to the contrary in the action of the Laborites
in the Parliament, and the very large participation of Laborites at all
levels in the demonstrations against the war.
The political basis for this is approach by the DSP leadership, which
Richard Fidler apparently shares, is the proposition that the Laborites,
whom the overwhelming majority of the left side of society support and
engage with, are an equivalent capitalist party to the Tories in Australia.
The practical bankruptcy of this approach is demonstrated by the evolution
of Australian politics over the last eighteen months. In the pursuit of a
completely chimerical alternative revolutionary electoral alternative to the
Laborites, the DSP leadership end up supporting the conservative populist,
Clover Moore, electorally. The whole period of the Iraq war, culminating in
the events of the last couple of weeks, have demonstrated that there is a
fundamental social and class difference between Australian Laborism, however
degenerated, and the Tories. The overwhelming majority of Australian
Laborites, and even the majority of the Australian Laborite structures, have
in a halting, contradictory, reformist way, opposed the Iraq involvement.
This has culminated in the last week in the clash between Latham and Howard
which has driven the Australian and international bourgeoisies so
hysterical. On the other hand the Liberal-National coalition has been 110%
in support of George Bush and the Iraq involvement
In this situation, the DSP leadership have, in general, raised their
differences with Laborism to primacy. They may through gritted teeth now say
that they'll invite Latham onto an anti-war platform in June (big deal!),
but even as late as today, even on the question of the Iraq war, they are
still concentrating their main fire on the defects of the Laborites. Today's
Green Left Weekly contains a large number of attacks on the Laborites, and
it does not anywhere contain a straightforward, general statement of
solidarity with Latham and the Laborites on the very important question of
Latham's sticking to his guns against the assault from the Howard
Government. All they can think of to say is to continue, as Boyle did last
Monday, to try to pick holes in what they claim are contradictions by the
Laborites. I attach to this post, the main article, on these events, in
today's Green Left Weekly by (Allison Dellit), to illustrate what I mean in
this context. To concentrate on the past and present inconsistencies in the
position of the Laborites rather than backing up the enormous break with
bipartisan politics involved in Latham's stance this week, is the height of
sectarianism. By way of contrast, the Socialist Alternative group, which is
now approximately the same size as the DSP, has a far more realistic
strategic orientation, and have just produced a petition supporting Latham
headed "Don't back down on troop withdrawal", which recognises the
importance of Latham's current stand.
Richard Fidler somewhat pompously refers me to the slogan that used to be
hung at the American SWP's Oberlin conferences - 'The art of politics is
knowing what to do next' - this quote applies particularly to the Australian
DSP, the American SWP, and in my view they both fail that test.
Labor: why didn't you tell us?
Mark Latham's March 30 claim that the federal Labor caucus voted In March
2003 to withdraw Australian troops from Iraq, initially gave us at Green
Left Weekly pause for thought.
Had we been too hard on Labor? Had the ALP clearly opposed the war, and we
had simply not noticed?
If Labor caucus did take a vote, they never announced it.
On April 9, 2003, I wrote an article titled, "Labor fudges position on Iraq"
. It concluded: "Neither Crean nor any other shadow cabinet member can even
bring themselves to say publicly, no matter what is said in caucus, that
this war is an injustice that must be stopped immediately."
Labor did not have the spine then to come out and clearly oppose a war that
Washington was waging. Instead, Crean tried to be all things to all people,
always careful to defend Canberra's fundamental alliance with the
warmongering US ruling class.
Latham's pledge to bring the troops home by Christmas should be applauded.
But already, as the ire of Washington descends, we are seeing cracks in the
ALP's anti-war position.
Labor amended a Democrats Senate motion on March 30, so that it reaffirmed
"The need for Australian military forces in Iraq to be withdrawn from that
country as soon as practicable once Australia's responsibilities as an
Occupying Power have been discharged, with the intention of returning our
forces to Australia by the end of 2004."
Labor has come out publicly in support of bringing the troops back because a
consistent, passionate campaign has made it a necessity. If we want to hold
Latham to his pledge, we will need to keep it going.
[Alison Dellit is the Green Left Weekly editor.]
From Green Left Weekly, April 7, 2004.
Gould's Book Arcade
32 King St, Newtown, NSW
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