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5598Social democracy, theory and practice

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  • Nick Fredman
    Apr 4, 2004
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      Bob Gould, in discussing Latham, Iraq etc, contrasts the DSP with the
      "far more realistic strategic orientation" of Socialist Alternative
      group", who "have just produced a petition supporting Latham headed
      "Don't back down on troop withdrawal, which recognises the importance
      of Latham's current stand". He implies that the difference is due to
      the DSP seeing the ALP as a social democratic, liberal, capitalist
      party (he repeatedly distorts this to mean the ALP is identical to
      other capitalist parties), as opposed to SAlt's traditional
      Trotskyist view of the ALP as dual-natured, "capitalist workers
      party".

      However over on the Marxism list an actually existing Socialist
      Alternative member, Tom O'Lincoln, answered this post of Bob's with
      something I pretty much completely agree with which I and don't think
      contradicts the DSP theory, and practice, one little bit:

      "1. The Spanish events do look like a "pretty big opening" but it's
      yet to be seen how big it is in Australia. Actually Howard was
      probably intending himself to bring the troops back to Australia in
      time for the election. Latham has just stolen that election gimmick
      from him.

      "2. Latham is not just arguing in terms of the "national interest"
      but more specifically he and the Labor Party generally argue in terms
      of the need to bring the troops back to wage the "war on terror" in
      the local region. In other words, Labor is adopting an alternative
      imperialist strategy.

      "3. I don't see why revolutionaries can't simultaneously offer a
      sharp critique of the Labor leadership and yet say to Labor rank and
      filers: Latham, for his own opportunist reasons, has opened the way
      for you to take an anti-war stand - do it now!"

      (I'd stress more that Latham is acting under pressure from the
      movement and the views of his membership, which might sound closer to
      SAlt's official theory is than Tom is being here).

      Kieran Latty answers Bob Gould's excited attacks on the decision of
      the Sydney Central branch of Socialist Alliance to preference Clover
      Moore ahead of Labor by calmly setting out the facts and her views of
      the politics. Not the most useful part of her post though is how she
      finds equally annoying "Bob's timeless application of somewhat sound
      theory" [ALP as capitalist workers party, also subscribed to by the
      ISO], and how "certain people" engage in "equally timeless and
      sectarian denunciations of labor" [DSP theory and practice].

      However how Peter Boyle and Ben Reid has described the politics of
      this situation sound to me not too dissimilar, in substance if not
      style and emphasis, to Kieran: a difficult decision, but on the whole
      the Moore group was more supportable in this instance than Labor, etc
      etc. More generally, the ISO, DSP, and a load of other groups and
      individuals within Socialist Alliance have come up with fairly
      detailed common policies, statements and practice, in relation to the
      ALP and the unions, despite practical differences here and there and
      this underlying "theoretical" difference.

      What to make of this? Sometimes a common general Marxist and/or class
      struggle outlook, and a common active approach to the class struggle,
      is more important than particular theoretical differences. It's very
      obvious to adherents of both the "liberal capitalist" school and the
      "capitalist workers" school from engaging with the real world that an
      approach to the ALP requires both criticism and a united front. The
      ISO and DSP are now fairly close on the balance and form of these, or
      at least a lot closer than they were. Bob Gould, despite apparent
      theoretical affinity with the ISO, is all united front and very
      little criticism that I can see.

      This is not to be agnostic or blase about theory - hopefully with
      discussion and experience both practice and theory within Socialist
      Alliance and all Australian socialists can come closer together, or
      one theory can win out. However in the meantime I don't think such
      differences should be a barrier to being in the same party, even a
      more developed and revolutionary party than the current SA is,
      especially when the areas of agreement in practice are fairly broad.

      Also in the meantime, and this is addressed to Kieran, I think it's
      important to understand and debate the actual differences, rather
      than caricatures, like "timeless and sectarian denunciations of
      labor". I think I "get" the "capitalist workers party" theory, and
      occasionally feel it might just be right. I promise to read
      Callinocos' article on France too. But most days I think the theory
      of the ALP as a particular kind of liberal capitalist party based on
      the union bureaucracy both allows the full range of united front
      tactics to be pursued while giving better strategic guidance. The
      nature of the DSP is summarised in the DSP program at
      http://www.dsp.org.au/dsp/program/prog17.html and tactics towards the
      ALP at http://www.dsp.org.au/dsp/program/prog27.html
      --
      ***********************************

      Nick Fredman
      Student Rights Advocate
      Southern Cross University (Lismore)
      Student Representative Council

      Shop 9 Plaza, SCU Lismore

      Ph: 6620 3044
      Email: sra@...
      web: http://www.lismoresrc.org.au/

      *********************************
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