8394Re: Liberals as the main enemy - reply to Dave
- Aug 16, 2004--- In GreenLeft_discussion@yahoogroups.com, "dave_r_riley"
> There are a few issues here that people aren't coming back toI remember this discussion. Just to clarify what did the DSP
> So I was keen to hear from Kieren regarding the Greens
> The ISO supported preferencing the Clover Moore independents
> ahead of the ALP during the Sydney City Council poll this year
advocate? Greens then the ALP wasn't it?
> The other issue that struck me is the difference Murray SmithI have had quite a pleasant morning reading over Callinicos and
> raised with the British SWP over the issue of "radical"
> versus "socialist" left. This comes back to the heart of the
> matter in regard to RESPECT and the moribund English Socialist
> Alliance. It also is relevant to the perspectives of the left in
> the Greens and the program and practices of the Socialist Alliance.
Smith its been a while since I've read these debates. The question
though is how to apply it to Australia.
Callinicos calls the "radical left" those who oppose imperialist war
and neoliberal and seek to develop a political alternative to 3rd
way's "neoliberalism with a human face". And the `revolutionary/
socialist left' who are from Trotskyist tradition (like LCR and
SWP). Smith takes issue with this saying it ignores the "anti-
capitalist" left who are a big part of the radical spectrum between
anti-neoliberal and revolutionary. Oh to have these problems to
> The point I think needs to be bought out is that the Greens areAnd this is exactly what Callinicos intends in framing it this way.
> committed to establishing a more liberal, softer, capitalism -
> that's their conscious programmatic perspective -- where's the
> Alliance formations are not. Indeed on this criteria alone we could
> clump the RESPECT coalition with the Greens as both formations
> advocate a radical as distinct from an anti capitalist/socialist
If we use Smiths typology of 1. radical anti-neoliberal 2. anti-
capitalist and 3 socialist/revolutionary then it's not so
straightforward but this is in the European setting, here in Oz the
Greens are clearly in Group 1 even on the Right and the various
Trotskyists in Group 3. As far as I can see though there is no real
existing "anti-capitalist" current as in Europe. The milieu that
would support this are in and around the left wing of the Greens and
what we might tentatively think of the as `right wing' of the SA (the
SA left overlapping with Group 3).
Words like a "conscious programmatic perspective" bother me.
The Greens are committed to building an environmentally sustainable
society and draw people to them who see support their anti-war
stance, commitment to free health care and education) and so on.
They are not a conscious anti-capitalist force because they are
connected to a real movement of people whose consciousness
is likewise broad left. In Australia socialist ideas are completely
discredited outside a small number of people like us who are
committed to it, it is meaningless. That said when I use the word
socialist in Greens meetings no one really baulks except to say
the "well it not clear what that means " or that saying that would be
an electoral liability. Which it would in the present climate.
[Just to give you an idea of the climate in the far north the federal
seat That contains Mackay is a safe national seat, the local member
is DeAnne Kelly who put out an electoral sheet in the local paper
saying that the ALP was going to destroy local industry by abolishing
the diesel fuel Rebate to fund their "socialist" education policy.
DeAnne might be a loony Right winger but she knows her audience]
Now as for the trajectory that's a harder one to answer we all know
(as do many Greens) that to build said sustainable society we will
have to overthrow capitalism but that's not the consciousness of most
Greens, and those that are sympathetic want concrete suggestions as
to what we have in mind both now and in the future. At the moment
they are anti-war, and support free education and health care that's
a good enough trajectory for me at present. I think of it as
transitional of course there's got to be a fight but that's
something we have to organise.
The groups that formed SA have a clear revolutionary socialist
perspective embodied in their programs a conscious perspective as
Dave puts it. Offhand though the SA platform is not explicitly
revolutionary is it? In the way that the DSP is I mean. Which would
leave in the anti-capitalist but not (wholly) revolutionary camp
except for certain tendencies within it.
That's not gonna work as an outreach tool in Mackay. Its trajectory
is harder to call since it is essentially a regroupment of the far
left who have drawn a periphery around them but they remain
propaganda groups for the idea of socialism not a movement (at least
not yet) organised around the paper `Green left'.
> So why would we formally rate RESPECT as a higher politicalFrom my reading of the articles the concrete question is
> achievement than the Australian Greens? I'm being rhetorical -- but
> it is a worthy question to ask because the answer is sure to be
is RESPECT a higher achievement than the British Greens in
which case I think the answer is yes. Returning to Australia if
the anti-war movement had thrown up a formation like RESPECT
then we could assess the relation between it and the Greens the
Greens might be leading it? Mightn't they? The political forces are
so different the British Labour party being the main advocate of the
war here at least the ALP took an anti-war stance (I know we could
debate about the sincerity of this or what would have happened if
they were in power but they weren't) so the balance of forces is
different leaving the Greens to lead the parliamentary opposition.
> Given all what Smith wrote about minimal programs that developYou mean that Greens don't have a socialist program and the SA does?
> through shared activity and discussion, the main feature to draw
> out relative to the Greens VS the Alliance is that there is no pre-
> determined cut off in the Alliance whereas in the Greens there is.
> In the Greens there is no pretence to socialismThere are individuals who identify as socialists in the Greens but
> nor any current within the Greens advocating same.(If an active
> current does indeed exist, please correct my mistaken view).
they are not an organised current.
> To put it bluntly albeit formally: the Greens aren't anti-capitalist whereas the Alliance is.
Well in terms of its PROGRAM yes but in terms of its TRAJECTORY
I'm not so sure. For the Greens to implement their program would
require fundamental social change and they represent a movement
which is clearly much wider than that of SA for obvious reasons.
I am not trying to minimise the success of the SA, only to say that
in the concrete situation in Mackay it is a judgement call about
which is more effective who is really on the road forward.
> Whether a similar threshold will be imposed (by the British SWPSWP wants to keep RESPECT broad and recruit to itself.
> perhaps?)on RESPECT remains to be seen.
It depends on where people's consciousness is and where it can be led
If the SWP imposed its revolutionary views on RESPECT without it
would wreck it. I assume that RESPECT represents the thinking of the
advanced layers in the real on-going anti-war movement. So if the SWP
tried to impose its program (assuming it could) then it would be self-
defeating (except as a means of recruiting the left remnants to their
But this is Australia and there is no organization like RESPECT so it
abstract. The milieu around it in England I am guessing are looking
to the Greens here to take that kind of lead.
> While we could moderate this distinction and point out thathand.
> socialism is not on the agenda at this moment of historical time,
>and that primarily it is a question of addressing those issues to
Well I guess that's what I have been saying we have to be concrete
about where we are and make a political judgement about as Cannon
said "what to do next". Its about addressing those issues to hand
in a way that can kindle an anti-capitalist movement , transitional
program and all that.
> That's true but it is a major distinction nonetheless as anyoneIn 1875 he wrote marginal notes on their program! In Australia
>with any sense of history will know. Marx remarked on that
>distinction when he criticised the German party's Gotha program way
it was the heyday of the mercantile bourgeoisie when commercial
capital broke the power of the landed capitalists and propelled NSW
into the modern world instead of it becoming a backward colonial
plantation. Of course the situation in Germany was different I'm
not sure what Marx would have said about the situation in Australia,
program wise since we were in the midst of Australia's version of a
Of course you mean more generally that there is a line between reform
and revolution which "anyone" would know. First up, the debate about
reform vs revolution is being had by progressives in Europe in the
context of how to formulate strategy and whether the distinction is a
useful one or not. This is NOT the same debate that was being had say
in 1875 or in 1895 with Bernstein (B) and Luxemburg (L). Both B
and L were socialists debating how to bring about a socialist
alternative by gradual reform or mass insurrection. Now we are
really debating about whether there is an alternative to capitalism
and what that might be. I am certain we need to rid the world of the
domination of capital how and what to replace it with is much
harder and we all know that its not really reform VS revolution but
finding ways to fight from reforms that move people's consciousness
in a revolutionary direction so it a bit false in that sense.
> Now, if what Kieren says is true, that a key factor-- perhaps evenWell we'd all love an SSP but this isn't Scotland. As yet the unions
> a principle -- in our consideration should be that of formal trade
> union affiliation to the formation like the ALP, then RESPECT is as
> empty of that as the Australian Greens are Not only does the SSP
> advocate socialism but it is drawing trade unions to its banner.
remain rusted onto the ALP but what a step it would be if the unions
got some environmental politics and signed up to the Greens. Now
wouldn't that be something perhaps that's what the BLF may have
done. But that's all speculation. Where is Jack Munday now?
> So when Murray Smith draws on the experience of the SSP toIndeed. So what are you saying that in Australia the SA=SSP (in the
>criticise the British SWP's protégé RESPECT-- I tend to listen
>because I want to see what could be relevant to Australian
sense of being explicitly socialist) and RESPECT's second rate status
is like that of the ISO here (who are trying to limit the capacity of
the SA to grow into an SSP). I don't think that really works. What
would be relevant would be analysis of the Scottish political
situation that gave rise to the SSP (a tradition of socialist
organising outside of the Labour party, and the Poll tax victory for
> And the key feature I am noting from this exchange is that it isn'tThis IS the key question but where they are going isn't solely a
> so much where formations are at -- how minimalist their program or
> how limited their activity -- but where they are going --so long as
> they are allowed to go where their dynamic --and their leadership--
> takes them.
question of leadership (and program) but of the political dynamic in
society as a whole.
> As Smith concludes his article: "Today we are faced with the taskYes and this requires a concrete analysis of the situation we are
>building broad formations while deepening their political content
> [while avoiding the twin evils of sectarianism and opportunism to
> paraphrase Rosa Luxemburg]
facing and an exercise in political judgement about what to do
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