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8394Re: Liberals as the main enemy - reply to Dave

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  • chen9692000
    Aug 16, 2004
      --- In GreenLeft_discussion@yahoogroups.com, "dave_r_riley"
      <dhell2@o...> wrote:

      > There are a few issues here that people aren't coming back to

      > 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

      I remember this discussion. Just to clarify what did the DSP
      advocate? Greens then the ALP wasn't it?

      > The other issue that struck me is the difference Murray Smith
      > 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.

      I have had quite a pleasant morning reading over Callinicos and
      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
      decide between.

      > The point I think needs to be bought out is that the Greens are
      > 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
      > trajectory.

      And this is exactly what Callinicos intends in framing it this way.
      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 political
      > achievement than the Australian Greens? I'm being rhetorical -- but
      > it is a worthy question to ask because the answer is sure to be
      > instructive.

      From my reading of the articles the concrete question is –
      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 develop
      > 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.

      You mean that Greens don't have a socialist program and the SA does?

      > In the Greens there is no pretence to socialism
      > nor any current within the Greens advocating same.(If an active
      > current does indeed exist, please correct my mistaken view).

      There are individuals who identify as socialists in the Greens but
      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 SWP
      > perhaps?)on RESPECT remains to be seen.

      SWP wants to keep RESPECT broad and recruit to itself.

      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
      organization.

      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 that
      > socialism is not on the agenda at this moment of historical time,
      >and that primarily it is a question of addressing those issues to
      hand.

      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 anyone
      >with any sense of history will know. Marx remarked on that
      >distinction when he criticised the German party's Gotha program way
      >back when...

      In 1875 he wrote marginal notes on their program! In Australia
      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
      bourgeois revolution

      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 even
      > 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.

      Well we'd all love an SSP but this isn't Scotland. As yet the unions
      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 to
      >criticise the British SWP's protégé RESPECT-- I tend to listen
      >because I want to see what could be relevant to Australian
      >conditions.

      Indeed. So what are you saying that in Australia the SA=SSP (in the
      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
      a start).

      > And the key feature I am noting from this exchange is that it isn't
      > 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.

      This IS the key question but where they are going isn't solely a
      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 task
      >building broad formations while deepening their political content…
      > [while avoiding the twin evils of sectarianism and opportunism to
      > paraphrase Rosa Luxemburg]

      Yes and this requires a concrete analysis of the situation we are
      facing and an exercise in political judgement about what to do –
      next.

      Cheers

      Shane
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