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9048Discussion and left regroupment

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  • ozleft
    Sep 12, 2004
      Peter Boyle, Duncan Meerding, Norm, Simon B2, Paul Benedek, lies and
      truth

      By Bob Gould

      I'm grateful to Shane for patiently deconstructing the verbal abuse
      from the DSP leadership in the past week, which he does with good
      humour and a teaching sociologist's precision. The verbal abusers,
      such as Boyle, have no adequate way of dealing with Shane's patient
      pedagogy.

      In a rather breathtaking piece of effrontery, Boyle this evening made
      a barefaced threat to those he calls "trolls" to boot them off the
      list forthwith. This intervention of Peter Boyle is an interesting
      exercise in DSP leadership methodology because it underlines, as did
      the methods used to expel LF from the DSP, that the DSP leadership
      doesn't seem too concerned to maintain any notion of the separation
      of powers.

      One would have thought that restraints in relation to the list might
      have been exercised by the moderator, rather than Boyle. This
      intervention is particularly outrageous coming from Boyle, who a
      couple of days ago accused me of being a liar, quite unspecifically.
      He didn't say which of my statements was a lie. Well, I'm not a liar,
      and if Boyle can think of any specific points that he considers lies,
      he should point them out and I'll refute his accusations.

      What rattles Boyle is not any alleged lies but the truthful way
      Ozleft documents developments on the far left, including those in the
      DSP, and their underlying political causes.

      Clearly the verbal abuse from the DSP leadership supporters over the
      past week relates to documents about the expulsion of LF from the
      DSP, which underline the authoritarian structure of the DSP, and
      Boyle's rather candid report to the DSP leadership of two months ago,
      which clearly underlines the DSP leaderhip's function as a kind of
      carnivorous plant in relation the other affiliates of the Socialist
      Alliance, particularly the ISO.

      These documents aren't lies, they're genuine documents. Boyle and his
      associates are as cranky as hornets when we point to them.

      Boyle abusively asserts that no-one should take seriously the
      perspectives I advance, and then a day or so later Norm Dixon
      provocatively demands that we collectively or individually on Ozleft
      spell out whatever perspectives we may have, once again.

      Norm's not a fool. He can read, and I'm sure he has read the general
      perspectives documents that I've elaborated over the past two or
      three years, but nevertheless despite his provocative context, I will
      spell out yet again, in a summary way, my perspectives.

      I am interested in a discussion among serious socialists and people
      on the left. The ultimate aim of such a discussion is the rebirth of
      a serious scientific socialist movement. The socialist movement in
      Australia, however, is at its lowest ebb for more than 100 years. It
      is divided into a large number of people of socialist sentiments in
      the Labor Party, the unions and the Greens, or organisationally
      inactive. It is also made up, in part, of at most 1000-1500 people in
      far left or Marxist groups.

      An open-ended political discussion among the socialist left is
      necessary, from my point of view, because it's not possible to jump
      over the existence of a few hundred militants on the far left, or the
      much larger number of socialists in or around the Labor Party, the
      trade unions and the Greens.

      My perspective involves the eventual construction of a socialist
      formation from some kind of regroupment. It's not possible to detail
      a model because it's necessary to get a discussion going first.

      The DSP leadership's notion of regroupment isn't useful because the
      DSP's internal regime is so brutal and rigid, and I have come to the
      conclusion that reducing the whole of the Marxist program to some
      exaggerated version of what tinpot leaderships consider Lenin's
      organisational formulas produces nothing but sects. Nevertheless,
      those sects exist and it's necessary to have a political discussion
      with their members whenever possible.

      There are, in fact, three spheres: independent socialist activity by
      sects, including the DSP; the Greens, now a very substantial mass
      political organisation with more than 10,000 members nationally and
      heading for 1 million votes in the coming elections; and the ALP-
      trade union continuum with about 50,000 ALP members nationally, the
      affiliation of all the blue-collar unions and the durable vote of
      about 40 per cent of the population on the left, migrant, working-
      class and progressive middle-class side of society.

      As an example of the relationship of forces in the workers movement,
      there are about the same number of ALP members in the seats of Sydney
      and Grayndler together, as the whole claimed membership of the
      Socialist Alliance nationally.

      Socialists should work in all three spheres -- the ALP, the Greens
      and the far left -- and in popular movements that cut across all
      three spheres.

      One thing socialists should not do is respond to Norm Dixon's
      arbitrary, self-interested provocation. Socialists working in the ALP-
      trade union continuum should look to all possibilities for recruiting
      to socialist ideas through work and activity in the Labor Party, but
      they should avoid like the plague the clamourous number-crunching
      associated in people's minds with the DSP leadership's conception of
      entrism, in any organisation.

      In current Australian conditions, the revival in the ALP of a broad
      left taking up strong positions on broad political questions, not
      constrained too much by self-interested parliamentarians, is a most
      immediate necessity.

      Ideally, such a development might be led by the some of the trade
      union militants in Victoria who were so effectively active at the
      last ALP federal conference.

      As a matter of historical personal accident, the ALP has been one of
      my spheres of activity for all of my political life, and I'll do my
      modest bit if opportunities emerge, which I'm sure they will in the
      short term.

      The reason I'm so belligerant towards the DSP about the Labor Party
      question is that its implacable sectarian tone directed at Laborism
      and Laborites in general, is a very major obstacle to discussion
      between Laborites and the far left, despite Sue Bolton's Potemkin
      Village rhetoric about how much influence the DSP has among Victorian
      trade unionists.

      It seems to me that my colleagues and associates, and others I know,
      who operate as socialists in the Greens do so in a very careful and
      considered way. The last thing socialists in the Greens need at the
      moment is to launch some DSP kind of clamour about building a
      socialist wing in the Greens.

      In NSW, the experience of the early DSP factional activity in the
      Greens, and the inept and clamourous activity of the DSP leadership
      in the old NDP, lie there as political skeletons for any socialist
      activist in the Greens to study with a view to avoiding the DSP style
      of sectarian entry like the plague.

      Boyle and Norm are, in fact, cynics in these matters. Boyle accuses
      me of being a splitter who encourages divisions within the activist
      left, by which he presumably means the DSP, ISO and Socialist
      Alternative.

      I didn't create any of the splits and divisions in any of those
      organisations. They emerged out of the situations existing in those
      organisations, and their political culture. I just look to the
      healthier elements to have emerged from those divisions as a possible
      basis for future regroupments. What's wrong with that?

      If someone wants to study a genuine piece of sectarian cynicism, in
      relation to political allies, they should study Boyle's report, the
      publication of which angers the DSP leadership so much. Pots calling
      kettles black, indeed.

      The DSP leadership has an extraordinary history of devoting
      considerable effort to getting the numbers in any sphere in which
      they're active, and attempting to homogenise each sphere to make the
      sphere resemble the authoritarian, militarised nature of the DSP.
      Even in the very short-term, these days, this tends to be rather
      counterproductive. Boyle's recent document, in particular, underlines
      the immense effort of the DSP in the Socialist Alliance to ensure DSP
      hegemony and to marginalise the other groups.

      Several independent caucuses in the Alliance have been organised and
      reorganised by DSP allies in such a way as to marginalise individuals
      who were part of the first independent caucus but didn't entirely go
      along with the DSP. This was all very public. And so it goes.

      I intend to conduct a careful, rational discussion of perspectives
      for regroupment, and I'll do that in any forum that's available. It's
      easier to do that when one eliminates verbal abuse.

      The necessary widespread political discussion directed at eventual
      regroupment and the construction of a serious socialist organisation
      has, by the very nature of Australian society, necessarily to involve
      some part of the large number of socailists in and around the Labor
      Party, the large number of socialists in and around the Greens, and
      the socialists in the far left, including those in and around the
      Socialist Alliance.

      Such a discussion towards regroupment can't be held hostage to the
      delusions of grandeur of the DSP leadership. Happily, in the event,
      the way things have evolved on the far left has substantially reduced
      the capacity of the DSP leadership to block such a discussion towards
      regroupment, which is obviously the source of the noise and fury from
      Boyle and others.
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