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9174Re: Query

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  • Richard Fidler
    Sep 14, 2004
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      Bob Gould responds to Richard Fidler:

      >> When you were here in Australia in December, I offered to organise
      a meeting so you could get the point of view of some of the smaller
      groups and other assorted leftists who weren't closely in the DSP
      orbit, including some people in the Socialist Alliance.

      You chose to reject that offer, which is your right, presumably
      because the DSP leadership were befriending you in Sydney, and that's
      fair enough.

      It's a bit tongue-in-cheek of you to then throw off some smartarse
      comment about what unites people on Ozleft. <<

      Well, Bob, since you mention it let me recall the facts. On 24
      November 2003 you wrote to me, in part:

      >> Are you still coming here in December?

      If you are, why not plan it so that you get here, maybe a day or so
      before you inform the DSP. They are pretty energetic at trying, often
      successfully, to chaperone overseas visitors so they don't get near
      people like myself and other dissidents, including their ostensible
      allies in the Socialist Alliance....

      This year's DSP Conference, to which you've been invited, is a closed
      Conference, so you won't meet any of the Alliance affiliates, other
      than any who acquiesce to the DSP, at this Conference, although it
      will be pretty interesting because there is still a fair amount of
      internal opposition inside the DSP, which the leadership are
      hammering incessantly.

      If you were to come a day, or even a couple of days before you meet
      up with the DSP, I could discretely [sic] organise a couple of
      gatherings where you could meet a significant number of the leaders
      and members of about six of the other groups, probably without news
      of such a gathering leaking out to queer your pitch with the DSP. It
      might be useful to you to meet a number of others before venturing
      into the hothouse atmosphere of the DSP Conference. <<

      I replied to the above message on 26 November 2003. I explained to
      Bob that I was already scheduled to arrive in Australia on December
      28, a day after the DSP convention began, and added in part:

      >> Basically, I am visiting Australia as both a tourist and a guest
      of the DSP, with which I am in general sympathy from what I know of
      its politics and direction. Of course, as an independent socialist
      not affiliated with any group since 1980 I don't represent anyone but

      In response to my inquiries a couple of months ago about upcoming
      conferences, John Percy (whom I worked with almost three decades ago,
      in NYC) suggested I attend their New Year's events and perhaps give a
      talk or two on the situation of the left up here. I have agreed to do
      so; the likely format is a couple of talks that together cover the
      situation of the left in English Canada and Quebec, the national
      question and anti-imperialist strategy in the context of Canada-U.S.

      Of course, I don't expect to spend all my time in Australia attending
      DSP events! Among other things, naturally, I want to do some
      sightseeing around Sydney and environs (including a visit to your
      book shop). I would certainly welcome an opportunity to meet other
      comrades in the left who may not be attending the DSP events. If
      there's enough interest, I might even be able to give some version of
      those talks to a gathering, although I am much more interested in
      finding out what you folks are doing and thinking. If you want, I can
      contact you when I get to Sydney and we can work something out. I
      don't know the exact agenda of the DSP events, so can't commit to
      anything at this point. <<

      When I arrived in Sydney I met with Bob, and it was agreed that
      since I would be speaking at a public educational conference in the
      Alliance/DSP HQ, he should attend and invite others to do so as well.
      And in fact, Bob and a number of his cothinkers did attend and
      participate in that event on January 10, which featured Barry
      Sheppard and Humphrey McQueen as the main speakers.

      In the meantime, I had visited Bob's wonderful bookshop, had a couple
      of good conversations with him, and through him met informally a few
      of his associates. I should add that the DSP comrades were in no way
      opposed to these activities and in fact encouraged me to seek out
      others on the left on my own.

      So who's being the "smartarse" here, Bob? You made an obvious attempt
      to line me up in advance against the DSP and to organize a
      surreptitious meeting with those you picture as their opponents in
      the left, and now you claim, falsely, that I "chose to reject your
      offer" because I was "presumably" beholden to the DSP. Come off it,

      The Ozleft website is quite interesting, to be sure, and contains
      much valuable material (as well as some dross of course). But its
      very diversity is what provoked my question. No one is insisting
      you "adopt a common program forthwith", or at any time for that
      matter. But as I said off-list today to one of your associates:

      "I confess I still don't understand why a variety of individuals post
      from a common address that purports to be a `forum' and not a
      political position. Which is why I put my question to the list.
      Obviously you are united among yourselves by some commonality, but
      other than antipathy to the DSP (and perhaps friendship with Bob
      Gould?) it is not obvious what that is. My membership in various
      Trotskyist organizations over the years made me very allergic to
      anything that smacks of unprincipled combinationism or cults."

      In my experience, many of those who make a virtual profession out of
      their own vaunted "non-sectarianism" often prove to be some of the
      worst sectarians themselves. Please don't give us cause to include
      you in that category. With your wealth of experience in the
      Australian left, you can make a valuable contribution to the new
      generation of radicals now beginning to come forward. Try to give it
      your best, Bob.


      P.S. Bob asks: "I'd be interested to see your Canadian common
      program." Well, I recently joined the Socialist Project. Its founding
      Statement is published in the most recent issue of Links. While I
      don't endorse absolutely everything in it, it does seem to me to be a
      good starting point for left regroupment and discussion here. Living
      in Ottawa on the border with Quebec, I am also a non-Quebec member of
      the Union des forces progressistes, which I wrote about in Green Left
      Weekly last December.
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