Re: debating with bob gould
- By Bob Gould
The substitution of personal abuse for political debate seems to be an
unbreakable habit for some members of the DSP leadership and their
loyal echo chambers. Taking his cue from Peter Boyle, Rohan G calls me
an old windbag and whinges that he can't understand why people spend
so much time arguing with me.
Rohan G is obviously a closet reader of the World Socialist Website,
which has recently had a lengthy and quite intelligent piece on the
life and activity of Wilhelm Reich. Rohan G compares me with Reich in
his declining years, which is a pretty strange kind of insult. In his
declining years Reich was known for his rather embittered anti-communism.
Is Rohan G implying that I'm an embittered anti-communist? If so, he
should look at my written material, which is available on Ozleft
proposition that I'm an embittered anti-communist is refuted by
everything I write, unless you have the psychotic mindset of the DSP
leadership, who clearly believe that anyone who argues with them must
be an embittered anti-communist.
It's also possible that Rohan G is referring to Reich's later
activities, for which he was persecuted by the US Food and Drugs
Administration. Reich built something he called an orgone box. He
believed that if one sat in this device one could extract good vibes
from the ether, improving one's orgiastic potency.
I can assure Rohan G and the DSP leadership that I've never been near
an orgone box in my life, nor tried to build one.
On a more serious note, I don't at all resent being associated with
Wilhelm Reich. Before he went a little mad, Reich made considerable
contributions to psychoanalysis and scientific inquiry into sexuality
from a broadly Marxist point of view.
It seems to me that Rohan G and the DSP leadership might benefit from
reading some of the earlier works of Reich (which I have in my shop),
particularly The Function of the Orgasm. Another book in my shop that
is of some interest is Orson Bean's Me and the Orgone, a Memoir of the
One individual of my acquaintance in the DSP leadership, in
particular, might benefit greatly from studying the early works of
Reich, particularly on character armouring, the authoritarian
personality and general questions of psychological repression. The
early Reich warrants serious study by anyone interested in psychology,
from a Marxist point of view.
Rohan G is a clown and he throws in for polemical purposes, in a
rather nasty way, things about which he clearly knows very little.
Rohan G takes up the theme of Boyle and others in the DSP leadership
that I'm an old windbag or an old fart. That's a pretty dopey line of
argument. Most human cultures have a certain respect for age,
recognising that older people have often acquired knowledge and
experience. It's clearly necessary, from time to time, to revolt
against the old, but nevertheless human culture is transmitted to a
certain extent from the old to the young, and this applies also in the
The Bolsheviks, for example, were no particular respecters of persons
young or old, but it's unimaginable that Lenin or Trotsky would ever
conduct arguments with the gutter demagogy of a Peter Boyle or, now, a
Boyle tries to pass off his stupidly barbaric verbal behaviour on the
basis that he's some kind of larrikin. He's not a larrikin at all.
He's a petty bourgeois committeeperson putting on a big act for the
benefit of anyone ignorant enough to take seriously his proffering of
an ostensible larrikin posture as a substitute for debate.
On matters much more serious than the clownishness of Boyle and Rohan
G, Boyle's recent response to Shane Hopkinson is extremely sinister,
politically. Firstly, Boyle passes off the DSP leadership's
authoritarian practices as Leninism. What a nasty, slanderous view of
Lenin is involved in this proposition.
If you look at the practice of Lenin and the Bolsheviks in their
creative formative period, it bears no resemblance at all to the DSP's
structure and practices, as described by Boyle and the DSP leadership.
I've written at length on this question
(http://members.optushome.com.au/spainter/Lenin1.html), and so have
and a number of others, and Boyle should attempt some response to
these serious contributions to debate before he talks obvious bullshit
about the DSP's claims to Leninism.
In fact, the DSP leadership has refined an authoritarian structure
that squeezes the life out of political debate in a tiny sect of 200
or so members, and which has institutionalised a regime in which no
change of political line is possible unless it comes from the DSP
The political line entrenched by this process is exotic and sterile,
and DSP members question it at their peril, as LF discovered when he
was summarily expelled from the DSP this year (see
http://melbourne.indymedia.org/news/2004/08/77884.php), and as many
others have discovered when they have been driven out (see, for example,
structural arrangements in the DSP are such that its eclectic
political line can't be changed by any process of internal political
discussion. That's physically impossible in the DSP. The only changes
can come from within the leadership.
This organisational set-up is obvious to all on the left, and it's the
main reason why other socialist groups are very cautious about getting
into a too-close political embrace with the DSP leadership.
Boyle's most sinister, outrageous and dangerous implication comes at
the end, when in his ostensibly "larrikin" way he equates debate over
political differences in the socialist movement with what he imagines
-- from his wealth of labour movement experience and reading --
workers do to scabs on picket lines.
There are two very important points at issue here. Firstly, it's
absolutely poisonous, and the beginnings of Stalinism, to equate with
scabs people who hold political disagreements. The implication is that
people who act on their political differences should be treated
physically like scabs. Comrade J.V. Stalin used to talk like that,
with very precise political and physical intentions towards those who
There's a secondary, but also important, aspect to Boyle's stupid,
rhetorical and demagogic implication that oppositionists should be
treated like he thinks workers treat scabs. It's certainly true that
in the history of the labour movement, at certain high points of
mobilisation and struggle, workers have treated scabs very harshly.
Those workers, and their leaderships, however, have usually done such
things in a responsible and careful way. The classic description of
this kind of activity is in Farrell Dobbs' very fine books about the
class struggle in Minneapolis in the 1930s.
In industrial matters, however, it's important to know the ebbs from
the flows, and in Australia at the moment, industrial struggle is in
rather defensive, low-key phase.
Apart from being wrong in principle in equating differences among
socialists with conflict on a picket line, committeeperson Boyle
displays a dangerous and pseudo-romantic approach to serious
He may not have thought these things through too clearly, because what
he's actually doing is throwing around abuse for his immediate
political purposes, but in industrial matters in Australia for the
past few years, quite dangerous consequences can arise from
misestimating the political situation and the tactics it's wise to
adopt in prevailing circumstances.
Boyle's congenital left talk is of no use to serious socialists in any
sphere, and it's a danger to the movement in some respects.
- Shane wrote: What I am demanding [!!] of those like yourself is some
of why you think in the present conditions that the best way forward
is building a multi-tendency socialist party (MTSP).
Alex: You keep on writing things like this Shane - as if you have not
already been answered many times before!
But it is really simple.
We favour a MTSP because this is the kind of socialist formation that is
capable of taking the socialist movement forward beyond a collection of
smaller fragmented groups. This is not for all time and all places, but
dealing with Australia today. Do you dispute this? Is there another kind of
formation that could take the socialist movement forward from where it is at
today? If there is, we'd all like to hear about it.
A more full-blown unity is not yet possible in today's conditions. A mere
electoral alliance is not really going to move things forward as has been
discussed at length on this list.
Why an independent socialist party (of which an MTSP is a variation) and not
work inside the Greens or ALP? Because *we* haven't given up on the
socialist project and so far no one has demonstrated that there are better
opportunities *to build the socialist movement* in the Greens or the ALP. If
there are better opportunities there, we'd love to hear about them. You and
others have been asked this question many times, but no answer!!
You have to acknowledge that if you want to be taken seriously, you need to
put forward a serious alternative proposal rather than constant (over
several years) carping criticism and "questioning" that seems not to be
directed towards finding answers, but instead seems to be directed towards
creating doubts and confusion. Since it is not possible to build a movement
on the basis of doubts and confusion, the role you end up playing is not a
positive builder but a negative detractor, an opponent of the project of
building (any kind of) a socialist movement.
You have joined the Greens and said that we'd be better off joining the
Greens also. Like I've said, we've asked you before if there are
demonstrated opportunities for building the socialist movement there before,
but no answer. Here's a simple question: Would it be possible for the
members of the DSP or the SA to join the Greens, and build an explicitly
socialist or eco-socialist pole of attraction (network, caucus, etc) in the
Greens and publish some form of publication? Is that possible or not? What
would be the attitude of the Greens leadership? Would such a formation be
I ask this question, because I know a number of socialists in the Greens
(some on this list, some not, some in retreat from the socialist movement
and some not). However every one of the socialists in the Greens that I know
of was a socialist before they joined the Greens. I do not know of a single
example of a person who has become a socialist as a result of their
involvement in the Greens. Are the such people? I'm not saying there are
not, but I'd like to hear of them and the circumstances in which they became
socialists if there are.
Most people become socialists because of their contact/engagement with
socialist propaganda and socialist propagandists (i.e. activists). To me it
seems self-evident therefore that in order for the socialist movement to
grow, there needs to be an organised approach to arguing the case for
socialism (producing socialist propaganda) and recruiting others to this
cause. Not that this is the only job of the socialist movement, but that you
can't build a socialist movement without doing this. Is this possible in the
Of course the best way for you to definitively answer this question Shane,
would be by building a loose network of 1000 or so eco-socialists in the
Greens with a cadre core in excess of 300 conscious Marxists. I doubt there
is a single person on this list who would not welcome such an answer.
Duncan wrote: >These allegations, are not backed up by facts and yes I would
to agree with >Peter Boyle that, like this one, your posts have been
Shane you wrote: In what way? Is debating the way forward for the socialist
destructive? Or only when someone disagrees with you?
Alex: You ask "is debating the way forward for the socialist movement
destructive?". But there is no abstract answer to this question. Some kinds
of discussion and debate are constructive, in fact essential. Other kinds of
debate - the kind that you seem to favour - don't help and can in fact be
destructive by sapping morale and *achieving no positive resolution*. I've
discussed this above. It comprises: carping criticism (often implied rather
than put honestly and in the open) and "questioning" designed to lead
nowhere (except perhaps backwards). A crucial element is the fact that no
positive alternative is every put. I for one would like to know what your
positive alternative is Shane, if it exists.
The reason you and Bob Gould are often lumped together is this common
feature of a counter-productive kind of
When comrades on the list are provoked by frustration into responding with
anything less than complete civility you and Gould both protest about
"personal abuse". This is just another technique to cloud debate and
disguise the fact that neither of you are putting forward any positive
alternatives for building a stronger socialist movement.
- I think there's very seldom much point calling a political opponent a
windbag (though Lenin famously called Trotsky one in his 1905 article
'Social-Democracy and the Provisional Revolutionary Government', so
Bob Gould shouldn't feel in too bad a company), or raising anything
at all on a political discussion lists apart from the political
points. I also think it's rare politically literate person, and a
rarer socialist commentator, who's always wrong, and not worth
reading at all (apart from the fact some people are worth reading
precisely to see how and why they're wrong). The wsws website, which
contains both demented paranoia about the rest of the left and some
reasonable analyses of current bourgeois politics, and of film and
culture (the latter tending to pomposity though), is a case in point.
However Bob's numerous cries of foul run a little thin when his
language in nearly every discussion, relating to the DSP ("stupid",
"dopey", "nasty", "clown") is highly personalised and
hyper-exaggerated. I also think there's little point in debating him
when he continually flouts the most elementary criteria for a useful
discussion. For example: refusing to provide any evidence for
numerous assertions, including when asked point blank and when
contradictory evidence is piled up, beyond the most flimsy hearsay
and appeals to some kind of supposed common sense (really prejudice),
about how "everyone" in the labour movement thinks this, "everyone"
knows that. Which part of the phrase "put up or shut up" don't you
Also: extended, hyper-exaggerated deconstructionist riffs on what his
opponents supposedly said, starting with a distorted re-writing
(dishonestly not quoting actual words used) and spinning out of
control into a nightmare, Stalinist police-state world. Peter Boyle
>All political activity if it is to be collective and effective involves somedegree of "discipline" and with voluntary organisations (and nobody is
forced to belong to any socialist organisation in Australia) the real
limits of such discipline are set by political agreement and won
political authority of the groups leadership. This discipline is not
mysterious or sinister in the slightest, in itself. It arises naturally
in all collective struggles, e.g. on picket lines. Indeed on some of the
great picket lines in working class history the sanctions for breaking
discipline have been much more severe than any of us have experienced in
a political organisation in this country.
An honest appraisal of this would see it as a pretty uncontroversial
point, often repeated by all sorts of socialists answering prejudices
and distortions about their practice, that any form of political
activity (in movements, unions and parties) requires leadership
(organisation) and discipline (acting together). However this becomes
in Bob's Orwellian world a call from Boyle to beat up anyone who
disagrees with him.
>There's a secondary, but also important, aspect to Boyle's stupid,Just like Stalin, or even fascists, whose mass psychology is captured
>rhetorical and demagogic implication that oppositionists should be
>treated like he thinks workers treat scabs.
in Reich's book that Bob recommends as therapeutic study by the DSP,
no less. Now who was the one using epithets again?
If Bob wants to have a discussion about the nature of the ALP, past
and present, and whether there's a labour aristocracy, or other
historical or theoretical questions, with the appropriate use of
evidence and carried out in a civilised way, that's not a bad thing.
If he wants to debate the actual positions and practice of the DSP or
the broader Socialist Alliance, and the effects of these in the real
world, citing as evidence actual words used and incidents that have
actually happened, that should be OK too (whether it's particularly
useful or not is another thing). But carrying on the latter
discussion in the way I've described here is a completely useless
exercise, serving only to provoke and obscure.
- Alex Bainbridge wrote:
> Here's a simple question: Would it be possible for the members ofObviously the answer is that this would be impossible.
> the DSP or the SA to join the Greens, and build an explicitly
> socialist or eco-socialist pole of attraction (network, caucus,
> etc) in the Greens and publish some form of publication? Is that
> possible or not? What would be the attitude of the Greens
> leadership? Would such a formation be tolerated?
But, then again, some form of eco-socialist publication might be
possible. It just wouldn't be based on the members of the DSP and/or
I may have to think about this a bit more.
> I ask this question, because I know a number of socialists in theWe've got some borderline cases here in Toowoomba, where joining the
> Greens (some on this list, some not, some in retreat from the
> socialist movement and some not). However every one of the
> socialists in the Greens that I know of was a socialist before they
> joined the Greens. I do not know of a single example of a person
> who has become a socialist as a result of their involvement in the
> Greens. Are the such people? I'm not saying there are not, but I'd
> like to hear of them and the circumstances in which they became
> socialists if there are.
Greens and becoming a socialist (of sorts) were more or less part of
the same process. Obviously I am encouraging this kind of thing, and
I have already proposed that some of the local leftists should
organise public socialist discussion groups in order to help broaden
out the political education of my Greens.
Getting back to the idea of putting out an eco-socialist publication -
it would be necessary to put together a editorial board of some
description. Unfortunately, the heterogeneous nature of the
socialists in the Greens - as Alex put it: "some in retreat from the
socialist movement and some not" - would make this a little
difficult. It might be necessary to run it unilaterally through a
small, fairly homogeneous group, and let the "other socialists"
complain in the letter columns. :)
Obviously, writers would be drawn from various backgrounds - it would
just be the editorial policy that would be "unilateral". Just like
any other publication, in other words.
A website would be the easiest place to start, of course.
- --- In GreenLeft_discussion@yahoogroups.com, "alanb1000"
>You sure do.
> I may have to think about this a bit more.
While I consider you to be a person dedicated to carving a
socialist perspective within the Greens I haven't worked out what
your 'strategy' for a socialist nucleus in Toowoomba is. Discussion
group you say? Why not a Green Left Weekly reading circle? Even
Greens members write for that..
In the meantime perhaps you would like to take up the Craig Johnston
campaign in Toowoomba. I can forward all necessary resources. Maybe
you could get your branch to sign the petition and/or pass a
resolution of support.
REPORT from regional Ballarat:
The dawn ceremony, the Diggers' March and the Lantern Walk all
attracted around 1000-2000 people. The other activities the SA was
involved in were the ETU's Night Under the Stars, the building
unions' picnic, a stall at the World Music Festival, & Ballarat SA's
public meeting with Jim MIlroy & Graham Williams speaking.
The crowd at the official events like the Dawn Ceremony were well to
the left of the official proceedings.
There was a controversy when some local right-wingers and then the
Murdoch press realised that Terry Hicks had been invited to lead the
Lantern Walk. I think that a large number of people at the Lantern
Walk (which started at 3.30am on Sunday morning) were there out of
solidarity with Terry Hicks. That sense of solidarity was
definitely the spur for SA comrades to participate as a contingent,
especially after Terry Hicks and his brother turned up at the SA/GLW
We distributed merchandise and literature on the weekend to people
from Ballarat, Melbourne, Geelong, Bendigo, Kalgoorlie, Sydney,
Canberra, Perth, Ipswich, Brisbane, Blackwater in Qld and other
mining centres in Qld.
Contingents of miners, construction workers, ETU members, and AMWU
members came from interstate, as well as heaps of people off their
The Craig Johnston campaign got a boost too, with a lot of
interstate unionists hearing about the campaign for the first time
and immediately signing the petition, or having heard about it and
wanting to know more.
Ballarat comrades would have been thrilled with the 35-strong
attendance at the public meeting - a great start to a new branch.
- On one of the issues raised, that of socialists joining the Greens:
There are many logistical and political problems with this.
Firstly, the number of active socialists probably is similar to the
number of active Greens, but the activist culture is vastly different:
activism for many Greens is outside the auspices of their electoralist
party, and for others it involves little other than electoral activity.
Secondly, many of the active Greens aren't very left wing.
Thirdly, the leadership of the Greens have previously demonstrated that
they don't want a big socialist tendency in their party (of course this
may have changed, or there may be ways around it -- but I don't think so).
If exhortations to join the Greens are to be taken seriously, they apply
to the whole Socialist Alliance, not just the few members around the
edges who may consider such a perspective. And this said, if the
Socialist Alliance took it seriously, dissolved tomorrow, and we all
went to join our local Greens branch, a number of things would probably
First, the big difference in political/activist culture mentioned above
would result in a great deal of confusion for everyone involved.
Second, a lot of people in the Greens might (rightly or wrongly) see it
as a takeover bid. If there was any significant dispute over it, as I'm
sure there would be in many branches and at a Greens leadership level,
the ensuing dispute may ruin the Greens -- something I don't wish in any
case -- and dissolving the SA would necessarily destroy the (organised)
socialist movement in Australia, for the time being.
Thirdly, in some areas the Greens are of the "blue-green"
Liberals-for-Forests kind, and even if the SA were allowed to join, the
result would probably be similar to the second point above.
I'm not against working with the Greens. The Socialist Alliance and
Greens have generally given preferences to each other in elections, and
our activists have mostly been pretty friendly at polling booths,
campaign meetings etc. Most of both groups recognise what we have in common.
The most workable organisational way to build on this relationship would
be to have some kind of "Green Left Alliance" for elections (and any
other activity deemed suitable). The problem with this is that the
Greens are still light years ahead of SA in electoral terms. These are
the only terms the Greens as a whole take seriously, as far as I can
tell, and any overtures the SA might make wouldn't carry any electoral
weight yet. So, pragmatically, the Greens leadership would probably
consider any such formal alliance more of an albatross around their neck
(a stick for the media to beat them with) and certainly not worth
whatever they might get out of it.
That's not to say SA shouldn't put such proposals on the table,
regardless of response or lack thereof.
But perhaps the idea for an ecosocialist journal is a more realistic
idea... why don't we call it, umm, perhaps "Green Left Weekly"?
- Ben C wrote:
> On one of the issues raised, that of socialists joining the Greens:Let's be blunt about this: the Greens don't _want_ socialists to join
the Greens, at least in any significant numbers. Lone eccentrics like
me are fine, but anything beyond that is right out.
There will be no deals, pacts, agreements or alliances between
socialists and the Greens either, at least while socialists are such
a politically marginal force. And even then the two currents are as
likely as not to be competitors rather than allies.
> But perhaps the idea for an ecosocialist journal is a moreWhy don't we take the idea seriously, instead?
> realistic idea... why don't we call it, umm, perhaps "Green Left
- --- In GreenLeft_discussion@yahoogroups.com, "alanb1000"
> Why don't we take the idea seriously, instead?"We" don't have to. Thats' the point Alan. If YOU take it seriously
and want to follow through then you leave yourself exposed to a few
obvious contradictions like...relying on the Greenleft discussion
list to even put the notion out there or raise it... How else would
anyone contact the mixed bag of socialists in the Greens other than
through the services engendered by Green Left Weekly?
If you know another way, I'd be keen to hear of it.(Of course,
there's Bob Gould's Ozleft site which panders to exers and there
are many exers in the Greens.)
And whats' more what would you talk about that was different from
the exchanges say, on this list? As it was pointed out before -- it
isn't a simple ideological question at all. An "eco-socialist
journal" stands for what? A few academic notions about ecology and
capitalism drawn from here and there? Fine as far as it goes. But
the true substance that should be the pressing issue for 'socialists
in the Greens' (who I will henceforth refer to with the generic
term "SIGs") is not nature, capitalism or socialism but what you do
today in terms of activity. As I said: can you do anything about
Craig Johnston's jailing up there? Or isn't that SIG enough?
Any future grouping come faction organised by SIGs if it relied
simply on a labeling process -- "hi there folks! we're socialists" --
without campaign oriented activity as its primary focus would
become in due process an archaic factional numbers rump akin to the
Socialist Left of the ALP. I also fear that many SIGs would not sign
up with an activity oriented process anyway as many would have
offically retired from their past street fighting years. So you'd
be putting your neck out -- as you realize you would be -- for
what? I do nonethless urge you to proceed but I point out some of
the many obstacles in your way.
There have been SIGs in the Greens for well over a decade. Why
hasn't there been a SIG this or SIG that or even a SIG get-together-
bonding session in all of this time? Because all these SIGs failed
to "take the idea seriously?" I don't think so. I think they took
the idea very seriously indeed-- that's why nothing has happened.
But please prove me wrong.
- "dave_r_riley" wrote:
> How else would anyone contact the mixed bag of socialists in the1) That's precisely the point - there isn't a way to do this.
> Greens other than through the services engendered by Green Left
2) I don't actually see contacting "the mixed bag of socialists in
the Greens" as being a priority, precisely because they are such
a "mixed bag".
> An "eco-socialist journal" stands for what? A few academic notionsWell, my own branch/faction is rather hostile to "academic notions
> about ecology and capitalism drawn from here and there? Fine as
> far as it goes. But the true substance that should be the pressing
> issue for 'socialists in the Greens' (who I will henceforth refer
> to with the generic term "SIGs") is not nature, capitalism or
> socialism but what you do today in terms of activity.
about ecology and capitalism drawn from here and there", so I don't
see these "notions" getting a look in. Nor, of course, would the kind
of anarchist-flavoured "Green" utopianism that you used to run into
fifteen years ago. Few if any Greens care about, or even understand,
that kind of claptrap. And those that do aren't the kind of people
you would want involved in this kind of project. Especially not at
the editorial level.
- --- In GreenLeft_discussion@yahoogroups.com, "alanb1000"
>So...? To press the point: whats' on offer for individual socialists
> 1) That's precisely the point - there isn't a way to do this.
or 'the socialist movement' in the Greens that I may not know
about? The reality is that those SIGs who make the adaption to the
Greens milieu do so by re-inventing the Greens(at least in their
heads) as a Clayton's form of a socialist combat org. This way, the
many Greens "progressives" are conveted to meaning the same thing
as "socialists" by default. Suddenly the whole ball game is
supposedly much more relevant than it ever was when copyrighted and
apparently marginalised by the sects. SIGs try to tell us that they
have indeed dicovered the children of Israel and they inhabit their
local party branch.
Maybe these Greens members don't realise what they are or where they
fit in and don't strictly have a socialist consciousness -- but
hey! they are the only thing worthwhile and on hand at the moment
during this period of retreat. So we are being told to revisit the
eighties aphorism on green parties --"the last hesitation to
socialism" -- as being the best we can ever hope for.
I can go along with that assumption and ignore the standard
operational bullshit involved in passing it off and give credit to
any SIG who asks for it -- but I have a lot of trouble deferring to
those SIGs who get swept up in Greens electoralism while
disguarding extra parliamentary campaigning as passe.
Thus my main complaint against many SIGs is that they don't act as
SIGs at all. Indeed, it's like what is often said of christians:
I'd become one if there weren't so many already. So I guess my
point is that SIGs give socialism a bad name because they undermine
what socialism should stand for -- solidarity & struggle.
- By Bob Gould
Dave Riley always writes in a pretentious and vindictive way when
arguing with, or writing about, anyone who disagrees with the DSP. He
also doubles as an ostensible humourist. One problem with his writing
is that it's very hard to discern where the serious stuff ends and the
humour begins, and a lot of what he writes seems to me like an
extended satire on himself and the DSP.
He also doubles as a central leader of the ostensible independents in
the Socialist Alliance, but this doesn't stop him taking up arms in
the most belligerent way against anyone who argues with the DSP. I
often feel like asking: will the real Riley please stand up.
Riley launches an arrogant and politically stupid broadside today
against socialists who are members of the Greens. He says quite baldly
that most of them are "exers", whatever that means, and in passing he
asserts that one of my personal political crimes is that Ozleft, to
use Riley's insulting and rather revealing phrase, "panders to those
That kind of language has the nasty smell of Stalinism about it. It's
the kind of language that was once used by the CPA about anyone who
parted company with it. One shouldn't be surprised at that, as he's
somewhat of an ex himself, having kicked off his political life, as I
myself did, as a young Catholic with a certain sympathy for the
Groupers, which he shed and moved into the orbit of the CPA, as I also
did as a youth, and then he moved on to the current that is now known
as the DSP after changing its name several times.
Unfortunately, in Riley's case, the bad habits of Stalinism die rather
hard. If you examine carefully what Riley says, he clearly implies
that the only socialists are the smallish number in the Socialist
Alliance, and particularly in relation to the Greens he asserts that
socialists in the Greens aren't really socialists, but "exers", who he
implies are moving to the right.
What an offensive and stupid approach that is. That's the attitude of
the DSP/Socialist Alliance leadership towards both socialists in the
Greens and socialists in the Labor Party: they can't be real
socialists because they don't make themselves available for the DSP's
current political projects.
Riley also babbles about activists, implying also in a mealy-mouthed
way that the Socialist Alliance and the DSP have the only real
activists, and the socialists in the Greens aren't activist, whatever
In the real world of politics the DSP leadership's rhetoric about
their own activism has a slightly surreal quality. The DSP cum
Socialist Alliance leadership are the leadership of a sect, whose
primary political activity is internal, promoting their own projects,
building their own organisation and trying to bend everyone in the
Socialist Alliance to support for their newspaper.
They do engage in a bit of activism from time to time, but so does
everyone else in the socialist, workers' and popular movements.
In Sydney, for instance, in the past couple of days there have been a
couple of activities, one outside the court over the James Hardie
asbestos case, organised by the trade unions, another against the Carr
Government's rather sinister redevelopment plans for the Redfern area,
an agitation organised mainly by local residents with the help of
local Labor Party branches.
At the political level, the move of some right-wingers in the federal
Labor caucus to attack refugee activists was withdrawn because the
refugee activists were able to mobilise considerable sentiment in
Labor Party circles against the move.
The move of the right wing of the federal Labor Party caucus to back
down on workplace agreements has caused an upheaval, and most trade
unions are starting agitation to force Steven Smith to back down. The
move to block Smith's proposition on AWAs by calling a special ALP
federal conference is being spearheaded by the union bureaucrat that
the DSP loves to hate, Doug Cameron.
The workers' movement is a complex and contradictory place, and
there's piles of activism in it, all over the shop, only a small part
of which has any significant input from the DSP leadership.
It's both offensive and bizarr for Riley to imply that the socialist
activists in the Greens aren't really socialists because they don't
line up with the DSP.
Are Sylvia Hale, John Kaye, Lee Rhiannon, Jack Mundey and Kerry Nettle
not socialists and not activists? That proposition is absurd. Are the
grey-haired ex-members of the CPA scattered around the Greens not
socialists? Clearly, the former members of the DSP in the Greens can't
be socialists because they've sinned by departing from the elect, but
what about all the others? The same principle applies to the Labor Party.
Are the 6000-7000 people scattered across the country who voted for
Carmen Lawrence as federal president of the ALP not socialists because
they don't adhere to the DSP?
The political problem for the Riley and the self-appointed
DSP/Socialist Alliance leadership sect is that everywhere in the
country, even in these rather defensive times, where there's a bit of
an upsurge of the movement of any sort, heaps of people turn up who
are socialists in the Greens, in the Labor Party, in other socialist
groups that don't roll over to the DSP leadership, or who are not in
No amount of vindictive, self-important abuse from Riley, Peter Boyle
or anyone else, mainly written for internal consumption in the
DSP/Socialist Alliance, is going to change that situation.
- A few points on this thread:
1. I note that Shane has not yet responded.
2. In agreement with Ben C, I should point out that when I originally posed
the question about whether an "eco-socialist" faction/caucus/network within
the Greens that had a publication of some sort (I was thinking of GLW) would
be tolerated, I had in mind an alternative tactic for the whole independent
socialist movement (or as much of it as could be persuaded to participate)
not "fraction work" by a section of the SA working under cover so to speak.
It was a rhetorical question: I knew the answer would be "no", even if a
little curious about the exact response since it is quite some time since an
option like this has been officially explored as far as I'm aware. I was
trying to get Shane to think about the implications of his criticisms of the
3. Alan B, for whom I generally have great respect, has entered into
discussion considering the idea of an eco-socialist website (independent of
the forces in SA) to organise left-Greens in some way. A few thoughts:
a) I've read his posts about the situation in Toowoomba and, even though I
write from a long way away, it still seems to me that Alan would be better
off in the SA than staying in the Greens. Is it really the case that the
people Alan is working with could not be persuaded to join SA? If they
can't, then how good are they? Even if they couldn't, would being in SA
really be an obstacle to Alan discussing/working with/politically developing
the comrades in question? Looked at from a national point of view, is there
not a role that Alan could play in supporting the push towards a
multi-tendency socialist party within SA? And wouldn't this have a greater
impact on the struggle for socialism in Australia than a small socialist
caucus in Toowoomba?
From this standpoint I think Dave's right to urge Alan to think through the
implications of what might be called a Toowoomba strategy for socialism even
if Dave posed the question sharply.
b) Of course Alan's the only one who can make up his mind about the
direction of his activity. Until such time as he can be persuaded otherwise,
he's in the Greens: what should he do? Again I think Dave is right to
emphasise areas where links can be made between SA and socialists in the
Greens, especially extra-parliamentary campaigns as well as utilising the
political resources of the SA and its affiliates (like GLW, Seeing Red, etc
without pretending these are the only things that should be read). Like it
or not, whichever way the struggle unfolds in the future, we can be pretty
certain that the healthy forces in the Greens and the independent socialist
movement are going to be fighting together in some way sooner or later. The
more practical on the ground links we can develop now the better. Since (as
far as I can tell) there is not very much in the way of serious left-wing
political analysis being generated from within the Greens at the moment
(that could be compared to GLW, Seeing Red, Environment Capitalism
Socialism, Links for instance) the sharing of political resources is more
going to be going from us to them for the time being.
If Alan won't rejoin SA, then he is right to think through how to coordinate
a political and organisation convergence of the left within the Greens.
Certainly most "socialists in the Greens" (Dave's SIGs) are not worth much
because most (unlike Alan it seems) have given up the battle, even if they
still sport the label "socialist" (in some forums) they are the ones "in
retreat from the socialist movement". Dave's points about "SIGs" having been
in the Greens for over a decade but not having made any moves towards
coordination emphasises this aspect (that the SIGs have run out of puff).
However, there is an emerging layer of (mostly) young people in or around
the Greens who have or are developing what might be called an
"anti-capitalist consciousness" often under the influence of the
post-Seattle movement and radical intellectuals like Chomsky and Howard
Zinn. These people would be the audience to orient to if you were trying to
organise the left-wing of the Greens.
Of course it would be good if these people joined SA (as some are already
doing) but there is a limit to how far this can go in the current
circumstances. I can't see that increasing the levels of organisation and
political education among these people within the Greens would not be a good
thing - especially if done in the context of cooperation with the
independent socialist movement and not in competition to it.
- Alex Bainbridge wrote:
> Is it really the case that the people Alan is working with couldYes. Or at least, I couldn't persuade them. Maybe someone else could.
> not be persuaded to join SA?
> If they can't, then how good are they?They are normal everyday people. What do you want?
There's certainly nobody any "better" here.
> Even if they couldn't, would being in SA really be an obstacle toI stepped down as the North Toowoomba Greens branch convenor last
> Alan discussing/working with/politically developing the comrades in
night. (I'm deputy convenor now.) I was (and still am) a recognised
member of their formal leadership, who had the job of ensuring that
the branch actually functioned.
I wasn't "the key personality", of course, since I'm not that kind of
person, but I was responsible for calling meetings and drafting (in
reality, setting) meeting agendas. I also had a great deal to do with
establishing the branch's organisational norms.
Perhaps most importantly, I was one of the co-conspirators that
separated the North Toowoomba branch from the Toowoomba branch. The
old branch was a more traditional electoralist outfit. The new branch
was established with more ambitious goals. (Which we haven't really
met yet, but that's another story.)
None of that would have been possible if I had been in the SA. Well,
unless I was willing to keep my SA membership secret...
> Looked at from a national point of view, is there not a role thatI could be a windbag who isn't part of a branch and doesn't do
> Alan could play in supporting the push towards a multi-tendency
> socialist party within SA?
anything but talk.
> And wouldn't this have a greater impact on the struggle forErr, no.
> socialism in Australia than a small socialist caucus in Toowoomba?
The only greater impact it would have would be on my liver.
> However, there is an emerging layer of (mostly) young people in orWell, yes, exactly.
> around the Greens who have or are developing what might be called an
> "anti-capitalist consciousness" often under the influence of the
> post-Seattle movement and radical intellectuals like Chomsky and
> Howard Zinn. These people would be the audience to orient to if you
> were trying to organise the left-wing of the Greens.
> Of course it would be good if these people joined SA (as some are
> already doing) but there is a limit to how far this can go in the
> current circumstances. I can't see that increasing the levels of
> organisation and political education among these people within the
> Greens would not be a good thing - especially if done in the
> context of cooperation with the independent socialist movement and
> not in competition to it.
Actually, my local lot aren't really influenced by Chomsky, Zinn,
etc. That kind of stuff is fairly restricted to student-y types.
But you are certainly right. People like this are the people who
should be oriented towards.
The "exer" milieu - the former members of left groups - aren't. To
put it simply, their best days are in the past. There are and will be
exceptions, but these people will make themselves known on their own
initiative. We don't need to pander to the windbags to find the good
- I spent a bit of the afternoon thinking about "where I am" and "where
I came from".
First of all, I have to mention that Dave R is one of the first
people on the left I met 19 years ago. Until a bit over a year ago,
we were in broad agreement about where the Australian left should go.
And then I ran into the problem of trying to implement our mutual
perspective in a smallish city... Dave is entitled to be a bit pissed
with me because I kind of betrayed him in a certain sense.
Alex B and I went to the DSP party school together back in 1991. I
haven't met him in person since about 1993... Many of our
fellow "schoolies" have headed off in different directions since
then, but I still feel a bit of a bond there.
I'm not sure I've ever met Shane H in person, but our political
biographies are rather similar. For better or worse, he has gone into
territory I would very much not want to go...
That pretty much provides a nice map of my political maneuvering room.
I had a couple of more profound ideas, but I've forgotten them for
the moment. Maybe later.
- Sometimes being sharp cuts through the crap that passes muster as
polemics on this list sometimes. So I gotta say that in this thread
I have read NOT ONE THING that makes me think that SIGs are
promising much in the way of a way forward for the socialist
movement. After almost two years of mantra-ing on this list about
relevance and such from this quarter I can't say that I've noted
much of any substance. But then that could just be my own jaundiced
It's not my business what folk do in the Greens. I don't really care
that much...BUT if they want to climb onto a hobby horse to
denigrate the very real -- albeit minor -- achievements of the
Socialist Alliance so far I tend to get a bit annoyed so I come
back a touch sharper than I would normally respond.
There's a few aspects here that I think warrant consideration in
1) A good judge of any socialist or socialist tendency is the active
work they do. Any one can, after all, sprout a label, but the
ultimate judge of both the Socialist Alliance and Socialists in the
Greens (SIGs) has to be what they achieve on the ground in way of
advancing the socialist movement. I don't necessarily think that can
be limited to a purely ideological level, rather it must have
substance in real time struggle. Being a socialist by definition of
your patented label doesn't do much at all. It's all to do with a
perspective of active (campaign level)opposition regardless what
your vehicle is -- whether your Greens or your Socialist Alliance
2)Alan Bradley writes that:
> And then I ran into the problem of trying to implement our mutualThat may be Alan's personal view, but it has not been the experience
> perspective in a smallish city...
of the Socialist Alliance as we generate more feedback from our
branch building activities. One of the major successes of the SA is
to begin the process of colonising OUTSIDE the inner city left
ghettoes as we establish branches on suburban fringes and regional
country centres. Now with over 30 branches nationwide to call on for
reference we are building up a new archive of experience introducing
organised socialist activities into localities that have not been
exposed to them since the halcyon days of the CPA. In the year ahead
we will begin to streamline that process and make it even easier for
seemingly isolated activists in distant centres to initiate the
process of chartering a SA branch. Here in Brisbane we have gone
from one branch to four in the space of the last 14 months. More
recently a branch has been chartered on the Gold Coast and I expect
we can look forward to more branches being established in
Queensland in the coming new year. Toowoomba may even be one of them.
3) While socialism is inseparable from activity toward a particular
end it is also an ideological pole of attraction. Unless SIGs mark
out a space for themselves within the Greens as something
politically and programatically special , perhaps even socialist in
nature but not necessarily as adamant, radicalising layers in the
Greens will be drawn to forces outside if they feel they cannot
advance that perspective within the Greens. Indeed, the major
influence on radicalising layers in the Greens is unlikely to be
inner party politics but debates, events and campaigns generated
outside. IF SIGs arent proactive and don't offer the standard
interpretive resouces in terms of a socialist perspective inside the
Greens than any burgeoning left wing in the Greens will flounder or
simply pull out of the party to seek a home elsewhere.For the moment
that RED/GREEN axis exists OUTSIDE the Greens in real campaign
activities(such as the anti war and refugee campaigns, etc) and with
journals like Green Left Weekly.
4. I'm keen to work with any SIG any time around ongoing campaigns.
There can be a ready exchange and cooperation between SIGs and the
membership of the Socialist Alliance. SIGs and any member of the
Greens is welcome to join the SA and plug into our resources,
networks, and decision making...but thats not an imperative. I asked
Alan twice if he'd like to take up the Craig Johnston campaign but I
got no response. OK I get the message and it's No. So maybe you'd
like to share with us some ongoing work around Murri deaths in
custody re these Palm Island events or consider the sort of work we
can do together for the next major mobilaisation around the Iraq