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CPGB/SA controversy

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  • swindon_socialists
    Comrades may be suprised to know that the CPGB article (weekly Worker) by Marcus Larsen hs provoked quite some controversy in Britain on the UK left Letwork
    Message 1 of 7 , Mar 15, 2005
      Comrades may be suprised to know that the CPGB article (weekly
      Worker) by Marcus "Larsen" hs provoked quite some controversy in
      Britain on the UK left Letwork (UKLN) list.

      Here is a reply I sent to Dave Murray, (and his original post below):

      Subject: Re: cpgb/australia


      I have no wish to get into a dispute about facts. However, I would
      say that there are two separate things at play here:
      i) the facts – particularly as others argue exactly the opposite
      ii) the narrative that we construct around those facts.

      As I have said before the Marxist method requires that we study the
      question of party and class as a differentiated unity, not as
      discrete categories. (In deference to a political collaborator of
      mine who has disputed the value of "Marxism", let us call this
      method, materialist Hegelianism.)
      The totality of the situation must include a discussion of the fact
      that Australia is a prosperous stable country, where the far left are
      marginal. It must include the fact that the far left has experienced
      the end of the Soviet Union as a major disorientation or defeat; and
      that the embracing of neo-liberalism by the historically social-
      democratic parties is also a political and organisational defeat.
      What is more, in the specifically Australian context there is the
      fact that the Green party is the natural recipient of the anti-
      establishment vote. From my long distance observation, Australia is
      also a more socially conservative country than Britain. I personally
      would add the factor a world-wide crisis of the toy-town Bolshevik
      organisations, like the SWP, (SP) CWI and WRP traditions.
      The reason I raise the question of looking at Party and Class as a
      differentiated unity, is because we must look at working class
      politics as a whole, and look at where we are coming from, where we
      are, and where we are going.
      You see, I have a political difference with the CWI in that I do not
      think it necessary or desirable for "revolutionaries" to be
      organisationally separate from "reformists". The dividing issue in
      the movement today is not the attitude of comrades to revolution, but
      rather their attitude to class struggle. In which case, much of that
      which historically divides us is historical baggage.
      As I have said before, if you look at different socialist
      organisations as static categories, then the SA may indeed have many
      of the problems that you identify. However, I would remind people
      that the SP in Britain decided that the Socialist Alliance in England
      was a doomed project as far back as 2001, In fact at its height of
      success. The reasons quoted were the same concerns that you express
      now, but substitute SWP for DSP.
      The SP's approach was to propose a federal structure for the SA that
      would have allowed the SP to veto decisions of the majority – knowing
      that this would be unacceptable, and then orchestrated a walk out
      when it was inevitably rejected. Putting its own brand as more
      important than the overall class interest.
      Had the SP remained involved then the whole dynamic of the subsequent
      history of the SA would have been different, not least in that where
      the SA was successful it undermined the sectarian mindset of many SWP
      activists. The same process has occurred in Scotland, where some of
      the most cooperative and committed comrades to the unity project were
      incorrigible sectarians during the poll tax.
      In the same way the fact that the DSP are moving towards working in a
      broad party is something to be encouraged, even if it is a difficult
      process, Whereas your approach is to rubbish the SA on the basis of
      its weakness, but starting from the current situation in Australia
      then surely any organisation is going to start off weak? The
      narrative of failure that you present is even more applicable to the
      Socialist Party, which in Britain has disastrously declined over the
      last 15 years. Given the fact that all of the "Leninist"
      organisations have faced this catastrophic decline in membership and
      influence, then if you are right that any attempts to break out of
      that cycle are doomed, then we face the bleak prospect of a myriad
      competing sects with no plan for advance.
      A further myth perpetrated by the CWI, is that the Scottish Socialist
      Party was predicated upon the implantation of the Scottish Militant
      Labour. Now, no one would take away from the SML the good work that
      they did, but these accounts of their past implantation are
      exaggerated. What is more the real growth of the SSP has been since
      it became a broad party. Indeed if we look at the historical
      evolution of the SSP's vote, it has grown dramatically since the SSP
      was launched, having started no better than the SA vote in England.
      the advantage for the CWI of this myth is that it ring fences the SSP
      experience as historically contingent on unique circumstances, while
      at the same time claiming the credit for creating those circumstances
      themselves, Yeah right.
      The path of socialist unity is a hard one, as our experience in
      England shows. What is more, it cannot be achieved by good intentions
      or debate, but only by practical collaborative work in the class
      struggle. The 80 20 principle of the English SA was a useful one
      while it was respected. Let us work together on the 80% we agree on,
      and put to one side the 20% the divides us, unless it has practical
      impact on the day to day tasks.

      best wishes

      Andy newman

      --- In UK_Left_Network@yahoogroups.com, "SIMPLY RED" <dmurray@s...>
      > > Dear Andy
      > I don't know you but I think it is time to comment on this. I was
      > once involved in the DSP (mainly its youth organisation Resistance
      > the late 1990s) afterwards I briefly joined the PLP and then in
      > the Socialist Party (CWI), which I'm still a member. In my
      > and in the collective experience of the left, the DSP has rarely
      > honest. They form opportunist alliances (once even with the
      > they spread lies about their opponents and behave in an
      > manner in activist coalitions. Apart from that they have progressed
      > towards Stalinism since 1985, even recently defending East Germany
      > and of course Vietnam, LAos and even Cambodian PM Hun Sen.
      > From what I can see this debate started with a brainless piece of
      > evangelism started on your website from Dave Rily. Dave Riley is
      > known widely as a political desperado and will say and do anything
      > promote the DSP to a wide layer of people who have been through it
      > the past 30 odd years (around 10,000 people which includes him,
      > myself, sections of the Greens Party and a NSW Labor minister). The
      > decline of the Socialist Alliance has been going for a long time
      > Their active membership is only 300-400 (and falling rapidly).
      > claim of 1200 is based on the number of members it takes to get
      > electoral registration here in Australia (ie. getting the Socialist
      > Alliance tag on the ballot paper) which ranges between 500, in
      > Queensland and Victoria to 750 in NSW. Their results have been
      > disasterous, not only because of the large Green vote. But because
      > they don't campaign beyone street stalls. Their crap selection of
      > candidates and the overstretching of their resources.
      > In a big blow to them the Socialist Party won a councillor (even
      > though we were supposed to have died from sectarianism and not
      > in the Alliance). Socialist Alternative can often mobilise more to
      > its meetings and has a much bigger presence in the student
      > And the CPA have more TU influence than the SA.
      > So its not a mass party like Dave Rily claims. When Marcus Strom
      > exposes some of the truth of the SA it is often very hard to figure
      > out who to believe, especially when you read and believe a piece of
      > crap like Dave Rileys article.
      > Hope this sets a few things straight.
      > Dave Murray
    • alanb1000
      For what it s worth, Dave Murray has a track record of bizarre anti- DSP ranting. He seems to willing to believe anything bad about them, regardless of its
      Message 2 of 7 , Mar 15, 2005
        For what it's worth, Dave Murray has a track record of bizarre anti-
        DSP ranting.

        He seems to willing to believe anything bad about them, regardless of
        its factual content or logical plausibility. I'm not entirely sure
        what his problem is, but he seems to have picked up a very extreme
        case of sectarianism.

        I'm quite willing to criticise the DSP for this and that, but I try
        to keep my criticism within the limits of, well, reality.
      • Peter Boyle
        ... The ISO comrades in Australia are also stuck on this. They oppose left regroupment through the Socialist Alliance because they want to keep the supposedly
        Message 3 of 7 , Mar 15, 2005
          --- In GreenLeft_discussion@yahoogroups.com, "swindon_socialists"
          <swindon_socialists@y...> wrote:

          > You see, I have a political difference with the CWI in that I do not
          > think it necessary or desirable for "revolutionaries" to be
          > organisationally separate from "reformists". The dividing issue in
          > the movement today is not the attitude of comrades to revolution, but
          > rather their attitude to class struggle. In which case, much of that
          > which historically divides us is historical baggage.

          The ISO comrades in Australia are also stuck on this. They oppose left
          regroupment through the Socialist Alliance because they want to keep
          the supposedly "real revolutionaries" in the ISO box and have the
          Socialist Alliance serve as "a united front of a special type" with

          Further, they argue that as the mass of workers breaking from the
          Labor Party still have "reformist consciousness" , then this "united
          front of a special type" must keep its platform reformist.

          It is an ideological trap that makes them miss the real opening for
          left regroupment around a developing class-struggle program (not a
          finished revolutionary program, if there can be such a thing in the
          very modest situation of socialists in a country like this).

          In September 2003 I participated in a workshop at the ISO's Marxism
          conference in Sydney and made the following appeal to them. It sums up
          the DSP's approach to the Socialist Alliance as.

          Obviously, we have not persuaded the ISO, nor most of the smaller far
          left affiliates of this argument. They all hang on to the sad illusion
          that they are the keepers of the true revolutionary program! They also
          try and convince their members of the equally absurd proposition that
          they can do better work in the social movements without working
          collectively with other Alliance members.

          We can argue till he cows come home about the theroetical validity of
          these propositions but the interesting thing is that the ISO
          leadership has been too scared to encourage its members even to try
          working in this broader collectivity in their main areas of
          intervention. Are they scared that their members might just discover
          that working with the Socialist Alliance's 100 or so members in the
          militant blue collar unions, its at least equal numbers in the main
          public service union might prove something to them?

          Of course, the Alliance is still weak in the labour movement but it is
          way stronger than the ISO on this score. Furthermore, these unionists
          work very actively in united fronts with broader layers of militants.
          There is nothing Potemkin-like about this, despite what that bitter
          gasbag Bob Gould repeats. This sad fellow loves to talk about united
          front but the denies the united fronts that actually exist.

          In desperation, the ISO leaders might be tempted to seize on Gould's
          bullshit arguments and anti-DSP slanders. If they do so they will only
          deepen their political isolation in SA.

          So the main question in Socialist Alliance today is this: should this
          ideologically blinkered anti-regroupment minority of Socialist
          Alliance's 1200 or so members (and these are actual dues paying
          members with varying levels of political activity within the Alliance
          framework), mostly concentrated in a handful of branches, hold back
          the majority or destroy what has been built so far? Should this
          minority be allowed to dictate the character of the Socialist
          Alliance? Can they get away with it?

          All I can predict with absolute certainty is: not without a fight.

          Peter Boyle

          * * *

          The broad party, revolutionary party and the united front
          By Peter Boyle, Marxism Sydney September 5, 2003


          This is part of an important discussion among Marxists in several
          countries about how to take the socialist movement forward in this
          time of imperialist war and ruthless, global capitalist exploitation.

          Contributions to this discussion have been covered in the IST
          discussion bulletins, in Frontline (the magazine produced by the ISM
          platform in the SSP) and in Links magazine.

          This discussion is taking place in the form of a written debate and
          so, inevitably there is a certain amount of polemical dust that slowly
          gets cleared away so that the real contending ideas can be seen for
          what they are. For instance, as the debate between John Rees (IST) and
          Murray Smith (ISM) has proceeded it has become clear that is not a
          debate about whether or not to build a mass revolutionary party bit
          HOW to do so in today's conditions.

          All the protagonists in this debate between Marxists can surely agree
          on the need for a revolutionary party arising out of the nature of
          capitalism, the state and working class consciousness.

          We can probably agree on the following lessons of the Bolshevik

          * the importance of a revolutionary program for leading the class
          struggle to a revolutionary socialist conclusion;

          * on the importance of building a party of those who support such a
          program and who agree and are trained to work collectively to advance
          that program; and

          * on the need for a mass revolutionary party which has won, through
          its political activity, a real leadership role in the working class.

          The question is how to get there.

          I am sure we can all also agree with Lenin that there is no getting
          there in a straight line.

          The Bolsheviks didn't build their party in a straight line and neither
          will the socialist movement in this country be built simply by any of
          the existing small socialist propaganda groups, like the ISO and the
          DSP incrementally building up their membership. That road will be
          conditioned by specific conditions and political developments here,
          including the political choices socialists in this country make.

          Further, the international discussion about how to build a mass
          revolutionary party is more than a theoretical debate. Conflicting
          party building perspectives are being tested out in practice by the
          protagonists in this debate and by others, in various left regroupment
          processes or alliances, in Italy, Portugal, Denmark, France, Brazil,
          Scotland, England, Wales and here in Australia in the Socialist Alliance.

          Of course there are very different circumstances in each of these
          countries. In Italy and Brazil, for instance, the PRC and the PT are
          mass parties with substantial bases in the working class. The SSP, for
          instance while having made big strides forward in the electoral
          sphere, in building up a community base is just beginning to win
          substantial support in the trade unions. And we, in the Socialist
          Alliance in Australia are further behind in development.

          But we have made a start on the basis of general agreement of all the
          founding affiliate groups that there was a special opening for
          socialists today, arising out of the concerted capitalist neo-liberal
          offensive, the growing dissent to that offensive and the resulting
          mass disillusionment in the ALP.

          Our two organisations certainly agreed on that. That's why the ISO and
          DSP collaborated in initiating the Alliance two and a half years ago.

          Of course, we agree that such a project is not enough: we also need to
          build united fronts to campaign against specific attacks and around
          specific issues.

          But today we have significant differences on what should be the way
          forward for the Socialist Alliance project.

          The ISO sees the Socialist Alliance as a "united front of a special
          type" -- a united front of revolutionaries and reformists to contest
          elections, as well as campaign in other ways around a basically
          reformist program. The revolutionaries participate in this united
          front and seek to win others to its revolutionary perspectives and
          recruit them to their own revolutionary organisation. The Alliance is
          the united front and the ISO is the revolutionary party or embryo of a
          revolutionary party and you don't think it is good to mix up these two

          The DSP sees the Socialist Alliance project to bring socialists --
          revolutionary, reformist/evolutionary, not-sure-what-sort-of-socialist
          – together in a united socialist party. We argue that the affiliate
          groups in the Socialist Alliance should pool their resources and
          experience and build this as the new multi-tendency party.

          The opening for the building of such a party is very concrete. We are
          at the beginning of a new cycle of struggle following two decades of
          working class retreat.

          We welcomed the new militancy demonstrated in the 1998 MUA struggle,
          the S11 blockade as the beginning of a new wave of resistance and we
          recognised that some sort of left unity project, like the Socialist
          Alliance, was essential if socialists were to get a broader hearing
          from the working class in these circumstances.

          Two and a half years after the Socialist Alliance was formed it is now
          an incontestable fact that the greater left unity this represented has
          given us a broader hearing in the working class. The comrades who were
          at the May national conference remember the participation of Craig
          Johnston, Martin Kingham and the grand reception put on by the Workers
          First at the Comrades Bar. And we have the subsequent victories of
          Comrade Chris Cain in the WA MUA elections, and Comrade Tim Gooden who
          was recently elected deputy secretary of the Geelong TLC.

          The conservative wing to the trade union movement certainly has taken
          notice. They warn their bureaucratic hacks of the growing threat of
          the Socialist Alliance-influenced militants and we saw their paranoia
          about Socialist Alliance in their recent splitting of the Sydney
          anti-war coalition. They are worried because their party, the ALP, is
          in a deepening crisis.

          Having led the working class into retreat and having championed (and
          in when government organised) the neo-liberal offensive against the
          social gains of previous working class struggles, the Labor party is
          facing a serious political crisis. Labor's ever more explicit shift to
          the right -- whether in government or in opposition -- opens up a
          space to its left that all serious socialists know we have to contend
          for. A growing section of the working class and other oppressed layers
          are looking for a political alternative to the major parties.

          The Greens have a growing hearing from these layers. But some in these
          layers are attracted to a more explicitly working class alternative.
          The Greens attract support partly because of their vague reformist
          program but also because they have a parliamentary presence. However,
          the Greens face an internal right-ward pressure from a consolidated
          and dominant narrowly parliamentarist wing within its own leadership,
          so we can expect the Greens not to fill all of that left space.

          We all know from our experience that winning the working class away
          from its traditional Labor misleadership requires a lot more than
          exposing their betrayals. Indeed these days socialists are
          hard-pressed to keep up with the ALP politician's relentless
          self-exposure! If disillusioned-in-Labor workers are to rise above
          despair, cynicism, and apathy they have to see a viable alternative
          political vehicle, or at least one in construction.

          This is where the discussion about the politics of the workers
          breaking from Labor -- and how to relate to it -- has to get a little
          more sophisticated than "are they still reformist or not". The
          consciousness of these layers varied. It extends all the way from
          attraction to Hansonite racist populism to revolutionary consciousness.

          But what did Lenin and the Bolsheviks teach us about how to deal with
          the different levels of consciousness in the working class? Use the
          leadership principle.

          What I mean by this, in our context, is not that we get up and start
          yelling: "We're your leaders, come to us". That won't work. Rather
          our challenge is to unite with the actual political leaders of the
          left-ward moving detachments of the working class so that we can win
          over more of their ranks to the socialist movement.

          So our priority in SA is to unite with the militant trade unionists.
          And also with the leaders of the working class outside the trade
          unions, in the other social movements because the working class
          movement today, we know, is no longer only politically organised
          through the trade unions. Beyond that we have to work more closely
          with other militant trade union leaders who are still in the ALP, the
          Martin Kinghams, Michelle O'Neils, Dean Mighells, etc. However, there
          is no doubt that we will work closer with this wider layer of working
          class militants, and win more of their respect and confidence if we
          are organised as a united socialist party.

          Building a united socialist party with as much of the socialist
          working class vanguard as possible is a greater priority today than
          resolving the relatively theoretical differences that divide the
          revolutionary socialist affiliates of the Socialist Alliance. Most of
          the militant working class leaders stated time and time again that the
          revolutionary left should work together. I think it is very
          unfortunate that Socialist Alternative, the Socialist Party and the
          Communist Party have yet to take up our many invitations to join the
          Alliance but I am pretty sure they will as the Socialist Alliance
          makes more progress.

          But what about sorting out the theoretical differences between the
          various revolutionary socialist groups? And what about the differences
          between those socialists who call themselves revolutionary and those
          socialists who are not sure if they do, or, perhaps are even
          consciously reformist?

          First, we should recognise that many of these differences are only
          going to be resolved with a certain test in practice. And SA can be a
          vehicle for this. Secondly, it can also be a vehicle for comradely and
          democratic debate. It is this already -- to a degree -- and we can
          make it more so, as long as it is within a framework that does not get
          in the way of the important job of linking up with the new socialist
          working class vanguard and working out a common living socialist
          program with them.

          The DSP also sees building a united, multi-tendency socialist party as
          an important stage in the struggle for a mass revolutionary party in
          this country.

          Others in the Socialist Alliance do not have to agree with this, but
          that is our perspective as revolutionary socialists. And we are
          totally open about this revolutionary perspective. There is no reason
          to hide it and really any attempt to hide our revolutionary
          perspective would be futile. The people we work with -- and the many
          more who will join us in the future – in the Socialist Alliance and in
          the movements know where we are coming from. We don't have to trick
          them into working with us by hiding our revolutionary perspective.

          Just about every delegate at the May conference who did not belong to
          a revolutionary socialist organisation voted to "accept and welcome a
          strong revolutionary socialist stream as an integral part of our
          vision of a broad Socialist party". These delegates also voted to
          "progress towards a single, multi-tendency socialist party".

          So, revolutionary socialists don't have to hide their politics in the
          Socialist Alliance. But more than that revolutionaries comprise the
          majority of the leadership at all levels of the Alliance. And those in
          the Socialist Alliance who may not describe themselves as
          revolutionaries (though many of these wouldn't describe themselves as
          reformists either) accept this situation. This is a characteristic the
          Socialist Alliance shares with the SSP.

          This is why we are confident that while the Socialist Alliance begins
          with a limited class struggle program and a broad socialist objective
          (and does not have an explicitly revolutionary program), in the course
          of united struggle it will steadily and freely develop its program in
          an explicitly revolutionary direction. With clear rights to organise
          around our political ideas within a multi-tendency, socialist party,
          we Marxists should be confident that we can win others in such a party
          to the revolutionary perspective.

          The socialist movement in this country is at a relatively early stage
          of development but we have before us in the Socialist Alliance an
          opportunity to take a significant step forward. Some pretty
          significant leaders of the most militant detachments of the working
          class are now working closer with us than ever before in the
          expectation that the organised socialist left will continue to work
          together. Comrades, let's not squander this priceless opening.
        • dave_r_riley
          ... time now. ... Many of us should know by now that Dave Murray can t help himself so we tend to be indulgent with his rages. So lets put aside all the
          Message 4 of 7 , Mar 16, 2005
            ---Dave Murray was reputed to have written on the UK left list:

            > The decline of the Socialist Alliance has been going for a long
            time now.
            > > Their active membership is only 300-400 (and falling rapidly).
            > Their
            > > claim of 1200 is based on the number of members it takes to get
            > > electoral registration here in Australia.

            Many of us should know by now that Dave Murray can't help himself so
            we tend to be indulgent with his rages. So lets' put aside all the
            personal abuse stuff he thows at me.

            But within this vociferous rant he does struggle to make at least
            one polemical point: that the SA isn't really as big as I claimed it

            I in fact clearly referred to the SA's paid up membership and
            proffered an estimate as it isn't always a straightforward task to
            quantify what the actual membership is at any one time . At no time
            did I equate that figure with the status of a mass party (as Murray
            seems to think I did). The SA is presently a small political

            But I did discuss the Alliance's moderate attainments relative to
            the size and influence of the small far left groups by themselves
            competing with one another as is their historical want.I also
            referenced that achievement along the political time line of my own
            experience going back 35 years.

            However since the Alliance has only been going four years it is
            difficult to locate the long term decline he insists the SA is
            suffering from even though we are supposed to have an active
            membership of "300-400(and falling rapidly)."

            I raise this point as this was the very same charge, leveled in
            another forum, in protest against my interview with the Socialist
            Unity Network. I am amazed at Dave Murray's acumen because I doubt
            that there are many (if indeed any)people in the SA who can
            confidently arrive at such a figure. I don't claim to be one of

            The Socialist Alliance is a disparate grouping which does not comply
            to the same rules of cohesion that appy to the various small
            Marxian caucuses. That's one of the many advantages it has other
            the standalone partyish model. People co-exist at different levels
            within the SA. Some are committed Marxists, others are totally new
            to politics. Some attend branch meetings/some don't. A section of
            the membership may be regular demonstrators attending any number of
            rallies and marches each year; others prefer to work in their trade
            union or give financially to the project and limit their input to
            handing out on polling day. In fact, the Alliance pretty much
            reflects what it currently is: a political formation in transition
            from electoral coalition to multi tendency socialist party. And if
            you read your Green Left Weekly or Alliance Voices you'll note that
            the nature and pace of that transition is precisely the issue in
            dispute within the SA.

            The Alliance is a very complex political phenomenon which is
            difficult to get a handle on. Even collecting statistics from its
            far flung branches is quite a challenge. You can kiss all your crude
            schemata good bye, because the SA proceeds at an uneven pace and
            seems to hold to its own trajectory formatted between the electoral
            weight of the Greens and the continuing decline in ALP support. To
            make matters more difficult to comprehend, the nature of the
            Alliance varies from locality to locality even varying significantly
            within the one broad metropolitan area.

            In the current Green Left Weekly David Glantz will tell you that his
            inner Melbourne branch of Wills has 98 members and these 98 members
            do this and that. But he doesn't tell you that around 30 of those
            are members of SA affiliates who are concentrated there. This ratio
            is not replicated elsewhere in the country...fortunately.

            Of the 17 at my branch meeting tonight -- one of three branches in
            inner Brisbane -- 4 were members of affiliates and the rest were
            variously active in different aspects of the SA's work here.Two had
            joint membership with the Qld Greens and one had travelled 90
            minutes by car from the Sunshine Coast to attend. My branch's
            membership is about 30 -- give or take a few --I think. So 17 of
            them turn up to a branch meeting -- I think that makes for a pretty
            good return for a Wednesday night call out.

            We have a problem in the SA that out initial growth in branch
            numbers has relied on the branch building inputs of member
            affiliates -- primarily the DSP but also the ISO in a few places --
            and now we are beginning to rely on people without that political
            experience to charter and create branches in areas where we have a
            few members but no formal branch. Something like 20% of SA members,
            I understand, are resident OUTSIDE branch areas in regional centres.

            This problem is so significant that last year we had to publish a
            branch building DIY manual for use in these far flung localities. So
            that now we are looking toward new branches being established at
            some stage soon maybe on the Sunshine Coast north of Brisbane and
            the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. This last year branches were
            chartered on the Gold Coast and in the rural Victorian centre of

            Centres like these have no history of organised socialist activity
            either never or since the halcyon days of the CPA(which may be the
            case in the Blue Mtns).

            At our national hookup last weekend we endorsed changes to reduce
            the administrative burden that branches have to fulfil under the
            various electoral acts that govern us. As we free branches up more
            so that they can better network with their members, we also hope to
            establish more district wide caucuses so we can more effectively
            organise our movement interventions.

            What we are doing --part by intention and part by default -- is
            create various forums members can employ to relate to the Alliance

            At stake, no doubt, is how many of our members are activated to do
            political work. On that point I totally agree with Dave Murray. But
            we are not here talking about his Socialist Party but a very
            different formation with a lot more going for itself. Not only are
            we much bigger in real terms, but we do indeed have more activists
            and can boast of a reasonable cross union implantation. And it is
            still early days -- that's the most amazing aspect of the Alliance
            existence so far. We have been going only four years and just two
            years navigating toward a multi tendency socialist party. And we are
            doing that within the confines of the factional circumstances I
            outlined in the interview.

            Dave Riley
          • bobgould987
            Lies, damned lies and statistics. More on the Boyle-Riley Potemkin village By Bob Gould The vitriolic committeeman Peter Boyle, in his latest post, pours out
            Message 5 of 7 , Mar 16, 2005
              Lies, damned lies and statistics. More on the Boyle-Riley Potemkin village

              By Bob Gould

              The vitriolic committeeman Peter Boyle, in his latest post, pours out
              his usual bile against Bob Gould and extends it to a sweeping assault
              on the ISO, which he asserts belligerently will be steam-rolled in a
              big fight if it uses any of Gould's argument or even if it persists in
              opposing the DSP's proposals.

              He blurts out some half statistics, as does Dave Riley in his recent
              post. These statistics are ambiguously presented, but nevertheless
              let's take them as a starting point.

              Boyle says the Socialist Alliance has 1200 paid-up members, or
              thereabouts (a big drop from the 2000 that used to be claimed in the
              early days of the alliance).

              Accepting Boyle's fitures and extrapolating from the relative
              populations of Australian cities and regions and from what is publicly
              known about the Socialist Alliance in various states, the shape of the
              alliance may look as follows: 50 in Brisbane, 15 in rural Queensland,
              15 in the NT, 50 in Perth, 10 in rural WA, 30 in Adelaide, 10 in rural
              SA, 30 in Tasmania, 50 in the ACT, 30 in Newcastle, 10 in Wollongong,
              20 in rural NSW, 10 in Geelong, 20 in rural Victoria, which means
              there have to be about 500 in Sydney and about 400 in Melbourne to
              reach Boyle's putative total of 1200.

              Sydney is the area where I live. There are ostensibly, or have been,
              the following Alliance branches in this city: Eastern Suburbs, Sydney
              Central, Marrickville, Bankstown, Parramatta (now Auburn), Blue
              Mountains and Northern Suburbs.

              The Blue Mountains and Northern Suburbs branches have closed, the
              Auburn and Bankstown branches get attendances at meetings of 15-20 and
              the other three branches have had very small attendances since
              Christmas, partly because the DSP members have been throwing their
              energies into the coming Asia-Pacific conference and next Sunday's
              antiwar demonstration, and the ISO members have been concentrating on
              the antiwar demonstration and several local peace groups.

              I have attended two or three Sydney-wide Socialist Alliance meetings
              for interesting overseas speakers held in Sydney's Gaelic Club, and
              all the meetings I have attended had about 75 people at them, mostly
              DSP and Resistance members, although Green Left Weekly, with its 30
              per cent inflation principle for such meetings, has always claimed
              attendances of 100.

              In my experience, the DSP always inflates claims of attendance at its
              own events. Even if you accept the DSP claims, and factor in that not
              all members attend meetings, it's hard to see how the Socialist
              Alliance could have 400-500 members in Sydney.

              I don't doubt that such members may exist somewhere, probably as
              signatures on a form, who have been signed up to get the alliance
              registered with the Electoral Commission. That kind of political
              cultivation of a periphery by socialists is a legitimate form of
              political activity.

              The DSP, in particular, has always done that fairly systematically. In
              the early 1990s it used sign up former members and Green Left
              subscribers as Green Left supporters, etc, etc.

              The Potemkin village aspect arises, however, when Boyle and Riley
              present these figures as evidence that the Socialist Alliance is a
              powerful political current in the labour movement and a serious mass
              competitor to Labor (the "second party of capitalism" as the DSP calls
              it), and the Greens.

              Such crazy rhetoric is meant to persuade DSP-Socialist Alliance
              supporters that they are still relevant despite the political
              isolation that flows from their false perspective and to present
              themselves to friends overseas as a much more influential political
              current in Australia than they really are.

              Riley's self-serving piece is only one side of the story about
              Brisbane. I'm informed that the activists in the Inala branch have
              sent out letters saying that unless others start attending the
              meetings they'll fold the branch, and so it goes.

              There's nothing wrong with socialists working their hardest at
              political outreach agitation. The political problems arise when this
              activity is conducted around an ultraleft, Third Period political
              perspective that is ultimately self-defeating.

              It's also crazy to present an energetic socialist outreach agitation
              as an existing serious mass alternative to Labor and the Greens.

              The bombastic, chronically politically insulting committeeman Peter
              Boyle is now extending to the ISO the habitual abuse with which he
              treats me when I argue the point with the DSP, and I wonder with some
              interest what this portends.
            • Nick Fredman
              I now have little time and less interest in repeatedly correctly Bob Gould s dishonesty with information that is empirically verifiable, ... Publicly known
              Message 6 of 7 , Mar 16, 2005
                I now have little time and less interest in repeatedly correctly Bob
                Gould's dishonesty with information that is empirically verifiable,
                but I'll throw this in:

                >Accepting Boyle's fitures and extrapolating from the relative
                >populations of Australian cities and regions and from what is publicly
                >known about the Socialist Alliance in various states, the shape of the
                >alliance may look as follows: 50 in Brisbane, 15 in rural Queensland,
                >15 in the NT, 50 in Perth, 10 in rural WA, 30 in Adelaide, 10 in rural
                >SA, 30 in Tasmania, 50 in the ACT, 30 in Newcastle, 10 in Wollongong,
                >20 in rural NSW ...

                "Publicly known" seems to mean to Bob what he hears in gossip in his
                perch in his Newtown shop, or whatever he surmises will be useful for
                his arguments. The Northern Rivers branch of SA has 35 paid up
                members. Not all hard-core Bolshevik activists true, but people who
                identify with and have some level of involvement in SA. There's a
                branch in Taree, which I recall seeing somewhere had 7 members.
                There's a couple of paid-up members in Grafton and at least one in
                Armidale (an activist in the NTEU at UNE and in the town's anti-war
                and refugee rights campaigns). There's apparently some in other
                towns. Whether it's "publicly known" or not, there's at least 45-50
                SA members in rural NSW. I would guess Bob's other "publicly known"
                figures are similarly inaccurate.
              • dave_r_riley
                As Nick Friedman points out bookshop gossip is hardly a substantive source when you want to punch up SA numbers. Especially when the actual figures are so
                Message 7 of 7 , Mar 17, 2005
                  As Nick Friedman points out bookshop gossip is hardly a substantive
                  source when you want to punch up SA numbers. Especially when the
                  actual figures are so hard to ascertain.

                  Maybe soon we will have an up to date figure for total SA membership
                  when we collate branch returns. This reflects the fact that the SA
                  is fairly loose organisationally at present and relies on an
                  extremely hard pressed and understaffed national office to do the

                  I do suggest that subscibers to this forum monitor the debate in
                  Alliance Voices as I'm sure there will be many branch profiles
                  shared there in the months ahead. In the latest AV there is an
                  interesting --and I would say inspiring -- profile of our Perth
                  Hills branch.

                  But the question of activity is an interesting topic and needs to be
                  considered as that too goes to the heart of the current debate.
                  Those who want the SA to revert to a electoralist coalition object
                  to any general attempt to consistently involve the SA membership in
                  activity outside election related events. Of course, they get caught
                  up in their own contradictions in this regard and will concede say,
                  on indigenous issues or on a trade union campaign -- but these
                  coincidental, obligatory and almost moral add ons are not their
                  preferred option. That kind of activity is supposed to be the
                  monopoly of their own closed caucuses working with others under
                  their own copyrighted brand name. The SA sign is supposed to be
                  switched on only for special occasions. It's a costume you keep in
                  your wardrobe.

                  Of course the problem is that the MORE active the SA is outside
                  election mode, and the MORE the SA exists as a standalone formation
                  in its own right, the MORE it poses a threat to the continuing
                  existence of the present culture of closed Marxian caucuses
                  competing with one another for recruits and influence.

                  Inherent in this closed caucus mindset is the assumption that these
                  outfits can survive and prosper. That is definitely not my view. If
                  trends over the past ten years persist, the survival of the far left
                  organisationally through the second decade of the 21st century is
                  questionable. The toy cominternism that sustains so many of these
                  outfits --as Andy Newman points out -- is under duress.

                  If the laws of evolution are relevant I can't help but note a
                  trend. What we are experiencing is a convergence between a new
                  situation (following on from the 'fall of communism' which cannot be
                  separated from the 'crisis in social democracy'), a new opportunity
                  actually, and the course the sixties New Left has run which has
                  forced a re-assessment by many of the stakeholders involved as their
                  various party building formats have failed to move far from the
                  political margins.

                  To pretend that it still can be "business as usual" is to take up
                  the POV of the Dodo.

                  Any cursory reading of the events in England confirms how hard this
                  process can be BUT ALSO it affirms how relentless it is. Despite the
                  terrible early setbacks, the banner of left regroupment remains --
                  to steal a phrase -- a 'material force' on the British left.

                  So a key element in this exchange is being able to realistically
                  assess how far the Alliance project has come in the space of its
                  four short years. And in that regard the question of SA activity --
                  of activism -- is relevant. I pointed out before that it is a
                  mistake to equate activity in the SA with the internal culture of
                  its various affiliates.

                  But I do offer what I think is a relevant analogy: the activism of
                  the Socialist Alliance compared to that of the Greens-- DESPITE THE
                  FACT that the Greens have many times more members than the Alliance.
                  The Greens are reputed to have 7,000 members nationally.

                  Here in Brisbane the comparison is straighforward and the SA wins
                  hands down even when it comes to electioneering although obviously
                  they can stretch beyond us when it comes to staffing polling booths
                  on election day. I can't speak for other centres interstate.

                  The comparable analogy of measuring the SA against the various
                  standalone left groups is much harder to qualify or quantify. Within
                  the zoo of campus politics it is hard to see the wood for the
                  trees. But elswhere --say in the anti war movement, within the
                  womens movement, around migrant issues, in indigenous campaigns,
                  within certain trade unions, etc -- the reach and impressive
                  activity of the Alliance is salient, albeit uneven nationally.

                  That doesn't mean that the Alliance is an "activist organisation".
                  What it does mean is that it is beginning -- this is still early
                  days -- to harnass its resources. And part of our problem is that we
                  don't know fully what all those resources are. Such a problem is
                  structural and what you'll note, as this debate proceeds, is that
                  organisational questions are imbedded in this exchange.

                  Dave Riley
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