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Re: CPGB/SA controversy

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  • 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 1 of 7 , Mar 15, 2005
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      --- 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
      "reformists".

      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

      Comrades,

      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
      experience/Leninism:

      * 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
      things.

      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 2 of 7 , Mar 16, 2005
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        ---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
        was.

        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
        formation.

        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
        them.

        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
        Ballarat.

        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
        project.

        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 3 of 7 , Mar 16, 2005
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          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 4 of 7 , Mar 16, 2005
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            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 5 of 7 , Mar 17, 2005
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              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
              administrating.

              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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