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Re: More on the WA ETU elections

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  • ozleft
    Nick Fredman does it again. More on the WA ETU elections By Bob Gould Nick Fredman s post this morning is an example of example of exactly what I was talking
    Message 1 of 13 , Aug 19, 2003
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      Nick Fredman does it again. More on the WA ETU elections

      By Bob Gould

      Nick Fredman's post this morning is an example of example of exactly
      what I was talking about when I referred to smoke and mirrors. He
      evinces great concern about what he says is a factual inaccuracy in
      one of my posts and then uses that to make a sweeping generalisation
      questioning my judgement in everything.

      Well, I don't concede his point that I was factually inaccurate. The
      exchanges at the Socialist Alliance conference, which he repeatedly
      posts demonstrate that what's at issue is an interpretation of what
      that exchange involved. In my view it involved implicitly, views on
      both sides about matters such as union affiliation to the Labor Party
      and the general approach to Laborism and the Laborites.

      But even if his interpretation is more correct than mine, how does
      that invalidate the rest of my many arguments about the ETU elections?

      He implies that because, in his view, I make one factual error my
      proposition should be rejected, and he's quite happy to, by
      implication, accept the wisdom of Peter Boyle and presumably the rest
      of the DSP leadership, as he admits he has no direct knowledge of the
      events under discussion.

      He does say, however, that he's very interested in the argument about
      the ETU elections, and I believe that he probably is, as are no doubt
      many other DSP and Socialist Alliance members and supporters, who
      follow this discussion list but don't express themselves.

      Peter Boyle, in his post, displays ultra-sensitivity to the
      proposition that the DSP has a Zinovievist structure, internal life
      and atmosphere. Well he might have such sensitivity, because the way
      this discussion has proceeded seems to me is a striking demonstration
      of Zinovievism in the DSP, and how, presumably, that's carried into
      the Socialist Alliance.

      We can agree that a decision was made somewhere in the DSP to support
      a change of leadership in the WA ETU, from a leftist maverick to a
      less-defined political figure who appears to have the support of the
      centre-right Kevin Reynolds machine.

      The DSP leadership no doubt has extensive knowledge of the issues
      involved in this decision and obviously some of the members in Perth
      would have some idea, but it seems highly likely that the ultimate
      decision was made in the national office of the DSP because that's
      how the DSP works, although there may have been some input from
      members in Perth.

      Zinovievism at work

      Members of the DSP other than the leadership, in places other than
      Perth, as Fredman says, have no information on which to make a
      judgement other than their general loyalty to the wisdom of the DSP,
      and members in Perth, who may know something about the decision and
      its ramifications, and who knows, may even disagree, are not in a
      position to say anything because of party discipline interpreted in
      the Zinovievist way.

      The only way such a DSP decision of an important strategic sort can
      possibly be questioned once it's made is if some knowledgeable, noisy
      outsider like me has a go at the DSP over it. But if that happens
      party discipline and partinost are invoked to repel the impudent
      outsider who questions the party line or practice. ("If you disagree,
      comrade, you can take it up at some undefined time in the future in
      discussion for the next congress.") That approach is hardly much help
      in relation to disastrous or unprincipled day-to-day decisions in the
      labour movement.

      The DSP is not alone in this structure and atmosphere. A much worse
      version of it prevailed in the old Stalinist movement, which I spent
      20 or so years of my political life trying to combat.

      But many organisations in the Trotskyist movement have the same
      disastrous way of arriving at and defending decisions, which is one
      of the factors that contributes to the fierce and often uninformed
      clashes between adherents of the different groups bound by the
      disciplines of their organisations on conflicting tactical matters.

      How much better would be a regime if tactical decisions in Marxist
      organizations could be disputed publicly, as they were in the
      Bolshevik Party in Lenin's time, before the ban on factions and the
      Zinovievisation of the Comintern.

      In relation to the WA ETU a decision was made essentially by the DSP
      leadership nationally, and as the saying goes, most of the membership
      is kept in the dark and fed bullshit, and the only serious debates
      take place in the leadership, and you usually only get to know about
      them after some kind of split.

      A further point has to be made about the implications for the
      Socialist Alliance and the DSP's allies in the Alliance. By reason of
      the weight of the DSP's weight in the Alliance, actions such as this
      by the DSP are interpreted in the wider world as actions of the
      Alliance.

      Yet the dominating presence of the DSP in the Alliance, with its
      Zinovievist internal structure, precludes any of its Alliance allies
      from having any internal input into the decisions. The DSP members
      don't have much input, and other Alliance affiliates and members have
      none, but politically speaking they're saddled with the results.

      In his earlier major post, Boyle appears to back away a little,
      admits that the Chris Latham article last week was a bit misleading,
      and indicates that the editor of Green Left Weekly had indicated that
      may be corrected. They'll print an article from Game, big deal, and
      he can write an article if he wants to. As I said in my previous
      post, that's totally cynical.

      The Green Left Weekly in which Game's article might appear is printed
      next Monday or Tuesday, when the ballot starts being counted. GLW has
      ambushed Game and insulted him by offering him an article well and
      truly after the event.

      When you examine this week's GLW there's no article about the ETU
      elections, in which the effective misinformation in Latham's article
      could be corrected, and ever so graciously GLW has published a letter
      by Game, in which he has to attempt to defend himself within the very
      limited constraints of the GLW letters column. I regard all that as
      pretty insulting to Game, the members of the DSP and Socialist
      Alliance, and the broader left public.

      Meanwhile the GLW discussion list drags on, we have elaborate and
      arcane discussions about matters such as the vital question of
      antiwar slogans in the US, and there's absolutely no serious
      continuance of the discussion on the WA ETU elections as the clock
      ticks towards the counting of the ballot next Monday.

      Boyle's crude assertion that the DSP leadership will be proved wrong
      if the other bunch ousts Game and then shifts to the right is pretty
      revealing. He's obviously staking a lot on the DSP leadership's
      belief that Game will be defeated in this election. The DSP's whole
      disreputable manoeuvre in this election seems to be predicated on
      that hope, and they now hope they can pass off this manoeuvre as some
      kind of wisdom because they've attached themselves to a successful
      team.

      Unfortunately for Boyle and the DSP leaders, there are several other
      possibilities:

      Game may still win, he may win in a very close result or he may lose
      in a very close result. If the result is close, either way, that very
      fact will subject the DSP's electoral manoeuvre to very careful
      scrutiny indeed.

      The difference between the DSP leadership and myself on this question
      doesn't just hinge on who wins or loses. It hinges on the social and
      political forces brought into play by Game's victory or defeat in
      this election.

      Boyle reduces it to an abstract decision, almost as if it was based
      on the toss of a coin, and says we might have been right or wrong,
      we'll find out later. That's a poisonous practice and outlook for an
      ostensible Marxist leadership in the workers' movement.

      I've gone to considerable lengths to describe the general social
      forces at work, which should have bearing on the decision one makes
      on who to support in that election, and I've made a case which, the
      further one proceeds, only seems to appear more convincing. (I'm
      aware, of course, that one tends to convince oneself by one's own
      eloquence, and I expect readers will allow for that.)

      Boyle and the DSP leadership haven't done anything like that. They
      haven't seriously put their decision in any context, and haven't
      explained it to anyone in a comprehensive way, and they still refuse
      to respond and discuss the question in any depth.

      They seem to be precluded from engaging in that kind of discussion by
      their own internal arrangements, which is a practical indictment of
      those arrangements.

      In the course of this discussion, one of the DSP's leaders, Paul
      Benedek, in an aside, casually declares political war, so to speak,
      on what he describes as "the rotten leadership of Andrew Ferguson" in
      the CFMEU. That also sets off major alarm bells for me, but I'll
      address that in due course in another post.

      I return to my five critical, unanswered questions from my second
      post and I'd like some attempt at an answer by Boyle, the DSP
      leadership or anyone else in the DSP, for that matter, if possible
      before the ballot is counted next Monday.

      Question 1: Was it at any stage possible to avert a bitter electoral
      conflict in the ETU between two personalities you say are both left-
      wingers and their two small industrial machines? Did you make any
      effort to mediate the conflict? (Obviously in this situation, such
      mediation would more or less necessarily have had to involve
      accepting that Game, the senior bloke so publicly identified with
      leftism in Perth, would continue as General Secretary.)

      Question 2: Did you ever consider going with the Game camp?

      Question 3. Did you ever consider remaining neutral in the ETU
      elections?

      Question 4: What were the general social and political criteria, in
      and outside the ETU, that brought you to the conclusion that Les
      McLaughlan's leadership of the ETU would be better for the socialist
      and labour movement?

      Question 5: What is the character of the election propaganda on both
      sides? The printed propaganda used by competing factions in union
      ballots is usually pretty revealing about the two groups of
      candidates. Would you be prepared to put up on the Green Left
      website, for careful consideration, the printed material of both
      sides, including the "shit sheets" that are circulating, attacking
      Bill Game. I'm getting them from WA, but you may already have them.
      Why not put them up on the Green Left website to strengthen your
      case? Also, would you be willing to try to acquire, for publication
      on the web, the script being used by the people phoning every member
      of the ETU attacking the Bill Game team? The character of that script
      would be of some interest, obviously.
    • alanb1000
      ... Some points: (a) For anyone doesn t know what Zinovievism is - Bob is referring to an analysis of how left grouplets function developed by US Marxist
      Message 2 of 13 , Aug 19, 2003
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        Bob Gould wrote:
        > Peter Boyle, in his post, displays ultra-sensitivity to the
        > proposition that the DSP has a Zinovievist structure, internal life
        > and atmosphere. Well he might have such sensitivity, because the way
        > this discussion has proceeded seems to me is a striking
        > demonstration of Zinovievism in the DSP, and how, presumably, that's
        > carried into the Socialist Alliance.

        Some points:
        (a) For anyone doesn't know what "Zinovievism" is - Bob is referring
        to an analysis of how left grouplets function developed by US Marxist
        Louis Proyect. Stuff on it can be found on Proyect's website:
        www.marxmail.org

        For my money, Proyect has overgeneralised the experience of his former
        group the US Socialist Workers Party.

        (b) Bob places an emphasis on this stuff because it is in his
        interests to portray the DSP as an undemocratic sect.

        (c) Peter Boyle is "ultra-sensitive" about it for a couple of reasons
        other than the obvious ones. The most interesting of these reasons is
        that he is carefully explaining _to DSP members_ that that is NOT how
        the DSP should work. That is, he is engaged in a political struggle
        AGAINST "Zinovievism" within the DSP. Peter is, of course, speaking on
        behalf of the DSP leadership in this.

        That is, the DSP leadership are consciously acting to ensure that the
        DSP does not behave in the manner that Bob alleges.

        One of the key aspects of this is to encourage DSP members not to be
        afraid to speak up about differences of opinion, and to guarantee that
        no repercussions will follow if they do. Of course, there are
        questions of reponsibility involved - unjustified slams aren't
        encouraged - but of course serious differences can, and should, be
        raised.

        The question of whether that should be done in a public or internal
        forum can't be resolved mechanically. It needs to be considered in
        every specific situation in a political manner, since it is a
        political question. That is, the choice is a political act.

        > The DSP leadership no doubt has extensive knowledge of the issues
        > involved in this decision and obviously some of the members in Perth
        > would have some idea, but it seems highly likely that the ultimate
        > decision was made in the national office of the DSP because that's
        > how the DSP works, although there may have been some input from
        > members in Perth.

        "Some input". Right.

        > Zinovievism at work
        >
        > Members of the DSP other than the leadership, in places other than
        > Perth, as Fredman says, have no information on which to make a
        > judgement other than their general loyalty to the wisdom of the DSP,
        > and members in Perth, who may know something about the decision and
        > its ramifications, and who knows, may even disagree, are not in a
        > position to say anything because of party discipline interpreted in
        > the Zinovievist way.

        How exactly is _anyone_ outside Perth supposed to have enough
        information to second guess the people on the ground? At best, what
        they know is what someone from Perth told them.

        As for people from Perth with different opinions, well, nobody is
        stopping them from expressing it here. Of course, it is entirely
        possible that the DSP's position is, in fact, the opinion of the DSP
        members in Perth.

        > A further point has to be made about the implications for the
        > Socialist Alliance and the DSP's allies in the Alliance...

        Bob "has to" make this point because Bob wants to score points against
        the Alliance by convincing the non-DSP members that the DSP is messing
        them around, by convincing them that the DSP is an undemocratic,
        manipulative sect.

        > Boyle reduces it to an abstract decision, almost as if it was based
        > on the toss of a coin, and says we might have been right or wrong,
        > we'll find out later. That's a poisonous practice and outlook for an
        > ostensible Marxist leadership in the workers' movement.

        Heaven forbid that "an ostensible Marxist leadership in the workers'
        movement" should make a political decision, put it into practice, and
        see if it was correct. Where's the omniscience in that? Everyone knows
        that the Marxist program has all the correct answers ahead of time. If
        you know it all, there is no excuse for making a mistake, is there?

        Alan Bradley
      • Nick Fredman
        Alan Bradley made 2 very pertinent points, that I ll comment on, that sums up what s wrong with Bob Gould s demagogic thunderings on this issue and his
        Message 3 of 13 , Aug 20, 2003
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          Alan Bradley made 2 very pertinent points, that I'll comment on, that
          sums up what's wrong with Bob Gould's demagogic thunderings on this
          issue and his ill-informed speculations on the nature of the DSP and
          the Socialist Alliance in general.
          >
          >The question of whether that should be done in a public or internal
          >forum can't be resolved mechanically. It needs to be considered in
          >every specific situation in a political manner, since it is a
          >political question. That is, the choice is a political act.

          and

          >How exactly is _anyone_ outside Perth supposed to have enough
          >information to second guess the people on the ground? At best, what
          >they know is what someone from Perth told them.

          Public and private

          What may some as a shock to Bob Gould is the proposition that a
          socialist group can make a decision that is both correct and
          democratically arrived at, even if he is not consulted. It could be
          argued that a group should be able to defend and explain all its
          positions, and having all debates publicly facilitates this, but
          surely another principle is that it's up to the group to make its
          decisions, and to work out the processes whereby it makes them. Ie as
          Alan said it's a question of political context and public isn't in
          all cases better. For fairly obvious reasons the discussion in SA is
          more public than in its affliates, and it would be more relevant for
          a large socialist organisation to be more public than a small one.
          But eg the Greens have a members-only discussion page on their
          website, so they don't think all discussion should be public. I never
          see any public broadcasting of debates within the Greens' national
          leadership or branches (I'll stand corrected if wrong). In a recent
          dispute at the university where I work, it was so obvious as to not
          being open to discussion that meetings of the NTEU branch executive
          would be secret, as we would need frank discussions of how to respond
          both to management and the nefarious role played by the CPSU.
          Non-members are also not welcome at NTEU branch meetings. Also in
          this dispute, the union's national office completely took over the
          running of the campaign, including changing the nature of a meeting
          that the local leadership had decided upon, for reasons that where
          entirely appropriate and pragmatic in a fast-moving situation, which
          brings me to the second point ...

          Local and general

          The way the DSP works is not so complicated, unusual, secretive, or
          particularly controversial - it's only portrayed so by those with
          sectarian axes to grind. Like any sensible political or "movement"
          organisation it decides *general* policy and orientation in a
          democratically centralised way (delegated congresses and elected
          leaderships), which are implemented with due regard to local
          conditions by branches and districts. Of course the way the DSP
          operates has like any organisation a particular political basis and a
          particular history, and could undoubtably be improved in a number of
          areas, one reason that building a common organisation with a range of
          other socialists is a good idea. In any case it's why I don't feel
          "qualified" to comment on Perth events as I obviously not involved in
          the minutinae of analysing and implemented the tactics there. It's
          completely ludicrous to expect every local decision to be canvassed
          and discussed nationally before decisions are made, though having a
          national leadership would be a bit pointless unless unless it kept
          track of and commented on where necessary local work. I would expect
          though as is the norm to receive reports via the various DSP media
          (and often other sources) of what is happening in various locales and
          sectors, including any controversies therein, and I would form an
          opinion on what's happening to the extent that's useful and relevant
          (eg something controversial or something I'm involved in or
          knowledgable of would be more relevant to have an opinion and/or
          comment on than some routine work).

          --
          ***********************************

          Nick Fredman
          Student Rights Advocate
          Southern Cross University (Lismore)
          Student Representative Council

          Shop 9 Plaza, SCU Lismore

          Ph: 6620 3044
          Email: sra@...
          web: http://www.lismoresrc.org.au/

          *********************************
        • DavidS
          There is an amazing amount of accusations and counter accusations on this list about people being sectarians. In the vast majority, if not the complete, number
          Message 4 of 13 , Aug 21, 2003
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            There is an amazing amount of accusations and counter accusations on this list about people being sectarians.

            In the vast majority, if not the complete, number of cases I haven't seen much that is evidence of that sectarianism.  What I do see is arguments against particular groups or individuals which are robust, even strong, in their approach, in their use of language.  People might not like this but it just ain't sectarian.

            If you want to be sectarian elevate your organisation above the interests of the class.  If you want to accuse somebody else of being sectarian point out how their arguments put their organisation or themselves as above the interests of the class.

            The recent events in Sydney splitting the WAW was where we actually saw real sectarianism.  The CPA and fellow travellers raised their organisations, their ideologies, over and against the objective interests of the working class.  That comrades is sectarian.  The rest is name calling.

            Strangely, but not surprisingly, we can see this misuse of the term in Pip Hinman's report on the WAW meeting where it says ("This inevitably means debates and it has to have the courage to have the arguments out in a non-sectarian manner", I argued.)  No Pip feel free to call them a bunch of sectarian parasites that's not being sectarian and its actually the truth.

            Calling somebody a "dipstick" is not being sectarian.  It may upset the named dipstick but it just ain't sectarian.

            For A New Workers Party

            Fraternally
            DavidS
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