A Reply to Nick Fredman, Please Don't Verbal Michael Tho mson!
- A Reply to Nick Fredman, Please Don't Verbal Michael Thomson!
By Bob Gould
In Nick's response, he says "one of Michael's criticisms being the quite
banal one that [Socialist Alliance] didn't instantly become a mass party".
Well, at the risk of straining the relatively civil exchanges we've been
having, Nick, you've just gratuitously and offensively 'verballed' Michael
Thomson. In the usual fashion, common on the far left, which has been turned
into a form of high art by the DSP leadership, you here take some words of
Michael's, reinterpret them in your own loaded language, and serve it back
to us as the what Michael said. Michael Thomson's formulation about the
inability of the Alliance to develop its possible initial potential was far
more careful, considered and modulated, than the crude expression of dashed
hopes that you put into his mouth.
I'm rather sensitive to that kind of verballing, for the obvious reason that
DSP leadership polemicists do it constantly to me. Also, however, the DSP
school of journalism tends to do it a bit to the whole of the universe, so
to speak. If people who have a different strategic orientation to the DSP
are ever quoted, their quotes are carefully edited and usually buried in a
pile of other quotes consistent with the current political orientation of
the DSP leadership.
Yesterday, and last week, I argued that Green Left Weekly hold a substantial
open forum in its pages where different perspectives on the left about the
elections were put forward freely, with proper weight given to the different
points of view. Also, the fairly dramatic swing to Labor in the last few
weeks has made it increasingly difficult for GLW to ignore the groundswell
against the Howard Government. What popped out, however, once again, is a
rather exquisitely edited 'line' article by Kerryn Williams, which is
presented as if its some kind of discussion, but is actually a sustained
polemic for the Socialist Alliance project, and the Socialist Alliance
project alone. It starts with an elaborately argued version of the dubious
DSP leadership proposition that the Australian ruling class are preparing
the masses for a Latham government, almost to the point where Williams seems
to suggest that significant sections of the bourgeoisie regard a Latham
government as desirable. This kind of conspiracy theory is usually wrong.
Mostly, in Australian society, the most powerful sections of the bourgeoisie
prefer, most of the time, Liberal Governments. This is particularly true
when the Liberals are in office, because even the process of defeating
Liberal governments raises the dangerous spectre, from the point of view of
the bourgeoisie, of a certain amount of mass mobilisation. Williams then
goes on to quote one Laborite, Harry Quick, and then four or five adherents
of the Socialist Alliance, who all say that the real political task is to
build the Socialist Alliance, particularly to replace the rotten Laborites.
Norm Dixon, in his usual energetic way, just today drew attention,
particularly to this article, on the Green Left discussion list. Whether or
not the DSP leadership's analysis of the coming election is valid or not, is
not the issue here. The issue is that there is Kerryn Williams carefully
crafted and implacably edited 'line' article, presented as some kind of
discussion, is not really a discussion. Nick Fredman says, in relation to
GLW that "the conference decision that mandated the current changes in the
paper, . read in part:
That the Socialist Alliance should move to produce its own regular
publication aimed at:
* Propagating the Alliance's analysis of contemporary politics and its own
* Providing analysis of trends in the trade unions and various social and
* Stimulating and housing debates in the broadly anticapitalist and
anti-neo-liberal camp (Greens, left ALP, various movements); and
* Reflecting debate within the Alliance itself."
That part of the resolution appears to allow for the possibility of the kind
of open discussion that I have been proposing to GLW. Kerryn Williams' 'line
' article on the elections and Sue Bolton's 'line' article on the industrial
relations issue at the ALP conference, are not that kind of discussion,
though some attempt is made to suggest that they are. Once again, I commend
the nine subjects for discussion that I've raised over the last week or so
to GLW, and suggest that devote four pages of the paper to such an open
discussion. I'd be interested in a serious response from the GLW editorial
board to this proposal.
Gould's Book Arcade
32 King St, Newtown, NSW
- Sorry, but I almost fell off my chair laughing when I read Bob Gould
complaining of Nick Fredman allegedly "verballing" Michael Thompson.
For someone who admits openly he only polemicises against
caricatures of other's position rather than their actual content, it
is no surprise that Bob goes on to present 10 of his own slanders/
caricatures against the DSP (all in 5 paragraphs!):
1. In the usual fashion, common on the far left, which has been
> into a form of high art by the DSP leadership, you here take somewords of
Why single out the DSP. Where is the evidence?
2. I'm rather sensitive to that kind of verballing, for the obvious
> DSP leadership polemicists do it constantly to me.Oh boo hoo. CONSTANTLY?
3.If people who have a different strategic orientation to the DSP
> are ever quoted, their quotes are carefully edited and usuallyburied in a
> pile of other quotes consistent with the current politicalorientation of
> the DSP leadership.Which quotes are carefully edited? Are the quotes from the trade
unionists in the Bolton article manipulated? You're just upset
because even what the left officials say is more critical of the ALP
leadership than you are. Take it up with them.
4. What popped out, however, once again, is a
> rather exquisitely edited 'line' article by Kerryn Williams,Line article? In what sense is it a "line"? It is signed by
5. which is
> presented as if its some kind of discussion, but is actually asustained
> polemic for the Socialist Alliance project, and the SocialistAlliance
> project alone.What exactly is this supposed to mean? It's no surprise Williams
defends SA: GLW is a pro-SA paper. In what sense does the article
deny though that others on the left will have their own and
6. It starts with an elaborately argued version of the dubious
> DSP leadership proposition that the Australian ruling class arepreparing
> the masses for a Latham government, almost to the point whereWilliams seems
> to suggest that significant sections of the bourgeoisie regard aLatham
> government as desirable.What DSP leadership proposition? Blind Freddy could see the
corporate media in particular is heavily promoting Latham. Even
Howard complains about. CEOs I know have come to same conclusion.
7. This kind of conspiracy theory is usually wrong.
what conspiracy? If its a conspiracy then maybe the whole notion
that the ruling class might even exist or may favour any party is
one too. What is occurring is social process whereby sections the
ruling-class are turning to the ALP.
> build the Socialist Alliance, particularly to replace the rottenLaborites.
Who says that? Who makes this the main task of SA? Nobody in the
9. > That part of the resolution appears to allow for the
possibility of the kind
> of open discussion that I have been proposing to GLW. KerrynWilliams' 'line
> ' article on the elections and Sue Bolton's 'line' article on theindustrial
> relations issue at the ALP conference, are not that kind ofdiscussion,
> though some attempt is made to suggest that they are. Once again,No Bob: they do quote a reasonable range of sources. It is just that
everyone is more critical of the ALP than you are.
10. I commend
> the nine subjects for discussion that I've raised over the lastweek or so
> to GLW, and suggest that devote four pages of the paper to such anopen
> discussion. I'd be interested in a serious response from the GLWeditorial
> board to this proposal.Given the above: you wonder why GLW won't take you seriously?
- By Bob Gould
The DSP leadership loyalist whose email address identifies
him/herself as BR, but who doesn't provide any other identification,
tries to heat up the political atmosphere as much as possible. In an
almost occult way, he/she claims acquaintanceship with company CEOs
who support Mark Latham and Labor in the coming elections as a useful
second party of capitalism.
I don't move in the same exalted circles as CEOs, plugged into the
wisdom of the ruling class as BR does, I just have to operate on
basis of my general political understanding and observations. It may
be true that after an uninspiring diet of Crean and Beazley some
working journalists are a bit excited about Latham.
Rather than the views of a couple of CEOs, a better guide to the mood
of the bourgeoisie is the editorial line of the major capitalist
newspapers. Their general line is that the Liberals had better
smarten up their game or Labor might beat them, which is presented
generally as a danger.
The Murdoch press and most of its stable of right-wing columnists,
such as Piers Ackerman, are mightily hostile to Labor. I repeat what
I said earlier: as a general rule, from the viewpoint of most of the
bourgeoisie, while they can live with Labor governments from time to
time, their general preferred option is the Liberals and Nationals,
and most of the ruling class doesn't like transitions to Labor
governments because such governments often unleash aspirations on the
part of the masses.
Different estimates of these questions are not, however, the main
issue. BR's extremely violent reaction to my careful critique of the
GLW school of "discussion" is at the centre of this argument.
I continue to assert a fairly simple proposition: discussion articles
are not carefully edited and angled items such as the Sue Bolton and
Kerryn Williams pieces. These two articles are presented as some kind
of discussion when they are actually, reasonably clearly, what people
who know about Marxist newspapers call "line" articles.
The quotes of people who have tactical disagreements with the DSP are
usually carefully edited and buried under other quotes that express
the political point of view of the DSP leadership. Such articles are
slightly deceptive, but quite effective, propaganda. The one thing
they are not, however, is serious discussion.
Serious discussion requires that people with divergent points of view
express and develop their points of view in interaction with each
other, and that doesn't happen when the editorial hand converts
interviews into line articles. The fact that these articles are
signed by individuals such as Sue Bolton and Kerryn Williams is quite
incidental to this point.
Once again, I make this extremely simple proposal to the DSP
leadership: for the moment put aside my proposal for nine topics of
discussion and just try a pilot project of one such genuine
discussion supplement, in which you give five or six representative
people on the left of the ALP-trade union continuum the chance to
express their point of view as to why they're in the ALP and what
their perspectives are for the coming federal elections and after,
and get five or six Socialist Alliance members to express their point
of view, in some real interaction between the points of view, with
minimal editorial intervention other than, perhaps, asking the
original questions and tidying up for coherence and syntax.
What could be clearer than this modest proposal? BR directs a lot of
personal abuse of me, but even he might deign to consider my
suggestion on its merits, and the GLW editorial board might put aside
any views they might have about me and consider this proposal on its
merits. What's wrong with conducting a discussion in such a way in a
socialist newspaper that desires to be accepted as a vehicle for
broad left discussion?