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Re: Australian Socialist Alliance lurches dramatically to the Right

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  • ozleft
    SA lurch to the right: more on the question of Sydney City Council preferences By Bob Gould I m not too worried by the offensive tone routinely adopted towards
    Message 1 of 30 , Mar 24, 2004
      SA lurch to the right: more on the question of Sydney City Council

      By Bob Gould

      I'm not too worried by the offensive tone routinely adopted towards
      me by DSP leadership supporters. As Alan Bradley points out, I have
      been around for a long time, and I'm used to it. I would point out,
      however, that I'm pretty sharp with institutions and structures, but
      I'm generally careful not to imply personal ill will or bad faith to

      The tone adopted towards me, however, constantly implies some sort of
      bad faith on my part, and that, in fact, is the only level of some
      DSP leadership supporters' contributions.

      That kind of attack on me is par for the course, but I would point
      out that its constant use in that way is an indication of political
      bankruptcy on the part of the people who do it. No one, so far, on
      that side of the argument has even attempted to address the
      substantial arguments about the weight of structures, etc, and the
      class issues that are built into the argument about preferences.

      All you get is a stupid mantra: "Bob Gould supports the ALP".

      Paul Benedek lets the cat out of the bag by quoting Clover Moore's
      website, on which she praises herself for being the only person to
      vote against the Carr government's most recent workers' compensation
      legislation. It's clear from this that DSP leadership supporters have
      combed Moore's website for anything they can use to pretty her up as
      essentially a progressive figure.

      The fact that on broader political questions that is all they could
      find speaks volumes. Where did Moore stand on the Iraq war? Did she
      speak or march against the war? A big slice of the ALP in NSW did
      speak and march, including the deputy premier, and the leader of
      Labor's parliamentary wing has just announced, in a guarded way, a
      policy of withdrawing troops from Iraq, and the Liberals are
      attacking him for daring to do so.

      Where was Clover on Iraq?

      Two of the aldermanic candidates for the ALP in the City of Sydney,
      the two women who are in winnable positions are both relatively
      active members of Labor for Refugees. Where has Clover been over the
      past two or three years on the bitter and vexed question of refugees?
      And so it goes.

      It's not necessary in this situation to try to prettify the
      shambling, contradictory mass organisation that I describe as the ALP-
      trade union continuum. Prettifying it wouldn't work anyway, and it's
      not the point.

      The point in deciding preferences in this situation is what class
      forces are in play? Benedek asserts that the Laborites are on the
      nose with Green Left Weekly readers he meets. Well, that's a bit of a
      tautology, knowing Brother Benedek, they'd have difficulty getting a
      word in edgewise before he had told them how bad the Laborites were,
      and it would be a bold GLW reader who would disagree with him.

      Another way of looking at the class forces at work will emerge when
      the votes are counted on Sunday. The Labor team is the underdog, and
      it may well lose, but the social pattern of the voting, which will be
      relatively easy to unravel, will tell us volumes.

      In Sydney, the highest Labor vote will be in booths in the poorer,
      more blue-collar areas, such as the housing commission flats in Surry
      Hills and Redfern, and even further out in Beaconsfield, the still-
      proletarian parts of Alexandria, etc, etc. There will also be a
      particularly high Labor vote in the Glebe Estate public housing area.

      The more affluent other end of Glebe will be a hotspot for Moore and
      the Liberals. The Potts Point/Kings Cross area will also vote
      strongly for Moore and the Liberals. The pattern of higher or lower
      Labor or Moore votes will follow the income divides in the City of
      Sydney, and it will quite possible to discern the pattern. It always
      is for those who have eyes to see.

      The different social composition of the votes is a pretty important
      factor in where one should direct socialist preferences.


      In my recent long piece on Leninism and Zinovievism I tried to
      describe in some detail how public disagreement on even minor matters
      is strangled in Zinovievist political groups. This issue of
      preferences is a striking example of how that works.

      Peter Boyle now concedes that a number of DSP and ISO leaders and/or
      members opposed the preference decision. That's well and good, but
      the striking thing is that not one of them so far has felt
      sufficiently free to express that point of view even on the Green
      Left Weekly discussion list, or in the Socialist Alliance internal

      One member of the ISO, who has been vocal on this question told me in
      conversation that initially he opposed the Clover Moore preference
      decision, but the ISO caucus met and decided in favour of it, and
      therefore he changed his position and played a substantial role in
      persuading the Central branch of the Alliance to preference Clover
      Moore. Presumably, something analogous took place in the DSP.

      At no point in the Socialist Alliance, apparently, has a horizontal
      discussion taken place outside the framework of the strict discipline
      of the two major Alliance components. In that kind of circumstance,
      obviously what happens is a kind of negotiation for a treaty between
      the leaders of the two groups.

      My overview of how the two groups work might be changed if there was
      some kind of public discussion of this modest issue, but on form so
      far that's unlikely to happen.

      It's all very well for Keiran to say the decision on preference
      doesn't lead to a sectarian attitude towards the ALP, but that's
      hopeful rubbish. Taking such a preference decision has the very
      practical effect of isolating the groups that do it, thoroughly, in
      the broader labour movement.

      Laborites tend to react very viscerally against people who give their
      preferences to politicians who most Laborites regard as essentially
      conservative. It's particularly ironic of Peter Boyle and the DSP
      leadership to be quite properly pointing to the progressive aspects
      of Latham's public announcement today on withdrawing troops from Iraq
      at the same time as the Socialist Alliance is deliberately isolating
      itself from the possibility of influencing Laborites in the city of
      Sydney, by this preference decision.
    • Carl Kenner
      If I might lurch into the debate on preferences, I will share some thoughts on preferences generally rather than specific minor elections interstate. In part 1
      Message 2 of 30 , Mar 24, 2004
        If I might lurch into the debate on preferences, I will share some thoughts
        on preferences generally rather than specific minor elections interstate. In
        part 1 I will talk about Australia's unique preferential voting system and
        what it means, and in part 2 I will talk about how I think Socialist
        Alliance should preference.

        Part 1

        Firstly, did you know that Australia is the only country in the world to
        have preferential voting? Ok, technically Sri Lanka could be said to have
        preferential voting since you are required to specify first and second
        preferences on your ballot paper so that if everyone's first preference
        doesn't get an outright majority (more than 50%) of votes then everyone's
        second preference is used instead. But this is really just a variation on
        the idea of having a second round of elections if the first one does not
        give a majority.

        It is a basic democratic principle that the chosen government should have
        the backing of an absolute majority of the population. The United States
        completely ignores this principle and uses a "first past the post" system
        which means that when the majority of the population hate George Bush he can
        still get elected if people are split on whether the Greens or the Democrats
        should be the alternative. This is impossible in more civilised countries
        like Australia (and pretty much anywhere else in the world). For this reason
        I think it is dangerous to compare election strategy in the United States
        with election strategy in Australia, because they will be very different.
        For example in the United States it is very wrong for Socialist parties to
        run against other progressive parties like the Greens. But in Australia it
        is no problem. The "anyone but Bush" strategy is actually not as bad as the
        "anyone but Howard" one. Voting for the Labor party in Australia will NOT
        help you defeat Howard. You can defeat Howard just as easily by voting
        Socialist Alliance, or Greens (or Democrats if you number every box below
        the line) as long as you put the Liberal party down near the bottom where
        they belong. This is not true in the United States.

        Other countries use either proportional representation (like the Senate but
        without preferences) or a second run-off election with the top two
        candidates if the first election doesn't get an absolute majority, or a
        weird system like in Scotland of extra "list" seats to compensate for the
        problem with first past the post. The run-off election system has its own
        problems, as was seen in France, when the vote is split so much that the top
        two candidates only get a minority of the vote and the run-off election does
        not include anyone even vaguely left-wing, despite the majority of voters
        being leftish.

        I definitely favour preferential voting since rather than giving you the
        government that is loved most, it gives you the government which is hated
        least. This always gives a more left-wing result than first-past-the-post.

        Australian Federal elections use compulsory preferential voting for both
        houses of parliament. The South Australian state government is based on the
        Federal government, and uses an identical system in every way. Other states
        do not use this system though for state elections. Some states have a system
        of "optional preferential voting". This is a bad system, since it allows
        parties to get elected with a minority of support. How it works is: If
        someone has an absolute majority after preferences are distributed then they
        win democratically, otherwise everything is counted again as a
        first-past-the-post election based on first preferences and someone wins
        with a minority of votes. The Labor party managed to exploit this in
        Queensland during the election before last, by getting people to only vote
        one, thus splitting the right wing vote (Liberal, National, One Nation,
        etc.) that actually had the majority (The ALP prefers cheating rather than
        actually trying to convince people not to be racist).

        One thing more I will mention about voting systems is compulsory voting.
        Compulsory voting is extremely important since it gets the people who don't
        like the government to actually vote against them, rather than getting
        completely demoralised and not bothering.

        Part 2
        How I think Socialist Alliance should preference:

        We should definitely use all the available preferences rather than just
        voting one, for the reasons mentioned above.

        I am strongly opposed to any and all preference deals!! People in the
        Socialist Alliance often talk about preference deals with say the Greens,
        but this is very wrong! Preference deals are completely anti-democratic. All
        the other parties do preference deals because they are into the corrupt
        wheeling and dealing to get into parliament, and have no respect for their
        voters. For democratic parties like us, all preferences should be set
        honestly according to who we think is the best to run the country. If we do
        a preference deal with the Greens, that means we tell the Greens that if
        they don't preference us we won't preference them. This is crazy! Would we
        really preference the Labor party ahead of the Greens just because they did
        that to us? I certainly hope not. This is the kind of thing we do in student
        elections all the time and I think it is disgusting. So let's have some
        integrity instead of doing preference deals.

        Obviously our first preference goes to Socialist Alliance anywhere that they
        are running. But let's start from the bottom...

        The various neo-NAZI parties should go last. This obviously includes parties
        like One Nation. I also include all the crazy religious parties down near
        the bottom (although we might make an exception for Islamic crazies if they
        decide to run). Any Zionist parties go down the bottom too (unless they
        support both the Palestinians and Israel in which case I don't know where to
        put them). Parties like the CEC go down here too. More controversially I
        include Euthanasia parties in the NAZI category, since this is an evil NAZI
        policy and definitely not a progressive one (as a disabled person I think
        this is important).

        Just before the NAZIs should come the coalition. It is getting hard to tell
        whether they actually belong in the NAZI category I just mentioned or not,
        but I'll give them a separate paragraph. I don't know whether the National
        Party is better or worse than the Liberal Party. On the one hand the
        National Party has been slightly better on issues like privatisation, but on
        the other hand they seem a bit closer to the NAZI category in many ways.

        Then come the various middling parties. These are the parties that try to
        find a middle ground between Labor and Liberal. Obviously there is little
        middle ground between them so there aren't a lot of these. I'm not sure if
        we should put the Democrats here or not. This is where the Democrats try and
        put themselves, but I hate the Labor party so it is hard for me to accept
        the ALP could be better than the Democrats. Both the Labor party and the
        Democrats seem to sell out to the Liberal party whenever they can. I have
        never put the Democrats after Labor before, but this time I think we should.
        It is time to crush the Democrats. The Democrats ARE responsible for
        everything Meg Lees does, since she is occupying a seat won by the
        Democrats. The Liberals have a minority in the Senate, so every reactionary
        piece of legislation they have given us was either supported by the
        Democrats or Labor. The majority of the time I think it is the Democrats.
        There is a big difference between the Democrats who protest on the street
        with us and the ones who get parliamentary seats. The ones in parliament
        won't even allow others to protest George Bush let alone protesting him
        themselves. I think the Democrats may even have a worse position on Iraq
        than the Labor party. I also tend to put the single issue drug parties in
        the middling position sometimes, since I'm really not sure whether they are
        good or evil.

        Before the Democrats comes the EVIL Labor party. The Labor party is not
        progressive, it is very, very evil, and it's politicians deserve to go to
        gaol for a very long time. The Labor party is a party of big business, and
        has all the racism, repression and exploitation required to serve big
        business. Next time you are protesting injustice and the police are trying
        to smash your head in or trample you to death, just remember that the police
        are the armed wing of the Labor party loyally following the state Labor
        party's orders. I am amazed there are any parties worse than the Labor
        party, but believe it or not, the coalition and the other parties I
        mentioned are actually worse.

        Before the Labor party come other parties that are not quite so evil. They
        don't necessarily have to be progressive to be better than the labor party,
        so there may be slightly conservative parties before the ALP. Except for the
        democrats, who have really pissed me off, I would include any anti-racism
        parties here, even the stupid ones that don't know the difference between
        left and right.

        Just before them and after Socialist Alliance come any of the progressive
        parties or progressive independents that we work with. This may include some
        of the saner socialist groups. Parties like the Greens are good here. The
        Socialist Alliance definitely did the right thing by putting the greens
        before Labor in all our other elections. I think we would be a laughing
        stock if we hadn't. The greens are not as progressive as we like to believe
        they are, and they have many conservative elements and a long conservative
        history. But they still make good second-place material.

        And first place is of course us, and we should have the confidence to know
        we belong here and can win someday.

        This only leaves the question of where to put the other socialist groups who
        may not be sane. This includes the evil Stalinists and the completely loopy
        ultralefts. I'm half inclined to put them last with the NAZIs, given that
        they support genocide and some of the most evil people in history. But I may
        just be sectarian.


        PS. For the benefit of Bob who started this discussion by sneakily posting
        under another name to get past my filter:
        The Democratic Socialist Perspective is a democratic organisation. The views
        put forward by its leaders are those of the majority of its members. In fact
        the views put forward publicly by any of its members should be those of the
        majority. There is no real difference between its leaders and others except
        for workload. The perspective is a voluntary organisation. Members are not
        forced to be part of a group they disagree with by the dictatorial rulers of
        your imagination. They do not believe in Stalinist discipline as you claim,
        which you can easily tell by them not executing people or exiling them to
        Siberia. You may not think that a Socialist party should keep its debates
        internal, but neither do they or they wouldn't be dissolving into the
        Socialist Alliance. So quit attacking them to justify the fact that you
        never get out and do anything except attack the left.
      • Kim B
        Bob writes: Laborites tend to react very viscerally against people who give their preferences to politicians who most Laborites regard as essentially
        Message 3 of 30 , Mar 24, 2004

          Bob writes:

          "Laborites tend to react very viscerally against people who give their preferences to politicians who most Laborites regard as essentially conservative. It's particularly ironic of Peter Boyle and the DSP leadership to be quite properly pointing to the progressive aspects of Latham's public announcement today on withdrawing troops from Iraq at the same time as the Socialist Alliance is deliberately isolating itself from the possibility of influencing Laborites in the city of Sydney, by this preference decision".

          Kim writes:

          Tell me Bob, how do Laborites react when their own party engage in rabid sectarianism and do preference deals with conservatives such as the Liberals and One Nation? 

          Not only have the ALP done a deal with the Liberals for preferences in Leichhardt, they have also preferenced One Nation members in Bankstown and Campbelltown (as well as in other electorates throughout NSW) over the Greens, Socialist Alliance and any other progressive candidates (see article from SMH below).

          Bob, are you going to demand a "public" debate by the ALP to explain all of this (and if you do, good luck with getting one... but don't hold your breath waiting for it to happen).

          Alan Bradley wrote:

          "Frankly, from where I'm sitting, it looks like the SA have handled this exactly correctly. The people who had the responsibility for making this decision have made it, after appropriate political discussion. What's the problem?

          Funnily enough, Bob is actually implying that the DSP should be crunching the numbers in a factional manner, in order to overturn this democratic decision!"

          Kim writes:

          Exactly!!  In Bob's world, the DSP is damned if the do and damned if they don't.  For the last year, Bob and friends have consistently trotted out the booggy that the SA is a "DSP front", but then when it become evident that this is not the case and  SA makes a democratic decision that he does not happen to agree with, he starts lobbying the DSP to start a factional fight to try and overturn the decision.  That maybe how they do it in the ALP Bob, but thats not how things are done in the SA.

          Kim B



          Liberals, One Nation to swap preferences

          By Paola Totaro and Claire O'Rourke
          March 25, 2004

          Pauline Hanson's One Nation is fielding candidates in at least five municipalities in Saturday's local council elections, but most are running as independents without declaring their affiliation.

          According to a how-to-vote card in Bankstown, Sydney's most populous municipality, the Liberal Party and a One Nation-affiliated candidate have thrashed out a direct swap of preferences despite a pledge by the NSW Liberals that there would be no such deals.

          The move comes as the Liberals push further into local government - the party will run endorsed candidates in 27 local government areas across the state. One of the party's recognised birthplaces, Albury, will have Liberal candidates standing for the first time, as will Ashfield, Gosford and Hawkesbury.

          Endorsed candidate Shayne Mallard will run in the City of Sydney after the collapse of Kathryn Greiner's Sydney Alliance group.

          Arthur Frauenfelder, lead candidate on the Liberal ticket in Albury, said he joined the party when approached by other Liberals who wanted him in their group. "Let's face it, [the Liberals] have got a state and federal member on both sides of the border . . . basically we have got a fairly staunch Liberal conservative approach from people," he said.

          The Liberals would run together but would not caucus on council decisions if elected.

          Albury would act as a test case and determine whether the party endorsed future candidates in rural council areas, said Jeff Egan, retiring Liberal councillor in the Blue Mountains City Council.

          The Liberals were also focusing on traditional Labor councils such as Rockdale, Parramatta and Randwick, he said. "It's going to [mean] a significant increase in votes for those candidates who move from being independents to being party endorsed."

          In Bankstown, Bob Vinnicombe is running as an independent, but is also listed as a branch delegate and branch executive in Pauline Hanson party's north-west region. This is listed on the One Nation website. He has swapped preferences with a Liberal candidate, Les Osmond.

          The state director of the NSW Liberal Party, Scott Morrison, said yesterday he knew nothing about Mr Vinnicombe's One Nation affiliation but insisted the Liberals would not do deals with One Nation.

          "Bob Vinnicombe ran in the Auburn byelection in 2000. He is an independent," he said. "I don't know anything about the website. We don't give One Nation our preferences."

          Other former One Nation and affiliated candidates are running in the elections, but list themselves as independents. They include a mayoral candidate in Lake Macquarie, Brian Burston, who is a former friend and staffer of One Nation MP David Oldfield. The two fell out dramatically last year.

          In Bankstown, Cr Lindsay Abrahams is running as an independent but remains on the One Nation website, as does Bob Thompson in Campbelltown and Tom Kennedy in Broken Hill. Both of them are running as independents.

          The list has outraged Waverley councillor and Jewish Labor forum member, George Newhouse, and upper house MP and One Nation Watch member, Henry Tsang, who described the tactics as "disgraceful". "It is time the Liberal Party stopped saying one thing at party headquarters and doing another at the polling booth. . ." Mr Newhouse said.

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        • farooq sulehria
          Below I am posting a piece I wrote for a weekly here, Peter wanted me to post it here.Doing that but bit of late.Sorry for that.Farooq March 11 leaves Muslim
          Message 4 of 30 , Mar 26, 2004
            Below I am posting a piece I wrote for a weekly here, Peter wanted me to post it here.Doing that but bit of late.Sorry for that.Farooq
            March 11 leaves Muslim world in shock

            By Farooq Sulehria

            Shock, sympathy for the victims and sorrow. This has been the general
            reaction in Muslim world to Madrid tragedy. The reaction to March 11 was
            different than that of September 11.

            Following the September 11 attacks, there were public celebrations in
            Latin America. The CNN, ignoring Latin America, deemed it fit to air a
            film showing Palestinians congratulating and cheering. The film later on
            proved fake. Though there were no public festivities in the Muslim world
            yet a sense of triumphalism prevailed supreme. Farooq Tariq, secretary
            Labour Party Pakistan, sent a report that summed up the mood in Muslim
            world. In his report ‘Six days after:How ordinary Pakistani feels?’
            Farooq observed:

            “I am writing this article from Toba Tek Singh, my home town, 300
            kilometers away from Lahore, situated in the central Punjab. It is
            mainly a peasant dominated area. In the Seventies, It was once a hub of
            peasant movement led by the Stalinist Left. On 23rd march 1970, over
            500,000 attended a peasant conference in the town.

            “Now the town is in the grip of religious fundamentalists. On the main
            center of the town, we see the paintings of the ‘martyrs’ (those youth
            who have been killed during the ‘holy’ war of Kashmir in last few
            years). Many religious madrasas (schools) can be found at every street

            “I was in Lahore for four days after the Tuesday terrorist attack on
            American cities. At Lahore, the mood among many workers and ordinary
            citizens were of joy and happiness that the Americans have been taught
            the lessons at last.

            “But there was also a sympathy for those been killed in the terrorist
            attack. It was not a mood of fanaticism of all out support for the
            religious fundamentalist.

            “But at Toba Tek Singh, the mood was of fanaticism. As I arrived here
            after six hours of driving from Lahore to see my aging father, I was
            bombarded with questions by him.

            “When I condemned the attacks and also told what could happen to the
            Talban government in future, and that the act has endangered the lives
            of the Muslims across the globe, he was untouched and told me that you
            could be the only one talking this in the town

            “One villager told me that the incident of America is like this that if
            a peasant gets up in a village and fight against the feudal lord with no
            weapons. No one in the village ever thought of fighting against the
            feudal before. Then this peasant win the fight, the whole village
            peasants will be very happy. So is America, a big feudal lord of the
            world who have lost the fight at the hands of some one without any
            resources, we must celebrate. Whenever I raised the issue of innocent
            American loosing the lives, the normal reaction was, yes we sympathies,
            but what about those millions of Palestinians, Sudanese, Vietnamese and
            others who have lost the lives at their hand. Who support Israel? is
            another questions raised immediately by every one.”

            (Full report is available at www.laborpakistan.org)

            The colonial history, the imperialist exploitation, the US role in
            destroying democratic and popular movements in Muslim world, all that
            have contributed to a complicated consciousness towards West in the
            Muslim world. This has got even complicated in post-Cold War period.

            The French opposition to US war plans in Iraq, made Chirac the most
            popular personality in the Muslim world. The historic demonstrations on
            Feb 15 still are fresh in mass mind across Muslim world.

            This has helped Muslim masses see the difference between the governments
            in different countries. Also, the large peace demonstrations in London
            have driven home the fact that it is Blair that supports Bush plans and
            not the British masses.

            Al-Qaida by claiming, or by executing if that is the case, Madrid
            bombings has isolated itself, it seems. These terrorist groups, no
            matter how popular the act of September 11 was, are not the sole
            representatives of the Muslim world. On the contrary, in most of the
            Muslim countries such groups will find themselves pretty isolated.

            This is how some of the newspapers from Muslim world have reacted to the
            Madrid bombing:

            “Seen against the background of the US-led war on terror in the
            aftermath of 9/11, ‘Islamic terrorism’ seems to have become the bugbear
            of some western governments and sections of the media. However, as the
            Spanish tragedy shows, it would be folly to discover the hand of
            Islamists behind every act of terrorism.” – Pakistan's Dawn

            “A mass demonstration was staged in the streets of Madrid in protest
            against these attacks. However, it reflected the resentment against the
            Spanish government's policy in supporting the war on Iraq... It is hoped
            that the Madrid bombings will open the eyes of the coalition, led by the
            US... so that it can look into its mistakes and find a way to rectify
            them.” -- London Al-Quds Al-Arabi

            “Terrorist acts everywhere, the latest being two days ago in Spain,
            prove that containment, not confrontation, will stop bloodshed in this
            world... the crazy policies being applied in many places world wide
            bring more losses, destruction and disaster.” -- Saudi Arabia’s Ukaz

            “Whether the bombings were carried out by ETA or al-Qaeda, the reality
            is that terrorism today is a deadly threat to all human beings...” --
            Egypt's Al-Ahram

            Unlike Feb 15, March 20 witnessed an increased activity of anti war demonstrators. In Pkaista, there wer protests in 63 town, though small in number.Bengla Desh's capital Daaca  and Egyptian capital Cairo also had demonstrations with few thousand participating.
            The phenomenon of fundamentalism will not go on forever. It will see its downfall but not until there is an alterative, a radical anti imperialist alternative.
            "Pip, Peter & Zoe" <ppz@...> wrote:

            farooq sulehria wrote:

            > Also, one importnat thing was: the reaction in Muslim world to Madrid
            > was different from S 11. If comrades here are interested , I can post
            > a small piece I wrote on that.This time, there were no 'celebrations'
            > instead it was sympathy for victims.

            I'd be interested.


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