our poor little leaflet...

JEFF SPARROW jeffs at werple.net.au
Thu Aug 22 11:25:00 MDT 1996


Dear Adam (and Nick - I wrote this before reading your comments, but I
reckon many of the same arguments apply).

Thanks for taking the time to comment on our leaflet.

I'm not going to defend it to the hilt. It was a little thing that we
rushed out the day after the demo. But I thought I would reply
since IMO your remarks possibly indicate a misunderstanding
of the situation here.

You wrote:
"It is a sort of activists leaflet, defending the strikes and riots."

Our leaflet was intended
primarily for a number of university campuses on which we are active. =
There
is a student demo in a week or so, at which the question of militancy
will, after the Canberra incident, be sharply posed. Our main concern =
was
to address student activists who might have been impacted by the massive
media condemnation of the ACTU demo. We have no ability to relate to the
workers' movement in any real sense, although obviously we do what we =
can
where we have unionist members.

You wrote:
"Well, all well and good. But there's no mention of the role
played by Labor and the Trade Union Bureaucrats, and so there
is no real explanation to the activists and potential activists
what the barrier to the further growth of the movement is."

As I said, we would be kidding ourselves if we thought we were able to =
address the activists centrally involved in the Canberra thing. They are =
primarily workers
in traditionally militant industries like construction, who have almost =
no contact=20
with a far left which has influence primarily amongst students and (very =
few)=20
white collar workers.

In any case, we are still not really talking about a "movement" here. =
The strikes
that are taking place are primarily economic and well controlled by the =
officials. The campaign against the Howard government still very much =
consists of the
 ACTU calling token protests when and where it feels like it. There are =
very
few people who see themselves as part of a "movement" against the =
Liberals.

That's partly why the Canberra stuff was so exciting - because the =
demonstrators who  stormed Parliament were breaking out of the =
straitjackets. But as yet that kind of iniative remains very much the =
exception rather than the rule.

You wrote:

[ I don't know who Ray Martin + Jenny George are ] "

Ray Martin is a smarmy media personality. Jenny George is a smarmy ACTU
personality.

You wrote:
" "if Monday's scenes can be built on rather than squashed"
"If it is a one-off act".

Well, what will make the difference ? The difference will be to extent =
that rank + file
can force the bureaucrats into action, and this in turn is determined by =
how
politically independent the rank + file is from the politics of the =
bureaucracy.
THIS IS THE FISRT LESSON OF FRANCE. Socialists must start saying so NOW, =
not AFTER
the bureaucrats divert the movement.

The second lesson of France is that while the bosses may back off =
temporarilly,
economic competition forces them to come back again onto the offensive. =
So even
if the bureaucrats can arrange a sell out or a prevent the movement =
taking off
properly this time, if a significant minority of workers draws political =
conclusions
>from this, things can be different next time."

This is all very true, but two considerations.
(1) We (ie our group) is not in a position to play much of a role =
building
an independent rank and file in the unions, and everyone knows it. In =
our
circumstances and with our readership, addressing ourselves to the =
strategic
or tactical goals that should be adopted by the membership of the
trade union membership of the ACTU simply takes us off into orthodox
Trotskyist fairyland (I'm sure everyone is familiar with tiny grouplets
braying on about how the working class MUST adopt the demand for the=20
sliding scale of wages and launch a fight under a RRREVOLUTIONARY
leadership).

So what we try to do is to concentrate on making some of the political=20
arguments to the people around us. We identified the key argument
flowing immediately out of the demo as providing some of the
answers that would enable people to defend the militancy in Canberra
in the face of a barrage of hostility from the media, the union leaders, =
their  workmates,parents and so on, especially in the lead up to a =
student demo
in which we will be heavily involved.

Perhaps in retrospect we could have concentrated more on the political
reasons why the bureaucrats were condemning the action. But as I said,
we were rather in a rush.

2) I know we raised the example of France in our leaflet but I do think
people on the list are rather telescoping events (no doubt encouraged
by the breathless tones all we Australians adopted when reporting
what has taken place). The situation here is exciting. There is =
definitely
more movement in the working class than there has been for a while.
But as yet the situation is nothing like France, and it is by no means
clear that it will develop in that direction.

Of course, we are trying to use our meagre resources to push it in that =
direction (which is why I should get off the net and do some work)!

Cheers,
Jeff


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