Greg Schofield gschofield at
Thu Jun 7 22:09:47 MDT 2001

Allan this is becoming quite interesting.

At 10:53  8/06/01 +1000, you wrote:
>If you have a look at the British alliances, you will find that they have
>put a lot of pressure on the leaderships of the organisations there.  Some
>groups have disintegrated fairly dramatically.  The Australian organisations
>have gone into their alliance knowing that.  Have you ever wondered why some
>groups are a bit scared of an alliance?  It is because they are risking
>their organisation's decomposition, and they want to be sure that it is
>worth the risk.  This is actually a serious concern, and not just
>sectarianism, although it can become sectarianism at a certain point.

Yes your point is well made, there is a real step into the dark involved. I
was not aware of the British experience, but even in my own brief encounter
the pressures towards disintegration were becoming obvious (saved by
sectarianism would be one way of putting it).

I will go a step further disintegration of existing organisations should be
embraced as natural, while the eye on the ball must concentrate on what new
forms of organisation might come of it. The analysis I did all those years
ago about the alliance between the old CPA and SWP/DSP centered on just
this dilemma - the fact was that there existed a real possibility of
something new then (and I don't deny the possibility in this new
situation). The CPA assets (property and experienced membership but no
professional cadre) were enormous while the SWP had youth, vigor and a
largish professional cadre. The problem was how to mix the two.

The strategy document I put together then was to have an extended branch
structure each headed by a SWP profession cadre, but membership mixed and
broken into semi-autonomous cells based on political commitments. The
physical assets used to created dispersed branch headquarters as centers of
rank and file activity. On paper it was wonderful, and an obvious way to
deal with two quite different organisations - if only everyone was serious
about the alliance - which was not the case as history showed.

In discussions I found the outline strategy was very acceptable to many SWP
professional cadre (many of whom wanted to escape the dictates of head
office, and most of whom were genuinely very good comrades despite all our
theoretical differences), the SWP membership was just excited about
anything so little can be gauged by that, some of the CPA members I spoke
too cottoned on and liked some aspects of the proposal (they were a very
sanguine lot and this was in fact a form of agreement), the document was
placed before the CPA leadership and a little after that the CPA broke the
alliance (I doubt whether my document had any influence one way or the
other, I suspect nothing I ever wrote was actually read by them).

Now my point is this and it purely and practically political, analyse
carefully the forces involved, get to know each at every level and come up
with something that structurally and politically fits the situation and
then agitate about it (of course it will change in agitation). The most
important thing to discount is actual political/theoretical agreements or
disagreements (they are neither here nor there), concentrate on the
different internal natures of each organisation.

When in the previous post I said get serious and go all the way this is
what I meant. My original mistakes were I over-estimated the leadership and
under-estimated the membership. What I should of done was agitate and work
directly with both memberships and some of the professional cadre, I should
have treated the memberships of both organisations like a rank and file
political work and gone for broke. But I hesitated, prevaricated and in the
end became part of the problem and experienced yet another of those long
lists of defeats.

Alan, such raking over the past, and those stories I drop in have political
lessons, I don't always make it clear enough and in truth it is not always
clear to me at the time. But no-one would be more pleased if the alliance
would work, if it does there will be no DSP or ISO only by embracing that
concept can you move onto the next - what is the nature of the new
organisation that is required.

It is a revolutionary plunge not a dipping of toes in the pond that is
required. The latter prolongs the current state of affairs and dances
politically around the major questions, too much dancing and both might
collapse together (mutual disintegration) on the other hand making the
plunge and being ruthless about it does at least promise a solution, the
only thing worse would be staying as we now are.

>(Incidentally, the current alliance consists of a whole bunch of parties -
>it's just that apart from the DSP and ISO they are all miniscule.)

I kind of guessed as much, but it is only the main players that really
count solve the dilemma between them and the rest will find their place.

>I don't quite see what you are getting at here.  All the left groups use
>computers, as far as I can tell, and do pretty much everything you suggest

If they are they are keeping it well hidden. No what I mean is that I know
they are using computers (who isn't) but how are they using them, there is
a safe inward looking way of use (just as a tool with minimal
communications - ie a web page some little email and articles being posted)
ie very much resembling the business use of the technology. Then there is
the potential of turning an organisation inside out, that is make public
the actual workings of an organisation, make the public face the
organisation in action.

At certain times in the old CPA I had various security duties. The CPA's
idea of security was to hide everything from scrutiny (this was not my job
but looking after foreign delegates and bomb searches, etc). Now the old
CPA was to my mind riddled with spies, so in practical terms ASIO knew
loads more of our operation than any members did and probably a good deal
more than the leadership did. That was a fact.

The secret of real security is not blanket security (for getting under such
a blanket just leaves everything in plain sight). It is being open about
everything, especially dirty washing, so that those things which must be
secured can be (in "Western" democracies this does not amount to very
much). The new technologies allow organisations to expose themselves
openly, it is an asset which is being ignored. Internal debates should not
be internalised but publicised, finances should be an open book, motions
and resolutions should be there for anyone to see. Knowing this makes it
much easier to decide if there is risks is some particular area and then to
take the appropriate measures to deal with them securely.

This is what I mean by adapting to the level of communications and making
the public face the means of organisation.

Now if any of this has been attempted by any communist organisation on the
planet I dearly want to find its web address. In ignorance I assumed no-one
has yet made the plunge, that no organisation is prepared to relinquish
internal power to the degree that would allow its members to know
practically everything as it happens, let alone allow some poor sod to
stumble across the organisation and make their own judgements (imagine the
comments, imagine the possibilities of recruitment and education!).

If I am mistaken let me know, but please consider this also when agitating
within the alliance. New communist organisation cannot and will not look
the same as old communist organisation, we have to be self-critical.

Greg Schofield
Perth Australia

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