Tom O'Lincoln's electoralist anti-electoralism

Nick Fredman nfredman at
Tue Dec 17 16:35:26 MST 2002

I find it amazing how electoralist many opponents of socialist
electoral activity are, e.g. judging the success of electoral
campaigns purely in terms of votes cast. Maybe it's lack of
experience in the area. Tom O'Licoln hopes that

>Australian leftists would be capable of seeing the >obvious -- that
>there is little point in all the left groups putting in a
>huge >effort if you are only going to get the same vote the DSP has
>always got.

I would have thought it would be obvious, to a revolutionary anyway,
that 200+ activists working together (in the recent Victoiran
election) to promote socialism was a lot more important than getting
2% or 6%. The DSP has occasionally got 5% and once in my memory 10%,
but the best campaigns are those that involve new people and build
the struggle in general. It should be even more obvious that during
an electoral campaign one of the best ways to build
extra-parliamentary struggles is by standing in the election and
using that platform. I have heard that Socialist Alternative (the
most significant non-affiliate of SA) members were told by their
leadership that Socialist Alliance material did nothing to promote
the anti-war movement, when in fact thousands of leaflets were
distributed and numerous stalls held promoting the November 30 rally
- a far bigger effort than SAlt's. During the 1999 NSW elections the
then 3 DSP members in Lismore used our tiny resources to run and
involved about 25 people in the campaign, mainly uni students and
other youth, and built an environment rally (in the pouring rain) of
over 300, not only by far the largest public activity of the
elections but the largest environment public activity around here for
many years. I can't remember and don't really care what our vote was.
If we had followed Tom O'Lincoln's advice then the 3 of us would have
sat lonely on a stall for the duration saying something like "vote
Labor but then fight for socialism" or some such useless abstraction,
rather than building a viable socialist group (for the first time in
maybe decades in a regional Australian town) and giving a shot in the
arm to the local environment movement.

It's incontestable that SA has involved new people and reactivated
experienced leftists. Tom rather patronisingly mentions

>independent lefties [for which Socialist Alliance] offers a small
>"broad left party" in which to feel comfortable

Well isn't it better that they have an organisation *in which to be
active*, which is what they want. Tom mentions "difficulties" between
the ISO and DSP, but that sounds more like squabbles over
organisational turf than political differences that would make it
impossible to build a joint organisation (albeit of a type different
from the current DSP and ISO). Crucially at this point I think a
joint weekly socialist paper, campaigning around what we agree and
discussing what we don't, would be a big step forward, and have a
much greater impact than the existing groups could possibly have in
the forseeable future.

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