Replies on Australian Socialist Alliance

Nick Fredman nfredman at
Tue Dec 17 22:33:45 MST 2002

Tom is still mixing up two different points - whether Socialist
Alliance is a viable vehicle for unity, and whether a vote of around
2% is any indication at all of this. He didn't at all answer my
previous arguments for the usefulness of even a small socialist group
running in bourgeois elections as both an exercise in propaganda, and
a platform from which to build extra-parliamentary struggles,
regardless, *completely* of what votes are obtained. Votes are a
useful indication of support, and every effort should be made to gain
votes, but at this stage of the game the struggle is to get a hearing
*among the political and social vanguard*, not the masses, ie
elections are far more about recruitment, training activists and
building networks than getting an impressive vote. Any other
perspective is bound to lead to disappointment, which is the problem
for the ISO, as they don't seem to understand at all "revolutionary
electoralism" if you like. It's on these measures SA should be
judged, not the crude calculus of votes cast. Was the SA Northern
Territory results (4-5%) twice as good? The Cunningham by-election
result (0.6%) 40% as good? Was Steve Jolly's sect 6 times as
effective when they got 12% in the 1999 Vic elections, cf 2% recently?

Most voters inevitably wouldn't have heard of either the 1998 DSP
federal election campaign (involving about 500 activists) or the 2001
Socialist Alliance campaign (involving about 1000) until they saw the
ballot paper, and whether it said "Democratic Socialist" or
"Socialist Alliance" would hardly affect their vote, so it's not at
all surprising that SA campaigms get similar votes to previous DSP
ones. The important effect at this stage is on the 1000s of left
activists and potential activists, not the millions of voters. I
think the experience of left groups and individuals putting together
common policies and leaflets, arguing the same politics on the
street, organising the same meetings and actions, is inherently
positive, and logically points to higher levels of unity. Tom thinks
it's an artificial and inherently flawed process that will all end in
tears. Maybe he's right. But he's completely wrong in thinking recent
election results prove anything either way.

Tom has unfortunately has left the ISO, maybe understandably given
their crisis of perspectives. But maybe even more unfortunately he
doesn't seem to have escaped their completely electoralist view of
both socialist electoral campaigns, and of the Socialist Alliance.

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