World Party of Socialist Revolution

Steve Painter and Rose McCann spainter at
Wed Jul 10 09:46:20 MDT 2002

Shane Hopkinson wrote:
>>A while back there was a longish thread that began with DSP. Cominternism
and Peter Camejo. As a part of it Louis posted a report outlining the
limitations of the US SWP based on a sketch of the international situation
in the early 1970s. I drafted up a more updated version with an Australian
focus ... It's still rough but I think it may provide a concrete focus for

Good idea, Shane. I've been preparing a longer post on this topic, but was
interrupted by a seminar I helped to organise in collaboration with Bob
Gould and others. This presents an opportunity to take up some of the issues
in more digestible form and answer some questions put to me in earlier posts
by yourself and Peter Boyle. I can't respond to all of it at the moment, but
here's a start.

>> I had in mind to write some comments about Camejo's 'Return to
Materialism' but this seems to have disappeared as a discussion point I
assume because his commitment the New Zealand Alliance as the way forward
for the Marxist left looks much less convincing now than it did at the time
when many people were excited by developments there.>>

Yes, Peter's document was written a few years ago and much of it is out of
date. Its strength wasn't so much its immediate conjunctural analysis and
the references to the Alliance, Causa R, etc, but the fact that it took up
the problem of the Marxist left's isolation, looked at some reasons for
that, and challenged some assumptions about organisational forms that were
widely accepted, largely unquestioningly.
Hal Draper does a similar thing more thoroughly in Towards A New Beginning:
An Alternative to the Micro-sect

The trade unions are under siege and fighting defensive battles,
particularly anti-union industrial laws.
Their position is weakened by high unemployment, a legacy of bureaucratic
neglect of their members and resulting apathy among workers who would
traditionally have joined unions, a tradition of relying on the Labor Party
in government to achieve political goals and their consequent entrapment in
the Hawke government's prices and incomes accord -- which resulted in a
serious  and long-term weakening of trade unionism.
Many unions have begun to tackle these problems, and have adopted a more
aggressive attitude towards Labor governments. Their room for manoeuvre in
doing so has been increased by the presence of the Greens as a force to the
left of Labor.
The Greens and Democrats in the Senate have been vital in blocking the worst
of the anti-union laws so far, and the Greens in particular have been
receptive to union views on these laws. The Greens have developed good
relations with the unions in some areas.
They recently collaborated with the Greens in WA to get most, although not
all, of what they wanted in new industrial laws. In NSW, relations between
the Greens and some traditionally left trade unions are strong.
The Labor leadership is trying to force a Blairite model on the Labor Party,
but it is not inevitable that it will succeed and resistance to it should be
encouraged and supported. Such resistance may lead to a longer term
weakening of the right's domination of the ALP and a consequent
strengthening of the position of the working class in its defensive
It should be remembered that the ALP left is still the largest left current
in Australia, and that the Socialist Left in Victoria, the strongest section
of the Labor left, has more members than the DSP has nationally. A policy
more likely to encourage collaboration and alliances with the ALP left
should be seriously considered. This would strengthen the left as a whole,
both inside and outside the ALP.
Attempts by the right to weaken union influence in ALP decision-making
bodies should be resisted.
The DSP persists in a very leftist attitude towards the ALP that was
appropriate when it was adopted in the mid-80s when ALP members were leaving
in droves out of disgust with the neo-liberal economic policies of the Hawke
government. This attitude is an obstacle now that there are signs of revival
of the ALP left following some heavy electoral defeats for Labor under very
right-wing leaderships. Calling on unions to disaffiliate from the ALP is
not a useful tactic when the Labor right is pushing to weaken union

Steve Painter

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