World Party of Socialist Revolution

Steve Painter and Rose McCann spainter at
Wed Jul 10 20:04:25 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. I drafted up a more updated version with an
Australian focus >>

I posted a response to Shane's comments on trade unions yesterday, following
is a response to the environmental section.
Steve Painter

>>Undoubtedly the Greens are the electoral winners in the recent
disillusionment with the two-party system.  On the ground here in Central
Queensland there is no organised Green party and most of the 'Greens' here
are interested in conservation issues, seeing politics as a diversion.
(Can't speak for them beyond this context obviously, though I understand
many Greens dislike the apolitical stance).  DSP has a great book
'Capitalism, Socialism and the Environment' which analyses a range of issues
and debates and a newspaper which has 'Green' in the title.  This from the
conference that launched the paper which was intended, I thought, to bring
Left/Green together.>>
Environmental issues have become urgent political tasks for humanity
worldwide. If we, as a species, continue destroying the environment at the
rate we are at present, we face catastrophe. Already catastrophic
consequences of environmental degradation are evident in parts of the world,
particularly northern Africa, where desertification and famine go hand in
There are many issues: unsustainable population growth worldwide, huge
energy usage in the advanced industrial countries, and much more.
Greens parties have emerged worldwide as a response to this environmental
These parties are uneven in their social composition, theoretical
understanding and political practice. The most successful have drawn clear
links between the environmental crisis, social justice, democratic rights,
women's rights and much more, and have taken a stand against racism.
The Australian Greens are among the more successful Green parties worldwide.
They have taken good positions on most of the issues that are traditional
concerns of the socialist left, including to the surprise of many, trade
union rights. They are clearly not just an environmental party.
Their political program in most elections is very close to the electoral
programs of groups that consider themselves farther to the left, including
the Socialist Alliance. Their vote is likely to remain around 10 per cent or
higher while they continue on their present course, and there is no sign of
them retreating from it.
To a large extent, the Greens have filled the space occupied by the
traditional Social Democratic left of the Labor Party, but they have the
advantage of being able to campaign openly for left policies without
restraint from the Labor machine. As a result of this, many members -- not
just voters -- of the Labor Party vote for it. The Greens help to legitimise
left policies in the eyes of large sections of the population and create
openings for the whole of the left, including currents inside the Labor
The Australian Greens are an uneven organisation, with a membership ranging
from purely environmental activists to a substantial layer with past
experience in socialist organisations, including the CPA and other groups
from the traditional Communist current, the DSP and similar groups from the
traditional Trotskyist and far left currents, and some former Maoists.
It is important to explore opportunities for collaboration with  the Greens
while avoiding clumsy tactics that are likely to alienate Greens activists.
Crude factional activity in the Greens, for example, would not be useful for
the cause of socialism in the long term, but there may be opportunities for
patient, careful collaboration.
There are varying views on the left about the Greens' origins, and the DSP
tried a tactic that failed early in the history of the Greens. This led the
DSP to write a pamphlet in 1996, which many leftists still treat as a basis
for analysis of the Greens. This pamphlet is well out of date, is inaccurate
in its analysis of the Australian Greens and its leaders, and does the DSP
no favours by emphasising a failed tactic from about a decade ago. DSP
members often begin a discussion of the Greens by referring to material from
this pamphlet, including this failed tactic. That is not helpful. Part of
the success of the Greens is that activists are much more attracted to
successful tactics than failed ones.
It is likely that there will be three main currents in the Australian left
for quite some time to come: the Labor left, the Greens and the various
groups with a Cominternist (mainly Trotskyist)  tradition, particularly
those that have begun to participate in the Socialist Alliance. Methods of
co-operation between these three currents must be developed.
This last task requires a serious approach to the Socialist Alliance.
Manoeuvres between the various component parts of the alliance should be
ruled out in favour of a long-term approach to building trust and
co-operation between the component groups based on joint political practice
across many areas of work.
An undue focus on parliamentary electoral activity is not likely to be
enough for the Socialist Alliance, partly because of the success of the
Greens. If the Greens are consistently winning around 10 per cent of the
vote, and the Socialist Alliance is able to attract 1 or 2 per cent at best,
that is likely to create a culture of failure, and the far left has too much
of a culture of failure already. Redefining failure as success is not
useful; it's best not to adopt tactics that are likely to fail. That doesn't
mean electoral work should be avoided altogether, but it probably cannot be
the sole basis for building a healthy Socialist Alliance that might in the
long term lead to the construction of a multi-current party of socialism.
Trade union activity is an obvious area of collaboration between the
components of the Socialist Alliance, provided a serious, long-term approach
is adopted. Short-term smash-and-grab tactics are disastrous in the
long-term, alienating serious trade union activists and making them
suspicious of all far left organisations. All of the far left groups are
weak in trade union activity and need to devote serious attention to it.

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