Peter Boyle and the labour aristocracy

Shane Hopkinson s.hopkinson at
Tue Nov 5 13:27:08 MST 2002

Dear MM

>All of this is of considerable significance in relation to the general
>question of the origins of reformism. In the crudely instrumentalist
>analysis of Boyle and the DSP it suits them to locate the origins of Labor
>reformism simply in the labour aristocracy. Other currents, such as the
>British SWP and the Australian ISO don't share this view. I don't share that
>view either.

I have just been reading the DSP pamphlet on the SWP and the
Fourth International which outlines the DSP critique of
Trotskyism.  The reason I raise it here is that it seems
to me in this fairly abstract debate there is an umderlying
difference in the views of participints. In the document
Jim Percy makes the comment that the Transitional Program
assumes that the world is 'rotten ripe' for revolution
and all that is lacking is leadership. I wonder if what
separates the two sides in this debate is an implicit
assumption (I am fairly certain no one hold this position
explicitly, at least not in the DSP).

Thus the labour aristocracy can either be seen as either

1. as a block to the revolution in the sense that the workers
but for the right leadership would rise up and so the
labourites are always betrayers a la the above quote. In some
sense then the revolutionary party needs only to replace them
and all will be well OR

2. labourism is an expression of the reformist nature of
working class consciousness and while the labour aristocracy
(and I think we can see that a certain level of abstraction
the idea has merit) is reformist (or used to be) it is a block
but also an expression of the consciousness of the masses
(which it does nothing to change so its complicit in that

Perhaps what we need is a better understanding of the nature
of bureaucracies and how they function in a Marxist framework.

Finally I note that I have had no response to my question posed
to Bob about 'united fronts'. So I'll repeat it under the
correct subject line in case it got overlooked.

 > From: Alan Bradley
 > Yes. This is the great weakness in Bob's position. He advocates a
 >"united front" without explaining what he means. Without a concrete
 > meaning it is just a stick to beat people with.

A while back (Sept 25) Nick Fredman outlined the kind of work the
Socialist Alliance does in relation to the ALP and Greens.

In brief:

* Distributed an Open Letter to ALP members on the war in Afghanistan
leading up to and on the day of last October's federal election, urging
them to take the fight against the war within their party.

* Organised ALP and Green speakers on numerous rally platforms,
particularly on the refugee issue, and done the bulk of the work in
mobilising thousands of people to listen to them.

* Organised forums a few months ago on the way forward for the union
movement with speakers from the ALP, Greens and SA, in at least
Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, that attracted 100s of activists,
including over 100 in Perth.

* Encouraged the NSW Labor Council in its struggle last year against
attacks made by the Labor state government agsint workers compensation,
while criticising the Council's dampening down of the struggle.

* perhaps most importantly, been amongst the most vigourous activists
fighting the current attacks on building and manufacturing worker
militants, and those in Workers First and the Skilled Six campaign who
are ALP members do not seem to do at all put off by the alleged Third
Period hysteria of SA or at least the DSP.

Bob doesn't need to explain what he means by the United Front with the
ALP and Greens - he needs to explain why he thinks we are not doing it
already and what to do about it when we get no response or when they
actively take steps to block campaigns. Of course our size limits the
effect we can have but we need to position ourselves to appeal to those
involved in the labour movement who have illusions in the labor party as
a vehicle of reform (which I suspect is the vast majority) we have to
find ways for them to see that from their own experience.

Looking again at a few of the posts in the last month it seems that Bob
objects to what he sees "Green Left Weekly's" "total exposure strategy"
Its hard to debate specifics of the paper but it is true that the kinds
of experiences Nick outlines are not the focus of GL coverage (or
internal debate) but I think thats a bit hard since there is a lot more
to criticise about the ALP (as Peter B points out in relation to the WTO
protests) than to praise.

Any serious Marxist needs an orientation to the labour *movement* which
is different from the labor *party*. Everyone knows -including most ALP
rank and filers - that the leadership of the ALP is bourgeois liberal.
The focus is how to convince them that an alternative is possible,
obviously a strategy of denunciation will get us nowhere since the
average ALP'er is going to see it as an attack on their political work,
however ill chosen we may consider that option - it is not debates about
the labour aristocracy that are useful but work like which Nick outlines
that will impress them (though we could see more of it in 'Green Left'
to stir up dissent in their ranks)


Shane H

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