Re fresh developments in Australian 'unity' debates

Peter Boyle peterb at
Wed Nov 6 21:10:07 MST 2002

Jeff sparrow wrote:

>> When the Alliance formed, we in SA expressed our concern that an electoral
bloc in conditions where the far left was unlikely to do
well would prove a
wholesale distraction from the main game of activism... The
Alliance vote remained consistently tiny, a problem which
the various left leaders first tried to explain with spin
(most memorably, through a distinction between the
proletarian and the bourgeois
polling booths of the Aston by-election) and then later
declared to be
entirely irrelevant (because, you see, the project was <not>
after all
about elections but rather a question of left unity).>>

The DSP always said that our objective with Socialist
Alliance was greater left unity. There was no immediate
electoral break for the left in Australia  but it was a
project that the socialist groups could initially work on.
Since then the Greens' electoral prospects have gone up
further squeezing that of the Socialist Alliance. That is
why the future of the Socialist Alliance really does hang on
it becoming more than a narrow left electoral front.

In the meantime the left collaboration in Socialist Alliance
has extended modestly beyond elections, notably in the
defence of the militant union leaderships in Victoria.

I wouldn't underestimate those forces, Jeff, you know how
they mobilised thousands of workers for the S11 (anti-WEF)
action in 2000 and M1 (2001 & 2003). We worked hard with
these militants to make those mobilisations possible and we
think that the left would be irresponsible not to build on
that relationship.

Jeff Sparrow writes:

>>As for our original concern about activism, the DSP now proclaims (in its
internal discussions) that:
>>"We must make a turn on the organisation front turning involves temporarily
prioritising certain things over others. It means, to use,
the jargon,
"bending the stick". In this turn we will have to put
building the core
party building committees of the DST first Building movement
movement committees all will have to be put second to this
while we execute
the turn.
>>This is not to say we pull out of movement work completely for the next few
months. But it tips our priorities one way because our
tendency has to
prepare to make the turn into SA and if it does not do this
properly we
won't be in a position to do effective movement work next
year. We should
lean on our allies and collaborators in the movement to take
a bit more of
the load and try to have key committees and coalitions (such
as the
anti-war and refugee campaigns) in place.">
>>In other words, with war looming, the biggest group on the Australian left
is 'bending the stick' away from activism to engage in
manoeuvres with an
alphabet soup of tiny Trotskyist groups. Frankly, I don't
see much to gloat
about in that.>>

We had to get prepared to keep Green Left Weekly while we
begin to negotiate taking resources like these over to the
Alliance because we would be paying for it, distributing it,
etc. As you might imagine this process will take time
(especially if the ISO continues to oppose it) so we get a
couple of organisational committees going properly... real
sinister Leninist stuff!

If you think these means that the DSP members are pulled out
of building the movement to get these committees going then
you underestimate us. We have already done this little bit
of preparation even while playing a central role (alongside
the Socialst Alternative in the couple of cities your groups
exist) in building the antiwar actions and SIEV-X (refugee
rights) in 12 cities around the country. So I assure you
that you don't be too worried about us pulling out of this
important work.

Jeff Sparrow wrote:

>>Furthermore, since no-one can give a serious explanation of what's changed
on the left 
 Within Australia, there is a layer of
(generally older) people who have been thru the various
sects, and now find themselves attracted by the idea of a
broader, looser
formation, free from harsh argument or onerous membership
requirements. >>

I think you underestimate the layers of people who have been
radicalised or reactivated around the desire for another
world because of the crisis of neo-liberal globalisation and
new imperialist war. Perhaps, like others, you mistook the
great "anti-capitalist movement" for the superficial
caricature by the capitalist media of masked youth
skirmishing with cops. I think the audience that a united
left can attract is much broader than that. But we will see.

Jeff Sparrow wrote:

>>Does anyone really think such folk are going to function happily inside an
organisation of the kind sketched in the leaked DSP article,
where the DST
operates in an 'even more centralised' fashion, whilst
(funnily enough)
retaining the ownership of the Alliance paper?>>

It is no big deal Jeff. We anticipated that this and other
internal documents would become public (especially with the
Bob Gould left gossip machine in overdrive to defend the ALP
from this irrelevant Socialist Alliance thing!).

But seriously, we have nothing to hide. Does the DSP want
the process to end in a broader revolutionary party?
Shock-horror, the answer is yes. Are we going to organise so
that the biggest and widest read paper on the Australian
left doesn't get wasted in the process? Shock-horror, the
answer is yes. Does this take centralisation and
organisation? Again yes, despite lots of advice from some
people that the centralistion we have found necessary is a
sectarian no-no. We are not persuaded because our experience
has thought us its value.

So yes we are determined to keep the paper going while we
negotiate passing it over to Socialist Alliance. That will
take time and a certain process but at the end of it the
paper *will* be owned by a united left. That is our

The DSP would like the socialist groups in this country to
unite and form one party, something like the Scottish
Socialist Party. This would be a huge step forward for the
socialist cause. We think that any political disagreement
that exist between the various socialist groups in Australia
(whether of Trotskysist or non-Trotskyist background) would
most constructively be overcome within the framework of
unity in action, democratic discussion and decision-making.
However we understand that putting together such a united
party is a process. Right now strengthening the Socialist
Alliance will be a significant and challenging step forward
in this process. Immediate and complete programmatic unity
on all historic questions or on all tactics is not
neccessary as a precondition of taking this step.

Peter Boyle
peterb at

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