Forwarded from Jeff Sparrow

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Nov 7 07:22:28 MST 2002


Nick writes:
[I think you're being facetious in the extreme to suggest nothing has
changed in the last couple of decades that makes regroupment more feasible.

Jeff: OK, let's put it like this. Which of the policies that the DSP
held in 1991 (when it clearly believed that differences of principle
existed between it and other groups on the left) has it now abandoned?
When did it decide it was wrong and why?
For my part, I can't see any differences between the group then and the
group now --- which is why the kinds of arguments we have in campaigns
remain almost identical. As I keep saying, the only substantive
difference seems to be that the ISO has moved rightward.

Nick:
Jeff is however worried that if any regroupment occurs the Australian
ruling class will decide to intervene in East Timor again, which the
social imperialist DSP will support and bust the regroupment up (just to
be a bit facetious). If you want to innoculate any proposed regroupment
against major disagreements, including hypothetical ones, you're never
going to get there - and what's your alternative, hope the DSP will go away?

Jeff:
This is an argument against having <any> principles. Why should
communists have broken from social democrats after WW1? Wasn't the
question of whether there would be another war purely a hypothetical one?

The point is that when regroupment takes place against the background of
lots of fresh forces moving into struggle, there's an audience capable
of adjudicating who is right and who is wrong. Such an audience clearly
doesn't exist today.

Nick:

The real questions are, how do we support anti-imperialist and
democratic struggles and the workers and socialist movements in East
Timor now, and in West Papua, Aceh etc. Do we agree on that?

Jeff:
Well, evidently not, if 1999 is any guide. You supported the
intervention of Australian troops. The rest of the Marxist left did not.

Nick:

People involved in and attracted to socialist politics in my
neighbourhood anyway are increasingly, and impatiently, asking why this
can't happen now.

Jeff:
The task of socialists is not to do things because people are impatient.
It's to undertake them because they are the right thing to do ('Tell the
workers the truth!'). If there are principled differences between the
groups, we should explain them to people -- regardless of their impatience.

Peter Boyle:
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.

Jeff:
Yes, but the ISO didn't, did they! And you were quite happy to let them
proceed along with their fantasies of immediate electoral success.
Certainly, when the approached us with the invitation to join an
electoral front, they seemed to think they were speaking for the Alliance.

Peter:
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).

Jeff:
Yes, Peter, left-wing unions can mobilise a lot of people. But the
Socialist Alliance can't (cf all the recent demonstrations about
refugees or the war, where the only people behind the Alliance banner
were the ISO and DSP stalwarts) and that's what we're talking about.

Peter:
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!

Jeff:
I don't see the relationship with Leninism. You will own the paper, your
members will provide the bulk of the sales for it and so on and so forth.

In other words, what you are doing is providing some space for other
Socialist Alliance members to write for a paper that you control. Green
Left will be a Socialist Alliance paper to the same extent it is
currently an 'independent' paper (as the DSP sometimes claims).


Peter:
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)

Jeff:
Now, if I were leading the charge for left unity with the Freedom
Socialist Party, Workers Liberty and the various one person fragments of
the Trotskyist movement, I'd be a little cautious as to the jibes I made
about the size of groups. Some of the affiliates might get the curious
idea they're not regarded as equal parties.


Peter:
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:
Doubtless we will, but crystal ball gazing is an extraordinary basis on
which to plan a new party.

Peter:
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
objective.

Jeff:
Everyone has the objective of a united left, in the abstract ('workers
of the world unite,' and all that). Concretely, though, it's the process
that matters. Otherwise the other affiliates end up with the kind of
unity that the mouse achieves with the cat.

Anyway, enough on this already. The point I wanted to make was that the
recent documents confirmed the argument I made with Ben J. There's no
value in endless reiterating the case.


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