(fwd from Dave Riley): Socialist Allaince -- strategy and tactics

Les Schaffer schaffer at optonline.net
Fri Nov 8 09:04:12 MST 2002

"I am not starry eyed about the Socialist Alliance.  The thought of being in
the same room, never mind organization, as Ian Rintoul of the ISO makes me
physically ill. But something has to be done or we will be doomed to a long
period of trying to keep the Greens honest, just as the Left used to try
and keep the Labor Party honest."

Mais oui... It is so often a contradiction of political existence that card
carry ing Marxists need to be reminded of the big picture. I believe that
this opportunity presented by the Socialist Alliance can be explored without
first having to dot the 'i's', cross the 't's' or relive the past.

The key test of any 'groupuscule' on the revolutionary left isn't its
primary shibboleth or its packaged identity.   These outfits  warrant
respect: because  they have survived in a hostile bourgeois environment;
because they remain loyal to a Marxist program (albeit  of their own
choosing); because they do excellent work building campaigns and struggles;
because they function as the memory of the working class; because they more
often than not get the key issues  right rather than wrong; because they
preserve and train activists (in ways that free form activism does not);
because they return to the attack again and again despite the toll such
commitment takes on their ranks. Despite their many detractors it is these
outfits that drive the socialist agenda in this country.

They may think they're each in their own way the true revolutionaries but
the jury of history is still out on that one.

Generally what separates them day to day are tactical questions. They all
may share a strategic preference for party building but  their practice has
been to do this by the arithmetic process of the primitive accumulation of
cadre. Unfortunately, to survive they all must run very hard on the spot
just to stand still.  In Australia that's been the dynamic these last thirty
odd years.

Of these groupuscules the DSP has been the most successful especially in
terms of size, organisational capacity and influence. For the others this
presents a major challenge:  unless the DSP drops the ball how does any
other outfit overtake it?  It may be the preferred option to bank on a
special endowment  that was supposed to come seeded within the  franchise.
That  your preferred 'method' and its accoutrements seemed to work for Peter
Taafe or Jim Cannon or Paul Foot or Leon Trotsky or Valdamir Lenin  is not a
guarantee that it can be reprised.

Obviously these methods work in their fashion,  but how well in the everyday
circumstances here?   "Unity" isn't just a good idea at the time. It's more
the key piece in a jigsaw puzzle.  It's not a metaphysical leap of faith but
a concrete tactical option that dovetails with the main strategy  all these
groups share -- that of party building.

To say that the time isn't right for unity, that the mass movement has to
attain a certain threshold of ascendancy while badgering the groupuscules to
get together, doesn't make political sense.  What matters is how mature
these groups are, and how well they can perform within the big picture.

But a little badgering certainly helps...at least to save some outfits from

Dave Riley
dhell at optusnet.com.au

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