DSP and Australian Socialist Alliance
peterb at dsp.org.au
Tue Nov 12 23:35:56 MST 2002
A quick rejoinder to Bob Gould's latest.
The DSP never has never had a secret plan for the Socialist
Now the supposedly shocking report I gave to the last DSP
national committee is out in the public domain anyone who
wants to read it and the other accompanying reports (which
will be published soon) and correspondence can do so and
make up their own mind. Perhaps we will publish the
collection as a booklet and sell it to stimulated audience!
Perhaps the ISO NE might publish their NE perspectives
report on the Socialist Alliance too.
I think an honest reader will agree with Jose Perez'
objective account about what was actually said in the NC
report. (See <http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/msg21475.html>)
Bob Gould is trying so hard to distort the document (he is
playing an anti-unity game here, there can be no doubt about
it) that he can't keep a straight line on it. In the slanted
introduction on his and Steve Painter's website (see
say that the proposed *Democratic Socialist Tendency* will
be a "rebadged DSP" and then in his latest post Bob Gould
has changed this to an argument that the Socialist Alliance
will be a rebadged DSP! There is a bit of a leap here, as
any honest person who has worked in the Alliance can tell
The DSP has a minority on the Socialist Alliance national
executive, does not control all branches (in my branch in
Marrickville, Sydney, 2 out of the 11 delegates to state
conference are DSP members) and has bent over backward to
under-represent itself and be totally inclusive in the
drafting of all SA publications and documents over the the
life of the Alliance.
So what is the DSP's horrendous revolutionary perspective
for Socialist Alliance?
We see developing the Socialist Alliance into something more
like a pluralist socialist party (you could say something
like the Scottish Socialist Party) as part of the *process*
of trying to assemble a mass revolutionary socialist party
in the future. What else do you expect from revolutionary
However, we recognise that we are still a way from reaching
that stage and for the Socialist Alliance process to develop
in this direction we will have to win others more to our
perspective along the way.
Where we are now is at the stage of trying to win sufficient
support in the Socialist Alliance for greater left unity.
This would mean trying to get agreement over the next period
for something short of the SSP. For instance, the Socialist
Alliance is much looser (with none of the restrictions on
any of its affiliates that exist, legitimately, in the SSP)
and this is how we would imagine it would continue for some
This is the specific stage of the Socialist Alliance process
within which the DSP made the proposal to unilaterally cease
building itself so as to better build the Alliance from its
conference at the end of the year.
The comrades in the ISO national executive threatened to
disaffiliate over this so we have withdrawn this proposal.
Hopefully this means we can proceed with the discussion
about left unity in Socialist Alliance leading up to its
national conference in May 2003.
The ISO NE letter argued that socialist regroupment requires
a big discussion to arrive at greater programmatic agreement
between the Alliance affiliates, and until then we can only
unite for electoral purposes (and perhaps a bit more on the
side) on the basis of an explicitly reformist Socialist
We in the DSP don't agree. We say there is enough political
agreement (and some 20 months of experience of co-operation)
within the Socialist Alliance for us to try and resolve the
remaining differences on the socialist left in a totally
different way. Let's increase the scope of our cooperation,
we say, confront the political differences as they are posed
by the *real political struggle* in Australia. This prospect
is what is attracting people from outside the affiliate
groups to the Socialist Alliance.
If we approach socialist regroupment with the idea that we
have to start with a big debate for political clarification
first then we will get that and nothing else.
If we adopt our approach to regroupment then there is a
chance that a much larger group of socialists will come
together under the banner of Socialist Alliance. What degree
of political agreement and political cooperation this will
allow (and how fast) will only be discovered through the
process. And we will have to be patient to allow this
process to develop politically.
But in the meantime we don't want to lose any of the real
assets we have built up through three decades of party
building. To ensure this we, the members of the DSP, will
have to organise as the Democratic Socialist Tendency. It
will be a tendency that does not campaign to recruit to
itself. This is purely a measure of our confidence in the
After the drama of the last few weeks (in the Socialist
Alliance) are we over-optimistic? Perhaps we are. But we
have a vastly diffrent reading to Gould (who is not in the
Alliance) about where people stand on greater unity within
the Socialist Alliance. We think that the overwhelming
majority of non-affiliated members of the Socialist Alliance
national executive, on all state and branch leadership
bodies want the organised left to get into a single unified,
multi-tendency party. So does Workers Liberty and Socialist
Democracy. The ISO national executive does not agree.
Those who support greater unity are divided on how to get
there, timing etc. Some would support its development into a
more explicit revolutionary organisation and others won't.
That's a matter for the unfolding Socialist Alliance process
The real debate is for greater unity or not. Perhaps the
withdrawal of our proposal to cease building the DSP at the
end of the year will make this clearer.
The DSP is trying to act responsibly. We are pushing for
greater left unity and will continue to do so. But we will
honour our commitment to take every single step forward by
Socialist Alliance through the democratic processes of the
Alliance. Of course nothing we were proposing to the DSP
Bob Gould keep's waving around his vague appeals for unity
with the Greens and ALP lefts. But that's a diversion. The
only feasible road for socialist unity in Australia today
remains continuing and deepening the Socialist Alliance
process. I think even Bob knows this.
As I ended my report to the DSP national committee:
"If we are successful and come out of this process with
significant progress towards creating a unified
revolutionary party, we will still be in an early stage of
party building. Even with a thousand or even two thousand
members we won't be anywhere near a mass party. The struggle
to build a real vanguard of the working class will still be
mostly ahead of us. We will have to regroup with other
forces - including some political formations which have not
yet come into existence, some left Greens and even some left
breaks from Laborism. All that will be ahead of us. But we
will be in a better position to continue this struggle."
I stand by that perspective
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