(fwd from Dave Riley) Re: DSP and Australian Socialist Alliance

Les Schaffer schaffer at optonline.net
Wed Nov 13 05:11:31 MST 2002


"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

That's how I read the hesitant ISO response. A lot of  seems to be
stonewalling  through  selective  use of some arguments to hand. This makes
their attitude appear inconsistent primarily in the first instance  because
they haven't read the lessons offered by the Cunningham by election (which
saw the Greens win a federal lower house seat).

Their response also relies heavily on the assumption that any regroupment
activity cannot proceed until a certain threshold has been reached -- of
programatic agreement, of electoral support, of Socialist Alliance branch
activity, etc.  Such that  if there are so many key differences between them
and the DSP, how many of these do they want resolved before they will
entertain a regroupment option?  If the  ISO thinks that  programatic
differences can be settled through  a lineal process of comradely dialogue
they're misreading their Marxist method. I therefore have trouble giving
this aspect of their argument much credibility. It's an on hand excuse, a
stalling exercise. As an argument it could just as easily be retailed to
negate the existence of the SA in the first place.

Observers of this discussion  perhaps forget that the Socialist Alliance  is
the ISO's first major electoral activity. The DSP has been standing
candidates packaged variously  since the mid seventies whereas the ISO is
new to the ballot box. This perhaps goes some way toward excusing their
gross misreading of the  immediate electoral prospects of the Socialist
Alliance. Indeed, the ISO scenario for the Socialist  Alliance -- an
electoral alliance making consistent gains in the polls -- is not on while
the Green's are on a roll with the electorate.  In that regard the upcoming
Victorian elections this month should be interesting and may confirm one way
or another what the immediate electoral weight of the SA is likely to be.

If the ISO were to insist that the SA's primary activity is electoral
they're going to undermine its momentum in the face of immediate dwindling
potential to make significant gains with the electorate.

Peter Boyle in the quote above refers to the ISO's plan for the Alliance as
"explicitly reformist". This is the ISO's key point, I think,  because it is
based on the assumption that the their intervention in the  Socialist
Alliance is on par with their other work. While they no doubt recognise that
the SA is an  activity of a special kind, they seem  unwilling to face up to
its political significance.  So instead of  seeing it as  a conscious
regrouping  project orchestrated by the revolutionary Marxist organizations,
the ISO wants to pretend its something else.  After 20 months of conjoint
activity, the ISO now feigns shock that the DSP seeks to advance the agenda
of  the Socialist Alliance's implicit rationale. While  I use the term
"implicit" it's been pretty obvious (in an international and objective
context and in the context of recent "unity" history in this country)that
that's what the project has been  about right along. It's all fine and dandy
to feel warm and fuzzy about "left unity"and sing its praises,  but  the
ISO  seems to  want  to doll "unity" out in instalments while playing to
some archetypal audience they think can be stored  within the Alliance
before somehow moving further leftward to join one or other of the avowedly
socialist affiliates. Like some form of free enterprise Marxism, the
Alliance is sentenced in their schema to function like a political  emporium
displaying competing programatic wares as  it goes through a set  menu of
sanctioned activities.

Since this whole episode blew up with the DSP announcement and proposition,
the ISO has basically insisted that both the agenda for discussion as well
as  the homelife of the Alliance be  returned to the pre-existing status
quo.  It is a bit late for that to occur. At the moment , fortunately, the
discussion tetters on the concrete.

Dave Riley
dhell at optusnet.com.au

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