Gould's Graduate School of Egg Sucking

Nick Fredman nfredman at scu.edu.au
Thu Nov 14 02:22:11 MST 2002

In a recent post http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/msg21558.html Bob
Gould complains that none of his critics have responded to his
"proposals for the united front, and the
kind of regroupment of the left that I favour". Well believe or not
Bob sometimes there are more pressing things in the class struggle
than responding to you, but now I'll have a go. I've previously
contended that the Socialist Alliance, despite many and varied
differences has undertaken pretty much the most useful united front
activities that resources allow, detailing some instances (that Gould
brusquely dismissed). Gould's proposals only support my contention -
as they are not wrong, but add nothing useful to the debate about
united fronts or regroupment. They're an extended lesson in sucking

>First of all, have a serious discussion of all the historical problems of
>the socialist movement, and the outstanding tactical questions, between the
>members, as well as the leaders, of the socialist organisations, which are
>for practical purposes, the ISO, the DSP, Socialist Alternative, Left Press
>in Queensland, the Socialist Party in Victoria, some smaller socialist
>groups, and various groupings in the ALP Socialist Left.

Yes a good (if overly abstract) idea, but if it's to be ongoing and
actually resolve anything, some concrete outcome, of better joint
work, should be aimed for, not just a talk shop. In 1986 there was a
very big "broad left" conference that lead to exactly nothing.  The
various conferences, public meetings, seminars, discussions in
bulletins and the left press, organised through the Socialist
Alliance and involving many hundreds of people, including ALPers,
Greens, and socialists not in SA, over the last 18 months, has been
the concrete expression of this type of discussion. A proposal for a
specific activity or activities thst could add to or amend this
process would be more useful.

>Second, maintain the useful and effective work done by some of these
>groups in universities and high schools, to interest younger people in
>socialism and recruit some of them to the socialist movement.

>Third, maintain and develop various agitations conducted by the groups,
>such as the campaign for refugees, the movement against globalisation, the
>agitation against racism, etc.

Well these propose exactly nothing as they stand. If you're implying
that revolutionaries should work together more in these areas then
the proposals raised within SA for looking at joint caucuses in the
movements and the national student union, joint rather than separate
introductory socialist forums on campuses, would seem to be the way
to move that forward at the moment.

>Fourth, commence a serious program of educational work, common to all the
>groups, directed at their members and supporters, with a serious combination
>of discussion and development of basic Marxism, with examination of current
>Australian reality, linked with a thorough, comprehensive and dialectical
>account of Australian labour history.

Again a good idea, and one (i.e. basic socialism and Marxism
discussions) that the DSP has proposed the SA organise. If it can't
be agreed there as yet I don't see any other possible framework to do
such work.

>Fifth, the serious commencement of long-term, patient and energetic
>rank-and-file organisation in trade unions and the working class.

Again a bland generality - how does this differ from the current
practice of revolutionaries in the toeholds they have in various
unions, and do you agree with proposals in SA for SA union
collaboration, while being involved in broader left caucuses? A
recent meeting of SA NTEU members (where SA has I think about 10% of
the national body) agreed to caucus before state and national
meetings and produce a regular newsletter, all in order to coordinate
efforts, including in working with other leftists, in coming
industrail and political fights. Good or bad?

In short Gould's proposals are an abstraction removed from the
specific questions facing the far left. They seem to be a way of
avoiding the obvious question: why not join SA and fight for your
perspectives there? (You don't even have to leave the ALP, unless
they expel you). Or would that challenge your schemas too much?

Gould's strident campaign against his fantastic caricature of DSP
ultra-Cannonism is another avoidance tactic - how can anyone conceive
of closer unity with them! Look at what they are! It's a curiously
idealist campaign, akin to postmodernist theorising. The text creates
reality. Organisational principles create perspectives and practice.
Anyone who has ever agreed with some of the ideas in Struggle for a
Proletarian Party is the same as Jack Barnes. Please then Bob, join
SA and help save it from the DSP!

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