revolutionary unity (reply to Jeff)

Philip Ferguson plf13 at
Tue Nov 19 19:10:45 MST 2002

I wrote.
> > Jeff Sparrow, whose viewpoint is fairly representative of Socialist
> > Alternative, argues that the differences haven't really changed and they
> > are of such an order that precludes unity.

Jeff replied:
> Well, that's not just what I argue. It's also the argument that Graham from
> the DSP puts, and it's been backed up on the list by posts from Nick and
> Ben.

But if this is the case doesn't it just prove what a number of people
have been saying - that the separation of revolutionary groups
artificially maintains these divisions and leads to these kinds of
comments and tone (eg the DSPer on containing SocAlt).  For instance,
the fact that SocAlt is outside the Alliance is likely to be a factor,
probably a quite important one, in the DSP comrade's talk about
'rollback and containment'.  I doubt it they have contributions in their
internal bulletins about 'rollback and containment' of groups within the
Socialist Alliance.

I think it is interesting that there is a somewhat different tone at
work from the DSP when dealing with SocAlt and the SP, and this is
reflected also in how SocAlt and SP people (more David Murray than you)
talk about the DSP.  As long as people are outside the process, the old
mentalities will survive.

On what is driving things, you and I obviously agree that an important
factor is actually the defeats of the past 20 years.  I think the
component groups in the Socialist Alliance should be honest about that
and not hype up the situation a la the ISO's view of the 1990s ('the
1930s in slow motion').  However, as I said earlier, I don't think the
role of defeats in pushing this process is by any means necessarily bad.
 People actually often learn more from defeats than from partial
victories.  It wouldn't be much cop if the defeats simply led to
everyone huddling together for protection.  However, I don't think this
is the case with the SA process in Australia (or Britain).  The process
is actually taking place at a time when the period of defeat and setback
appears to be coming to a close and there are a few glimmers of better
days on the horizon.

Moreover, the last 15 years or so have kind of sorted out the sheep shit
from the cherries, the wheat from the chaff and so on.  A whole chunk of
the old left have gone off and become members of the establishment,
reformists or retired altogether from politics.  Those who are still
active have therefore tended to develop a bit more respect for each
other than in the past - if X group or person is still there and still
fighting, they must be worth something, kind of thing.  Like I said
before, I now talk to people I wouldn't have bothered about 15 years
ago.  For instance, 15 years ago I would've just thought in relation to
SocAlt, 'Oh bloody state caps, caved in under the pressure of the Korean
war, they must be crap, I won't bother about them'.  But because I don't
actually think like that these days, I went along to the NI bookshop and
one of your meetings and I *agreed with every single thing* that the
SocAlt speaker said on the topic they were speaking on (Fleur Taylor
speaking on identity politics).  It was like being in a room of
comrades.  Now, no doubt if I lived in Melbourne I'd soon find that I
disagreed with yous on a number of things.  But would those things
really be any bigger than the disagreements that existed within the
Bolshevik Party at any time prior to 1917 or during their debates on
Brest-Litovsk, war communism, trade union policy etc?  I doubt it.

I'll email you off list about sending some Revos and other stuff to the shop.

All the best,

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