Australian Socialist Allaince

dave riley dhell at
Tue Nov 19 20:30:05 MST 2002

People shouldn't forget that all this jumping up and down about the
Australian Socialist Alliance will need to last at least another six months
to May 2003. The initial proposition by the DSP was sent out during the
first week of September. At this rate, the debate is  sure to last the
distance...and then some. Despite what people may say, it's the best show in
town and is sure to have a long run.

En route, there' s the Victorian state election to look forward to as an
indicator both of Green strength and the SA weight relative to that. That's
important in assessing its purely electoralist options for those who think
these are immediately buoyant ones. There's the upcoming ISO December
conference, followed thereafter by the DSP's one in January.

Both the ISO and the DSP are involved in preconference discussions at the
moment. Although the penchant by some on the left to broadcast contributions
to that is not helping those discussions I'd guess. Rank and file members of
both organizations have a democratic right to expect their contributions to
be limited to the audience for which they were intended.

In terms of "threads" that is a long haul to sustain a polemic against the
DSP. Although some people--and I'm not naming names, not me! -- have been
doing it for over thirty years, I'm sure many others will tire of having to
sit through it.  Inevitably it has to come back to basic notions involved
otherwise it is simply circuitous. It can, as Gary McLennan observes,
replicate the plot for "Waiting For Godot". ("Waiting for Lefty" perhaps?)
As Trotsky so deftly observed once: Marxists (we should hope) believe that
in the beginning was the deed, the word followed as its phonetic shadow.

So a discussion can only go so far and even in this case rests on an actual
real time deed -- the existence of the SA through 20 months of joint
activity.  If there wasn't that curtain raiser, we would not be having this
discussion now.  And, contrary to the approaches of some, it's an inevitable
discussion: what happens next? what is to be done, now?  Ignoring that, or
hiding your lack of political guts in diatribes and suppositions, won't
change the dynamic of the process that has already begun.

 Ultimately, whatever exchanges may occur, there's only one resolution to
this and any discussion: do it! here's only one way to find out if it works.
I don't doubt that -- as Marx said -- we need to build our structures in our
heads first but in this case all these groups on the left here share a model
of inevitable regoupment as part of the process of building the party of
their dreams... It's written down in their programs -- everyone of them.
It's already in their dammed heads! They just don't want to let it out.
They want to wait (and this is the really deliciously wicked part of this
style of thinking) "until after February". That's what they mean, isn't it?
They want to fit in their appointment with regroupment in some time between
the Australian February and Australian October. Of course it won't be this
year or the next...But they're sure to be keen as that was the way it was
played out back in good ole nineteen seventeen.

Already, after 8 weeks of polemic, the Left here will never be the same
again nor will its constituent 'caucuses'. The very possibility of a
Socialist Alliance regroupment  has changed all that. If the process were to
fail, I for one will not be blaming the DSP. And, in terms of credibility on
the left, their stakes have risen hugely as a consequence of their advocacy
and proposition. Among the non aligned (overseas for instance)you can see
that even on this discussion list. They have won mammoth respect because
they have dared to break from the pack and  proceed.

This aspect is not being addressed by outfits other than the DSP, indeed I
think they are blind to its  power. Painter's bitter attacks on the "closed
caucuses of the left" ( and Steve needs all our  thanks for introducing this
useful term into the discussion)  touches on a generalised attitude to what
I call Free Enterprise Marxism. Take one step outside these caucuses and the
awareness of the differences that separate them falls off abruptly. In terms
of the day to day and the minds of those looking for a political home, their
exchanges seem like sibling rivalry.

Everyone of these groups employ a huge range of marketing  tools  to  land
their recruits.  It's like a commodified Left: Uncle Karl's Bazaar.

I'm not dismissing differences as unimportant -- I've spent over thirty
years wondering and arguing about them -- but like capitalism's raison
d'etre promoting them isn't an efficient way of doing political business.
Indeed, this ready penchant for splits and divisions is a core petty
bourgeois  symptom  of  organised left activities. They can appear like a
bunch of shopkeepers.  By default the Darwinian joke is that our kind of
politics must unfold  according to who's the fittest to survive. Well does
it?  Is that what it's about: who wins?

So the very notion of regroupment is an exciting prospect that is already
winning adherents outside the left formations. It is no longer a great idea
going begging, but has legs -- in the first instance because the SA exists,
and in the second because the DSP has a proposal on the table for more of
the same. That puts an immense amount of pressure on the other SA affiliates
and those who have stayed out of the process all together.  What are these
outfits going to say to their periphery or anyone who contacts them?


Sure to go down real well -- I don't think.  Not being involved in this
development carries a political price. If/when it succeeds the price is even
higher.  So when folk tire of playing at one upmanship maybe we can get down
to tin tacks.

Dave Riley
dhell at

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