Australian Socialist Allaince left unity meeting in Brisbane

dave riley dhell at
Sun Nov 24 16:59:23 MST 2002

Here in Brisbane over the weekend Socialist Alliance sponsored a meeting
with the topic: Which Way Forward for the Left. With three speakers
delivering future models it drew a good crowd.

As a left gathering it was very representative of the seventies/eighties
left -- even the local Greens were present. Except for the predictable
screeching of one attendee it was a comradely discussion.

Present were Socialist Alternative, the ISO, the DSP, the (old Moscow
aligned) CPA, a die hard Maoist, the Greens, Workers Liberty, reps from the
local Labour History Association, the remnant of the local Left Press
collective, a swag of ex ISers ( such as Carole Ferrier), some ex-DSP
members, non aligned Socialist Alliance members  and other (to employ a
euphemism) 'independents'. The meeting was held in the local home for the
ALP socialist left, the Paddington Workers Club ( a project primarily
engineered by - ex ALP senator- George Georges and Hughey Williams from the
Transport Workers Union). For the moment the SA's home in Brisbane is the
Paddo Workers Club.

Unfortunately a local  union organiser, scheduled to speak from the
platform, couldn't attend. Aside from the DSP and  ISO speakers, the third
speaker from the platform was Dan O'Neill - a long time left independent and
academic (and, I think, not a member of the Socialist Alliance)

Primarily , folk were there to scrutinize what momentum there may be in and
with the Socialist Alliance for a regrouped party.

Unfortunately, Dan O'Neill advocated the same project and analysis he has
been talking about , in my memory, for about twenty years and his dismissal
out of hand of any organisational remaking of the Left wasn't at all
helpful. Dan's was a "wrong way/go back" position. Indeed in terms of
analysis and offering  a "way forward for the left" it's only the DSP
proposition that pretends to go forward. In terms of rhetoric, most of what
passes as discussion, it seems to me, is either nostalgic or  a romantic
vision, short on practical detail, of "going to the working class, comrade".

The ISO argument has changed over the last few weeks and basically now
advocates a roll back of the Socialist Alliance  while fending off pressure
to move  the SA forward with arguments against this as being a recipe for
"reformism". Instead  the ISO advocates a totally dishonest (primarily
electoralist)coalition -- set up and run by revolutionary socialist
organizations but built around a minimalist platform. So minimalist and
conservative that I doubt any other left formation would agree to the
package. In contrast, Socialist Alternative -- who intervened then left
after they'd said what they came to say -- are snapping at the heels of the
ISO from the left. It's like the ISO of the past reincarnated to haunt its
present existence.

What was also evident from some of the old guard attendees, was the  belief
that the left failed  these last so many years because the Marxist
organizations of the left, primarily the ISO and the DSP, 'failed to grow'
thus letting the side down.  Of course, these party formations are supposed
to  grow(like performing seals) independent of their critics  and without
recourse to any  references to conditions outside of themselves. The
corollary of this argument was that it was up to the left organizations to
initiate and organise any number of caucuses in the trade unions but really,
"regroupment" wasn't anything we'd be interested in individually right now.
How anyone could  think a purely "electoral coalition:" can help them do
that, I don't know. So for them, I guess the ISO package didn't have much to

While I sympathise with these outlooks and hesitancies that come from folk
whose activist credentials deserve respect, the only projections on the day
that were in any way up beat and affirmative  were coming from the DSP and,
almost by default, from Socialist Alternative as it drove home its perceived
advantage against the ISO.

The speakers' talks to the gathering will be uploaded onto the Socialist
Alliance web page.

 Dave Riley
dhell at

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