DSP and the Australian Socialist Alliance

Nigel Irritable nigel_irritable at yahoo.com
Wed Sep 4 15:49:36 MDT 2002

Louis said:
> Don't get me wrong. I actually think it is useful
> that organizations such as yours exist. There are
> many young people who first learn about socialism
> from a pamphlet or leaflet received on campus or at
> a worksite by a indefatigable soul like yourself.

Of course it is useful to have people making arguments
for socialism regardless of of their organisation,
although the CWI doesn't share the rather abstract
method of groups like the Socialist Labour Party.

It is worrying though that many groups on the left, at
least in Britain and Ireland, don't even fulfill that
role anymore. I've been in London for the last year.
Over the last 12 months, like many people on this
list, I have been to a large number of anti-war
events. Counting contributions from the floor I must
have heard hundreds of speeches against the war at
public meetings and protests. I've even made a few.

A large percentage of those speeches were made by
members of socialist groups. Over the course of all of
those speeches I have heard the word "socialism"
mentioned by somebody who is not in the Socialist
Party zero times. I have heard the words "working
class" mentioned once and "workers" a handful of times
(again not counting speeches by members of the
Socialist Party). The SSP managed to produce an entire
pamphlet on the war without mentioning socialism (I
can't remember if "workers" appeared in it, but if
they did they didn't feature prominently).

Getting back to your original point, the CWI has over
the years done rather a lot more than just hand out a
few leaflets on socialism. A couple of years back you
and I had a brief exchange on the Trotsky newsgroup
after I mentioned an evening I had spent in a working
class estate in West Dublin knocking on doors during
the Socialist Party's national collection. You
responded in your slightly witty and customarily snide
manner about how you always try to welcome religious
missionaries too. After I pointed out that those same
people had elected a Socialist Party member as their
local councillor and a Socialist Party member as their
member of parliament you rapidly lost interest in the

The CWI didn't earn a small but significant amount of
support amongst working class people in North and West
Dublin by handing out a few leaflets. We earned it
through slow, patient campaigning in those areas. In
Dublin we have led campaigns to victory involving
hundreds of thousands of people not paying their local
authority taxes and tens of thousands paying to join
their local federation. A dozen or so members are on
the National Executives of Irish unions, and have even
led the left to control of a couple of unions. We
played a role in the narrow defeat of the Nice Treaty
referendum and will play a role in campaigning to
defeat the government's second attempt to push it
through. Last year we led the biggest industrial
action seen in Northern Ireland for a decade to
victory, when 5,000 term time workers fought for an
all year round wage.

I could bore you all to tears by listing all of the
campaigns the Socialist Party has been involved in,
but I won't bother. The point is that we achieved all
of that by consistently working honestly, openly and
collaboratively with other left and working class
activists not by screwing people over for the next
recruit or paper sale and not by limiting ourselves to
making abstract propaganda.

The above point goes for all of the work we have been
involved in, but a couple of brief examples may help.

In 1997 we tried to put together a loose left alliance
to stand in the general election that year. After
exhaustively scouring the country for left and working
class groups to ally with, we stood alongside some
working class activists in Cork and the Workers and
Unemployed Action Group in Tipperary. Neither of the
other two reasonably large socialist groups in the
country were interested, one of them (the SWP) even
stood against us. The alliance did quite well, but the
other major component was afraid of being seen as too
left wing and while relations remained good
cooperation couldn't be meaningfully extended.

We have invited all of the other left wing groups in
Ireland and a large number of individuals to a meeting
tomorrow to discuss the formation of a united left
wing campaign against the Nice Treaty. The signs look
good that we will be able to put together a reasonably
effective left coalition.

The Socialist Party, like other sections of the CWI,
does not, depite our relative success, see ourselves
growing into a mass revolutionary party by standing on
our own. We argue for the creation of a new mass
workers party in which revolutionaries would certainly
be a minority. At the same time we try to build as big
a revolutionary organisation as we can, with as much
support as we can earn. The two are not mutually

The Socialist Party in Ireland, by the way, is the
fifth or sixth biggest section of the CWI.

Richard mentioned the ISM, the former majority of the
CWI in Scotland as the inspiration for the DSP move.
While I disagree very strongly with the actions and
arguments of the ISM, I don't doubt their sincerity. I
am much more sceptical about the DSP. The ISM did not
have a similar record of sectarian manouevering and
their actions have certainly not been to their
organisational benefit (ISM membership has declined
since the split). Given the circumstances, their
record, and the way in which they have gone about
declaring this move the DSP don't inspire much trust.

Is mise le meas
Brian Cahill

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