Re DSP & Socialist Alliance

Peter Boyle peterb at
Thu Sep 5 20:46:12 MDT 2002

I had difficulty posting this to the list yesterday so apologies if an
earlier version also appears

Thanks to Jose Perez and others on this list who have urged people to be
a little less quick to dismiss the DSP's initiative for greater unity in
Australian Socialist Alliance as either "liquidation" or a "takeover".

It is neither. We have invested a lot in the Socialist Alliance and have
strived to make it a vehicle for ongoing united work. The results of
this investment may appear modest in electoral terms but they are quite
significant in broader political terms.

Revolutionary socialists from a wide range of groups have been working
together for a whole year and a half on a common project, discussing
their differences democratically and without the destructive point
scoring that has too often typified the far left. As the letter points
out we've reached agreement on most of the major issues that have
confronted us, and then moved on to practical work on that basis. Check
out the Socialist Alliance website ( for a
bit more detail.

On top of that a growing number of influential militant movement
(especially trade union) leaders are coming in or around the Alliance.
Why? Because they want left unity and there is a pressing need for that

Our judgement (in the DSP national executive) is that it is time to take
that real unity a step further. And we will facilitate a broad and
public discussion on the merits, or otherwise, of that move even while
our membership has its discussion on whether to take the unilateral step
we propose for January. There is a good four months to do just this and
everyone can say what they think.

Some people might be uneasy about the unilateral aspect of our decision.
But just think about what it is: the DSP (if its membership agrees) is
offering to unconditionally stop building and recruiting to itself and
build the Alliance before we starts negotiating with the Socialist
Alliance about taking over the political and organisational assets we
have built up over three decades.

Is this some sneaky trick? Nope. It is a responsible way for the DSP,
the biggest group in the Alliance (although the Alliance has three times
as many members as all the socialist groups combined), to initiate a
constructive negotiation without it being a takeover. Furthermore DSP
members are a minority on the Socialist Alliance national executive (due
to the responsible efforts of all the main tendencies in the Alliance to
ensure an inclusive leadership).

Certainly it also helps mobilise the forces for greater unity in the
Alliance but should we be condemned for this?

Is this riding roughshod against other groups in the Alliance? Not at
all because every real step forward for the Alliance will be negotiated
from next year. We will be open, democratic and inclusive in this as we
have been n the Alliance from the start.

Are we "liquidating"? Perez has made the point that we are not in anyway
liquidating our revolutionary politics. We don't think that operating as
part of a Socialist Alliance that hasn't formally adopted a detailed
programmatic response to every issue (historical or otherwise) means
liquidation. And remember the groups in the Alliance already agree on
ninety-something of a revolutionary program. We are not so sectarian to
say that you have to agree on the remainder right now or you liquidate.

We won't be liquidating in an organisational sense either because we
will continue to organise to ensure that the good stuff we do (paper,
activist centres, political education, movement building) carries on in
one form or another right through the process of transition.

The DSP does not have a sectarian understanding of Leninism, as I tried
to explain about a month ago on this list -- perhaps not very
successfully. We understand that the process of collecting, educating
and centralising a real revolutionary vanguard is not a straight line
and further that the left in this country is at a very early stage in
its development.

We also understand as Lenin argued in Left-Wing Communism, that
revolutionary discipline can only be built up politically through the
class consciousness of the vanguard of the working class, its ability to
link up with the broadest masses and ability to exercise political
leadership over the masses. “Without these conditions all attempts to
establish discipline inevitably fall flat and end up in phrasemongering
and clowning. On the other hand these conditions cannot emerge at once.
They are created only by prolonged effort and hard-won experience.”

That said we are committed builders and organisers, followers of Lenin’s
Jacobin spirit. We know from our own experience that it is possible –
and necessary -- to be “Leninist” in this sense without being sectarian.

In that earlier discussion I objected to the DSP being fitted up with
caricatures of Leninism and tried to explain what we understood as
“Leninism”. Hopefully we'll be more successful in demonstrating this in
practice over the next period.

Peter Boyle DSP
national executive member

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