A comment on Bob Gould and the Australian Labor Party

Jose G. Perez jgperez at netzero.net
Thu Sep 12 00:00:34 MDT 2002

A comment on Bob Gould's post. The whole post is here, at least for the


It's the one with all the detailed demographics, where he says,

"If you add together the ALP members, ALP politicians and staff,
active trade unionists, left-wing students and the 5000 people in the Greens
structure, you get a total of 70,000 or 80,000 people. At least 20,000 of
them, and probably more, would have to be reasonably classified as
identifying themselves as socialists and left-wingers.

"If the 2000 Socialist Alliance adherents that John claims are a large part
of the socialist left in Australia we'd be in a sad state indeed."

Actually I think that captures things pretty well. The revolutionary left,
genuine Marxism, IS in a sad state in virtually all the imperialist
countries. It may be that Gould is right in saying there's 20 kilopersons
who consider themselves leftists/socialists active in Australian politics,
but, frankly, I don't believe the DSP leaders are interested is most of
those for the purposes of this proposal they've put forward. They're really
only interested in this kind of way in those who view themselves as
"socialists" in the sense of being for socialism as a different social
system, not in the sense of being for capitalism with a couple of rough
edges sanded down.

It turns out the developments in Australia have thrown up a formation with a
couple of thousand people who by and large call themselves socialists
because they are *against capitalism,* and the DSP proposes to try to
develop a common party with *those* kind of socialists, which, for
convenience's sake, I'll refer to as "revolutionary socialists" "Marxists"
and "communists," pretty much interchangeably, in the rest of this post.

Gould *objects* to the a-priori exclusion of the leftists or socialists who
are pro-capitalist from the project of developing the Socialist Alliance
into a stronger and more coherent organization, because that exclusion is
grounded in these folks being adherents of the ALP. Which brings up the
question: what is the nature of the ALP?

I don't think that there is any question but that the caracterization
attributed by Bob Gould to the DSP, that the Australian Labor Party is "one
of the two capitalist parties that dominate Australian society," is correct.
Pretty much the same thing can be said of the Canadian NDP and the British
Labor Party. These are, clearly, beyond any hope of confusion or redemption,
bourgeois, capitalist, imperialist parties. No ifs, ands, buts or howevers.

The part about how we have to take into account the life-long organizational
ties and so on of many working people to this party gave me a feeling of
deja vu all over again. It is ever-so-reminiscent of the rhetoric the
American CP has always used to justify its policy of supporting the
Democrats, especially in relation to the Black community and the Democrats.
Yes, we have to take it into account. And what we have to take into account
is that, for example in the American case, this is precisely the vehicle the
ruling class has used to maintain Blacks (and other working people)
politically *impotent* so they can be more easily oppressed and exploited.

But wait a minute, I hear you object. Didn't Lenin consider these sorts of
social-democratic formations, like the ALP, workers parties? Well, yes and
no. He considered them to be BOURGEOIS "workers" parties, and proposed the
tactic of critical support --as a rope supports a hanging man-- as a *more
effective* way of trying to *destroy* their influence among the masses than
what the ultraleft Communist comrades were doing. Lenin was taking part in a
discussion among the Communist enemies of bourgeois parties about the best
way to undercut the influence of a specific variant of bourgeois party in
the working class. Moreover, he was doing so at a time when the emergence of
these parties as steps by working people toward class political independence
was fairly recent, in historic terms, and when their degeneration into
openly bourgeois instruments of capitalist class rule had only very recently
become fully evident.

But we should take note that the social-democratic parties of Lenin's time
and those of our times are quite different. They play different roles in the
bourgeois political system. Their roots in motion by working people towards
independent class political action are now quite remote, and their role as
open instruments of bourgeois rule long-since completely consolidated. It
has been decades since the ruling class considered placing administration of
their joint affairs in the hands of these worthies as an idea that was
beyond the pale. I think when these parties become incorporated into a
bourgeois shell game of a two-party system, or a three-party or a
however-many-party system, which in fact happened long ago, this marks a
very important change. They *now* have significantly more in common with
parties like the American Democrats than they did in Lenin's time.

What Crusade for Justice leader Corky González was saying in Denver 30-some
years ago is the important thing. He said the Democrats and Republicans are
ONE animal with two heads that feed from the same trough. The part to take
note of is the one animal part. When one of these bourgeois workers parties
incorporates itself as such a key component of the way the ruling class
administers its joint affairs, does a more-or-less routine, blanket policy
of calling for a "class" vote in their favor make sense any more? Or should
we not rather approach them more like the revolutionary socialists have
always approached the Democrats in the U.S.?

Me, I don't rule out a tactic of critical "support" to these outfits even
under today's changed circumstances, just as I would not rule out, as a
matter of principle, offering critical support to a Democratic Party
candidate in the United States.

But, frankly, from the point of view of defending the interests of the world
working class, I find it much easier to explain to people why they should
have voted in the recent Georgia primary for Cynthia McKinney, the Democrat
currently in the U.S. Congress from my district, against the shill put up
against her by a Zionist-Democrat-Republican cabal, than I would explaining
to people why they should vote for the likes of Tony Blair. And, if
elections were being held right now in Britain, I would consider it
*unconscionable* for ANY socialist to call for a vote for Blair however
critically or anything else. I think calling for a Blair vote under *these*
circumstances is impermissible because he is one of the leading (and
certainly, the most *intelligent*) of the bourgeois-imperialist spokespeople
political operatives preparing the second Gulf War. No, you're NOT going to
find a position like this in Lenin's writings about the critical support
tactic, but, frankly, I don't see how it's possible to remain true to
Leninism, to Marxism, and saying you're going to vote for Blair right now.

Leaving aside whether Gould has succeeded in capturing every nuance of the
DSP's tactics towards the ALP and its supporters, which I doubt, as well as
a discussion of whatever the correct tactics might be for *combatting* the
ALP in a given situation, I would think all *revolutionary* socialists would
agree that the ALP is, all bullshit aside, a pliant tool of the Australian
bourgeoisie, and with whatever combination of weapons from our armory, its
influence among working people MUST BE FOUGHT.

A discussion on whether the DSP is being overly rigid or sectarian in its
tactics really only makes sense in that context --as a discussion among the
working class enemies of this key component of the bourgeois two-party
system-- and it isn't clear to me from his post that Gould actually shares
the premise.


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