Labour Parties

D OC donaloc at
Mon Sep 23 03:08:18 MDT 2002

>Does anybody besides me find Bob Gould something of a stuffed shirt?

No, I thought his post was very worthwhile - I didn't totally agree but I
thought it was what this list should be about (with one exception - below).
Formal writing is something I like to see on this list - its the 'added
value' that it offers above and beyond reportage.

>One of the things we've been trying to do on Marxmail is to eliminate the
tendency to classify participants. Once you begin to do this, it makes
it nearly impossible to have a productive conversation. For example, to
label somebody "ultraleftist" not only implies that they have an
infantile disorder (somebody go fetch me the cod liver oil), but that
the labeler is in a position to make such a diagnosis.

I regularly label Phil's positions on Ireland ultra-leftist. But that is
because that is precisely what they are. I don't think we should shy away
from making such 'short-hand' judgement calls. The difficulty is that such
must be proven - I thought Bob made a good stab at that. Phil has came back
and made a good defence so now lets see where Bob can take it further.

>Politics then becomes a game of classifying tendencies on the basis of how
they match
up to some kind of predefined ideal, usually some version of Lenin,
Trotsky, Mao, etc. for the ages.

I understand your concerns but I don't think that's what's happening here.

>I honestly think that Bob wants the left to dump a lot of useless
baggage, but he needs to include this tendency toward ideological

I agree totally. To lump Phil with the 'Sparts' is a nasty allegation. I
don't think that helped the debate at all. The focus and debate must be on
the concrete situation in Australia/NZ/Britain and the very difficult
question of how best to deal with their Labour parties.

My own feeling (and it is confined to Britain) is that there is a definite
need to work within the existing British Labour Party (although this might
be allied to work in an external independent party also) - there is a large,
organised and vocal opposition. The closest Britain was to revolution since
1926 was Labour in the early 80s. I think that there's lots of lessons to be
learnt from that period - I see Ken Livingstone has an article on it in a
1983 NLR - which I must read. Is it possible to create an internal
opposition within Labour today? - Not sure, but I just can't see that
cutting yourself off from Labour will help.  At the end of the day - the
question is seizing state power - ignoring social democracy is not going to
be good enough.

The biggest laugh is that whenever a socialist group finally gets its head
around the question of state power and gets a good (realistic) strategy. The
various (other 'hard-core') groups start calling it reformist - see, for
example, the Scottish Socialist Party among many others. This is what I term
'ultraleftism'. Such critics do indeed suffer from an 'infantile disorder'
and are merely playing with being revolutionaries.


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