Re Australian Anti Bush Demonstrations

Peter Boyle peterb at dsp.org.au
Thu Nov 6 18:59:02 MST 2003


Bob Gould wrote:

DSP Leaderships Triumphalism About Australian Anti Bush
Demonstrations is not Politically Useful for Socialists

In my careful overview of the events in Canberra recently,
entitled: "Australia's occult capital city welcomes George
Bush" I included the light hearted but reasonably accurate
observation:

"There was a certain amount of rebellious competition
between the different socialist groups, with their red flags
and their generals and colonels directing operations."

This triggered off an extremely heated response from DSP
leader, Peter Boyle, who in part accused me of slandering
the DSP by the observation (which doesn't appear a
reasonable take on it at all, unless your mental universe is
one in which all observations must focus on you, because you
are the centre of the world).


My reponse:

A "heated response"? Accusations of "slandering the DSP"?
Hardly


Here is what I wrote in relation to Gould in that post:

*** Subject: [GreenLeft_discussion] Australian Anti Bush
Demonstrations
Date: Thu, 06 Nov 2003 04:42:23 -0000
From: "bob_gould1" <ggouldsb at bigpond.net.au>
Reply-To: GreenLeft_discussion at yahoogroups.com To:
GreenLeft_discussion at yahoogroups.com

There is one point of correction to Bob Gould's report of
the Canberra protest. He writes in a dismissive tone:

"There was a certain amount of rebellious competition
between the different socialist groups, with their red flags
and their generals and colonels directing operations."

This gives the reader the impression that all the socialist
groups were up to silly business and narrow self-promotion.
I don't suggest that there is anything wrong with socialists
trying to win people to their politics but the question is
how best to do this.

Actually it was only particular socialist groups whose
interventions on the day were primarily about red-flag
waving narrow self-promotion.

One little Melbourne-based group, the Socialist Party,
proudly gives an account of their antics:

<http://www.socialistpartyaustralia.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=269>

This group did no work in the coalitions building the
protests but organised their own little "red buses",
tried to steal the limelight by getting to Canberra ahead of
other protesters and sought to distinguish themselves from
the other demonstrators by making the attacks on the
Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (a "more proletarian" demand)
their distinguishing political focus! Well, I'd say they
just made sectarian fools of themselves.

***

So who is being intemperate?

As to the charge that several Green Left articles had a go
at the ALP politicians' performance during the Bush visit,
myself and other writers of those articles can only plead
"guilty". But we were reporting the truth and this
perspective probably has agreement of nearly everyone who
joined the protests, and many more beyond.

As to the observation that the DSP does not follow the old
CPA's "realism" in its systematic tail-ending of the ALP in
the trade unions and outside since the 1950s, Gould is also
correct. That policy failed the socialist movement and the
working class. It led to the CPA championing and giving
birth to the Accord politics that has done massive damage to
the trade union movement in this country.

I'd say we have drawn the correct lessons and militant trade
unionists today increasingly share these conclusions.

I think it is a travesty to blame the vicious raid-baiting
of the Doug Cameron national leadership of the AMWU against
Workers First in Victoria and the Workers Unity rank and
file ticket in Queensland on the victims of these attacks
and on Green Left Weekly. Lay low and you won't be hit only
"works" if you give up in the fight for militant leadership.
Doffing one's cap to the Labor bureaucrats, putting the the
brightest light on their occasional left posturings, won't
fool them. But it helps the bureaucrats fool the ranks and
ensures that any socialist practicing such schmooz 'n sleaze
tactics will earn no respect from the more militant
activists in the trade unions.

Bob Gould wrote:

4. Despite the ambiguous motivation behind the ALP
parliamentarians' letter presented to Condoleeza Rice, the
guarded opposition to the war in Iraq expressed in the
letter, and by the Labor opposition leader Simon Crean in
his speech to Bush, also were contributing factors, properly
assessed, to the possibility of building a broad mass
movement in Australia for the withdrawal of imperialist
troops from Iraq.

Socialists in Australia need to go forward to build a
broadly based antiwar movement in the above spirit without
sectarianism. The kind of triumphalism we have seen in the
aftermath of the Bush mobilisations can only be a barrier to
such an endeavor. In particular we need to use the relative
success of the Sydney and Canberra mobilisations to exert
pressure on the more conservative forces in the labor
movement to rebuild the unity of the antiwar movement across
the political spectrum of the labor movement.

My response:

A broadly-based anti-war movement behind Labor “opposition”
leader Simon Crean? So how do you do this (leave aside for
now, whether the anti-war movement should be built this
way)?

The Sydney Peace & Justice Coalition Coordinating Committee
(which split the Sydney Walk Against War Coalition) this
assessment of the prospects for the anti-war movement after
the Bush visit at a meeting on November 3:

"a.. It is uncertain what is unfolding in Iraq, but the
issues of lying and going along with the USA bullying are
likely to be the main issues for us.

"b.. How to replace the occupation with a democratic regime
is the major challenge. The armed resistance is not helping
on this point. The UN should be the main option to the US
occupation.

"c.. The Howard government is relying a lot on fear and
scaring the public, with the Brigitte case being the latest
example, and now the call for even more detention powers for
ASIO.

"d.. The deaths of US soldiers and Iraqi civilians in Iraq
are a tragedy. We cannot identify with the resistance. A
kind of 'culture jamming' guerrilla campaign against Howard
and bush is our best way. Catchy stickers etc.

"e.. While Oct 19 was a success, it shows there is not the
basis for more mass mobilisations, and we should only commit
to Palm Sunday next year, April 4, 2004. “

So that's SP&J's take: "there is not the basis for more mass
mobilisations". No more action until the traditional Palm
Sunday peace march on April 4.

The Stop the War Coalition in Sydney can and should continue
bowling up proposals for united work with SP&J (as it did
around the Bush protests in Sydney and Canberra) but I don't
like their chances. Murphy and Co and quite firm in their
opinion that the peace movement is better off with the
activist left kept out. He repeated that to Socialist
Alliance member Greg Adler at the October 22 Sydney rally
and march against Bush.

The prospects for future mobilisations depends on political
developments in Iraq, the US, Europe and here in Australia
over the next few months.

In Iraq, the US is in serious trouble, by most accounts and
at home the pressure is to work out an exit strategy (see
<http://www.csmonitor.com/specials/sept11/dailyUpdate.html>).
For the first time Bush is in a minority over Iraq in the US
according to a Washington Post poll.

There are generally positive assessments of the US anti-war
movement after the 70-120,000 (combined Washington & SF
numbers) October 25 anti-occupation demonstrations.

And the media reports seem to indicate a hot reception for
Bush when he visits the UK (see
<http://www.commondreams.org/headlines03/1103-03.htm>).

But it is also true that there are some significant
differences with the US and Britain affecting the prospects
for mobilising large numbers of people in Australia against
the occupation of Iraq. One of them is clearly the small
number of Australian armed forces personnel in Iraq, and
their away-from-the-frontline role -- so far.

But as David Spratt, recently resigned ALP member of
20-years and leading Victorian Peace Network activist, wrote
in Margo Kingston's web diary, October 2 (see:
<http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/10/21/1066631424417.h>)
there is another factor dampening the movement here: the
ALP!

"Simon Crean is completely dead in the water, seemingly
surrounded by little more than flotsam and jetsam", wrote
Spratt.

"The most significant factor was the weakness of the ALP. In
Europe, parties of the left and the right had been swayed by
public opinion, but in Australia Labor under your leadership
simply went missing. For six months Labor sat on its hands
and gave no support to the anti-war movement. You and Kevin
Rudd prevaricated and squirmed this way and that, and did
not say this war was always going to be wrong, with or
without the UN Security Council. There was a roar of silence
from the Labor State premiers. And then at the last moment,
Simon, you said you were against the war, and became mute.
At a Brisbane rally, you were booed from the stage; your
opposition's weakness had given John Howard free rein. "

Crean said in federal Parliament on October 23 during the
grovel session before Emperor of the World Bush:

"Your presence here today reminds us all that the
partnership between Australia and the United States is
broad, deep, many-sided, long-standing – and, in its
fundamentals, bipartisan."

(See full text of this speech below.)

Leave aside Crean’s grovelling and focus on the fact of the
essential pro-imperialist bi-partisanship Crean has
expressed (as did Hawke, Keating and Beazley before his).
He's saying in no uncertain terms to Bush: we are on the
same side, our differences on the invasion and occupation of
Iraq are differences between mates (one that can strengthen
the "mateship" Crean said).

Essentially the diffrence between Labor and Coalition and
Bush were this: Labore said get UN Security Council go ahead
and the invasion is fine by us. Well the Bush admin did not
get the go ahead. But since then the UN Security Council has
endorsed the occupation of Iraq so the Crean has no problem
with it.

Now Bob Gould proposed a broad anti-war movement coming
behind Crean's position. That's impossible. Any anti-war
movement today must be built AGAINST Crean Labor's line.

Of course this is not to say that the anti-war movement
shouldn't welcome ALP members and even ALP branches into its
ranks. The Stop The War Coalition has reached our very
warmly to Labor MPs Harry Quick and Carmen Lawrence. They've
been put on every platform possible and encouraged in any
defiance of Crean's standing-ovation-for-Bush and
bi-partisanship on the "war on terrorism". As well the Stop
The War Coalition has welcomed Greens and Democrat MPs who
have spoken out against war and occupation.

In the conditions prevailing, and against the sabotage from
Peter Murphy, the NSW Labor Council and certain bureaucratic
Labor "left" trade union leaderships, the anti-Bash
demonstrations were a success. To say so is not "sectarian"
or "triumphalist". Only a chronic apologist for the ALP
could construe the coverage in Green Left Weekly of these
protests that way.

In my opinion the anti-war movement should be considering
organising mass protests either around February 15 or around
the anniversary of the invasion in March, or around any
global day of action called by the movement in the US. This
stage of the anti-war movement is going to take its lead
from the US movement, which is now more united after the
success of October 25.

Peter Boyle

Transcript of Simon Crean’s welcome to Bush:
<http://www.abc.net.au/public/s973704.htm>



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