[Marxism] Re: Letter of resignation from Socialist Alliance

Nick Fredman sra at scu.edu.au
Wed Feb 11 22:44:51 MST 2004


While the resignation of Michael Thompson, an experienced activist 
and national executive member of the National Tertiary Education 
Union, from Socialist Alliance is to be regretted, it should be noted 
that this comrade made no effort at all as far as I can see to argue 
his case within the many forums available in Socialist Alliance. E.g. 
the Socialist Alliance caucus of the NTEU, for which I produce a 
regular newsletter, has over 40 members from various tendencies 
including leading activists at a number of universities, has a great 
potential for advocating militant unionism and socialism within the 
sector, and has had lively debates over the past year around tactics 
and the politics of what is happening in higher ed. Michael been 
silent in these debates, not the most responsible attitude for a 
socialist activist. Below is responses from 2 "non-aligned" SA 
members active in this caucus taking up some of his criticisms.

-----------------------------

Michael, as a member of the Socialist Alliance editorial board for 
Green Left Weekly and someone who is actively involved in the SA-GLW 
project, I feel compelled to comment on your remarks about same. And 
as an active  NTEU member, I also feel compelled to offer my 
perspective on the NTEU and the SA. Characterising Green Left as a 
DSP paper that only supports a "certain set of political positions 
associated with the Democratic Socialist Party" is not supported by 
the evidence available on a weekly basis in the pages of the 
newspaper. GLW, as any regular reader readily knows, represents a 
broad left spectrum and is not, nor ever has been a party paper, for 
two reasons. It was envisioned as a mechanism for reaching out to a 
broad left audience in order to survive economically, and more 
practically, it had to be organised as an independent entity, with no 
assets, to act as protection against litigation.

I can directly testify to the independence of the newspaper from the 
political sway of any of the affiliates that make up Socialist 
Alliance. The editorial board is dominated by non-aligned members, 
including myself, who are now a plurality within the alliance. I can 
assure you, we most definitely are not part of a front organisation 
or are being duped in any way but we are clear-eyed to what our goal 
is and working hard and full stop to act as a mechanism for 
harnessing the energies of all of the affiliates and potential 
affiliates in order to unite the left at an extremely critical 
 time in history. I have heard our role, that of the 
unaligned, within the alliance described as being the 'glue' that 
binds us together.

One of the prime tasks of the editorial board is to ensure that no 
affiliate dominates SA material within GLW during the trial period 
and  the goal of the trial, if proven successful, is for GLW to 
become the SA newspaper and to continue to represent, and be a voice 
for, a broad left spectrum. You can see, from what I have written, 
that it would be anathema to our purpose for any affiliate to 
dominate SA or an SA newspaper. Believe me, we are as focused and as 
determined in our goal as any of the affiliates are in theirs. No one 
knows, or has ever known from the outset, whether the alliance will 
last, but based on the determination that I am seeing and that is 
increasing our resolve with each daily news bulletin, there is much 
reason and evidence for thinking we will succeed in this endeavour.

I personally am sorry to hear of your resignation, and I know every 
SA member feels the same. Your decision represents a loss and a 
defeat for what we are trying to achieve, to unite the left for 
common cause, to achieve strength through unity. Perhaps, in a 
way, your resignation represents somewhat of a defeat for you too and 
for what you hoped to achieve when you joined.  But our efforts will 
be on display in the pages of GLW every week for you to see and 
hopefully, some day, you may see things differently.

Briefly, on some of your other points, to blame SA for failing "to 
attract and systematically relate to those who have been radicalised 
by the Liberal governments continuing attacks on the Medicare, higher 
education, political correctness" and for not achieving "a viable 
student left" may be correct, but to do so, one would equally have to 
blame every other organisation - from NGOs to underground radicals - 
who are trying to accomplish the same thing. Why single out SA? Have 
there been any successes in countries with these "Liberal 
governments"? From my perspective, working for left unity stands the 
best chance which is why I'm working within SA.

As someone who attends NTEU meetings and who was on the picket line 
at Macquarie Uni, the rosy picture you present of the NTEU was not 
one that was on display here. One presumes the picture was different 
at Sydney U. but Sydney is "certainly not Kansas, Toto", to quote 
from a picture classic. What did I see at MU? A leadership happy they 
held back the worst and reconciled to the fact that it would come 
around again as long as the Howard government was in power with no 
discussion about how to address that - reminiscent of waiting to be 
led to the gas chamber it seemed to me - confident that Sydney U 
would set the bar for the percentage wage increase that MU could ride 
in on, totally defeatist about insisting the clause "may offer AWAs" 
be removed and totally indifferent to the statement of support that 
students offered for common cause when they sat in at the DEST 
offices - feeling no need to make a statement or support them in any 
way in their abject defeat of trying to stop the ramping up of 
student fees.

The picket line at MU seemed like an SA branch meeting. Without SA 
member involvement, the line would have been much thinner and we 
would have stood a better chance of being run over by the 
fast-driving SUVs, headed toward the MU School of Management 
building. That's more or less what life in the 'outback', i.e. 
outside the gates of Syd U. is like. Perhaps SA outside that 
environment looks retro, but it looked mighty fine and was highly 
welcomed in 'Kansas'.

With respect and best wishes, and looking forward to working with you 
in common cause,

Austin Whitten, Socialist Alliance Editorial Board Liaison

------------------------------------

I'd first of all like to express also Michael that I am sorry to hear 
of your decision to resign from SA, particularly based on the reasons 
given.  As a non aligned member of SA I genuinely believe there are 
many good people in SA striving to achieve the very goals Austin has 
outlined below-these comrades come from all backgrounds, views and 
opinions but are through the campaigns we have been engaged in (and 
having been only involved in the movement here for a short period) 
can see the major steps forward we have achieved already.  The recent 
decision for GLW to have joint editorial with SA is a signal of that. 
 

Every trade unionist and activist needs a political voice-none of the 
major parties particularly the ALP provide that mouthpiece for 
working class people.  They may claim to-but when elected they will 
(and I know this because I spent a number of years as a member of the 
British Labour Party) often with shivers down my spine at the same 
language spilled from the voices of ALP members.  This does not mean 
that we are sectarian towards the ALP.  We are politically opposed to 
their solutions of managing capitalism better than the neo-liberals 
and approach to some of the attacks we face under a right wing 
government such as the current posse in power.

There are undoubtedly a number of good people within the ALP however, 
the reality will dawn on them when next in power that the self same 
attacks will rear their head that we thought were only confined to 
the likes of Howard and Abbott.  Many of my friends back home are 
engaged in struggles which they never perceived would have occurred 
under a Labour government (as the 'traditional' representatives of 
working people).  That's why they are looking to the likes of the 
Scottish Socialist Party to take on the challenge instead.

As socialists we provide the only real solutions to solving social 
and economic inequity and injustice.  Yes-we may differ on strategy 
but in SA I believe we are taking these ideas forward in a positive 
way.  We have a long way to go but certainly what I have seen so far 
is greater unity and commitment to that goal which is very 
encouraging.

Also as an NTEU member at Sydney Uni I believe the views we have 
expressed have been valid i.e. that the NTEU should have been leading 
a campaign of outright opposition to Nelson.  We are now working 
under a semi-privatized higher education system. This will become 
even more apparent at USyd in the coming years unless we take a more 
forthright stand.  We recognize you have played a key role in 
negotiating very good gains for staff (of which I will be a direct 
beneficiary along with all staff at the Uni) and appreciate the 
efforts you have made to improve working conditions for all staff.

I hope we can work together in further campaigns and am sure that 
there are a number of endeavours we can certainly work on in the 
branch (have left a message on your phone at work today to discuss 
some of these).  

Best of luck in signing the deal at Sydney! and comradeship for the future.

Kathleen Scott
-- 
***********************************

Nick Fredman
Student Rights Advocate
Southern Cross University (Lismore)
Student Representative Council

Shop 9 Plaza, SCU Lismore

Ph: 6620 3044
Email: sra at src.scu.edu.au
web: http://www.lismoresrc.org.au/

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