[Marxism] Re: refoundation from below

Philip Ferguson plf13 at student.canterbury.ac.nz
Thu Jun 17 18:35:09 MDT 2004

In NZ, our merger process could be dated from about two years ago.

Before that the WP and Revo circle (at the time Revo was not an
organised group) had had no contact at all, as the NZ left is quite
geographically divided.  We were based in Christchurch and they were
based in Auckland.

WE came in contact through the antiwar movement in NZ, namely through an
e-list started up by an ex-SWO (Cliffite) activist for anti-capitalists
(of any type) who were involved in the antiwar movement.

Our first exchanges were disagreements, in fact, over GE (WP was more
hostile to the technology than we were).  But the tone of the debate was
more amicable than usual on NZ left e-lists.  

Then as further issues arose, it turned out that we were arguing for
basically the same positions on one question after another.

After a couple of months of this, WP put out a call to the bulk of the
left around the idea of a loose electoral bloc for the upcoming national
elections.  Their idea was a very basic set of four points that the left
could agree on and each left group would be free to present those
points, and any others, however they wanted to.

We had been thinking about the elections and the need to challenge
Labour and so immediately agreed with the idea.

Another group, an ultra-Trotskyist small group centred in Auckland, took
part in these discussions - which were conducted on the e-list and
therefore public.  Several individual leftists, including the list
founder, tok part as well.

It very quickly turned out that the pro-Trotsky Revo group and the
pro-Mao WP had much more agreement with each other than WP did with the
small Maoist currents in NZ and than we did with the Trotskyist groups.

For instance, the Trotskyist group which took part in the discussions
wanted a 10-pt programme that had about 40 further sub-points.  It was
like turning the transitional programme into an election platform.
Apart from the fact that this is daft in general, it was also *totally
not* the way to proceed in building an *initial* electoral alliance
between currents coming from very different historical origins.

It soon became clear that this group was simply not serious and wanted
to bog down the discussions so that no electoral bloc could be formed
and the elections would arrive and they'd vote Labour as they usually
did.  Beneath all the ultra-red rhetoric, they were basically covering
the ass of the LP.

The tiny Maoist currents weren't interested either.

So WP and Revo moved forward together, established the Anti-Capitalist
Alliance and set about running candidates in Auckland, Wellington and
Christchurch (by this time we both had members in Wellington).  We
agreed a basic 6-pt programme, that any serious socialist would support
and which could be sharply counterposed to what Labour stands for in NZ
these days.

However, it quickly became clear that our areas of agreement went way
beyond what we could agree on as an electoral platform, and so the ACA
immediately became more than a temporary electoral bloc.  We started
putting put a factory bulletin and other material, and the ACA started
growing and taking on a real existence as an organisation.

Of course, once this happened things developed their own momentum too.
It became increasingly apparent that our working relationship within the
ACA was so good that a fusion between Revo and WP made sense, it was
just a matter of when.  We took our time, didn't force the pace, we
conducted all our discussions openly within the ACA, we didn't apply any
kind of party discipline on members within the ACA - ie if Revo people
agreed more with the WP on something like GE, it was fine for them to
say that in the ACA and vice versa.

The fact of having something which was bigger and broader than either WP
or Revo - namely, the ACA - was vital for this process.  

It also meant that we weren't confused about what we were trying to
build.  We wanted unity of revolutionaries, not unity of revolutionaries
and left reformists, in one organisation.  It seems to me that confusion
about this is a major problem in Britain, most especially in the Respect
Coalition, where the British SWP now votes against such basic positions
as open borders, the right to abortion and so on.

Philip Ferguson


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