[Marxism] Re: About Socialist Alliance

Tom O'Lincoln suarsos at alphalink.com.au
Fri Jan 20 21:21:32 MST 2006

Thanks to Dave, Shane and Louise for thoughtful comments, to some of
which I'll try reply. I agree with Dave that "there has been no ongoing
merging between the new left and any class struggle thread." Not since
the seventies, anyway. The question is whether the Alliance is an
exception. I seriously doubt it,. and none of the evidence you or Peter
offer changes my mind.  Peter refers to the CPSU – well I know the
situation there and there's no sign of any left  advance there at all.
Sorry, but that's how it is.

Dave asks:
>> IF the  SA is as you suggest --- moribund  -- what does that say
about the whole left given that we are now entering a period in which
the trade unions and on-the-job wages & conditions are supposed to be
done over by Howardism?<<

I think  it means the left is in a similar state to what it was before
the Alliance was formed: a collection of party-line grouplets marginal
to the labour movement. The ISO's decline has been more or less matched
by the growth of Socialist Alternative, so the net change in forces is
minimal.The even-smaller grouplets are still there, as are the
independents who, for a short time, placed their hopes in the Alliance
-- they will find other places to work. The Alliance has come and gone,
with much sound and fury, and little actual impact. We far leftists are
able occasionally to have some TEMPORARY impact on mass struggles (the
anti-cap movement, the refugee struggle, the 2003 anti-war movement) but
very little impact on organised labour, even though a few union
officials have some modest involvement with the far left. Sorry, but
that's how it is.

Dave continues:
>>IF the SA is moribund,  then the WHOLE socialist  left needs to look
to its guns and work out what it will do about this major threat that
bears down upon us all.

Sure, as far as we can. Where we disagree, is that I don't think the
tiny left groups can make a significant difference to the outcome of
this or any mass struggle. I wish it wasn't so. But it is so.
Occasionally we can make a clever intervention and have a temporary
impact, and I'm all for doing that. But if we kid ourselves we have the
weight to shape social trends, we will just end up demoralised.

I think the left groups have to recognise they are propaganda societies
– like it or not (and I don't like it one bit, but it's a fact) – and
build on that basis. This doesn't preclude getting into the thick of
mass struggles. We should definitely do so for the experience, and to
keep ourselves in touch with the mass movement, and to test our ideas,
and to do our share. But without imagining we can shape them except in
the odd episode.

Dave adds:
>>Because we know if the trade unions go down WITHOUT A FIGHT  then the
whole progressive agenda gets put back as a consequence. So in a very
real way the whole future of the socialist project 
 rests on what
happens over the next year or so.

Maybe so. But you might as well have stood in the path of the tsunami
with a bucket and said "we must turn back the waters or thousands will
die." The trouble is that the tsunami is huge, and we are tiny. A
realist will ask: what can we actual salvage?

Shane says:
"One of my main criticisms all along of the SA project has been that the
objective conditions for a new party simply do not exist."

If by new party you mean something that can transcend the marginal
condition of the existing left groups, that's dead right. And
consequently I think I have a fundamental disagreement with Louise, when
she writes:

>>I disagree with both Shane, *and* with the DSP/ISO original reference
to 'objective conditions in Australia' as a sound basis for starting a
united left project like the Alliance. The big question for the left in
Australia is the fight for greater unity in resisting constant
neo-liberal attacks.<<

Of course we need the maximum unity. But the alliance didn't provide it;
rather it became a new battleground for the usual left squabbles. And
that, in turn, reflects objective conditions. If we start with a
realistic view of objective conditions, we are more likely to achieve
the greatest amount of unity.

And I suggest Louise contradicts herself when she writes:

>>I think we need to rebuild the socialist movement before we can expect
to have any serious influence on the class struggle<<

But how are you going to effectively resist neo-liberalism if you can't
have a serious influence on the class struggle?.

Louise continues:
>>I have had a friend in Socialist Alternative try to tell me on several
occasions over the last 4 years that socialists in Australia CAN'T
rebuild the socialist movement. I don't know if this is a widespread
notion in SAlt, but my reasoning is: if you can't achieve that
relatively modest aim, how on earth do you think you can build a
*revolutionary* workers party? But he's got that covered too: we have to
wait until 'the upturn in class struggle'<<

Well I do think socialists in Australia can rebuild the socialist
movement to some degree, although an upturn in class struggle would
certainly help. But Socialist Alliance doesn't seem to have done it,
despite all the inflated claims; and IMHO that reflects a misjudgement
of the objective conditions and (as a consequence) mistaken strategies.
Meanwhile, since you mention Socialist Alternative: if recruiting new
people to socialist activity is any measure, SocAlt would appear to have
achieved more on this front lately than any other left force. Could
realism possibly have something to do with that?

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