[Marxism] Socialist Alliance: DSP front well to the back.
Ggregray at aol.com
Ggregray at aol.com
Sun Mar 12 03:54:35 MST 2006
The Socialist Alliance was set up in Australia as an attempt to develop left
unity for campaigns and electoral work. I understand how that is working out
is a matter of interest for some on this list.
The Democratic Socialist Party/Perspective and the International Socialist
Organisation were the major groups in the SA along with a number of smaller left
gtoups and ungrouped leftists/socialists.
When I say that SA was set up as an attempt at left unity that was certainly
what I understood. I also accepted that all the groups and individuals who
were involved had that view and wanted to do their best to implement it while
still being aware of the great difficulties involved in that.
The reality was however that the DSP had a different view all along. As its
recently discarded 40 year leader John Percy wrote last October in the DSP's
internal discussion a large part of the DSP's motivation for getting involved in
the SA was as a means of delivering a blow to the ISO and that tactic worked
But the reality of the DSP's approach to the SA was clear well before that.
It worked to make the SA in effect a front for the DSP pushing through its
politically bizarre position of transforming the SA into a multi-tendency
socialist party (mtsp) and effectively establishing its newspaper Green Left Weekly
as the organ of the SA.
This went along with the DSP positioning the SA more and more to reflect its
own sectarian positon on the rest of the left and the labour movement coupled
with increasingly grandiose claims of SA influence in the broader movement
divorced from all reality.
In recent times the leading DSP figures who triumphed in the internal
struggle and who want to maintain the SA as ongoing working front for the DSP rather
than a mothballed one brought out for special reasons have been talking up the
claimed strength of the SA.An example of this is a contribution by leading
DSPer Lisa MacDonald in the mostrecent of the SA's internal discussion Alliance
Voices vol 6 no.1. the title of this piece gives its flavour ;" A moribund
Socialist Alliance? Let the facts speak." She writes of various campaign,
activities and particularly the work planned in a number of SA branches.
These are the facts that are to be taken to speak of the non-moribund nature
of the SA. she gives as a particular example the following:
" Perth branch has just launched an ambitious campaign in the Victoria Park
by-election standing unaffiliated Socialist Alliance member and union activist
John Tattersal as our candidate."
In the same volume of the AV Chris Latham on behalf of the SA Perth Branch
announced that the decision to stand in the by-election had been made on 6
February . The by-election was held on Saturday 11 March. The announcement by the
Perth branch set out an impressive programme of work and campaigning leading up
to election day. I have no idea whether this work was actually carried out in
the way that was planned. I however have no reason to believe that the SA
members in Perth did other than their best to run the campaign as planned. I
don't know John Tattersal but as a union activist and unaffiliated member of the
SA he seems to have been a good candidate.
The by-election took place in the midst of a frenzy of news stories about
internal factional wars in the labor Party nationally. As well a leading member
of the federal Liberal Government was revealed to have called for even
stronger anti-trade union laws and attacks on workers conditions than have already
At a by-election the WA Labor Government could not be defeated. As a swing of
more than 16% was required to defeat the Labor candidate there was no real
prospect of Labor losing the seat- and of course under the preferential system
of voting a vote for the SA candidate could pass on to the Labor candidate if a
voter wanted to do so.
All of this meant that there was a very favourable situation for the SA to
get a reasonable vote if it was any position to attract support.
Now it's time to let the facts speak. In a field of 11 the SA came in at 9
with 0.81 percent of the vote. It was beaten by a variety of right wing
candidates from minor parties and independents. Labor won just under 50% of the
primary vote.The greens got just over 8%.The Daylight Saving Party (a different DSP)
got 1.04%. Even informal ie those who either couldn't or couldn't be bothered
to vote validly came in at more than 4 times the SA vote.
I am not electorally obsessed. In fact one of my last acts in the SA was to
oppose the move by the DSP to stand in a local New South Wales by-election. But
these are facts.
Plainly the claims of well functioning branches with significant support
amongst those disaffected with Labor and looking for leadership in ther coming
struggles is completely dissonant with this pathetic electoral result.
The reality-or the the fact that speaks out loud-in fact it screams from the
roof tops -is that the SA is on the nose. Its sectarianism dictated by the DSP
and its clear operation as a front for the DSP defeats whatever good
intentions and efforts some who remain in it may have and carry out.I do concede to
Lisa MacDonald that the SA is still alive and will remain so as long as the DSP
thinks some use can be squeezed from it.
The unionists and Labor supporters and others who want to join in a campaign
against attacks on workers' rights, anti-union legislation, continued
maltreatment of indigenous people, the Australian role on the war in Iraq and many
other issues showed clearly in their boycott of the SA in Victoria Park that
they have no confidence whatsoever in the SA to provide leadership in such a
The facts have spoken.
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