[Marxism] The Democratic Socialist Perspective's dirty laundry

Gary MacLennan gary.maclennan1 at gmail.com
Fri Apr 17 22:47:07 MDT 2009

Well this is a post about my little world and I really feel like I have to
comment.  However I simply do not possess the kind of Hegelian consciousness
to be able to stand back and make sense of the conjuncture that I am
trekking thru.  The late Mark Jones had that kind of mind and truly I miss
his posts more than he would ever have suspected. Perhaps it is also
incumbent upon me  to confess that I really do not have the ability to
undertake a serious contribution to the "prospects for socialism in
Australia" or the "Way forward for the organised Left in Australia".  This
post is really very much some personal reflections.

But let us make some kind of effort at responding to Lou's post.  I am on
Lou's side of the party building debate.  What struck me particularly about
his writings on the Zinoviievism in practice is that really he was
describing exactly what happened to me when the International Socialist
tendency here in Oz took its turn towards Leninism in the early 80s.  We
followed Cliff step by step. banning women's caucuses, isolating members
from anything other than internal bulletins, appointing  leaders who would
determine who would say what at public meetings, noting deviations from
orthodoxy to be used if necessary later in any leadership struggles.  I
could go on but those on the list who went thru the version of Leninism will
know very well what I am talking about.

Let me try and emphasize my point here.  Lou astonished me by being able to
describe what I went thru in Australia because what happened to me (and the
choice of expression is deliberate) happened according to a mould or if you
prefer handbook for building the Revolutionary Party.  In other words there
was a formula and it was applied often with almost brutal ruthlessness.
Indeed when Tony Cliff's star was in the ascendancy, the greater the quantum
of ruthlessness, one exhibited the more likely one was to occupy a
leadership position.

But all that is more or less blood under the bridge.  I was expelled in 81
for crissakes and I have long ago shed any bitterness, resentment or angst.
What has happened since?  Well I joined the Socialist Alliance because I
hoped it would form the catalyst for the kind of broad group which I take to
mean by party.  It is true that I have not been active enough in promoting
it for a variety of reasons.  But I am still committed to the ideas which I
feel motivated it.  I was therefore dismayed by the split in the DSP.

I still feel that the RSP grouping have made a serious mistake and really
they had a failure of nerve at exactly the moment they should have held

I have talked to Tom Bramble a leader in the Socialist Alternative tendency
and he seems to feel that given the nature of the crisis we should begin to
organize.  That for him seems to mean a return to party-building a la Tony
Cliff. I have a lot of time for Tom and genuinely admire his commitment and
vision and he may be right.  But honestly I hanker after the kind of
development that the NPA seems to herald.

Now I would like to say a few more words about other aspects of Lou's post.
He is sceptical about the Socialist Alliance model for building such a party
as the NPA.  He also speculates about the possibility of the Greens being
such a vehicle. Well he may be correct about the Socialist Alliance. However
the Greens for me are a source of genuine despair. Admittedly I live in
Brisbane and the Green leadership are based around a former group of
Anarchists and theirs is a sectarian impulse that would have made Tony Cliff
appear distinctly cuddly.  Moreover the Greens seem determine to stay on the
right.   thus at a recent colloquium their Brisbane leader Drew Hutton said
he did not like to talk about capitalism.  Seemingly to talk in such terms
alienated potential voters.

Whatever the case here In Australia we have a Greens Party that seeks always
to throw a green veto over discussion of class issues as in "Global Warming
is the most and single most important issue we face". They will not progress
from this veto to a consideration of the role of capitalism in the
environmental crisis.

I have run out of space and have not addressed the question of the Labor
Party and what should be our orientation here. I will say though that at
times this question has had answers which depended on where one was.  Thus
for a time in the 80s there was a considerable Socialist Left in the
Melbourne branches of the Labor Party.  Similarly in Sydney.  My experience
of the Socialist Left in Brisbane is somewhat different, but that might be a
topic for another day. I will content myself by saying that from where I
stand the Labor Party would appear to be very much part of the problem and
not part of the solution. But I can almost hear Bob Gould, bless him, begin
to fume.  that is if he bothers to read this.

So finally I agree with Lou in what I take to be his approach to the party
question. I remain in a state of hope rather than expectation that the
Socialist Alliance can morph into something like the NPA. I continue to work
in the Palestine campaign, mainly with comrades from the RSP  and
the Socialist Alternative.  I have spoken about the Socialist Alernative and
here I would like to add that I greatly admire the tenacity and courage of
the RSP comrades, Kathy, Alex, Hamish and Andrew who have worked selfishly
in a good but very unpopular cause.


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