[Marxism] Re. RSP, Socialist Alternative

Marce Cameron marcecameron at gmail.com
Sun Sep 16 19:25:53 MDT 2012

(From the Green Left discussion list: see
<http://groups.yahoo.com/group/GreenLeft_discussion/> for thread)

Important issues Nick? It seems to me these are issues of principle, or at least
good political sense. I'm all for unity, but only on a principled basis. The
only "principle" involved in this merger, whatever the details, is "if you can't
beat them join them."

For decades these RSP comrades were committed to building the socialist current
embodied in Resistance, the Australian SWP and the DSP. Its main rival, aside
from the CPA, was the Cliffite tendency (the ISO and its derivatives, including
Socialist Alternative). Now, all of a sudden, they apply to join Socialist

That's certainly "positive movement" from Socialist Alternative's point of view,
and from the point of view of an abstract (and therefore meaningless) left

But is is a positive development from the point of view of these comrade's
contribution to the political heritage of the DSP, adapted to an ever-changing

Will the experience and expertise of these comrades in areas such as solidarity
with the Latin American socialist revolutions, Indonesia solidarity and
international collaboration in the spirit of the DSP after it left the Fourth
International in the mid-1980s (rumour has it that Socialist Alternative are
considering joining the FI) be best served by joining Socialist Alternative?

That's a judgement these comrades have to make for themselves, of course, but my
own view is expressed ironically below.

Rather than joining Socialist Alternative, it would surely make more sense to
offer to resume writing for Green Left Weekly. This would not mean a commitment
to either the Socialist Alliance or its politics in so far as there are

Socialist Alternative's little glossy magazine doesn't offer the same
possibilities as Green Left for such contributions: it's a narrow "line"
publication that nobody takes very seriously other than Socialist Alternative

Furthermore, it expresses Socialist Alternative's view of such important
developments in WORLD politics as the Cuban and Venezuelan socialist
revolutions. That's a huge concession for the RSP comrades to make, unless their
own politics is evolving, and for what?

Sure, it means you're back in a party and that feels good. But is it really the
most useful contribution you can make here and now and for the time being? I
seriously doubt it.

Jorge says he's joining Socialist Alternative because all revolutionaries have
to stand up and be counted. Fine, but counted as what and by whom? Unity with
whom and on what basis?

It's become fashionable in this post-Soviet, neoliberal era to downplay the
importance of politics and ideology on the left. There's an obsession from some
quarters about unity, it's repeated endlessly like a mantra, as if that were our
main problem.

Clearly, the main problem today can be summed by in a word - audience - and a
phrase: the mood of the times.

Yet politics remains fundamental, of course. It's the basis on which people come
together in organisations to pursue certain goals. And even if we share the same
vision, more or less, we may disagree, naturally and inevitably, on how best to
go about achieving that vision.

Unnecessary division, i.e. sectarianism, is a problem and it would be foolish to
deny it. But lack of political clarity and lack of political depth is arguably
even more of a problem in the small and bunkered-down socialist movement today,
because the long tide of working class retreat weighs heavily on our

To their credit, Socialist Alternative do put what they consider to be Marxist
ideas upfront. It's one of their strengths, as Jorge says. But what kind of
Marxism are they educating their impressive numbers of youthful members in?

Marxism-lite would be one way to describe it: the world is black and white,
socialism is like instant coffee, revolutions are either from above or from
below. Is this "Marxism" compatible with the political tradition that Jorge
Jorquera, Doug Lorimer, Max Lane and John Percy have been committed to for

If all you care about is numbers of youth and a forest of red flags that might
not matter much. But to me, it does. I too want to be in a youthful party again,
but politics is paramount.

If you join an organisation you're endorsing its politics and contributing to
its prospects. Given the relationship of forces involved here, that means what's
left of the RSP will be absorbed by Socialist Alternative.

Rather than thumbing up this development on Facebook because hey, Jorge has
found a new party, good for him - why don't we engage in a real discussion of
what it might mean and whether it's good idea?

Why doesn't Jorge engage in a discussion about it with those who have raised
reasonable questions, based on concern for something that belongs, in a way, to
all of us: Jorge's valuable contribution to the socialist movement? The same
applies to the other RSP comrades contemplating this "merger".

Marce Cameron

More information about the Marxism mailing list