March 30, 2004
One of my closest friends has been scrutineering for the Labor Party out at Villawood, and about n hour ago he passed on the updated count for all booths for the councillors’ positions in the City of Sydney, at the close of counting on Sunday night. These figures give some insight into the class forces in play in the inner city in the council elections.
There were 53,026 votes recorded, of which 4097 were informal. The total formal votes were 48,929. There were six ungrouped candidates, who were off the radar, so to speak: Dayley (4), McDermott (12), Spanos (37) and Sue Price of the Socialist Alliance (93, or 0.17 of the vote).
Price got 10 votes at Sydney Town Hall, three at Alexandria, one at Beaconsfield, none at Chippendale booth one, none at Chippendale booth two, none at Darlinghurst booth one, none at Darlinghurst booth two, seven at Darlinghurst booth three, none at Erskineville, two at Elizabeth Bay, nine at Forest Lodge, two at Glebe booth one, nine at Glebe booth two, six at Glebe booth three, one at Glebe booth four, one at Haymarket, none at Millers Point, none at Newtown booth one, 11 at Newtown booth two, none at Paddington, none at Pyrmont, three at Redfern booth one, three at Redfern booth two, eight at Redfern booth three, six at Redfern booth four, none at Rosebery booth one, none at Rosebery booth two, none at Rushcutters Bay, none at Surry Hills booth one, one at Surry Hills booth two, none at Surry Hills booth three, three at Surry Hills booth four. Price got two at Ultimo, one at Waterloo, none at Wooloomooloo, none at Zetland, no postal votes and three pre-poll votes, total 93.
Of the serious forces, Clover Moore got 17,902 (36.6 per cent), Labor got 12,113 (24.8 per cent), the Greens got 6804 (13.9 per cent), the Liberals got 5825 (11.96), Sydney independents got 1385 (2.8), Matt Laffan 1391 (2.8), Peter Collins 1279 (2.6), Democrats 1269 (2.6), Dixie Coulton 815 (1.7).
There was, in fact, a very distinct class line in these electoral results. Labor and Green forces are on one side of that class divide and most (although not all) of the Clover Moore vote is on the other side.
Evidence of that class divide is obvious in even the most cursory examination of the geographical voting pattern. Labor beat the Clover Moore forces, in most cases overwhelmingly, in 10 booths: Beaconsfield (a strong blue-collar working class area), one Glebe booth (close to the Department of Housing estate), Millers Point (which still has a large concentration of public housing), three of the Redfern booths (which are in or around Housing Department flats or in blue-collar residential areas), the two Rosebery booths (a blue-collar residential area), Ultimo and Waterloo (probably the most blue-collar residential area in the old South Sydney council).
There was a second category of booths in which Labor and the Greens both did very well and in which their combined vote beat Clover Moore’s vote: Sydney Town Hall, the two Chippendale booths, the poorer area of the four Darlinghurst booths, Erskineville, the three Glebe booths in the south end of Glebe outside the Glebe Estate, Haymarket and Zetland.
The Greens did very well in Erskineville and at the Newtown Church booth. The booths in which Labor and the Greens together outpolled the Clover Moore forces are in areas where there is still some blue-collar housing and where the gentrification is at bottom end, mainly people who work in hospitals, the public service, teaching, etc.
These areas are inhabited by people who Peter Boyle would describe, when he’s using theory demagogically, as part of the “labour aristocracy”.
The other 13 booths were won by Clover Moore overwhelmingly, and they also happen to be the ones that delivered by far the largest chunk of the Liberal vote. These booths vote overwhelmingly Liberal in federal and state elections.
These booths are: Darlinghurst one, two and three; Elizabeth Bay, Glebe booth four, Paddington, Redfern booth three, Rushcutters Bay, Surry Hills one, two, three and four, and Wooloomooloo. Even a cursory superimposition of Bureau of Statistics figures on the electoral pattern shows that these Clover Moore booths are hotspots of extremely high incomes, and ABS figures also show that the Labor-Green majority booths are areas of middle income, and the Labor-voting booths are islands of very low income.
To further demonstrate this point, the two richest areas by far in the inner city, Elizabeth Bay and Rushcutters Bay voted overwhelmingly for Clover Moore. In Elizabeth Bay, which is an overwhelmingly Liberal booth in federal and state elections, Moore got 1336, the Liberals got 289, Labor got 306 and the Greens got 251.
In Rushcutters Bay, Labor got 167, the Greens 94, the Liberals 188 and Moore 570. Most voters in Rushcutters Bay and Elizabeth Bay don’t fall anywhere within Peter Boyle’s convoluted, artificial construct of a labour aristocracy. Those voters are located somewhere in the very high stratosphere, way above any notions of labour aristocracies.
There’s little question that class, status and income affected the results in the Sydney City elections in a very clear way.
The Green vote is by and large drawn from youth and the left-leaning section of the new social layers, which incidentally are the section of these layers most likely to be in white-collar and professional trade unions.
The Green and Labor votes together fall on one side of a clear class divide, and the majority of the Clover Moore vote falls on the other side of that class divide. These are the statistical facts about the elections in the City of Sydney, and facts are very stubborn things.
In the past few days Peter Boyle has suddenly become very preoccupied with the issue of developers. That’s a very real issue to anybody on the left in the inner city. It must be pointed out that the number-two on Moore’s ticket is a bloke called McInerney, who has earned his living for a number of years as a professional consultant to developers.
Now that Moore has achieved the political coup, through energy and ingenuity, of being elected mayor of Sydney, with a team of supporters behind her, she’s talking about working with everybody, and it will be interesting to see how the interplay of forces works out. All socialists should be pushing for sensible restraints on development, but it’s still to be tested what role Clover Moore and her associates will play in a lot of those questions.
The other critical issue will be contracting out council services, and Moore quite firmly refused to give me a direct answer on that question at the Town Hall meeting. Her political constituency contains a lot of people who favour contracting out. That’s another issue that will have to be fought out in the near future.
In my view, all politics has an element of class, and the Greens and the bulk of the rank and file and middle group of Labor supporters, activists and voters fall on one side, and the social forces Clover Moore has mobilised in Elizabeth Bay, Rushcutters Bay and the 10 booths where she got her majority generally fall on the other side of that class divide.
I challenge Peter Boyle, and anyone else who supports his point of view, to:
There’s no question that the Green electoral victory in Marrickville and Leichhardt reflected a shift to the left. The Greens campaigned hard, and their victory was a result of energetic and intelligent campaigning.
The defeat of the left Labor machine in those two municipalities flows directly from Labor’s political mistakes, particularly the rush of blood to the head that caused them to make the anti-democratic decision to change from wards of four to wards of three.
The Labor people of the left in those two areas should reverse their course and try, even at this late stage, to make a bloc with the Greens rather than a completely unprincipled bloc with the Liberals.
For socialists there should be no enemies on the left, particularly no permanent enemies. Nevertheless, the electoral result in Marrickville was a rather instructive map of ethnicity and class. The Greens did exceptionally well in the northern part of Marrickville, among people I’ve previously described as part of the bottom-end new social layers: nurses, teachers, public servants, university workers and youth.
The Labor stronghold was the southern part of the municipality, inhabited by blue-collar workers and recent non-English-speaking background migrants. Both the Labor voters and the Green voters in Marrickville fall on the progressive side of any class divide, from which flows the need for a realistic united front between Labor and the Greens in Leichhardt and Marrickville. Once again: no enemies on the left.
I’m quite happy to leave to Peter Boyle his un-Marxist and unprincipled notion of a class struggle led mainly from Elizabeth Bay and Rushcutters Bay. No offence is meant to the minority of Green or Labor voters or the more progressive Clover Moore voters who live in those suburbs. I’m sure they’ll understand what I’m getting at, because they live there.
April 2, 2004
Ben Reid adopts a slightly calmer tone than usual towards my recent contributions on the local government elections in NSW, but he can’t resist the abusive assertion at the end of his piece:
“For all his baleful insinuations about how nasty and authoritarian the DSP and the ISO are and how all the members are zombies etc, etc, it is Bob who is the one meekly still follows his party’s leadership (and the class interests it serves?) (sic).
“The machinations of power in the ALP — for all the formal “freedoms” its members have — are 100 times worse than the worst excesses of any Leninist party. The worst form of how this power operates is how activists within inevitably internalise its values.”
Dr Reid has a real talent for insulting slander. He spelt my name right, but everything else in these rather revealing paragraphs is wrong.
I hold a Labor Party ticket and I work for the ALP in elections, which is part of the political arrangement if you hold a Labor Party ticket. I’ve spent a large part of my political life fighting against right-wing policies of assorted Labor leaderships, right and left (while supporting progressive actions of these leaderships), as Dr Reid well knows.
My assorted agitations on socialist issues within and without the Labor Party are on the public record for the past 50 years. In working for the election of Labor governments I’m like many other socialists who choose to conduct their struggles, at the political level, partly within the ALP; people such as Martin Kingham, Michelle O’Neil, Harry Quick, Carmen Lawrence and many others.
I’m small potatoes in that company, but I’ve been doing what I do for a very long time, and it doesn’t include internalising adaptation to Labor leaderships. It’s fair to say that also applies to most of the 6000-7000 people who voted for Carmen Lawrence in last year’s ALP federal leadership ballot.
The decision of the DSP and ISO leaderships to pressure the members of the Sydney branch of the Socialist Alliance to reverse their original decision and preference Clover Moore over Labor has a very right-wing aspect because more than half the Labor candidates in winnable positions on the Labor ticket were left-wingers, and the two women have been vocal on the left in the ALP on the two major questions of significance in recent times: the Iraq war and refugee policy.
It has just been announced today that the final wash-up in the Sydney Council is four Clover Moore councillors, three Labor, one Green and one Liberal. Two of the three Labor councilors, Verity Firth and Tony Pooley, are on the left of the ALP. The last elected Clover Moore candidate and Tony Pooley beat the second Green for the last two positions, and it’s not unreasonable to point out that a too-uncritical attitude to Clover Moore may have contributed to the fourth Moore candidate beating the second Green, which is unfortunate.
Even on the point that Dr Reid chooses to make primary: his proposition that the program of the Clover Moore Community Independents was to the left of the Labor program, he’s wrong.
The local Laborites, mainly from the old South Sydney council area, are considerably more left-wing, on municipal, state and federal issues, than Clover Moore’s team. In addition to that, internally in the ALP, even while it’s considerably reduced on the past, there is considerable argument and debate on policy.
The combination of a generally leftist ALP membership in the inner city, and the institutional influence of the trade unions, contributes to making the stance of the ALP in the inner city considerably more left-wing than that of the Clover Moore group.
The conservative, populist electoral machine that surrounds Clover Moore is in no sense a membership organisation, in which anybody outside people hand-picked by the charismatic leaders has any input. The idea that socialists or left-wingers can have much input into Clover Moore’s machine is delusional.
Pressure from the residents, and electoral considerations, will possibly keep the Clover Moore councillors honest on matters of overdevelopment, but that’s about as far as it goes. The problem of outsourcing council services is ongoing because of the conservative social base of the Moore group, which has no inbuilt input from unions, for instance, to press Clover Moore on that matter.
Dr Reid is talking sociological rubbish when he says the Community Independents are part of the “labour aristocracy”: both the vote, as I’ve demonstrated despite Reid’s so-whats, and the team of activists around Clover Moore are located, sociologically, well up in the economic stratosphere, above any considerations of labour anything.
This fact, and the fact that Dr Reid can repeatedly assert “so what” about my careful sociological analysis of elections underlines the voodoo, metaphysical, theological function of the Reid-Boyle confusionism about “labour aristocracies”. Their “labour aristocracy” rhetoric has only a convoluted theological objective.
They try to prove, with little evidence, that the ALP political movement was a direct product of their artificially, retrospectively constructed, allegedly hegemonic “labour aristocracy” in the 19th century, and that this alleged origin is still the major determining factor about the ALP.
This, combined with a crudification and falsification of Lenin, is a kind of voodoo. They’re like Christians who’ve discovered a kind of original sin of Laborism. When, however, they are confronted with any serious sociological investigation and analysis of current politics, they drop this aspect, muttering out of the side of their mouths that, of course, the “labour aristocracy” theory only applies to the origins of Laborism, and the current sociology of social movements is unimportant. All that matters is the “trajectory of movement”.
Dr Reid asserts this in the crudest way possible. For him, in this post, it’s irrelevant who blue-collar workers support. The motor force of social change is the Clover Moore forces down there in Elizabeth Bay. He actually says this, indirectly. That approach is a very considerable distance from any class-based Marxism.
Peter Boyle is right on one thing: this kind of question is going to come up again, and possibly in other states. The DSP leadership, Peter Boyle and Dr Reid have an explicit perspective of permanent exposure of Laborism, which is in their cosmology the second party of capitalism. To that end, they will support almost anyone who isn’t a Laborite or a Liberal if they can possibly rustle up some half-baked argument for doing so.
Reid and I obviously move in totally different worlds. He says he knows no activists who don’t loathe the Laborites. Well, I meet a wide range of people on the left side of Australian society — all kinds of people.
At the moment, possibly a majority of these people generally support the Greens as a first preference, although a lot support Labor.
Nevertheless, even the most cursory conversation with anyone on the left side of society reveals their main preoccupation at the moment is getting rid of the Howard government. Almost everyone on the left, other than the obsessed DSP leadership, takes the view that getting rid of Howard involves exchanging electoral preferences between Labor and the Greens, and hopes for an outcome that involves the election of a Latham Labor government combined with dramatically increased representation for the Greens in the Senate.
From this very concrete circumstance flows the need for a strategic united front around the slogan: “throw out Howard”. As well as being wrong in principle, preferencing the conservative populist Clover Moore cuts sharply across this strategic necessity of ousting Howard.
Everyone on the left I know, other than the DSP leadership obsessives, including a large number of Greens, are enthusiastic and encouraged by the vigorous way Latham and the other Laborites have stood up to the Howard and media barrage in asserting that Labor will stand by its policy of withdrawing Australian troops from Iraq.
The only exception to that on the left, that I’m aware of, is the extraordinary Peter Boyle, who yapped along at Howard’s heels on Monday, enthusiastically quoting the Lateline bloke who thought he’d discovered a chink in Latham’s armour when questioning Labor’s foreign affairs spokesman, Kevin Rudd.
The main political drama this week has been Latham confronting Howard on Iraq and all Boyle can do is join the conservatives in attacking Latham on this question. Some Marxist!
The DSP leadership is so obsessed with its false construct about the “two capitalist parties” that it can’t see the wood for the trees in labour movement and working-class mass politics.
The dismal result for the Socialist Alliance candidates in the NSW local government elections underlines the total bankruptcy of the DSP leadership’s false political perspective, which was expressed so clearly in the perspectives document adopted by the last DSP conference. The DSP leadership has a perspective of building, in the medium term, an alternative electoral organisation to Labor and the Greens.
Despite the crisis of leadership in the labour movement — the ALP-trade-union continuum — and in the major leftist electoral formation in Australian society, the Green electoral party, building an alternative electoral formation in the way the DSP leadership, Boyle and Reid sketch out is impossible in the short or medium term.
Despite the spin Boyle and Reid try to put on political events, the crisis of leadership for the foreseeable future will proceed through political differentiation within Laborism and within the Greens. Marxists with any kind of realism are forced by the weight of these objective circumstances to have an orientation to these two mass formations.
It’s from this set of objective circumstances that the united front slogan necessarily flows. Even small groups of Marxists who choose to orient themselves to these two mass currents, without adapting to the weaknesses of their leaderships, have the prospect of getting a mass audience. Sectarian Marxists who spend all their time abusing these mass formations are condemning themselves to isolation.
Reid also advances the obviously false proposition that the DSP is infinitely more democratic than the creaking mass Social Democracy. If you believe that, you believe in fairies.
The Zinovievist structure of the DSP has produced the situation that several DSP leaders say privately they disagree with preferencing Moore but they don’t open their mouths publicly on the question, either on the GLW discussion list or in the Socialist Alliance discussion.
People rarely get booted out of the ALP for standing up doggedly against leaders on political questions (although they sometimes do get thrown out) but it’s clearly the case that those in the DSP who disagree with preferencing Clover Moore prefer to shut up rather than test the discipline of the DSP about any sort of public disagreement.
I repeat my challenge to Boyle, Dr Reid, or anyone else from the DSP: why not have a public debate on this question of preferencing Moore and the associated question of strategy for socialists in the coming federal elections? I’m willing to debate Peter Boyle and Dr Reid on these matters in any forum that they choose.
By the way, I’m waiting with bated breath for a serious analysis from Dr Reid, who one presumes knows something about sociology, and Peter Boyle, of what actually happened in the NSW local government elections. What social forces voted for which parties, and particularly an analysis of the vote of the Socialist Alliance.
April 5, 2004
Nobby Tobby accuses me of being a “fabricator of lies”. Wow. I don’t much like being accused of lying by someone who shelters behind a pseudonym but then half identifies himself as a member of the Sydney branch executive committee of the Socialist Alliance.
As a matter of broad political policy, I don’t lie about political events and matters of fact, or anything else for that matter. I sometimes get things wrong, but I don’t lie. Nobby Tobby’s weird, unpleasant and convoluted post confirms me in my view that I didn’t get anything wrong about the sequence of events in the Sydney Socialist Alliance branch.
In his very strange post, Nobby Tobby says a decision had been made “anonymously” to preference Clover Moore over the Laborites. It must have been very “anonymous”, because my informants told me there was a meeting of the Sydney branch of the Alliance at which, in particular, two members of the ISO spoke strongly in favour of preferencing Labor over Clover Moore and that the understanding at the end of that meeting was that preferencing Labor was the position of the Sydney branch of the Alliance.
My further understanding is that there was then a caucus of the ISO, at which the ISO leaders persuaded a majority to support preferencing Clover Moore. After that, one of the ISO people who originally supported preferencing Labor, but not both, changed their position.
Another meeting of the Sydney branch of the Alliance was then held, which decided to preference Clover Moore, with the ISO member who favoured preferencing Labor, dissenting.
The story gets even more complicated and obscure in this way: at the relatively successful antiwar rally two weeks ago, several leading members of the DSP said to me in private conversation that they opposed the decision to preference Moore.
Even Peter Boyle, in discussion, said he had initially favoured preferencing Labor but the trajectory of movement now persuaded him the correct decision was to preference Moore.
Nobby Tobby now says it was all unanimous (or “anonymous”) all through, and he accuses me, in this spirit, of being a “fabricator of lies”.
Brother Nobby Tobby seems to be a pretty nasty piece of work, throwing around accusations of fabrication and lying far too easily. If he believes I got it wrong, the obvious way to make his case is to give a frank and honest account of the sequence of events and the alternative lines of argument in the Alliance, the DSP and the ISO.
Obviously, Zinovievist organisational arrangements don’t allow him to engage in a frank discussion of the events, so he falls back on crude, offensive and inaccurate accusations that I’m lying. If I’ve got it so wrong, tell us the actual sequence of events that supports your argument, Nobby Tobby.
April 5, 2004
Kieran Latty has clearing the air a bit by attempting to give a more or less comprehensive account of the sequence of events in the Sydney Branch of the Socialist Alliance. I accept that account of events, and will correct any future comment I make on this issue accordingly, using this account as the definitive one in the absence of another account that’s as complete and comprehensive. Quite obviously Nobby Tobby’s account is completely incorrect, by way of omission.
I’d still make the following couple of points. Jack Mundey is a courageous fighter on pretty well all class questions and also on many environmental matters. His opinions, however, on such matters as preferencing Moore, shouldn’t be taken as the last word.
Over a very long time Jack has had a very soft spot for Clover Moore, based on common environmental interests, and he doesn’t give as much weight as I would to the very concrete fact that she kept the Greiner government in power for a number of years with her vote.
On the question of outsourcing, Moore has refused to make any direct statement. You say that someone consulted the Australian Services Union, but you didn’t tell us what response they got from the ASU (Municipal Employees Union).
All officials I have spoken to from the ASU (MEU) were strongly in favor of preferencing Lee over Moore, because of Moore’s refusal to be explicit about the outsourcing issue.
When I spoke to DSP members and leaders at the antiwar demonstration two weeks ago, they were very anxious to point the bone at the ISO as the source of preferencing Clover Moore, and several leading DSPers said to me and others privately that they were opposed to preferencing Moore over Lee, which is why I raise the question of what I call Zinovievism.
There is obviously, from Kieran's account of events, argument in both the DSP and the ISO on the question. But both groups are obviously bound, in reality, in the Socialist Alliance by the decision made by the leadership of the groups. The decision to preference Clover Moore had unstoppable weight inside the Socialist Alliance once the leadership of each group had pronounced in favor. This situation seems to me an almost classic example of Zinovievist arrangements in small socialist groups.
April 5, 2004
Ambrose Andrews wrote:
Bob Gould in his inimitable fashion, “outed” Chris Kerr as being Peter Boyle. The twist in that instance is that it wasn’t technically “outing” because it wasn’t correct … it wasn’t true. It was one of Bob’s ahhh … educated stabs in the dark.
Ambrose Andrews alleges that I outed Chris Kerr on this list. As comrade Ambrose ought to know, that’s just not true. I’ve never outed anyone on any list.
I did ask some pointed questions about whether Dennis Berrell and Michael Berrell were the same person, but I gathered that one of those identities was the man’s real name. Dennis Michael Berrell clarified that to my satisfaction. It’s hardly outing anyone to try to keep track of their real name or dual personalities.
I didn’t out Chris Kerr either. I genuinely thought, on the basis of stylistic similarities in the rather lame satire used by Kerrvert and Peter Boyle, that Kerrvert was a pseudonym for Peter Boyle.
As a result of this confusion on my part, one of Chris Kerr’s fellow DSP members outed him, and I can hardly be blamed for that.
I’ve never outed anyone, I’ve just commented wryly a few times on the way people hiding behind pseudonyms have put the boot into me, which is a reasonable response. I hope Ambrose Andrews will withdraw the claim that I outed Chris Kerr.
Socialist Alliance lurches dramatically to the right
Observations on the 2004 NSW municipal elections
The Greens and the 2004 NSW local government elections