December 4, 2004
Duncan Meerding wades in defending the political line of his chosen organisation, the DSP, against me. I note with pleasure, and even a little respect, that Duncan uses more cautious language than he has in past posts. His more careful tone is quite important.
His enthusiasm and partinost for the DSP have a good side. That kind of enthusiasm in the young, however, can also have a dangerous side if it blinds them to inquiry and self-education. The problem with a political sect such as the DSP is that it discourages younger members from inquiring into the views of other currents and individuals on the left.
A bellicose ultraleftism towards the broad labour movement obviously has a certain appeal for some youth, partly because they have nothing much to test it against. However, questions of strategy and tactics in the labour movement have a long and complex history, and are not exhausted by constantly drawing attention to reactionary positions adopted by some parts of the bureaucracies that lead the labour movement.
It’s possible that you don’t know terribly much about those bureaucracies, their methods of functioning, and their contradictory character. I’d urge you, Duncan, to read and study some of the material that’s accessible on these questions. For instance, Trotsky’s writings on the united front concerning the victory of fascism in Germany, which are collected in a relatively cheap Penguin book. You should also read Lenin’s Left Wing Communism, and some of the tactical discussions at the first four congresses of the Comintern, particularly Trotsky’s intervention on the united front tactic. Pointers to some of this material are available on Ozleft, and most of it is in the Marxists Internet Archive.
I note that you make a total distinction between the reactionary Labor Party and the progressive Greens. If the distinction is so absolute, what weight do you give to the way that the Labor Party is intertwined with the trade union movement, even included many trade unionists that the DSP quite validly draws attention to as a left current?
The educational year is finished, and historically in Australia the Christmas holidays are a time to read and study, and it might be a useful time for you to dig into some of the material, including the views of left and Marxist groups and individuals who disagree with the DSP on strategy and tactics. Who knows, you may even have begun such an inquiry independently of my urging.
In relation to Paul Benedek’s attempt to say that white is black in his response to Shane Hopkinson, I’d make the following observations.
Despite what Benedek says, the parallels between the British SWP and the Australian DSP positions on regroupment are striking, with this qualification: that the British SWP isn’t nearly as ruthless and monolothic as the DSP is in trying to bend its ostensible allies to its will.
Paul's problem is that no one on the Marxist left believes the DSP version of the history except the DSP leadership and the personalities leading the several-times-reorganised ostensibly independent caucus in the Socialist Alliance. The ostensible independents have been reorganised, of course, to exclude most independents who aren’t DSP non-party Bolsheviks.
It’s worth reviewing the history of the Socialist Alliance, which was set up as an electoral formation. That was what the groups all signed up to.
At a certain point the DSP introduced the idea that the Socialist Alliance should become a regroupment project, a multi-tendency socialist party, effectively run by the DSP. This project was presented by the DSP without any parallel proposal for discussion between the groups to resolve their historical differences, such as tactical attitudes towards the labour movement, theoretical approaches to state capitalism, workers’ states, etc.
Pretty well all the other affiliates, including the second-largest affiliate, the ISO, rejected this repeated proposal of the DSP that they should be more or less absorbed by the DSP carnivorous plant, and they continue to do so.
Clearly the DSP wants to turn the Socialist Alliance into a kind of DSP mark II, and it continues to press for this outcome. The other groups continue to reject the DSP’s proposal and perspective for the Alliance. It’s always possible for the DSP to press ahead and use its greater weight in the Alliance to do anything it wants, but it’s highly unlikely that any of the other affiliates will acquiesce in the Alliance becoming DSP mark II. There the matter rests.
The verbal assaults of the DSP leadership on the ISO and the other groups for “holding back the unity process” (for which one should read, not allowing themselves to be absorbed into DSP mark II) are unlikely to change anything.
I reiterate: no one outside the DSP and its closest allies believes the DSP version of events. It seems to me that this situation, to which Shane Hopkinson has drawn attention so well, is the main reason for the intense venom of the recent responses to Shane from Peter Boyle and Alan Bradley.