December 8, 2004
Dave Riley always writes in a pretentious and vindictive way when arguing with, or writing about, anyone who disagrees with the DSP. He also doubles as an ostensible humourist. One problem with his writing is that it’s very hard to discern where the serious stuff ends and the humour begins, and a lot of what he writes seems to me like an extended satire on himself and the DSP.
He also doubles as a central leader of the ostensible independents in the Socialist Alliance, but this doesn’t stop him taking up arms in the most belligerent way against anyone who argues with the DSP. I often feel like asking: will the real Riley please stand up.
Riley launches an arrogant and politically stupid broadside today against socialists who are members of the Greens. He says quite baldly that most of them are “exers”, whatever that means, and in passing he asserts that one of my personal political crimes is that Ozleft, to use Riley’s insulting and rather revealing phrase, “panders to those exers”.
That kind of language has the nasty smell of Stalinism about it. It’s the kind of language that was once used by the CPA about anyone who parted company with it. One shouldn’t be surprised at that, as he’s somewhat of an ex himself, having kicked off his political life, as I myself did, as a young Catholic with a certain sympathy for the Groupers, which he shed and moved into the orbit of the CPA, as I also did as a youth, and then he moved on to the current that is now known as the DSP after changing its name several times.
Unfortunately, in Riley’s case, the bad habits of Stalinism die rather hard. If you examine carefully what Riley says, he clearly implies that the only socialists are the smallish number in the Socialist Alliance, and particularly in relation to the Greens he asserts that socialists in the Greens aren’t really socialists, but “exers”, who he implies are moving to the right.
What an offensive and stupid approach that is. That’s the attitude of the DSP-Socialist Alliance leadership towards both socialists in the Greens and socialists in the Labor Party: they can’t be real socialists because they don’t make themselves available for the DSP’s current political projects.
Riley also babbles about activists, implying also in a mealy-mouthed way that the Socialist Alliance and the DSP have the only real activists, and the socialists in the Greens aren’t activist, whatever that means.
In the real world of politics the DSP leadership’s rhetoric about their own activism has a slightly surreal quality. The DSP cum Socialist Alliance leadership are the leadership of a sect, whose primary political activity is internal, promoting their own projects, building their own organisation and trying to bend everyone in the Socialist Alliance to support for their newspaper.
They do engage in a bit of activism from time to time, but so does everyone else in the socialist, workers’ and popular movements.
In Sydney, for instance, in the past couple of days there have been a couple of activities, one outside the court over the James Hardie asbestos case, organised by the trade unions, another against the Carr Government’s rather sinister redevelopment plans for the Redfern area, an agitation organised mainly by local residents with the help of local Labor Party branches.
At the political level, the move of some right-wingers in the federal Labor caucus to attack refugee activists was withdrawn because the refugee activists were able to mobilise considerable sentiment in Labor Party circles against the move.
The move of the right wing of the federal Labor Party caucus to back down on workplace agreements has caused an upheaval, and most trade unions are starting agitation to force Steven Smith to back down. The move to block Smith’s proposition on AWAs by calling a special ALP federal conference is being spearheaded by the union bureaucrat that the DSP loves to hate, Doug Cameron.
The workers’ movement is a complex and contradictory place, and there’s piles of activism in it, all over the shop, only a small part of which has any significant input from the DSP leadership. It’s both offensive and bizarre for Riley to imply that the socialist activists in the Greens aren’t really socialists because they don’t line up with the DSP.
Are Sylvia Hale, John Kaye, Lee Rhiannon, Jack Mundey and Kerry Nettle not socialists and not activists? That proposition is absurd. Are the grey-haired ex-members of the CPA scattered around the Greens not socialists? Clearly, the former members of the DSP in the Greens can’t be socialists because they’ve sinned by departing from the elect, but what about all the others? The same principle applies to the Labor Party.
Are the 6000-7000 people scattered across the country who voted for Carmen Lawrence as federal president of the ALP not socialists because they don’t adhere to the DSP?
The political problem for the Riley and the self-appointed DSP-Socialist Alliance leadership sect is that everywhere in the country, even in these rather defensive times, where there’s a bit of an upsurge of the movement of any sort, heaps of people turn up who are socialists in the Greens, in the Labor Party, in other socialist groups that don’t roll over to the DSP leadership, or who are not in any group.
No amount of vindictive, self-important abuse from Riley, Peter Boyle or anyone else, mainly written for internal consumption in the DSP-Socialist Alliance, is going to change that situation.