June 6, 2005
Dave Riley this morning on the Green Left list makes a pretty well incomprehensible contribution that takes up Joaquin Bustelo in the inimitible way convenient to the Australian DSP leadership.
Riley expresses some sympathy with Bustelo but qualifies that and asserts that all the groups in Australia that came from the old and new “new left”, which by implication seems to be everyone but the DSP, should go out of business.
Riley echoes a similarly incoherent ramble by Jamie Doughney in Seeing Red. Doughney, who occupies a similar position to Riley as a kind of loyal DSP non-party Bolshevik, asserts that the youth shouldn’t trust anyone over 50 (it’s not entirely clear how this squares with his own age and the over-50 age bracket of much of the DSP leadership).
This is an echo of the kind of anti-theoretical bullshit that the more stupid ultralefts used to blurt out in the 1960s and 1970s. It’s a long way from the basic ideas of Lenin and Trotsky on Marxist organisation.
They were constantly concerned with the question of generations in Marxist organisations and believed that organisations needed the capacity of youth to storm heaven and party veterans with the experience and knowledge they had accumulated. Both elements were necessary in the construction of Marxist organisations.
In reality, the Australian DSP leadership are the most tough-minded factionalists of them all and rhetoric from their orbit attacking everyone else but themselves as sects will convince no one, at least in Australia, except themselves.
The DSP leadership’s approach to all political questions is always qualified by a tactical element of what’s in it for the DSP.
This is particularly clear in the DSP’s internal literature. Sermons from Riley and Doughney about all the other groups going out of business and the youth rejecting everyone over 50 are hardly worth the paper they’re written on because no one will take the slightest bit of notice.
The real problem is to crack the hard shell surrounding most of the groups and precipitate a serious cross-factional political discussion.
That’s more and more important because the germ of truth amid Bustelo’s arrogant posturing is the fact that most of the far left is hopelessly isolated because of its sectarianism, including its inablity to conduct a civilised discussion with other leftists across political traditions.
The ironical thing is that this kind of us-perfect, everyone-else-a-sect view has a long history in the revolutionary socialist movement. The old Militant Tendency in Ted Grant’s time used to ignore all the other groups, referring to them as “the sects”. Gerry Healy behaved in much the same way. The US SWP clearly adopts that kind of rhetoric.
Repeated by the allies of the Australian DSP leadership, this view is total farce.
I don’t quite understand the aim of Bustelo’s outburst in the US context. Is he just scoring off all the groups, or does he have some kind of alternative strategy? I don’t mean a complete bluebrint, a few glimmerings will do.