Bob Gould, 2003

Peter Boyle thinks he's funny
So does Imre Salusinszky

Source: Ozleft, November 209, 2003
Proofreading, editing, mark-up: Steve Painter

Peter Boyle and others are clearly having difficulty addressing the political issues I’ve raised in recent posts. They’ve responded in two ways, essentially. One way is simple verbal abuse. The other way is constant falsification of what I’ve said. Why they should think that immediate falsification of what I’ve said does them any good is a bit beyond me. The reader can read what I said, and actually see them falsifying what I’ve said, so unless Boyle and Co think their readers are very dopey, I don’t really understand what they hope to achieve by proceeding in this way.

It would be tedious to go through every detail of these falsifications, I’d just ask readers to carefully read what I’ve said, and then read what Boyle et al say that I’ve said. This exchange is getting pretty weird.

This falsification of my views proceeds also by way of an attempt at humour. Boyle, apparently under another persona, kerrvert83 (the styles of Boyle and kerrvert83 are functionally identical), wheels out an extended story, in which they put their own words in my ostensible mouth. The problem with this “humour” is that it is an extended, systematic falsification of my views passed off as humour. It gets even more eccentric when the Boyle persona starts conducting a mock discussion with the kerrvert83 persona. It is a bit funny, but not at all in the way Boyle-kerrvert83 intend.

Literate Sydneysiders are already quite familiar with the Boyle-kerrvert83 school of “humourous” falsification. An equally pretentious right-wing ideologue by the name of Imre Salusinszky did the same kind of thing for quite a while in The Australian, although it has thankfully now stopped, obviously because it was so unfunny that it didn’t help circulation. Salusinszky’s method was similar to Boyle’s: he would invent dialogue that suited him, ostensibly out of the mouths of people of the liberal left, and then ridicule his own literary invention, with an attempt at “humour”.

Boyle-kerrvert83’s “humour” has a similar farcical quality, and is clearly an attempt to evade the political issues in the points I raise by consistently falsifying what I actually say with a mad version of what he tries to assert my views amount to. Boyle is hard up for an argument.

The ritual abuse that I’m somehow covering for the policy retreats of the official Labor left is intentionally insulting and really amounts to the proposition that anyone like me who doesn’t snap to attention and immediately concur with the DSP leadership’s lunatic strategic propositions for the Australian labour movement is covering for the Labor left. The problem with this is that everyone knows I’ve been in conflict with the official Labor left on major questions for all my political life, and I still am.

Boyle reduces my argument that we should still try to rebuild the unity of the broad antiwar coalition, despite the bad behaviour of some of the Labor left in Sydney, to the proposition that I want to crawl to those Labor lefts. This approach to the important question of whether or not to attempt to rebuild a broad unity in the antiwar movement is triumphalist, sectarian and frivolous. The abusive aspect of Boyle’s attack irritates me, but the pipsqueak triumphalism from a position where the far left is really rather isolated, is the aspect of Boyle’s polemics that is politically most dangerous.

Another thing that has emerged in this series of exchanges is the way all pretense at any serious approach to a united front with significant figures on the Labor left like Carmen Lawrence is immediately thrown aside in favour of hysterical exposure and denunciation of Lawrence. My rather cautious proposition that Lawrence’s victory in the Labor party presidential contest opens up a space for the rebuilding the Labor left is immediately reduced by Boyle to the proposition that I am trying to bring the left in behind all of Lawrence’s alleged policies, and thereby bring the left in behind Crean’s alleged policies.

In Boyle’s universe, there are no contradictions or shades of grey. Everybody who doesn’t immediately snap to attention behind the shining political sun of the DSP leadership is treated as objectively trying to line up the movement behind all of Simon Crean’s policies. This approach to labour movement politics is a kind of higher lunacy.

As well as constantly falsifying what I’ve said, Boyle also recklessly, breathlessly, tries to remould the material world to form part of his Potemkin Village, a village in which the DSP-Socialist Alliance is central to all major political developments. His response to my careful proposition that the DSP ought to be more cautious than to present the conflict between the militant group in the Queensland AMWU and the Cameron machine, as a contest between the Socialist Alliance and Laborism, is immediately reduced to the notion that I in some way support the Cameron machine, which is, as everyone knows, bizarre in the extreme.

Any disagreement with the DSP leadership’s desperate tactical eccentricities has of course to be immediately reduced to the critic siding with the DSP’s enemies. Boyle then wheels out a new story. He says:

“Silly me, I keep rejoicing when the workers vote against great ALP leaders in the trade unions, like Doug Cameron of the AMWU, for a more militant alternative, such as the latest news from the Queensland election that Workers Unity member and Socialist Alliance supporter Danny Doherty has won the election for Queensland secretary of the printing division of the AMWU — the first member of Workers Unity to be elected to a position in the union.”

Just about everything about this little paragraph is false, and it illustrates, vividly, the reckless, Potemkin Village approach of the DSP leadership to serious trade union matters. I’ve sought out first-hand information from Workers Unity in Queensland, and the actual situation is this: Workers Unity includes a number of militants, well established in the metals side of the industry. Some of them are members of the group who left the ISO a while back. Some of them are members of the ALP. The group who left the ISO are still deciding if they intend to stay in the Socialist Alliance. Workers Unity is conducting an energetic struggle, on a trade union basis, against Cameron’s Queensland machine. The Socialist Alliance, as an entity, figures very little in the battle in the Queensland metalworkers union. The exaggerated journalistic coverage by the DSP and Green Left is entirely artificial, and its only effect has been to give the Cameron machine a propaganda stick to beat the opposition with.

Unfortunately, on the metals side in the recent ballot, which Boyle doesn’t mention, the Cameron machine was successful, and the opposition got a bit over 30 per cent. Obviously the Cameron machine’s propaganda was reasonably effective, and Green Left’s intervention didn’t help. It seems to me that Green Left and the DSP leadership are making entirely literary propaganda to blow their own trumpet at the expense of the practical day-to-day interests of the group of workers actually engaged in a fight with the Cameron machine.

Boyle’s proclamation that Danny Doherty, who beat the Cameron machine for secretary of the Printing Division of the union, is a member of Workers Unity and a supporter of the Socialist Alliance (whatever that means), is according to my information, simply untrue. I’m told that that the situation is this: the printing division is a small, fairly closed community, as you might expect. Danny Doherty is a highly respected militant. The Cameron machine incumbent was unpopular. The Cameron machine actually approached Danny Doherty to replace the incumbent. Doherty, however, decided quite courageously to maintain his independence from the Cameron machine. In a friendly way he rejected the offer to run as a Workers Unity candidate, he preferred to run as an independent, although obviously Workers Unity supported him. Now that he has won the position, he will clearly come under considerable pressure to accommodate to the Cameron machine.

The question I ask is, how does Boyle light-mindedly falsifying the facts of this situation, and claiming Danny Doherty as one of the Alliance’s own, so to speak, help the militants in the Queensland AMWU? It’s just another example of the DSP’s recklessness in trying to blow its own political trumpet.

There are other errors of fact in Boyle’s recent posts, and I may address them in the future, but I prefer to address the serious political questions, as I do in my other posts. I don’t intend to spend too much time in responding to either to Boyle’s abuse, or to his hysteria.