Bob Gould, 2004

How sects view the world
In defense of Leninism

Source: Ozleft, Green Left Weekly discussion list, June 7, 2004
Proofreading, editing, mark-up: Steve Painter

Green Left discussion list, June 7, 2004

In due course, I’ll take up Luke Fomiati’s point and write a little thumbnail sketch of the World Socialist Web Site public meeting I attended, because the way the old Socialist Labour League has evolved is very instructive. In the short term, I’m struck forcibly as to how similar the WSWS and Green Left Weekly and the DSP actually are to each other in their approach to working class politics.

I’m not as impressed as Dennis Berrell is with Nick Beams’ erudition, I’ve known Nick Beams too long for that. What struck me was the relatively abstract and derivative character of his presentation — his global wrap-up.

He then made the easy leap to the proposition that all the existing mass organisations were totally bankrupt, that no intermediate tactics were necessary any longer, and that the only political task was to build the Socialist Equality Party and the WSWS.

This is the classic statement of sectarianism in the socialist movement. The whole of the three presentations at the WSWS meeting focused on the cosmic importance of the SEP and WSWS.

GLW and the DSP tendency are in some ways very similar to the WSWS and the SEP. We’ve just had an orgy of self-congratulation from Norm Dixon about all the hits Green Left Weekly gets, especially on Sundays and Mondays.

Well I’m one of those hits, and I just surfed GLW looking for coverage of the major political event of the week, and the DSP's comments on it, and possibly the DSP’s comment on a major event of the previous week, the Victorian Labor Party conference and its call to order on the Bracks government’s industrial policies.

Unless I’m going blind, or didn’t search properly, there is nothing in GLW this week about the major political event of the week — Bush’s extraordinarily direct intervention in Australian politics about Iraq, and the flurry of responses from the different political forces in Australia.

The significant response, of course, was that of Latham and the Labor Party, who have so far stuck to their guns on withdrawal of troops by Christmas. A (to the DSP leadership) marginal event like the Victorian trade union movement’s collision, at the Labor conference, with the Bracks government still doesn’t get a mention, either.

None of these issues seems to compare with the importance of the Canberra environmental battle about the Ridge, or a struggle for free speech against a local council (I don’t dismiss either of those issues, but I am infuriated by the mad sense of proportion displayed in not covering the big questions of the day because they don’t fit the DSP’s schemas about working class politics).

The GLW coverage of the issue of Iraq is even wierder, considering the fact that the lead story in this issue of GLW is promoting a demonstration in three weeks time on Iraq and the occupation. This lead story succeeds in promoting the demonstration without discussing Bush, Howard or Latham.

One would have thought that even at the most simple level of promoting the Iraq demonstration, some solidarity with Latham and the ALP in opposition to Bush and Howard would be a good way of building the demonstration.

On the face of it, the only possible reason for not covering the issue in the context of the demonstration is the unwillingness of the DSP to grasp the contradictory nature of Laborism, and the present role that Latham’s rhetoric is playing in consolidating the antiwar majority in Australia.

No doubt another justification that will be used by the GLW editorial board for ignoring the major political event of the week will be the assertion that Latham’s response to Bush on the Iraq question is tinged with nationalism. This is also the view of the US SWP, which regards most of the antiwar mobilisations in the world as being defective because they have a nationalist aspect. This approach is nonsensical sectarianism.

An Australian socialist weekly newspaper that covers the world but doesn’t discuss the issue of Bush, Howard, Latham and Iraq, is the newspaper of a political sect, and has far more in common with the WSWS than is indicated by the literary squabble on the GLW discussion list about which socialist group is sectarian towards which other socialist group.

The real sectarianism of both GLW and WSWS is their sectarianism towards the mass workers’ organisations in Australia.