Bob Gould, 2004

On the left of the twilight zone
“Lively discussion” and the World Socialist Web Site

Source: Ozleft, Green Left Weekly discussion list, June 9, 2004
Proofreading, editing, mark-up: Steve Painter

Green Left discussion list, June 9, 2004

At a World Socialist Web Site public meeting a week or so ago, one very striking feature was that there was almost no discussion from the floor except for a bit initiated by myself and Dennis Berrell. Most of the audience sat in silence, although they clapped a fair bit.

The two speakers on the platform, Nick Beams and Linda Tannenbaum, replied at great length to short statements, which Berrell and I were forced to present in question form, but the WSWS later managed to describe that as “lively discussion”. In the course of the responses from the platform, Beams and Tannenbaum accused myself, the Socialist Alliance, the ISO and assorted others of agreeing with the politics of the ruling class and really supporting imperialism, etc.

The DSP, quite reasonably, resents distortions of its views, and Nick Fredman has even challenged the WSWS to an argument on those questions. On form, I don’t much like his chances of getting a serious response from the WSWS.

On the Green Left site, a real Marxist from the twilight zone, Carl Kenner, does much the same to me as Beams and Tannenbaum did, accusing me of supporting corporate leaders, implying that I support Tony Blair, etc, etc.

Carl Kenner apparently thinks this passes for discussion on serious questions of the day. Kenner asserts that there has to be something good about the WSWS if it condemns Gould, the Labor Party and the trade unions.

The DSP leadership, and all its significant supporters on the GLW site, and in Green Left, however remain totally silent on the political question that is emerging in the federal elections, which is the enormous pressure being mounted by the Liberals, the Murdoch press, Bush, Armytage and the US administration, and now even the Tory governor general, for Labor to reverse its policy of withdrawal of Australian troops from Iraq by Christmas.

So far, Latham and Rudd have dug in their heels, and Latham’s short statement, reported last Saturday, reiterating the withdrawal policy, continues to infuriate the ruling class.

Nevertheless, the DSP leadership, its main supporters and the Socialist Alliance, are resolutely silent on this question, as far as can be judged from GLW and this discussion site.

On the face of it, the rank and file of the DSP, and most of the rank and file of the Socialist Alliance are, on this question, silent in the same way as the rank and file at the WSWS meeting were silent, waiting patiently for their leaders to set them right from the platform.

On the GLW discussion site, the entirely secondary question of Peter Garrett getting a seat or not, and very detailed discussions of Venezuelan politics get a pile of comments and postings, but the big political question that preoccupies the labour movement, as to whether mobilisation behind Latham will encourage him to stick to his guns on Iraq, excites no interest or comment at all.

GLW, the Socialist Alliance and the DSP leadership, and the DSP and Socialist Alliance rank and file, should snap out of their Marxian twilight zone and develop some opinions on the split that’s absolutely clear to most others in Australian society — between the Greens and Labor on one side and the Liberals, the US adminstration and the governor general on the other.

The twilight zone is a bad place for Marxists.

Trivia and whinges

June 11, 2004

The curious responses to my recent post are instructive politically. Carl Kenner accuses the ALP of further crimes, which include support for the British monarchy. Brother Kenner lives in a very strange universe.

There’s a fair bit of spirited debate about the dangers of Peter Garrett, but still not a word about the immense pressure from the US government and the right wing of the US and Australian ruling classes on Mark Latham and the Labor Party to reverse the Iraq withdrawal policy. To me, that seems the most pressing immediate conflict at the moment, but the alleged Marxists in the DSP orbit have not a word to say about it.

In response to a new poster (and possibly an earlier post from Shane Hopkinson), which raised the same point, gently asking for a response on my points, we get this morning’s patriotic rhetoric from Sue B that the failure to comment on the Victorian Labor conference conflict was simply a matter of resources.

That’s pretty rich from Sue B, the ostensible expert on the Victorian labour movement, who has written several lengthy pieces on the various forces at work there. One would have thought that Sue B wouldn’t have found it a difficult task to do a short appraisal of the Victorian ALP conference cross-factional union collision with the Bracks government.

This issue has broader political implications because, if a federal Labor government is elected, which seems possible, the ability of the industrial and political labour movement to exert maximum pressure on the federal Labor government on industrial matters will be sharply posed.

There has also been a bit of erudite interplay between Alan Bradley and Carl Kenner as to whether all members of the ALP are bad, or only all influential members. Personally, I’d classify Martin Kingham, Michele O’Neil and a number of others active in the trade union movement as influential members of the ALP, and many militants will be looking to them for the kind of intelligent and courageous lead that they gave at the Victorian ALP conference, in the inevitable struggles with an incoming federal Labor government.

There’s has been no GLW comment at all about any of these important questions. This whole universe of the conflict and struggles within the official labour movement on big questions passes by Green Left Weekly almost completely.

That gets us back to the immediate and over-riding political questions: the considerable enthusiasm on the left side of society for Labor to defeat Howard in the elections, for the Greens to do well in the elections and possibly have the balance of power in the Senate, and for maintaining the pressure on an incoming Labor government to withdraw the troops from Iraq.

The current, brutal centrepiece of this whole political situation is the enormous pressure building up from the right of Australian society and the US bourgeoisie, Howard, the Murdoch press, etc, to humiliate and thereby politically domesticate Latham, and now Garrett, and the rest of the ALP, and as part of the same process to ride over the Greens.

It’s very striking that it seems impossible for any major figures in the DSP orbit to make any general political statement about these questions. All you get is trivia about Peter Garrett, twilight zone abuse from Carl Kenner and a self-interested whinge from Sue B that making a political appraisal of the real political situation in Australia and the workers movement is merely a question of available journalistic resources.

The DSP is still blundering around in the twilight zone, it seems.