Bob Gould, 2004
Source: Ozleft, Green Left Weekly discussion list, September 14, 2004
Proofreading, editing, mark-up: Steve Painter
John Howard at the end of the 2004 Australian federal election campaign, in the explosion over forest policy, claimed political ownership of, and support from, some blue-collar workers, including officials of the forestry division of the CFMEU. These became, in the media, Howard’s workers, and Howard’s trade unionists.
Throughout the election campaign the Howard government’s propaganda against Latham and Labor was supplemented in a modest way by the virulent propaganda of two socialist groups: the Socialist Equality Party and the Democratic Socialist Perspective. This was not decisive because the real influence of these two groups in the workers’ movement is not large.
The main damage that their agitation did was to the political understanding of the members and supporters of the two groups themselves.
The worst group in this respect was the SEP. Despite the relative leftism of the ALP election campaign, the SEP and its World Socialist Web Site concentrated its main political fire on Labor. Objectively, this ultraleft abuse of the Labor Party, reminscent of the Stalinist Third Period, helped the Liberals.
The SEP was at least doggedly consistent. It ran a scattering of candidates, who got minuscule votes, and I mean really minuscule, which also applies to most of the votes achieved by the Socialist Alliance.
The SEP advocated an equal vote for Labor and Liberal — effectively an informal vote. Shades of Australian Stalinism during the co-called Third Period of the late 1920s and early 1930s.
The DSP’s approach in the election was slightly different. It took a formally correct position, directing preferences to the Greens and Labor, but the coverage in the DSP’s paper and on the paper’s website (which is now a more significant journalistic force than the paper), was implacable, constant, unremitting and shameless denunciation of Labor and all its works.
This was combined with a quite eccentric exclusive emphasis on the Socialist Alliance election campaign, which was in reality mainly symbolic. Readers of the DSP press who didn’t know better would have been led to believe that the Socialist Alliance was a major political force — the main opposition to the Liberals, Labor and the Greens.
The DSP press totally ignored issues and events in the campaign that didn’t fit the DSP’s varying preoccupations. The electoral coverage concentrated on issues such as gay marriage, on which the DSP thought it could score off Labor.
The more substantial issues on which the Labor electoral campaign was fairly leftist were either or ignored or got hostile coverage. The Labor industrial relations proposals, which so alarmed the ruling class, were attacked as being insufficient.
The Labor educational proposals, which involved more funding for poorer schools, and the withdrawal of funding from richer schools, were largely ignored.
The dogged reiteration by Latham of the proposition that the troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by Christmas was constantly dismissed by the DSP as insufficient, despite the fact that the ruling class was attacking this position violently, seeing it as a major threat to imperialist interests.
A small-scale but extremely important issue in the campaign was the dog-whistle, reactionary Muslim baiting of the Labor candidate, Ed Husic, in the marginal Labor seat of Greenway, where he was challenged by a reactionary under the Liberal banner from the Hillsong Pentecostal church. This was the only seat that Labor lost in NSW — by a tiny margin.
One might have thought that socialists with a publicity apparatus, with even a grain of civilised solidarity in their bones might have chosen to take up defence of the only Muslim who had a chance of being elected. That certainly had a symbolic quality in Australian politics, and many left-wingers of all stripes, of my acquaintance, rallied to help Husic’s campaign. Not the DSP, however. Solidarity with Husic would have cut across the DSP’s exposure of Laborism, so not a word from them about the dog-whistle Muslim-baiting of Husic.
This essentially right-wing Third Period sectarianism reached its most spectacular high point at the end of the campaign, when Labor leader Mark Latham boldly put forward a program for saving old-growth forests and promised about $800 million for retraining displaced timber workers.
These forest proposals were a big and courageous big leap into politically troubled waters by Latham and the ALP. They were immediately supported by all the authoritative conservation bodies and by the small Green mass party. On the basis of their progressive character the Greens decided to give all their preferences in marginal seats to the ALP. The forest policy wasn’t, however, good enough for the Socialist Alliance, which put out a press release denouncing it as disappointing and taking up some of John Howard’s demagogy that the Labor proposal did not involve an immediate moratorium on logging in old-growth forests.
This press release came out in the same couple of days that Liberal prime minister Howard released his forest policy with a demagogic declaration of an immediate moratorium on logging 170,000 hectares.The problem with that, as was pointed out by the Greens, Labor and conservation groups, was that Howard declared his moratorium on areas that weren’t targetted for logging, and did nothing about areas that were immediately under threat.
The DSP was the only leftist group in the country that didn’t regard the ALP forest policy as qualitatively more progressive than that of the Howard government.
This stupid, essentially right-wing sectarianism carried through to election day, when DSP supporters everywhere concentrated their main fire on the booths in attacking the Labor supporters on issues such as gay marriage. The general mood, however, on the day was quite different to that. The booth workers for the Greens and Laborites were generally quite fraternal towards each other, operating under general the rubric of “kick the Liberals out”. The belligerent sectarianism of the DSP on election day didn’t cut any ice, that I could see, with Labor or Greens booth workers.
It’s interesting that Norm Dixon puts forward a more or less coherent argument for the DSP’s election strategy, as does Virginia Brown, from Western Australia. Dixon starts with the obligatory attack on Shane Hopkinson for alleged electoralism, because Shane takes into account the sociology of elections.
It’s hard to imagine anything more electoralist than the statement of one Socialist Alliance candidate calling for a significant reduction in the defence budget, rather than its abolition, but that’s by the bye.
The argument about parliamentarism is, of course, just introduced to ridicule Shane. The core of Norm’s and Virginia’s argument is that the electoral work of the DSP on the day helped them to make contacts with the Greens, etc. It’s striking that Dixon and Virginia don’t even mention the Labor booth workers, who if Newtown is a reasonable example, and I’m sure it was, were being subjected to a certain amount of verbal abuse from the DSP.
That shows a wildly disproportionate view of the world on the part of the DSP bunch. There are 150 electorates in Australia, and if you average 35 polling booths per electorate, which is probably close to the mark, that means there are about 5000 booths Australia-wide.
The trundling mass Labor-trade union movement staffed 95 per cent of those booths, which means there were probably about 35,000 booth workers for Labor. The Greens would probably have staffed a third or a quarter of the booths, and if you presume that the 5000-7000 Greens members worked on the day, and another 5000 volunteers, there would have been between 10,000 and 12,000 Green booth workers on the day.
I doubt that there were more than about 400 Socialist Alliance booth workers nationally. Trying to make friends with the Greens while abusing the Laborites was a very unsound way to proceed on election day.
Most of the Green and Labor booth workers were carefully feeling each other out with a vague recognition of the need for a united front against Howard. The ferocious DSP sectarianism towards Labor and the Labor rank and file hopelessly isolates them from the developing process of a Labor-Green united front against Howard.
Before the event the DSP held out to its members and supporters the prospect of electoral improvements. After the event, they say elections are not important in the face of the Tory victory and in the face of their own minimal electoral result.
The DSP put immense effort into getting the Socialist Alliance on the Senate ballot above the line in five states, and results above the line for the Socialist Alliance were an average of about 0.1 per cent.
One thing that this demonstrates is that, at this time, the name socialist doesn’t have any great attractive power, when you consider that the Progressive Labour Party got more than 1 per cent above the line in NSW a couple of years ago, clearly on the basis of people seeking a left alternative, or perhaps on the basis of name confusion with the ALP.
The points made by Dixon and Brown about making some useful contacts on election day, of course have some validity. Any socialist election campaign has that aspect, and good luck to them, although I’ll bet the contacts they made don’t extend far into Labor ranks because of the abusive posture the DSP adopted towards Labor.
At least the DSP were outside the booths, unlike Socialist Alternative, which is growing increasingly eccentric. At the Newtown polling booth, while all the activity was going on outside the booth at the church, Socialist Alternative was selling its newspaper, not to the people going to vote, but on the opposite side of the road to the people going to the Dendy Cinema — on election day, no less. To give them their due, at least the DSP is capable of noticing an election.
Whether or not socialists run independently in elections is, of course, a tactical question. I have no objection to the DSP running in elections if they think the political gain is worth the expenditure of effort. What I object to deeply is their sectarianism towards not just the Labor leadership, but the 35,000 or so people who support the broad labour movement in elections by their activity working for Labor in the hot sun.
However, the election results are a clear indicator that has to be factored into any strategic calculation by socialists. By any standard, such as comparison with the recent past, or comparison with the old Communist Party’s independent electoral activity, the electoral results in these elections for the Socialist Alliance were disastrous.
Recently Fred Fuentes asked on the Green Left list an obvious and intelligent question about comparisons with the 1966 elections. Well, a number of comparisons are quite striking. Firstly, this election result isn’t an electoral holocaust on the same scale as 1966. The two-party preferred vote for the Labor side was much lower in 1966 than the 47.5 per cent preferred vote in this election. Labor lost many more seats in 1966.
Secondly, the revolutionary socialist forces in Australia in 1966, which had taken, and continued to take, a lead in organising the Vietnam antiwar movement, campaigned without sectarianism for a Labor victory in the election, without allowing this to divert us from maintaining the antiwar agitation in the streets.
In fact, we didn’t miss a beat. About a month after the election defeat we organised a spectacularly successful demonstration in Sydney against the visit of Marshall Ky.
For us at that time there was no separation between our attitude towards Labor and our agitation in the streets. Arthur Calwell, the defeated Labor leader, was our main speaker at that antiwar demonstration. The people who did adopt a bitterly sectarian posture towards the Labor election campaign were the Maoists, led by Albert Langer. Some of those Maoists, as we known, now support Bush’s war in Iraq.
The other aspect of the 1966 election defeat, which we now know in hindsight, is that it took place during the beginnings of a radicalisation that coincided with the appearance of new social layers in the population due to the expansion of education, and which was accelerated by the continuance of the Vietnam War and conscription.
The political landscape was more or less generally radicalising for the next 15 years or so after the 1966 defeat, and the political legacy of that phenomenon is still with us in the 47.5 per cent of the population who voted for Labor or the Greens, despite the red-baiting against the Greens and despite the hysteria about interest rates.
In my view, the current situation has some features in common with 1966 and some features that are rather different. We have to take Peter Boyle’s rhetoric about resistance in the streets with a grain of salt. He’s a bit cynical in such matters. Resistance in the streets is certainly necessary, but it can’t be conjured out of the ground.
Unfortunately the short-term impact of the electoral defeat in both the broad labour movement, the smaller Greens mass party, and the student and social movements, will have a conservatising effect for a while. To blind oneself to these circumstances is not much use.
One immediate task is to defend, in the broad labour movement, the relative leftism of the Labor election campaign. Already, forces on the right of the labour movement are echoing the constant propaganda from the bourgeoisie that Latham’s leftism was a big mistake.
Socialists should, in general, defend Latham’s leftism during the election campaign rather than scoring points off him. Socialists should also, for the time being, support Latham as leader of the Labor Party, because all the alternatives are well to the right of him.
New issues will erupt quite rapidly, and over time. Alexandra is completely correct to draw our attention to the attacks on workers in the health sector by the Carr government in NSW. There’s no doubt that the right-wing activities of the state Labor governments was one of the factors in Howard’s electoral victory, and no doubt some of the state Labor governments will now press forward with attacks, like the attack in the health sector, with the story that no funds will be coming from the federal government.
In the immediate future, battles against the more right-wing activities of some of the state Labor governments will be at the forefront of current political necessities. The most immediate battles that are likely to erupt in the streets, in the short term, will be against state Labor governments.
In mobilising and developing any campaigns against these bad policies of state Labor governments, in the first instance a campaign is necessary in the existing set-up of the labour movement: the Trades Halls in each state and the ALP in each state. To some extent such campaigns have already begun in most states. They won’t get very far, however, unless there is a major mobilisation in the trade union movement and the structures of the labour movement.
In such necessary campaigns, the DSP leadership’s abusive verbal assaults on Labor and Laborites in general are totally counterproductive.
Boyle’s rhetoric about battles in the streets is very small potatoes compared with the kind of mobilisation of the workers movement that’s required, either to discipline the state Labor governments or to push back Howard’s inevitable attacks. The sectarianism of Boyle and Co towards Labor in general is in fact useful to both Howard and the right-wing Labor leaders because it introduces an element of split and confusion into the kind of united mobilisation that’s required.
The push to move the labour movement further to the right has already begun with Michael Costello’s attack on Latham. For the leadership of the DSP to join in this attack on Latham at this time is poisonous from the point of view of building a mass left wing in the Labor and workers’ movement. It’s clear from Monday’s Green Left Weekly that the DSP, like the Bourbon kings of old, have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.
Peter Boyle’s analysis, Marce’s analysis and Dave Riley’s analysis are the same in all essentials as the World Socialist Web Site analysis of the elections. Their basic proposition is that the leftist aspects of the Labor campaign were all a sham and that the election defeat makes no difference because if Labor had won it would have been a capitalist government anyway.
It’s hard to know what to say about the perspectives of socialist sectarians who are as blind and bigoted as this. The defeat of Labor in the elections is a significant defeat for the working class. Outside the fantastic, convoluted, imaginary world of the DSP and the SEP, it’s clear that Labor was defeated because the scare campaign of the bourgeoisie, which was implacable, well-funded and universal from all the main sectors of the ruling class, and focussed on the leftist aspects of the Labor election campaign.
The argument that Labor would have done better if it had adopted the program of the Greens or the DSP is obviously self-interested demagogy. If that were the case, many more people would have voted for the Greens and the DSP.
Actually, the most heartening aspect of the election result is that, in the face of the fantastic red-baiting of the Greens, and to some extent of Labor, by the ruling class, and the attempt of the ruling class to paint Latham as an irresponsible populist, only shifted 5 per cent of the population shifted their vote, and the core Labor-Green vote of 47.5 per cent (two-party preferred), did not move.
Marcel Cameron puts forward the rather eccentric argument that the whole political situation in the election would have been changed if Labor had put out a glossy leaflet opposing the Iraq war.
Well, the left groups put out lots of glossy leaflets opposing the Iraq war, and it got them almost no votes. On the Iraq war, every time he was challenged, Latham repeated his proposition about withdrawing the troops by Christmas, and he independently repeated his position on the war on a number of occasions.
Just about everything that the DSP bunch says about the Labor campaign in these elections is dishonest, moralising, sectarian demagogy of the crudest, most transparent sort. It’s not written for any kind of mass audience, but for its own members, many of whom were inevitably shaken by the experience on the booths, which underlined how far from reality is the political perspective of the DSP.
Left talk by Boyle and the DSP leadership about resistance in the streets is mainly for internal consumption.
It’s worth also commenting on the coverage of election day in the latest Green Left Weekly.
There are six accounts of activities on the booths. They all work in attacks on the Laborites, and few of them work in anything about attacks on the Liberals, such is the strange perspective of the DSP. They almost deserve to be classified as Howard’s socialists, in the same way that some officials of the forestry division of the CFMEU are Howard’s union officials.
One of the articles in Green Left said that Howard only had a limited mandate. That’s a very dangerous and curious formulation. From a socialist point of view Howard has no mandate at all, and our task is to fight him and to mobilise the broader labour movement for struggle against the Coalition government.
The reality is, however, that after a serious electoral defeat socialists are starting from a defensive situation and a realistic recognition of this is the beginning of socialist political wisdom.
However, the situation is not one of total and decisive defeat. The election results reveal a very sharp polarisation in Australian society between left and right. At this moment, the left side, the Labor-Green side, is about 47.5 per cent of the population.
If you look at the numerous maps of the election results published in the bourgeois press, the geographic election result between the Labor-Green side of politics and the reactionary Coalition side is, as always, a striking and clear map of class.
The electoral map of Sydney shows a clear line that goes the middle of the Parramatta electorate and now goes through Greenway. On the southern side of that line are the enormous concentrations of industrial workers and migrants, and these are also areas with high concentrations of Catholics, atheists, Hindus, Muslims, Eastern Orthodox Christians and Buddhists, and in the inner-west and inner-east, big sections of the educated middle class, many of whom are not religious believers, and vote Labor or Green.
The same pattern is replicated in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Brisbane. Industrial areas such as Newcastle, the Illawara and Geelong also vote Labor and Green.
The pseudo-scientific formula of the DSP, about two equal capitalist parties, which they use to justify their hysterically anti-Labor stance, runs up against the very hard and obvious rock of the class divisions between those who vote Labor-Green and those who vote for the conservatives. This is all encapsulated in the nicely coloured maps in the bourgeois press. Boyle and company should look carefully at those maps when they draw an equals sign between what they claim are the two parties of capitalism. The electoral maps dramatically refute the DSP’s sectarian formula.
Peter Boyle is a professional humbug. Over a very long period on a number of lists, he developed, and still holds, the thesis that a large part of the Australian working class, if not all, is a labour aristocracy. He makes a convoluted leap from this to the theory that Laborism is the expression of this labour aristocracy, and yet he suddenly, in this post-election mode bombards us with a pile of left talk, of which his attack on Alexandra is an example.
In a later post he puffs himself up and says he’s in contact with important people in the Greens, not with unimportant Greens rank and filers like Alexandra. Well, you can take that piece of Boyle self-importance with the proverbial grain of salt. I disagree with Alexandra’s view of consumerism. It seems to me that the fact that mass of the working class and middle class consume a lot of commodities is a material fact. It’s excessively moralising to tell them that they should curtail their consumption, and to associate the idea of future progressive change with the masses curtailing consumption.
This kind of voluntarist mass curtailment of consumption is unlikely to become majority practice, although certainly some progressive minded minority of the population may do this.
Boyle, who historically has argued much the same kind of thing in his labour aristocracy theory, applied to Australia, chooses to abuse Alexandra as a capitulator because she expresses a view very similar to his own.
There’s another, more dangerous element in Boyle’s view about the interest rates question, and Mike Karadjis’s eloquent quoting of his old Communist father’s attitude to interest rates as significant evidence. Boyle and Mike are in fact echoing Howard’s argument that Labor would possibly have presided over massive increases in interest rates.
That’s factually incorrect because interest rates are dictated by the ebb and flow of the world capitalist economy. All this pro-Howard demagogy by Boyle clouds one of the critical questions facing socialists in current conditions in Australia and to some extent in other advanced capitalist countries.
The reality is that for the past 20 years or so, about 70 per cent of the population have owned their own home, or have thought they owned it in association with a bank that loaned them a mortgage. Quite a large section of the population, including a section of the working class, own or think they own in association with a bank, investment properties. This is a given part of the political and social landscape in Australia. The high living standards and the relative prosperity of the working class are actually a product of past class struggles, and the working class will fight hard to defend its existing standard of living if it is threatened. This high living standard does not stop people being working class.
Boyle’s past rhetoric about the labour aristocracy generally questioned whether the Australian working class was real. Despite Boyle, the working class exists, but it’s a fairly affluent working class with some material interests.
The trick that Howard and Co perpetrated was to persuade 5 per cent of the population who vacillate in the middle that their interests lie for the moment with the conservatives, mainly through lying propaganda about interest rates.
Boyle is right, although very cynical, when he makes the general point that the election defeat wasn’t a decisive defeat for the working class. It was, however, a serious defeat, which forces the working class into a generally defensive situation.
Another feature of the discussion on the Green Left list has been Marcel Cameron’s wild rhetoric about an implied, almost immediate, crisis of capitalism. I was subject, along with a number of others, to that kind of rhetoric for a considerable time when I was in the orbit of Gerry Healy’s organisation. That experience cured me of any respect for this kind of rhetoric.
There’s no question that there are contradictions in the capitalist system, which is why some of us are Marxists. Nevertheless, as Lenin stressed, in the absence of an adequate Marxist leadership that can mobilise the masses to overthrow the capitalist system, there’s no crisis from which the bourgeoisie can’t extricate itself. The striking thing, in fact, about the current economic situation, is that the bourgeoisie at this moment is managing the economy in such a way as to avoid, so far, spectacular expressions of economic crisis in Australia. This is one of the reasons why the Liberals won the election.
Marcel Cameron’s rhetoric about the impending crisis is, like Gerry Healy’s rhetoric in years gone by, just that — rhetoric to divert attention from the immediate political problems facing the socialist movement.
It’s hard to know what to say about the even wilder rhetoric of Duncan Meerding, a high-school supporter of the DSP. Rather than gently trying to correct him, or Marcel Cameron for that matter, Boyle and company just let them run. Any sort of wildness seems to be acceptable as long as it includes the obligatory denunciation of Social Democracy. In this context it’s worth quoting Lenin, from Left-Wing Communism, about some young leftists who advocated leaving the trade unions. Lenin said: “why it is necessary to leave the trade unions and to create in their stead brand new simon-pure ‘workers unions’ invented by exceedingly nice (and for the most part very youthful) communists”.
Clearly implicit in Boyle’s recent post is a very sharp contradiction. He recognises that Australian society is polarised between the conservative forces, represented by Howard and Co, who got 52.5 per cent of the preferred vote, and the other half of society, who voted for Labor and the Greens, who got 47.5 per cent of the preferred vote, and he correctly asserts that the shift of the 5 per cent in the middle of the electoral field to Howard is not decisive in the long term.
In the short term, however, he clearly flags that the DSP leadership will continue its implacable animosity to the six-sevenths of the progressive side of Australian politics who support, or are involved with, Labor.
Peter Boyle projects for the future a repetition of the past DSP strategy, which can be reasonably described as the Joshua strategy: Joshua Boyle and the DSP leadership march their little band of Israelites around the walls of Jericho, in this instance the walls of Laborism and Greenism, blowing their trumpet three times and expecting the walls to collapse, which is what the DSP’s perspective amounts to, in practice.
It’s an entirely religious perspective. In the material world, the recent election results for the Socialist Alliance demonstrated the futility of its electoral campaign. The DSP leadership supporters blew their trumpets, but the Labor-Green walls didn’t fall. In fact, the tiny Socialist Alliance vote fell more dramatically than infinitely larger Labor vote, and the Green vote increased marginally.
Existing mass organisations and leadership are almost never replaced in the real world by the Joshua strategy, which is in fact a self-serving religious myth relying on miracles from a non-existent god.
Existing mass organisations change, split, are subject to internal and external upheavals, but they have never been displaced primarily by propaganda groups with their trumpets.
The Socialist Alliance election result is the worst for any substantial socialist election campaign, probably ever, in Australian history. It consisted of an average of 0.1 above the line in the Senate and an average of about 0.5 per cent, in a small number of selected lower house seats, if you allow for the donkey vote where the Socialist Alliance was top of the ticket.
There were actually two Socialist Alliance election campaigns: the DSP’s dominant election campaign and the smaller ISO campaign, which it overshadowed. The DSP campaign embodied the DSP leadership’s ferocious antagonism to Labor and Laborites, while the ISO’s campaign was far saner, incorporating a united front strategy towards the Laborites.
It must be stressed that the rhetoric on the Green Left list by a number of DSP members about the Socialist Alliance vote being votes for socialism is surreal self-delusion. When you get a minority vote as low as an average of 0.1 or 0.5 per cent, it’s unquestionable that many of those votes are the none-of-the-above kind of votes of people who just pencil in an independent because of antagonism to the major parties.
The “10,000 conscious socialist votes”, is the kind of rhetoric used by small groups when they get very low votes, and doesn’t correspond to reality at all. If it was real, the far left groups would be far bigger and more influential than they are. A week or two before the election, the Brisbane ISO issued a call to order to the Brisbane DSP about their reckless and insulting heckling at the ALP election launch. The Brisbane DSP, no doubt in consultation with the DSP national leadership, responded contemptuously, brushing off the ISO’s objections as beneath consideration.
Keiran Latty of the Sydney ISO has put up a careful piece raising a number of questions about the future of the Socialist Alliance, and the response from the DSP leaders has so far been quite contemptuous, and has included projecting their intention of pushing ahead with transforming the Alliance into the kind of physical formation the DSP leadership wants. There’s no doubt that the DSP will proceed in this direction quite quickly.
There are no more significant elections for a couple of years, and there’s little doubt that the DSP will use the Socialist Alliance for a generalised assault on Laborism as a whole, including the Labor rank and file, that they think is serious politics. It’s hard to see how there’s much future for the ISO or the smaller affiliates of the Socialist Alliance in this situation.
The ISO leadership has invested quite a lot of emotion and effort in the Alliance project, so they may not depart from the Alliance easily, but nevertheless the DSP leadership has clearly indicated its intention of squeezing the life out of the ISO in the Alliance context. The political situation in Australia and the workers movement clearly dictates the need for a serious united front between Greens, Labor and socialists in the defensive struggles that are looming, and they ISO shows some evidence of understanding this.
In Melbourne, the strongest centre of the ISO, the ISO clearly has an orientation to the labour and workers movement in a much more realistic way than the bombastic DSP rhetoric.
The conflict between the DSP leadership and the ISO is likely to play itself out in the short term, rather than the long term, although crystal balls are of little use in this kind of situation.
October 13, 2004
Peter Boyle and his Newtown election day informant have considerable difficulty in giving an honest or accurate account of exchanges or events. I got to the Newtown booth about 11.45am and worked there until about 4.45pm. I found myself a little chair facing the queue of people waiting to vote, and incidentally I installed myself next to the solitary Liberal booth worker, who paradoxically I know slightly because he occasionally comes into my shop.
When I arrived at the booth, a couple of the Labor booth workers told me that a young DSPer there had been giving them verbal curry about same-sex marriage, and they had told him to piss off. This bloke happens to be the young Grand Inquisitor, one of the judge-jury- executioner trinity who hunted LF out of the DSP.
This individual then started on me about the same-sex marriage question. I gave him a serve, rather publicly, I admit, about the sectarian posture of the DSP towards the rather leftist Labor election campaign. I had the louder voice, and he pissed off. The exchange took fully two minutes.
The rest of the afternoon — the other four hours and 58 minutes — I used my loud, foghorn voice to attack the Liberal canvasser and the Howard government. My pitch was boot Howard out, get rid of the people who drown refugees and took us to a war we didn’t want, and who dare to show their faces at Newtown. I got a good response to that for the nearly five hours I did it for.
Most people in the queue, other than the odd Liberal, rather liked my agitprop. The other pitch I made was to the people who were looking carefully at the Green how to vote ticket, and I said: “If you’re leaning towards the Greens, you can vote for the Greens in the Senate, but you should consider voting for Labor in the lower house, because we badly need Tanya Plibersek in the Labor caucus, as she’s the most forthright leftist there.”
I used that line of argument because I genuinely believe it, despite differences I have with Plibersek from time to time on major political questions.
It’s my informed impression that a very large number of Labor booth staff around the inner-city voted for Plibersek in the house and the Greens in the Senate. In the event 2000 more people voted for the Greens in the Senate in the seat of Sydney than voted for them in the house, and that was reflected at the Newtown booth.
At the Newtown booth, at the last election the Greens outpolled Labor, but this time Labor outpolled the Greens in the house by a comfortable margin.
Readers of this list should note the form of Peter Boyle’s untruth by omission. He elevates the two-minute exchange between me and the young DSP Grand Inquisitor into the central event of the afternoon, and he ignores all the rest because it isn’t DSP-centric. What a clown!
The afternoon’s activities were witnessed by the young Grand Inquisitor, another young bloke from the DSP, by a bloke from the ISO and by both the Labor and Greens booth workers, and they know I’m telling the truth about the exchanges and the form of my agitation.
The Labor booth workers, the Green booth workers and myself were attacking the Liberals, and the main DSP bloke was attacking the Labor booth workers. End of story.