November 24, 2004
At the SEP meeting that we both attended, I pressed Nick Beams on the preference question, and he said that by law they were required to indicate a preference, and therefore because Liberal and Labor were equal capitalist parties, the SEP intended to lodge a split ticket, allocating half of their above-the-line vote to the conservatives and half to Labor. In anybody’s language, that’s an informal vote.
What Berrell himself did, below the line, obviously with a slight fit of conscience, is irrelevant to the point that the SEP, which he supported and worked for, advocated an informal vote by this quite direct route. An informal vote doesn’t count, and in this case the preferences of the SEP didn’t count.
By this route, half the SEP vote went to the Liberals. Did the presumably left-wing voters for the SEP know that?
Pip Hinman seems to resent my description of her article as vituperative, etc. By any normal use of language, it was vituperative. I’m not overly concerned by the abuse thrown at me, or at Mark Latham for that matter. The DSP can abuse anyone, and its tone and motives often damage it more than the target of its abuse.
What angers me mainly is Hinman’s offensive tone towards the rank and file Labor and Green activists and supporters at the meeting. The whole tone of Hinman’s report reeks of contempt for these people. The reference to them as a clan, the ridiculing of their courteous tone towards Latham, etc.
Hinman can’t come to terms with the fairly sharp leftism expressed courteously by about four-fifths of the speakers. She’s quite unprepared to concede any autonomy to leftist sentiments, particularly if they come from ALP activists. She implies it’s all fraudulent. What a foolish, sectarian posture to adopt towards a big slice of the active left-wing political people in the inner-west of Sydney.
No wonder many of them are rather cautious about responding to DSP initiatives when all they get is contempt and abuse because of their Labor organisational allegiance. The striking thing about the Hinman-Boyle-Riley approach is that it concentrates entirely on the alleged role of Latham.
They refuse to give any significance to the fact that he’s being constantly challenged by forces to his right, and the Murdoch press in particular is campaigning for his removal. From the Murdoch camp’s point of view, he’s an unreliable Bonapartist who concedes too much to the left part of his Labor-Green constituency.
The really offensive and stupid part of the DSP’s approach, however, is the complete contempt for the leftist views of the Labor and Green activists and rank and file at the meeting.
Hinman treats them as poor, benighted fools who will inevitably be betrayed by Latham. The reality is, however, that Latham is forced by political circumstances to take the sentiment of the Labor rank and file into account if he’s to survive as leader. That’s the nature of his Bonapartism.
Hinman and company reduced mass politics simply to a formula about rotten Labor leaders who are continually conspiring to betray. They give no weight to the leftist sentiments of the rank and file in the workers movement. That’s about as stupid as you can get.
Oboohov has just posted a mystifying, almost incomprehensible, piece in which he talks blithely about spreadsheets, etc, etc, and he treats politics as if it goes in a straight line, confidently predicting on the basis of his slightly lunatic spreadsheets that the Labor vote will go down more or less forever.
Oboohov is a mechanical materialist and a mathematical mystic. The nature of electoral politics is that two-party preferred votes usually fluctuate, rather than going in a straight line. Malcolm Mackerras, who is much more coherent and informative than Oboohov, performed the useful exercise in The Australian of November 20-21 of providing the two-party preferred votes back to 1949.
If you take 1993 as a starting point, the Labor two-party preferred vote was 51.4 per cent. In 1996 it dropped dramatically to 46.4 per cent. In 1998 it bounced back to 51.0. In 2001 it dropped back to 49.1 per cent. In 2004 it dropped back a little more to 47.3 per cent — still higher than 1996.
The most likely variant, if you discount Oboohov’s self-interested mechanical materialist DSP computer bullshit, is that in the next election the ALP two-party preferred vote will bounce back a bit.
That’s certainly what has happened over the past 10 years and over the past 50 years, notwithstanding Oboohov’s psuedo-science in the service of the DSP’s hopeful prophecy about the terminal decline of Labor.
November 25, 2004
It’s an eccentricity common on both the far left and the far right, and one to which, to be entirely honest, most of us sometimes fall victim.
Leaving aside Berrell’s convenient amnesia about SEP preferences, the eccentricity of his approach lies in his fully fledged conspiracy theory of politics, particularly Labor politics.
He advances a conspiracy theory of a curious entity he creates in his own mind called the Labor Party, an all-encompassing phenomenon that’s constantly conspiring to move its own politics to the right.
In the real world, the creaking Labor-trade union continuum is a heterogeneous mass formation of competing groups, forces and interests, containing a range of ideological positions, which are often in conflict with each other.
This is obvious, particularly at a moment such as the present, when there is conflict about which way the Labor and trade union movements should move.
It may be comfortable for Berrell and other Marxist sectarians to create this overarching conspiracy theory of Laborism, but it’s absolutely useless and counterproductive in developing ideas about how to proceed in the current crisis of the labour movement.
In Berrell’s mindset, all that’s possible is to predict gloom and doom and further shifts of the mass movement to the right until the masses wake up and support the socialist sect of one’s choice.
In the real world, of course, that won’t happen.
This conspiracy view of labour movement politics is associated with a similar left view of the bourgeois side of politics, which many Marxists often treat as if there’s some executive committee of the ruling class somewhere deciding on broad policy and immediate moves.
In reality the bourgeois side of politics is a collection of competing interests and forces, although a dominant view of strategy and immediate needs often emerges. Conflicts among the ruling class are usually conducted in greater privacy than those in the labour movement.
I am constantly amazed at the conspiracy view of the labour side of politics advanced by Berrell, the Socialist Equality Party and Pip Hinman and the DSP, when the conflicts within the broad labour and workers movement are often so public and so clearly associated with different broad political interests and views.
November 25, 2004
Nick Fredman and Peter Boyle react very sharply to my account of Mark Latham’s meeting at Leichhardt Town Hall.
Boyle attacks me for recounting the events in the first person. It would have been difficult for me not to give an account in the first person because I attended the meeting and spoke at it. Apparently it’s all right for Pip Hinman to lie about what I said, mainly by omission, but if I correct the record of what I said, which inevitably has to be in the first person, I’m accused of some kind of megalomania.
Boyle's difficulty is that he’s a puffed-up example of the species Lenin used to describe as the “committee men”. He spends all his time in the DSP building, bossing around people in a small circle and he’s obviously rather resentful of my activities as an old agitator. As he says, to each his own.
The rather more sinister aspect of Boyle’s and Fredman’s posts is their unashamed use of the amalgam method of polemic used so notoriously by the Stalinists in the 1930s.
Because I make a detailed critique of the DSP’s political activities, they both imply that I’m in some way in league with Doug Cameron. Apparently, if someone can find some words in what they say is a Cameronite leaflet that are similar to my critique of the DSP, that’s sufficient to tar me by implication as a Cameronite. What a nasty, Stalinist kind of argumentation that is.
I demand that if Fredman and Boyle make such implications that I’m somehow in league with supporters of Cameron, they produce evidence to that effect, rather than ugly, Stalinist innuendo.