Bob Gould, 2004

DSP leaders go stir-crazy

Source: Ozleft, December 3, 2004
Proofreading, editing, mark-up: Steve Painter

Green Left discussion list, December 3, 2004

I’m fascinated that I seem to have come to occupy a niche like Trotsky, the Mikado and Hitler did for the Stalinists in the 1930s, and that Goldstein did for Winston Smith in George Orwell’s 1984.

In two rather eccentric posts arguing with Shane Hopkinson, Peter Boyle and Alan Bradley, after attacking Shane personally, say his worst crime of all is to line up with Bob Gould. That’s the technique of the amalgam used by the Stalinists in the 1930s.

No concession is made to the independence and autonomy of the views of Shane and myself on various questions. We agree on some things and disagree on others, but all disagreement with the DSP becomes some kind of conspiracy between those who disagree.

I find it kind of flattering to be regarded as such an arch-demon, but the Boyle-Bradley view of the world (shared by some others in the DSP leadership) makes them as crazy as coots. Their demented, and even slightly sinister, mindset leads them to see conspiracies against the DSP everywhere.

Boyle’s mention of me is extremely revealing. What does he mean when he talks about my destructive and pathological sectarianism? Towards whom am I sectarian? This accusation appears to focus on my ongoing argument with the DSP in which I challenge its sectarianism towards just about everyone in the workers’ movement and in the Greens.

It appears that Boyle regards any tactical argument with the DSP as destructive and pathological sectarianism. Blimey!

All of this underlines the points that the DSP leadership seems to regard all political developments in the labour movement as focusing on themselves. My crime appears to be that I argue the point with the DSP on their strategic orientation, which I say is hopelessly sectarian. Just about everyone else in the labour movement has a similar view on this point.

Boyle snaps back with this wierd abuse, which clearly implies that any disagreement with the DSP’s approach and current projects is pathologically sectarian. What a strange view of the world!

Boyle then starts whingeing about how he has devoted a lot of his life to the DSP project. He’s hardly Robinson Crusoe. Many, many people have devoted much of their lives to socialist political activity.

It’s not very persuasive of Boyle to try to buttress his political arguments with assertions of his own personal heroism. Boyle seems to have gone a little stir crazy from too long a period as a functionary in a small political apparatus.

For myself, I’ve been involved with some other people in a literary project for the past couple of years, trying to encourage a modest political reorientation by writing on historical, strategic and cultural questions, and putting this material on a website.

We’ve recently improved our site a bit, including our hit counter, and it’s obvious that our material gets around quite widely.

Boyle is obviously a bit punchy from the argument, and perhhaps his petulance is due to by the material we distribute through Ozleft having some impact in his immediate orbit. It’s hard to think of any other explanation for his petulance.

Bellicose ultraleftism towards the labour movement

December 4, 2004

Duncan Meerding wades in defending the political line of his chosen organisation, the DSP, against me. I note with pleasure, and even a little respect, that Duncan uses more cautious language than he has in past posts. His more careful tone is quite important.

His enthusiasm and partinost for the DSP have a good side. That kind of enthusiasm in the young, however, can also have a dangerous side if it blinds them to inquiry and self-education. The problem with a political sect such as the DSP is that it discourages younger members from inquiring into the views of other currents and individuals on the left.

A bellicose ultraleftism towards the broad labour movement obviously has a certain appeal for some youth, partly because they have nothing much to test it against. However, questions of strategy and tactics in the labour movement have a long and complex history, and are not exhausted by constantly drawing attention to reactionary positions adopted by some parts of the bureaucracies that lead the labour movement.

It’s possible that you don’t know terribly much about those bureaucracies, their methods of functioning, and their contradictory character. I’d urge you, Duncan, to read and study some of the material that’s accessible on these questions. For instance, Trotsky’s writings on the united front concerning the victory of fascism in Germany, which are collected in a relatively cheap Penguin book. You should also read Lenin’s Left Wing Communism, and some of the tactical discussions at the first four congresses of the Comintern, particularly Trotsky’s intervention on the united front tactic. Pointers to some of this material are available on Ozleft, and most of it is in the Marxists Internet Archive.

I note that you make a total distinction between the reactionary Labor Party and the progressive Greens. If the distinction is so absolute, what weight do you give to the way that the Labor Party is intertwined with the trade union movement, even included many trade unionists that the DSP quite validly draws attention to as a left current?

The educational year is finished, and historically in Australia the Christmas holidays are a time to read and study, and it might be a useful time for you to dig into some of the material, including the views of left and Marxist groups and individuals who disagree with the DSP on strategy and tactics. Who knows, you may even have begun such an inquiry independently of my urging.

In relation to Paul Benedek’s attempt to say that white is black in his response to Shane Hopkinson, I’d make the following observations.

Despite what Benedek says, the parallels between the British SWP and the Australian DSP positions on regroupment are striking, with this qualification: that the British SWP isn’t nearly as ruthless and monolothic as the DSP is in trying to bend its ostensible allies to its will.

Paul's problem is that no one on the Marxist left believes the DSP version of the history except the DSP leadership and the personalities leading the several-times-reorganised ostensibly independent caucus in the Socialist Alliance. The ostensible independents have been reorganised, of course, to exclude most independents who aren’t DSP non-party Bolsheviks.

It’s worth reviewing the history of the Socialist Alliance, which was set up as an electoral formation. That was what the groups all signed up to.

At a certain point the DSP introduced the idea that the Socialist Alliance should become a regroupment project, a multi-tendency socialist party, effectively run by the DSP. This project was presented by the DSP without any parallel proposal for discussion between the groups to resolve their historical differences, such as tactical attitudes towards the labour movement, theoretical approaches to state capitalism, workers’ states, etc.

Pretty well all the other affiliates, including the second-largest affiliate, the ISO, rejected this repeated proposal of the DSP that they should be more or less absorbed by the DSP carnivorous plant, and they continue to do so.

Clearly the DSP wants to turn the Socialist Alliance into a kind of DSP mark II, and it continues to press for this outcome. The other groups continue to reject the DSP’s proposal and perspective for the Alliance. It’s always possible for the DSP to press ahead and use its greater weight in the Alliance to do anything it wants, but it’s highly unlikely that any of the other affiliates will acquiesce in the Alliance becoming DSP mark II. There the matter rests.

The verbal assaults of the DSP leadership on the ISO and the other groups for “holding back the unity process” (for which one should read, not allowing themselves to be absorbed into DSP mark II) are unlikely to change anything.

I reiterate: no one outside the DSP and its closest allies believes the DSP version of events. It seems to me that this situation, to which Shane Hopkinson has drawn attention so well, is the main reason for the intense venom of the recent responses to Shane from Peter Boyle and Alan Bradley.