Bob Gould, 2004

Why Green Left very rarely says anything good about Labor
Or Unions NSW, or factional opponents such as the Socialist Party

Source: Ozleft, March 8, 2006
Proofreading, editing, mark-up: Steve Painter

DSP cyberspace whirling dervish GLW Parramatta will report almost anything hostile to the Labor Party and even to rank-and-file Laborites. Even if it’s a report from a tadpole in Woop Woop, so to speak, GLW Parramatta will eagerly spam it to the Green Left discussion list.

A recent example was an excited report about three conservative Queensland ALP backbenchers attacking multiculturalism. GLW Parramatta failed to report the subsequent development that Labor Premier Peter Beattie strenuously opposed this attack on multiculturalism, and the Queensland Labor Party parliamentary caucus rejected the position of the three ALP backbenchers.

Such selective reporting is par for the course for GLW Parramatta: present the position of three conservatives as though it is the position of the whole of the ALP and ignore the internal dynamics of the conflict over such questions when they don’t favour the DSP’s cracked schema that the ALP is a homogenous reactionary mass.

Today there are press reports that the Iemma Labor government in NSW, has legislatively confronted Howard’s reactionary labour laws, transferring public-sector workers to crown employee status. It has also made contracts subject to review by the NSW Industrial Commission, which makes state awards the benchmark for the no-disadvantage test for those contracts. GLW Parramatta doesn’t seem to have noticed this major development, which seriously obstructs the introduciton of Howard’s anti-union legislation.

The oddest thing of all is the case of the disappearing Green Left Weekly article. It is clear on the GLW website for all to see that an article was written about the Unions NSW demonstration against Howard’s hoopla in Sydney, and possibly even about the demonstration organised by the Socialist Party in Melbourne against the 10-year anniversary, but then spiked for some reason.

On the website the article appears, with most of the text blotted out by a picture. In the paper copy of Green Left Weekly the article has been removed completely. This raises the question, why was the article spiked?

I have no overarching theory about what led to the spiking of the article. There are several possibilities. The most obvious one is that written coverage of either the Sydney or Melbourne demonstration was of little use to the new DSP leadership because it undermined their dotty pretensions to being the centre of the universe on the left. I’d love to read the spiked article, and I suggest to the Green Left editorial board that the article should be posted on the discussion site to clarify the historical record.


Tadpoles from Woop Woop and the Third Period in leafy, Green-inclined Katoomba

March 11, 2006

A couple of days ago Norm Dixon responded very heatedly to my comment on the ongoing and remorseless sectarianism of the DSP towards not just the Labor tops but the millions of Labor voters and the tens of thousands of trade union activists and others in and around the Labor Party.

Dixon recounts an anecdote that Labor supporters in leafy Katoomba, where he now apparently lives along with John Tognolini, to support his view that Labor supporter there don’t appear to mind the abusive diatribes in the Green Left Weekly.

We only have Dixon’s word for that, and we know that the Boyleites in the DSP can convince themselves of anything, despite all evidence to the contrary.

I’d love to be a fly on the wall in downtown Katoomba to hear Dixon and Tognolini belting out their ultraleftism.

Unfortunately, Katoomba isn’t my patch. I’m rather more interested in the social mix from Marrickville to Parramatta, although I agree that the tertiary educated people who live in Katoomba are in a certain sense part of the left, and I constantly preach the united front of all the social layers on the left of Australian society, as most interested people know.

My basic objection to the ultraleftism of Dixon and the Boyleites is poisonous mix of their increasingly blatant combination of ultraleftism with their opportunism towards the section of the trade union leadership that they consider to be on the left.

It doesn’t educate anyone and it’s directed at keeping the DSP leadership supporters in a state of almost terminal ignorance about the real dynamics of the Australian workers’ movement outside their total obsession with building their own sect at the expense of all other issues.

The several days since Dixon posted his piece have brought a series of major events in the labour movement in Australia. The most significant of these was Morris Iemma’s NSW Labor government transferance of more than 100,000 workers to crown employee status to protect them from Howard’s industrial laws.

Also, the Iemma government has moved to give the NSW industrial commission supervisory power over individual contracts.

These are both major institutional obstacles to Howard’s industrial laws, and the ruling class is hopping mad about them.

There’s not a word on the Green Left website about these major industrial developments, obviously because they don’t fit the Boyleites’ crackpot, one-dimensional, undialectical schema about Labor governments being totally reactionary in every respect.

A second major event was federal Liberal minister Nick Minchin’s address to the reactionary HR Nichols Society, in which he canvassed a new round of industrial attacks by the conservatives and expressed deep pessimism about the likelihood of the High Court upholding the Howard government’s industrial laws.

Minchin can clearly see the danger that traditional states’ rights sentiment may be stronger than the short-term interests of the conservatives in the conservative High Court.

None of this fits the DSP leadership’s schemas either, so it doesn’t get a mention on the Green Left site.

A third development in the past week has been the upheaval in the Labor Party, with Julia Gillard trying to push the party farther to the right.

This gets a mention, with Dixon finding the most indirect article that he can about the Labor Party and nuclear policy.

The media have been full of detailed coverage of these events, and have featured the fact that Dean Mighell and his group in the “militant trade union current” in Victoria have been in a bloc with the Victorian Labor Party right, the effect of which is to shift the Victorian Labor Party to the right.

Ironically, Mighell’s part of the deal fell over because the Victorian right double-crossed his candidate.

I’m not for starting a fight with Dean Mighell, who in some respects is a good industrial militant, despite this latest unfortunate political manoeuvre.

It would be important, however, to describe some of these developments in careful detail, without too much abuse or emotion, for the practical education of the people in and around the DSP.

But the increasingly opportunist relationship of the Boyleites with the so-called militant trade union current apparently precludes even the most gentle criticism or the most careful analysis.

What you get instead is crude generally abuse of Laborism and Labor supporters, constantly repeated on all occasions.

John Tognolini

A vintage example of this kind of Third Period abuse is John Tognolini’s account, posted about 10 days after the event, of the successful NSW Labor Council demonstration against 10th anniversary celebration of Howard’s government, which I reported on the night it happened.

Tognolini describes the rather mild-mannered assistant secretary of the Unions NSW, Mark Lennon, as “cement head”, attributing this piece of abuse to an unnamed worker at Cockatoo Island 25 years ago. He describes a construction union shop steward marshall at the demonstration, an ordinary trade union activist, as a “cut-price bouncer” and he pours abuse on the rather tough head of Unions NSW secretary John Robertson, asserting that Unions NSW is holding back the struggle.

This is a bit rich considering that after all he is talking about a demonstration called by Unions NSW, when the Victorian Trades Hall Council, which the DSP constantly points to as better, didn’t call a demonstration at all.

Tognolini hangs all this abuse on altercations he says he had with Lennon and Robertson about a banner and about the fact that after an hour and three quarters on a Thursday evening, the leaders decided to end the demonstration. This is all designed to whip up hostility against Unions NSW.

This kind of rubbish is typical of the Boyleites’ demeanour towards the trade union structures in NSW. The DSP abuses the union leaders up hill and down dale even when they’re doing something useful, such as organising a successful protest.

The Boyleites’ hysteria about the demonstration is flea-killing absurdity on the scale of issues facing the trade union movement and it has taken about a week for the DSP to get its story together and have Tognolini belt it out.

As Tognolini has verballed me in the past, accusing me of saying things I never said, he’s quite capable of verballing the union officials he’s talking about, or at least twisting a bit of argy bargy over a banner to suit his purposes.

Dixon and the other Boyleites get very angry when I compare their behaviour with that of Third Period Stalinists, but if people disbelieve me about this, they should compare Tognolini’s report on the protest to the behaviour of the Third Period Stalinists described in Beris Penrose’s article about Herbert Moxon.

There’s a wonderful series of novels by James T. Farrell about his experiences as a young writer around the Communist and Trotskyist movements. In The Road Between, Farrell includes a pithy pen portrait of a vituperative Third Period Stalinist called Leatherjacket.

He makes the point that there are such types around the labour movement, but leaderships that encourage them are involved in a very dubious political exercise. The DSP leadership encouraging Tognolini in his indiscriminate abuse is a deliberate political posture meant to seal off the diminishing ranks of the DSP and Socialist Alliance from everyone else in the labour movement.

Nothing useful for building an alternative socialist leadership in the labour movement can possibly come from such methods. They educate nobody and miseducate those in and around the DSP.