Bob Gould, 2006
Source: Green Left Weekly discussion list, July 12, 2006
Proofreading, editing, mark-up: Steve Painter
An argument has erupted on the Green Left Weekly discussion list about the Howard government’s use of short-term work visas to exploit guest workers and to undermine existing wages and conditions in Australia.
This is a very serious question that should not be made a crude factional football. It should be discussed carefully throughout the whole labour movement. I disagree with the emotive way it was raised by Marcus Strom, and handled by Norm Dixon a while ago concerning Kim Beazley.
What’s really required is a careful discussion throughout the labour movement of all the conflicting working-class interests raised by this issue. I’ll write soon at more length on that matter.
Discussion of these questions, however, and Norm’s waspish response to a couple of new posters about the Socialist Party on the GLW list, throws into bold relief another aspect of the Geelong Trades Hall Council document. This is the combined Popular Frontist and Third Period tone of the Geelong document, which is carefully designed to suit the Boyle DSP leadership group’s current political orientation. In replying to Marcus Strom, Norm Dixon clearly indicates that the document was written by the DSP.
The document implicitly places an equals sign between the Labor-Greens side of Australian electoral politics and the Tory side by addressing all political parties with what is, in effect, a kind of maximum program on industrial relations.
If anyone from the larger political parties were to respond to this, the Greens would probably agree with about 85 per cent of it, the Labor Party with about 80 per cent, the odd wet Liberal maybe 40 per cent, and the dry Liberal majority none of it, but of course the Socialist Alliance, which wrote the document, would agree with 100 per cent, and so would the Socialist Party, probably. This would open the way, in the minds of the DSP leadership, who designed the document, living in the political cloud cuckoo land that they inhabit, to try to induce the Geelong Trades Hall Council to call for a vote for the Socialist Alliance in future elections.
The real world of the labour movement will in due course settle that particular Boyleite fantasy. The more dangerous aspect of the documents is the equals sign it places between the Labor-Green side of politics and the Tory side.
At its most Popular Frontist moments, and in organisations such as the NSW Teachers Federation in past times, when teachers were less radical than they are now, the old Communist Party used to get the Teachers Federation to present equally non-class Popular Frontist kinds of propositions to the political world at large. However, the CPA in its better and less Stalinist moments had a rather different approach, exemplified in the slogan in many elections: “Kick the Liberals out. Put the Liberals last.”
It’s ironic that there is a widespread discussion in the Greens right now and the more leftist Greens all over the country are arguing for exactly that correct slogan against some more conservative Greens who tend to elevate hostility to the Labor Party as the prime current political question. These conservative Greens are uneasy about the Greens vigorously taking up opposition to the industrial policies of the Howard government, as they argue that industrial relations is a Labor issue. On this point the views of the conservative Greens receive some reinforcement from self-appointed theoretical advisers such as David McKnight and Clive Hamilton.
Discussion of these matters is clearly vital in the run-up to the next federal elections, and the Popular Frontism in the Geelong document is dangerous to the immediate interests of the working class, which are embodied in the main necessary electoral demand of the labour movement: “Throw the Liberals out. Put the Liberals last.”
When you superimpose on the question of the Popular Frontism in the Geelong documents, Norm Dixon’s unbridled Third Period rhetoric about Unions NSW and the Blacktown protest on June 28, you get a poisonous, opportunist mix indeed.
As I’ve established quite satisfactorily, the Boyle leadership has been trying to talk down the great success of the Blacktown protest by infantile playing with figures. Now Dixon says Unions NSW was dragged “kicking and screaming” into the protest, when in fact Unions NSW was the main organiser and co-ordinator of the very successful Blacktown event.
Dixon’s ultraleft rhetoric gets madder by the second. He talks recklessly about “Unions NSW apologists and Groupers” and in another place “according to the big nobs and their lackeys” etc, etc.
The parallelism between Dixon’s rhetoric and the reaction of the Tory labour minister Kevin Andrews to the whole mobilisation is very striking.
Dixon implies that the modest forces of the Socialist Alliance were the main force in this “dragging” of Unions NSW into the protest. This is Third Period fantasyland, again trying to establish to Boyleites’ own satisfaction their own significance.
This Boyleite rhetoric clearly has a function in the DSP’s internal debate, in which the Percy minority has a more realistic appraisal of the current situation, which is demonstrated in the documents of the May DSP national committee meeting, the key six of which the DSP leadership should now publish to enlighten the socialist public about the discussion.
The Socialist Party also has a schema about creating a new workers’ party, which seems to me rather metaphysical, strategically at this time. At least the Socialist Party, however, is realistic enough to recognise in the editorial in the current issue of its paper that none of the more militant union leaders are at all likely to support such a venture at this time.
To cast more light on the Socialist Party’s new workers’ party proposal, the SP should publish the results of its email poll, which is mentioned by one of the posters on the GLW list.
For the DSP, the combination of Geelong Popular Frontism and Dixon’s NSW ultraleftism towards the big battalions of the unions in NSW is bizarre and dangerous, and is no basis for a useful socialist practice.