Bob Gould, 2008

The weird sectarianism of the DSP majority

Source: Green Left Weekly discussion list, February 12, 2008
Proofreading, editing, mark-up: Steve Painter

Some time ago, unless I’m a complete dummkopf in using computer search (which is possible), Green Left Weekly appears to have dumped the once very useful list it had of coming events on the left. Over the past couple of years, as the DSP leadership’s pretensions to being the centre of the leftist universe got steadily worse, the coming events listings became increasingly ridiculous.

Because of reluctance on the DSP leadership’s part to promote, or even mention, events organised by anyone else, and because of the DSP’s declining real mass connections, particularly in the major centres, the coming events gradually became quite absurd.

Eventually, it was almost entirely a list of places where Green Left was sold, and the times. I mention this because of the DSP leadership’s bizarre behaviour towards the developing mass movement in NSW against electricity privatisation.

Green Left’s very limited coverage of this, so far, has studiously avoided mentioning the revolt of ALP branches against the privatisation, which now has a very organised and widespread character.

This week’s Green Left carries that sectarianism to a very high point. Dick Nichols has a very long, rather complex and slightly abstract attack on the privatisation, which is all right as far as it goes, but Nichols fails to mention the two major coming events: the forum being organised by Labor Party branches next Saturday in the Sydney Trades Hall, and the unions’ rally at the opening of state Parliament the week after.

The latest issue of GLW should be the main one for publicising both events by any formation that has a weekly paper and the slightest nose for broad social agitation, but unless I’m blind, there’s not a mention of either event.

It’s quite predictable how GLW is likely to cover the two events after they happen. On form, it will possibly ignore the event at Trades Hall, and will look for any petty point to be scored on the unions’ rally at Parliament House, and the focus will be on any alleged defects of that event.

The failure to mention the event at Trades Hall is obviously in part motivated by a desire to insulate DSP members from the possibitity of corruption by the ordinary Labor Party members who are likely to turn up to the even in some numbers. This is just another aspect of the Boyleites’ Potemkin Village sectarianism, but it’s particularly striking in the context of the broadening mass campaign outside and inside the unions and the Labor Party.

Publicising left events

February 12, 2008

The repsonses to my comments on the lack use of useful publicity in Green Left Weekly about planned actions against the electricity privatisation have been useful. At least I now know that for some time Green Left’s what’s on listings have only been included in the print edition, and not put online.

In raising the matter I mean no disrespect for Rohan Pearce, who I’m sure like most volunteers does a lot of work, in this case it appears, mainly technical work on Green Left.

Without taking the matter too far into the realms of fully blown conspiracy theory, which I agree can be exaggerated, it seems to me even this practical division of labour has a political side to it. Someone associated with Green Left makes the decision about what to publicise and how, and I would have thought that whether or not to make what’s on available online would be some sort of political decision, possibly made on the run by the DSP leadership.

Peter Boyle, for the record, points to a mention of the Parliament House protest in Green Left, but that’s not the point I’m making. Way back in the 1960s, when we were building up the Vietnam Action Committee in the face of the latent hostility of the Communist Party bureaucracy, getting publicity for our events in an effective way in the CPA newspaper, Tribune, was often a kind of cat and mouse game.

The CPA bureaucrats had to balance the relative popularity of our actions with the CPA rank and file against the political necessity, for them, of limiting the impact and size of our protests. In those days, the circulation of Tribune was very substantial, far more so than either the print or online Green Left Weekly is now, and it became a bit of an art form to force the CPA bureaucracy to effectively publicise our protests in the vital issue the week before the protest.

The CPA bureaucracy of the time had its own art form of trying to find excuses not to publicise our actions in an effective way. I’ve been through this kind of experience before, and the second time around it’s a big farce.

Boyle, in particular, doesn’t seem very different to the old CPA bureaucrats in mentioning upcoming events for the record but I’m reasonably certain, taking the necessary steps, from his point of view, to see that that the minimum effective publicity is given to building the Labor Party rank and file rally at the Trades Hall against electricity privatisation next Saturday.

That seems to flow from the Boyleites’ deep-rooted political animosity to doing anything that could promote rank and file agitation in the Labor Party.

Alan Bradley’s contribution is more useful politically, and more constructive. He does the obligatory dump on me, but he makes the sound political point that the DSP should be using these events to try to break out of its isolation.

Bradley is a bit misinformed about the actual circumstances of the Labor Party rally, however. As an initiative within the Labor Party the organising meetings have been confined to Labor Party members, which is entirely normal political practice, but the forum itself is open to all, and if the DSP leadership were at all serious in a united front approach, which they often claim to practice at the same time as they attack it, they would have given the forum as much publicity as their modest means would allow.

I don’t believe for a second that the reason for ignoring the Labor Party rank and file forum at the Trades Hall next Saturday is a technical error of some sort. The indefatigable Norm Dixon restlessly surfs the bourgeois media and the web for bits and pieces he can use to promote the DSP leadership and to dismiss any idea that it’s at all possible to conduct any useful socialist activity within the Labor Party, the broad labour movement or the Greens, unless from his point of view such activity includes an element of the vital leadership of the Socialist Alliance. I don’t believe that Dixon and the DSP leadership aren’t aware of the planned forum.