Bob Gould, 2008

Leaflets, demands and concrete struggles
Why I have absolutely no intention of issuing a leaflet calling for the expulsion of Costa and Iemma at this stage in the struggle against electricity privatisation

Source: Ozleft, March 1, 2008
Proofreading, editing, mark-up: Steve Painter

The web is a stamping ground for adventurers, trolls and demagogues who hide behind their anonymity. Some people have sound reasons for choosing pseudonyms on the web, like job considerations, etc. It would be bad web etiquette to out people indiscriminately for this kind of reason. Having said that, I don’t take terribly seriously people on the web who strike demagogic poses sheltering behind anonymity.

The person with the pseudonym who said some of my points were good, but of course I was hopelessly entrenched in the Labor Party and baited me to get out a leaflet calling for the expulsion of Costa and Iemma, at this stage, seems to be out of the DSP majority stable.

Who knows where the other demagogue springs from? People who want a serious discussion of serious questions affecting the whole future of the workers movement, should indicate, in my view, from what political standpoint they are making their point and what their broad political allegiances are, and what strategy they advocate in the workers movement.

People who make provocative demands without doing that are usually just making mischief and trying to score puerile debating points “to expose their opponents”, such as myself.

In my long experience in the workers movement such people they usually don’t give a bugger about the outcome of what they are advocating, or, as in the clear political standpoint adopted by the twilight zone bunch, they are committed to the proposition that Iemma and Costa will succeed in their privatisation push.

The person who appears to be out of the Boyle circle who says I am too embedded in the ALP is pointing to something obvious, while giving it their own nasty twist. My considerable experience in the Labor Party and labour movement activities suggests to me the importance of great care in what one puts in leaflets.

Over many, many years I have put out many leaflets in my own name and I have been closely associated with political co-thinkers who put out lots of agitational leaflets in unions and other places. I am proud of the fact that leaflets associated with me are usually taken seriously by other people in the workers movement, and even if lines of action proposed by me and co-thinkers are defeated, they are usually not defeated easily because they are pertinent to the struggle to which they are addressed, and over the years quite a few of them have had spectacular results, occasionally resulting in victories.

I take enormous personal pride that I have never engaged in brainless demagogy, like putting out a leaflet calling for the immediate expulsion of Iemma and Costa, and I don’t intend to start now. Anyone who seriously wants to win the struggle to defeat electricity privatisation ought to make a quick judgment on the developing state of the movement.

For a start, the bulk of ALP rank and filers in most branches, and almost all union activitists, are very happy to follow their leaders in opposing the privatisation. In a number of cases they are nudging union leaders who have not been explicit enough on the question.

Mike Berrell overstates somewhat when he says every branch is like that. The Labor politicians, both right and left, who want to sell the privatisation still have some support and authority in some ALP branches and a few unions. In addition to this, the overwhelming majority of the labour movement that opposes the privatisation is also still pretty glad that we defeated Howard, and that we have wall-to-wall Labor governments nationally, despite the same rank-and-file opposing the privatisation and neoliberalism being pedalled by many powerful Labor politicians, federal and state.

The way this struggle has proceeded in the real world now focuses at the first stage on a likely showdown at the coming NSW Labor Party conference in May.

Taking that into account, I decided to put my emphasis on opposition to the privatisation, and demanding that Labor politicians, both of the left of which I am a part (although a very critical part historically), and the right, oppose the privatisation vigorously inside the Labor Party.

I chose from the very first meeting of the rank and file Committee of Labor Against the Sell Off, to adopt a very forceful stand, calling on left parliamentarians and ministers to stop hiding behind furphies about caucus and cabinet solidarity, and to demand that they forthrightly lend their weight to the campaign against privatisation inside the ALP, and also in the community campaign initiated by the trade unions, which is an important part of the struggle.

At the intial meeting, which was only attended by one Labor politician, Paul Pearce, I pressed this point vigorously, and at every meeting since I have pressed the point vigorously. Initially, I got a certain amount of rank-and-file support, but there was a big note of caution in the air.

I kept pressing this point around the place, in the Labor Party and union circles that I am familiar with, and support for it gradually built up because it was the obvious question to ask, even if embarrassing to certain leaders who initially were hoping to have a two bob each way, make a bit of noise and then concede and let the thing go through.

Despite a certain amount of manoeuvuring at the top, I succeeded in getting a resolution in this spirit adopted at the rank and file ALP forum on February 16. When the NSW left annual general meeting was called I produced my Open Letter to the Left, and gave it out to everybody who went into the meeting.

At the meeting I pressed Luke Foley, assistant secretary of the NSW Labor Party, and others, on the question of the practical behavior of the left politicians and the left ministers. By this time the atmosphere had changed considerably and I was not the only person pressing this point. It was being pressed in quite a widespread way, and Luke Foley felt constrained to respond to my questions in a cautious but definite way, which is now on the public record.

Idiot left talk about the immediate expulsion of Costa and Iemma is an essentially reactionary diversion at this stage of the struggle. Questions like that will arise if we win the coming state conference and the government tries to defy the conference.

The more desirable outcome would be if the government acceded to the demands of virually the whole labour movement. If it doesn’t, there will be some kind of political crisis.

These are deadly serious questions for everybody in the workers movement and for the 80 per cent of the population who oppose the privatisation.

It’s not some cyberspace, inane debating point. Those who attempt to make it an inane debating point are, in the real world, playing into the hands of the privatisers.

The questions raised in the post by Prince Nikolai, who is quite clearly a Greens supporter or activist, are of a different order of seriousness.

Prince Nikolai is doing a bit of point-scoring on behalf of the Greens, but has to be taken more seriously because he or she is clearly andinhabitant of a small mass party on the left. They are really implying that radicals should get of the Labor Party and join the Greens.

That’s fair enough, that’s their view. I don’t intend to do that, as thousands of others don’t intend to do that, but in the broader workers movement the Greens small mass party ought to be our ally, not our fundamental enemy.

If the Greens put the acid on the Labor members in the upper house, that may well have a good effect in this struggle. The Labor politicians will take it seriously because the Greens are a small mass party on which the ALP relies for preferences.

I would just point out to Prince Nikolai, for strategic reasoning that I adopt as an ALP member, if he wants to score a few points against me he is welcome to do so, but in the broader scheme of things he is my ally, not my enemy, unlike the twilight zone bunch who advocate workers leaving the unions and giving some preferences to Liberals.

In my view the struggle is developing pretty well, albeit in some unexpected directions, and I will continue participating in that struggle with my rather well-known loud voice, perhaps with further leaflets of the appropriate sort.


DSP tunnel vision

March 3, 2008

In answer to an anonymous, but apparently DSP person, who made a demagogic point suggesting that I get out a leaflet calling for the expulsion of Morris Iemma and Mick Costa from the Labor Party, I wrote a comment on the present state of the struggle against electricity privatisation.

Wombo homes in, not with any serious strategic observations, but with the usual accusations about me having a phobia against the DSP because I made the observation that the person who made the suggestion was likely to be out of the DSP majority stable.

Wombo then confirms my point by repeating in a most peculiar way essentially the same proposition as the anonymous poster. He says there are probably some Labor Party members saying the same thing. That’s cynical netspeak point-scoring, and he’s reducing the whole matter from an important strategic question to a high-school debate.

I get around a fair bit in the labour movement and the Labor Party and I haven’t heard anyone but DSP majority supporters seriously advancing the expulsion proposition, and if I observe that in passing, as I did in the article, I’m apparently guilty of sectarianism towards the DSP leadership.

Wombo’s point of view is clearly that the DSP leadership and its supporters should be exempt from strategic argument and criticism, and he has the hide to accuse me of sectarianism for mentioning the DSP’s strategic light-mindedness, even in a passing comment.

What’s striking about this rather lunatic exchange is the complete lack of interest on the part of Wombo and his mates in broad strategic questions.

The DSP majority leaders appear to be interested only in promoting their own rather limited activities and their only strategic advice for people involved in the struggle as it presently exists and is developing, is to throw out Iemma and Costa at this stage of the struggle.

Wombo can hardly complain about me thinking that is the current line of the DSP leadership, and that I’m being unfair presuming that the anonymous bloke is one of them, when he repeats the same rubbish.

Wombo obviously has another purpose as well. There has been a lot of interest in posts on Ozleft about the strategic direction of the electricity privatisation struggle. Wombo obviously wants to bury this in trivia and in passing do what he can to promote the DSP. That’s the whole horizon of his politics, and it’s a very limited horizon.

On another front, in the face of the bit of a verbal war I’ve launched on his reactionary pseudo-socialist, ex-Trotskyist mates from the twilight zone, Mike Berrell takes me to task for saying they’re right wing.

That’s wrong, they’re really ultraleft, says Berrell.

The twilight zoners assert that electricity privatisation will inevitably succeed, they say like the Liberals and Mark Aarons that the existing unions are no good and workers should leave them, and they give some of their preferences to the Liberals. There’s nothing ultraleft about any of that. It’s all clearly right wing, politically.

Berrell is also a bit concerned that my approach to the twilight zoners is undignified. These essentially right-wing political operators spend their whole lives these days peddling a crackpot right-wing theory that all the existing leaders of the workers movement are part of a conscious conspiracy to betray that movement.

They’ve given up any concept of centrism in the workers movement and any need for a strategic united front with centrism, in favour of their cracked conspiracy theory, which is essentially the same politically concerning the trade unions.

The twilight zoners pour out this rubbish and silly Berrell tells me it’s undignified to call a spade a spade about these people. I try to be reasonably dignified most of the time, but I reserve the right to be quite undignified when the occasion requires, and argument with the twilight zone bunch warrants being as undignified as possible towards them in current circumstances in the workers movement.