The Greens, Goldstein and Bob Gould


Green Left discussion list, September 8, 2004

I feel a bit like Goldstein must have felt in 1984. I’ve become a kind of supra-historical villain. It’s flattering, but extremely bizarre. When I post something to the Green left list I’m abused for doing so, and when I don’t post it’s implied that there’s something strange about that.

If Shane Hopkinson makes a plea for civility in debate, and points out the abusive character of some DSP posts, he’s darkly imputed to have some sinister agenda. Wow!

It’s even more eccentric when you consider that the seminar at Marxism, where I’m alleged to have said something, was about the same size as the one attended by Peter Boyle the next day.

The primitive red-baiting involved in Boyle’s, Meerding’s and Benedek’s posts is worth a bit of examination.

John Percy, the DSP general secretary, attends a small meeting of the Socialist Party (about 18 people) with his Green Lefts and his package of leaflets for about six events, and he gets a hysterical wildly disproportionate and quite wrong response from Dave Murray.

I do pretty well the same thing with my little bag of tricks, which these days mainly consists of the website flier, and I cop hysterical abuse from the DSP, saying I’m like the Sparts.

Apparently it’s okay for the DSP, but it’s not okay for anyone having an argument with the DSP to do the same thing. It’s called agitation, comrades, and I’ve been doing it all my life. I don’t intend to stop now, just because it upsets the DSP leadership.

I’m a fair age, in reasonable health and I’ve got broad shoulders, and in fact political argument helps to keep me young. I can’t stop the political abuse from the DSP leadership, but I demand that they stop lying about my political position.

I frequently attack occasional Green sectarianism, and more frequent Labor sectarianism against the Greens, and I argue in favour of the united front. I’ve had a little bit of success in that, although of course that’s hard to measure. But political necessity and the need to remove Howard is forcing a more reasonable position on both the Greens and Labor.

I never talk about Green or Labor sectarianism without criticising both, and that’s certainly what I said at the small seminar. I certainly said that the DSP leadership was much more primitive than the Greens in their abuse of the Laborites, which the DSP leaders pass of as telling the necessary truth.

Anyone who doesn’t believe me about my general political position on these matters can go to my Open letter to fellow ALP members, which argues against ALP sectarianism, and my article on Socialists and the coming federal elections.

I continuously emphasise the need for a united front and a sense of proportion between Labor, the Greens and the far left, 40 per cent of which is represented by the Socialist Alliance, after recent departures and defections.

Back in the early 1920s, Lenin issued a document, with all his prestige, directed at the British Communist Party, insisting that they don’t stint labour, propaganda resources or money in working to get the Labour Party elected to government. It would be interesting to study British CP documents from those elections. I’ll bet they don’t have the objectionable slogan: “Dump the Tories but trust neither”.

Taking up Luke’s point, presented considerably more civilly than the DSP leadership points, I don’t regard Marxism as some static entity that requires lecturing the working class from a great height. That’s in fact what the DSP leadership does in this politically crazy headline.

If part of your political audience is the organised working class, migrants, etc, who are still quite vigorously supporting Laborism, a much saner slogan from a Socialist Alliance point of view, if you cared about a working class audience and if the DSP weren’t such inveterate sectarians, might be something like: “Throw out Howard, vote Socialist Alliance 1, Greens 2, Labor 3, elect a Labor government and campaign to get progressive outcomes from this Labor government”.

Such a set of slogans might correspond to the deep groundswell among both Labor supporters and the Greens for the removal of Howard.

The DSP leadership seems unable to come to terms with enormous electoral cement truck of the Greens and Labor that they’re on a collision course with. As Anne P, of the ISO, pointed out in language even more colourful than mine at the Marxism seminar in question (a flea and and elephant, is what she actually said), the whole Socialist Alliance electoral project is likely to have minimal results, which is why Humphrey McQueen tried to sound a note of warning about ill-prepared electoral activities.

Like me, he has been around a bit and seen a lot. I’ll take up his formulation about the ALP and country parties in some other context.

It’s worth noting that when Humphrey McQueen says something similar to me (about the Socialist Alliance electoral activity being problematic), he gets a gentle slap on the wrist, but I get abused.

I return to a point I made in an earlier post about the 15 unions quite rightly agitating for the release of Craig Johnson. They’re all firmly in the ALP, and all campaigning vigorously for the election of a Latham Labor government. When they do such a thing it’s acceptable, when I do it, I’m a Goldstein figure. That’s life.

The real nitty gritty in Boyle’s hysteria is revealed in his curious comment about Leftist Transpotters and Marxmail, and his assertion that everyone internationally ignores me. That’s just his shorthand for the fact that I don’t agree with the DSP leadership.

The real thing the DSP leadership is cranky about is the efficient way Ozleft has drawn attention to the crisis in the DSP-Socialist Alliance, indicated by the documents that burst out on Melbourne Indymedia last week.

After the documents had been on Indymedia for a few days, we put up my comments on Ozleft, with links to those documents, and we’ve had about 450 hits on those comments in less than a week.

My educated guess is that about half the hits are local, because many locals would already have seen the material on Indymedia, and about half would be from the pointers we put on Marxmail and Trainspotters.

Incidentally, serious articles about the Australian Socialist Alliance and the far left get a very good readership on Ozleft, such as Ian Rintoul’s analysis of the Socialist Alliance, Michael Thomson’s letter of resignation from the Socialist Alliance, the recent resignation letter of the Socialist Alternative dissidents and my lengthy articles on Leninism.

We’re only two weeks into the election campaign and there are four or five more GLWs to go in the campaign. One shudders to think what pearls of sectarianism the DSP leadership will dream up to cap this week’s headline.

Incidentally, Boyle and the DSP leadership should be a bit careful in their hubris about the coverage they had in the Financial Review, the main financial paper of the ruling class. It clearly doesn’t want a Latham Labor government, so it suits it to highlight the Socialist Alliance’s hostility to Latham and Laborism.

The DSP-Socialist Alliance is hardly going to recruit from Financial Review readers and so far Green Left Weekly‘s sizeable hit rate on its website, which is an interesting phenomenon, doesn’t appear to have produced any significant increase in the political influence of the DSP. Rather, the graph of political influence of the DSP appears to be pointing the other way.




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