Hysteria over the Marrickville by-election


Bob Gould

The DSP leadership is clearly divided into two caves over what to do next in the face of the stagnation of its sect-building project. I’ve obviously blundered into the middle of a brawl that is going on in the DSP leadership, which has recently spilled over into the DSP ranks, with my rather careful analysis of the Marrickville by-election. This partly explains the politically obscene “whitey” response to me by Peter (Eldridge Cleaver) Boyle, which I’ll comment on at the end of this piece.

My questioning of the crudely racist construct in Pip Hinman’s report, that the ethnic communities who overwhelmingly voted Labor in the Marrickville by-election were “intimidated” or “bribed” by the ALP, produced a spluttering response from Cleaver Boyle, deepening and extending the DSP leadership’s commitment to the view expressed by Hinman.

Boyle tries to reinforce this view with what he claims is his recollection of an encounter between Laurie Ferguson and a Turkish delegation 25 years ago. He verbals Ferguson, of whom I am no fan on matters of migration and refugees. Ferguson’s removal from the shadow immigration portfolio, after widespread agitation inside the ALP, spearheaded by friends of mine, was an entirely necessary political development.

Nevertheless, when viewed in context, it is pretty clear that what Ferguson probably said to the Turkish people was: “You better help us get re-elected or the other mob (the Liberals), will withdraw support from your projects.”

A bit crude perhaps, but hardly a bribe, unless you, as right-wing populists do, regard support for ethnic community projects as some form of bribery.

Cleaver Boyle’s spurious little anecdote underlines the bizarre way the DSP leadership scratches around for anything to reinforce its sectish animosity to Laborism and all Laborites.

What is striking about the DSP leadership’s response, is that it produces not a shred of evidence about any current “intimidation” or “bribery” by the ALP in Marrickville, directed at ethnic communities. All they can produce is a politically clownish story by somebody called Owsky, who has been traumatised over the years by the folksy way Laborites on polling booths in working-class areas, successfully appeal to their workmates and neighbours to vote Labor.

Lacking the mass connections that Labor often has locally, this electoral demeanour infuriates the DSPers, and its easy to see why. This fury tells you a lot more about the DSP sect than it does about Labor.

In the absence of any evidence of ALP intimidation or bribery of ethnic communities in the Marrickville by-election, Pip Hinman’s alleged analysis is thoroughly racist, and is an argument that owes much to the populist racism of the right-wing bourgeois press of the tabloid genre. Boyle’s phony “whitey” rhetoric is just a crude attempt to distract attention from this obvious fact.

To confuse matters even further, but indirectly to illuminate the increasingly right-wing trajectory of the DSP leadership, Jon Strauss comes in with a theoretical justification for the DSP leadership’s racist arguments concerning ethnic communities in Marrickville.

He extends the notion the Laborites intimidating and bribing the ethnic communities, to the notion that Laborism intimidates and bribes the whole of the working class. He goes back nearly 20 years for an example of intimidation, the Pilot’s Strike, and he presents an oh so theoretical and rather eccentric extension of the DSP’s labour aristocracy shibboleth.

His version of the world in his little piece is a very long way from the world as it actually is. In reality, most unions that take a political stand of any sort, including white-collar unions, generally support Labor, although a scattering of officials in white-collar unions support the Greens, and a quite a few rank-and-filers in white-collar unions support the Greens.

Strauss constructs his own imaginary universe, in which the white collar unions, which he implies are the labour aristocracy, support the Greens and that somehow this represents a decisive break from Laborism at the political level.

He also suggests that the blue-collar unions represent the more oppressed, and that in some way being more oppressed, they are easy prey for Laborism, which is the ultimate evil from his point of view.

As a concrete description of the real stratification and divisions in the labour movement and the working class, Strauss’s construction is an instrumentalist fantasy, and has nothing to do with accurate observation. Its only function is to provide a figleaf for all the DSP leadership’s political pretensions.

Nevertheless, in the current circumstances, with the trade union movement and the labour political movement fighting for their lives against the Howard Government’s assault on the trade unions, this construction is, like the business about “intimidation” and “bribe” against ethnic communities in Marrickville, intrinsically right-wing.

The ruling class and the Howard Government accuse the labour movement and the trade unions of intimidating the working class. The ruling class and the Tories regard all the wages and conditions won over the years, mainly by trade union struggles, as wholesale bribery of the working class forced on employers by the external presence and intervention of trade unions.

The obvious political intention of the Howard Government is to eliminate the political necessity of such “bribery”, by smashing the labour movement and the trade unions, if at all possible. Talking about and treating the conquests of the working class over 150 years as a product of Laborite and union “intimidation” and “bribery”, plays objectively into the hands of the Howard Government.

In addition to this, the political task of defeating the Howard Government on industrial relations requires the maximum united front of the whole left side of society: the trade unions, the labor movement, the Greens, the ethnic communities and the more progressive sections of the middle class.

The obsessional exposure of Laborism, which is the political point of convoluted and instrumentalist “theoretical” construction, put forward by Strauss and the DSP leadership, is an obstacle to the necessary united front against the Howard Government.

Just as the DSP leadership’s instrumentalist theories about multiculturalism have pushed them into the camp of the populist right on multiculturalism, its crude bribery theory of the historic economic conquests of the working class are thoroughly anti-working-class and counter-productive to the interests of the working-class. Boyle’s obscene “whitey” demogoguery is a cynical attempt to confuse these questions.

PS: I don’t particularly want to play the Mark Latham in relation to Julia Gillard, but it seems necessary for the readers of the Green Left List who may not understand the reason for the extreme venom engendered by my analysis, and to a lesser extent to Shane Hopkinson’s attempts to argue with some aspects of the DSP leadership’s politics. It’s my understanding, (although I haven’t an entirely clear picture of all of its ramifications) that a very intense struggle is currently convulsing the DSP leadership, with Boyle and others wanting to persist with the moribund Socialist Alliance project, and Doug Lorimer and John Percy and others, dubbed by their opponents, the conservatives, wanting to revert to the former Democratic Socialist Party project.

Minuscule vote for Socialist Alliance in Marrickville

NSW by-elections and Mark Latham’s book


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