The DSP leadership’s ugly venture into religious bigotry


Bob Gould

Anyone who is uneasy with my classification of the DSP political leadership as unprincipled political adventurers should sit back and review the events since the DSP organised the extended exercise in religious bigotry and backwardness known as the NoToPope Coalition, and attempted to pass it off as Marxism.

The discussion of this nasty adventure on Leftwrites, the Green Left site and Ozleft has been revealing in every way. The first thing that has to be said is that this NoToPope adventure flies in the face of the basic attitude to religion when it is expressed in the religious practices of the masses, going back through Trotsky and Lenin to Marx and Engels.

Interested people should read the collection, Lenin On Religion, the Marx and Engels collection on religion, Kautsky’s Origins of Christianity, Engels’s The Peasent War in Germany, Rosa Luxembourg’s Socialism and the Churches, Fidel Castro on religion, Maxim Rodinson’s On Islam, Abram Leon’s On the Jewish Question, the article by Terry Eagleton to which we have a pointer on Ozleft, and James Connolly’s Labour, Nationality and Religion.

There are differences of emphasis in these books but what unites them all is their serious attitude towards the persistent grip of religion on the masses in many countries and their insistence that Marxists should not make it any kind of principle that believers give up their beliefs to join a socialist party.

I also put it to Fred Fuentes, who seems to be a supporter of the DSP majority but whose serious attempts to explain events in Latin America I respect (and who lives in Venuzuela now), that when the Pope went to Cuba the Cuban government treated him with great care and respect. There was not a trace of the nonsense and bigotry peddled by the DSP leadership.

The obvious reason for this, and for the careful attitude of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela to religious affairs, is the practical political consideration that the Latin American masses would lynch them if they adopted any other approach, and it also appears to me that they are unlikely to want to adopt a bigoted stance towards the Catholic masses for cultural reasons.

It’s worth noting also that in the whole of Latin America there is a complex skein of circumstances pertaining to the Catholic Church. Many Latin American leftist started out as Terry Eagleton and I did actually when very young, as leftists in the Catholic Church. A Colombian pilgrim was telling me the night before last that throughout universities in Colombia there are two ubiquitious posters, Che Guevara, and Camillo Torres, the courageous priest and guerilla military leader against the oligarchy who was killed over 20 years ago.

The proud, ignorant and stupid religious bigotry of the DSP leadership. How they lie about events even when their own photographs demonstrate their lies

As Kerry Vernon pointed out on the Green Left list, the Potemkin Village megalomania of the DSP leadership led it to continue increasing the size of the demonstration, eventually claiming 1500. I have learnt through a lot of experience with the DSP leadership that it is wise when looking at the numbers that they claim for demonstrations that they initiate to take the lowest estimate that they give and halve it if you want something like the true figure.

I have consulted some people who I trust who went along to have a look, and they agree that the figure was actually 200-300. The rather demented DSP leadership could only find 300 bigots and crazies prepared to go along and hurl insults and abuse at 300,000 to 400,000 pilgrims.

I submit that if you look closely at the odd crowd that the DSP proudly put on their assorted websites, all you can see by way of demonstrators is 200-300 people. When lying in politics it is wise not to peddle lies and then put up pictures that show you’re lying.

The DSP leadership tries to have a bob each way, claiming that their demonstration was not an exercise in religious bigotry, yet they put up pictures, with slogans like “Debaptise yourself” (a Raelian slogan, I gather); “God does not exist”; “Stop believing, ease your mind”; and a pile of other exotic insults directed at the pilgrims.

The DSP pictures on their websites give very considerable prominence to the exotic Raelians in their ceremonial garb with a series of slogans and images that this wordly pedestrian Marxist, and ex-Catholic couldn’t comprehend at all, but their slogans there were unmistakeably attacking Catholics as believers, and the Catholic Church as a social institution.

The DSP leadership also leans heavily on the proposition that they were in a united front with certain secularists and atheist groups and it is certainly true that they show placards purporting to be from such groups, and the placards all insist in one way or another that the believers immediately stop believing.

I have a certain historical respect for the robust, often-proletarian 19th century rationalism. It was often an expression of the revolt of the working class, and particularly working class intellectuals, against the whole corpus of ruling class ideology and religious hypocrisy. Many of the 19th century rationalists were themselves people who made the transition from evangelical Christianity to rationalism and socialism, although of course there were still many Christian socialists in the 19th century.

In my experience in the 20th century, the rump of organised rationalism has degenerated into middle-class people with a bee in their bonnet about religion, and in my experience if you scratch those people what spurts out of them is hostility to Muslims and Buddhists, and also a Anglo-Australian hostility to migration.

A study of the DSP’s photographs of the event are both amusing, many of the photographs being so bizarre and instructive politically about the gutter politics involved, masquerading as a protest.

I have more sympathy for the gay people involved in the protest. The gay people have a legitimate and clear reason and right to protest against the Catholic Church, but I’d say even to them, that if you actually want to influence attitudes and behavior, it’s wise to consider how you conduct your agitation in relation to religious believers and institutions.

A bit like Jonathan Swift I’d like to make a modest proposal to the DSP leadership. Why don’t you join the Raelians up to the Socialist Alliance, or even fuse with them, as you seem to have agreement on so many questions? Then you could all together go up and join the spaceship lurking behind the moon and go off into outer space to get away from the grubby planet earth where a large slice of the population is still religious and a politically significant minority consider themselves Marxists.

That would be good for everone. You could avoid contamination and the rest of us would get you out of our hair!

On a more serious note, I wouldn’t want to be seen dead with a large number of the bigoted organisers of that anti-working-class demonstration aggressively insulting the significant of the section of the working class and the middle class from many countries who adhereto the Catholic Church.

A PS to Ratbag Riley about BA Santamaria etc. when Bob Santamaria was your mentor in the early 1970s, before you went off to join the Stalinists, I had been fighting the Industrial Groups for 15 years in the broad labour movement. A feature of that very important struggle, which you don’t comment on, was that it was a united front in the workers movement between secular Marxists like myself and other socialists, but it included quite a large number of still practicing Catholics such as Jim Ormonde. One tactic of Bob Santamaria and his associates was to attack the practicing Catholics who opposed The Movement as insufficiently Catholic. When you and your fellow bigots attempt to organise a tiny pogrom against 400,000 pilgrims (a rather unwise enterprise strategically) you are pissing on all the practicing Catholics on the left currently, and the memory of past practicing Catholics who saw no contradiction between their religious allegiance and socialism, people like James Connolly, Constance Markievicz, Camillo Torres and many, many others. Apart from the aspect of religious bigotry, I find it deeply offensive as a broadly Marxian socialist for 50 years for the DSP leadership to bustle around in the public arena in their perpetual quest for publicity to make themselves seem relevant, proclaiming that this reactionary bigotry has something to do with socialism or Marxism. This stuff actually doesn’t harm the Catholic Church at all, but it contributes to making socialists look like cranks and bigots. In these objective conditions socialists need that like a hole in the head.



18 Responses to “The DSP leadership’s ugly venture into religious bigotry”

  1. Norm Dixon Says:

    The Daily Telegraph reported 2000, and several people who counted got around the 1500 mark. So it’s safe to say there were over 1000. The video of the “pilgrim” who got arrested (can’t find the link) actually gives a good idea of the size of the rally.

    Gould’s post is downright embarrassing. Not a mention of the key slogans around the which the protest was organised — ie against the Catholic heirarchy’s bigotry against women, gays and the third World poor. And this somehow get’s turned into religious bigotry against Catholics. Not a word about his authoritarian party’s attempt to ban the protest and the excellent court victory which will becomes a precedent in the defence of democratic rights in NSW.

    And Gould’s claim that the protest was awash with Raelians is as bizarre as the RSP’s lies and crazed Groupthink over this question, on which he seems to be relying. Gould thinks anybody in a colourful costume must be a Raelian! It simply displays Gould’s (and the RSP’s) deepening conservativism that equates open opposition to Church’s homophobia, mysogny and AIDS denialism as a “religious” attack on Catholics.

  2. Norm Dixon Says:

    Are the Greens religious bigots too, Bob? They spoke at the rally too …

    Aside from the rather macabre gastronomic appeal of Catholic relics, only one person in NSW Parliament raised the issue of bio-security. Greens MP Sylvia Hale asked whether any precautions had beingtaken regarding the importation or public showing of the human remains. In response, Ian MacDonald — with all the grace one would expect from the Honourable Minister — sarcastically replied “I think I should do the right thing and refer the question immediately to Tony Burke, who is in charge of the Australian Quarantine Inspection Service, which is responsible for bio-security issues — particularly the importation of corpses from Italy”.

    The Greens received no serious response, although Hale stressed to that they are more concerned with more than $100 million of State funding for an organisation that holds questionable policies on contraception and abortion than the “Catholic fascination with worshiping corpses and body parts”.

  3. entdinglichung Says:

    more good books: several by Michael Löwy (e.g.: “Redemption and Utopia: Jewish Libertarian Thought in Central Europe” and some books on liberation theology, don’t know if they all are translated into English) & Ernst Bloch’s “Atheism in Christianity” … by the way, the Raelians reject democracy and propagate “geniocracy”

  4. Stuart Says:

    “I also put it to Fred Fuentes, who seems to be a supporter of the DSP majority but whose serious attempts to explain events in Latin America I respect”

    Serious attempts to explain Latin America and being a DSP member is apparantly a contradiction.

    “I have more sympathy for the gay people involved in the protest. The gay people have a legitimate and clear reason and right to protest against the Catholic Church”

    And how is this counterposed to the DSP? One of the key organisers, Rachel Evans, is both a DSP member and leader of Community Action Agaisnt Homophobia, CAAH being among the major groups that helped organise and build the protest, some of CAAH activists being DSP members, most of them not.

    Again on the demands of hte rally: Defend the right to protest; no to homophobia; support a women’s right to choose; and support for promoting condom use.

    There is nothing, absolutely nothing in that that is anti-Catholic bigotry.

    The rally was *not* organised on any “anti-religion” basis.

    It was organised around actual positions taken by the pope on concret, material things.

    Gould’s entire post is grossly offensive, not evenmainly because of its slanders agaisnt the DSP.

    And they are real slanders.

    Even worse is it is an insult to victims of *real* actually existing examples of anti-Cathoilic bigotry.

    I got an email the other day from a friend and comrade living in Belfast that reveals what is *actual* anti-Catholic bigotry, that puts a peaceful rally against reactionary positions pushed by the current pope (which is what hte rally was organised against) in some context.

    “Last weekend was insane here, the twelfth of july … all the papers here said it was a ‘quiet’ 12th but about 100 loyalists came into the street next to where i live about midnight on the 11th after their bonfire and took material from a building site to try to smash up homes – about 20 nationalist young guys tried to stop them and four of them ended up in hospital, one of them could’ve died.

    “The local councils give these groups £3000 each for the bonfire ‘celebreations’ which burn tricolour flags and effigies of republicans, one of the funded ones i seen in the paper had big irish flags with ‘K. A. T’ for kill all taigs [offensive terms for catholics] on it. the mayor of lisburn, just near belfast, set fire to the bonfire that had a big picture of a Sinn Fein councillor from his council on it, there was other stuff too, like outside of belfast a nationalist pub being petrol-bombed, it’s just nuts and you’d barely hear about it even in the belfast media let alone dublin or international media. and everyone was relieved that this year was so quiet! ”

    That is what anti-Catholic bigorty looks like. It is an insult to victims of real bigotry to try and imply rally organised around the demands of gay and women’s rights is somehow an example of this type of thing.

  5. Norm Dixon Says:

    “We will say to them, ‘Take up the campaign within the Catholic Church to promote condoms.’ We’re not planning to get into any trouble. We don’t want to condemn Catholic youth for being Catholics. We want to condemn the Pope for being homophobic and anti-condom.”

    Ms Evans, 33, who represents Community Action Against Homophobia and whose father was a Uniting Church minister, said the coalition would notify police of its route in the next couple of days but she feared the NSW Government “wants to be heavy-handed with protesters”.

    She said the Pope’s teachings contributed to 67,000 women dying every year from backyard abortions and a suicide rate among gay youth that is seven times the average.

    “He is clearly a bigot … many in the Catholic Church are also raising these issues, condemning the Pope for his hateful ideas.”

    “Anti-Catholic” quotes from protest organiser (and DSP member) Rachel Evans, from a SMH article.

  6. THR Says:

    Bob, as a leftist Melbournite, can you please order your bookstore? At least the political bits?

  7. THR Says:

    I’d even help you in this task.

  8. Antigone Says:

    Bob, I thought the photos of demonstrators, slogans and placards some of which naughtily were competing to be the most “offensive”, and the queer and gay costumes, body decoration and poses, a hoot. Art, even. And so did everyone I have showed them to ranging from practicising Catholics to Aborigines raised on Christian missions to ex-Catholics to people who don’t give a rat’s either way. I don’t think my uncle who was a Catholic priest or my aunt a Sister of Mercy would have approved. But I reckon my sister who was a Franciscan would have.

    There are a lot of offensive things in this world, if we want to dwell on such. Which leftists do. Burlesque (which is how AAP described the protest worldwide with absolutely no criticism that I can see) combined with fundamental democratic and – I repeat – feminist and gay demands – are a pretty mild riposte to all the things that much more seriously and materially “offend” us about the role of the Catholic Church hierarchy as represented today by its current Pope.

    I find curious the notion that a demonstration, or any street protest, can be deemed to be a display of Marxism in practice.

    Finally, I don’t think the works you cite are the last word on the Marxist approach to and understanding of religion in that I think Marxism has generally fallen short of understanding its significance and here I would once again cite Joel Kovel’s work (among others).

  9. JS Says:

    Whatever you think of the organisers, it’s clear quite a portion of the crowd was at the rally on an “anti-religion” basis. For example amongst a group of costumed street theatre-types one person had a t-shirt that read “Atheists don’t car bomb–question religion”. The whole group had caps with the “Question religion” slogan.
    Given that, there was clearly going to be a danger of the rally degenerating into a ultra-left anti-Catholic event. And the ridiculous scenes at the end of the rally where demonstrators were chanting and hurling condoms at the “pilgrims” from behind a police line show that this is exactly what happened. Surely the left has a responsibility to try to argue against this sort of behaviour?

  10. bill weller Says:

    Why would any socialist support Catholicism ? Religion enslaves the masses!

  11. bill weller Says:

    In fact i find it sick that people worship a human as ” God on earth ” A human that is the leader of a church with immense wealth, That is also homophobic, racist, sexist and contributes to it worshippers poverty in Catholic countries. We have a Pope with links to Nazism. The sickest thing i found as the Green candidate for Kingston was the ” Im Christian ” play by the two major party candidates Rishworth ( ALP ) and Richardson ( Lib ) Rishworth as a Catholic did not like the Assemblies of God churches ( being the opposite ) yet attended them to gain votes as did the Lib candidate. Would a Socialist suck to a nazi to gain votes or support? Why would Bob , the ALP or the Greens support / protect Catholicism or better still ridicule those who see religion for what it really is. The ACTU would rather support the religous right wing SDA ALP candidate than a left wing AMWU Green candidate. Sad really

  12. Vincent Peters Says:


    Very strange argument for a “marxist” materialist to be defending the religious views/sentiments of the Catholics. As a former catholic I think that we have bent the stick too often in the direction of peoples religious sentiments. We are really polite and don’t want to offend them. However, their views are pure rubbish and sometimes you just need to say so.

    Camillo Torres? Gee I doubt if any in the “Sydney Meet” had his commitment to the revolutionary struggle. It was a publicity exercise for the reactionaries in the Catholic Church. Any fool can see that. I’m with the DSP on that even though I don’t agree with their politics.

    I prefer the Slogan of the 270 Million Dalits in India.

    “There is no god. No god at All.”

    Religion is opiate of the masses. It keeps them submissive and dumb.

    A new society must be based on reason, rationality, scientific methods and truth. I thought I had that in common with Marxists. Apparently not with Che Roberto

  13. Norm Dixon Says:

    Mr Morris Iemma
    Premier of New South Wales
    NSW Parliament House
    Macquarie St
    Sydney NSW 2000

    Dear Mr Iemma,

    I am writing to complain in the strongest possible terms about the expenditure of taxpayers’ money on the recent so-called ‘World Youth Day’ (misleading language, incidentally, in that the true situation is that is it ‘World Catholic Youth’ and 15-20 July is not a day). The amount reported in the media varied: one report had $82 million, another $85 million contributed by the NSW Government, amounts which were topped up, in one report, to $108 million, and in another, to $118 million by the Federal Government. I have written to Ms Lee Rhiannon of the NSW Australian Greens to ask her to let me have the correct figure (as well as to raise this matter with her generally), but whatever that figure is, when sums as colossal as these are involved, particularly to support an organisation such as the Catholic Church – please see my expansion on this below – I suggest that the expenditure is absolutely over the top and should never have occurred.

    The Catholic Church is a profoundly reactionary organisation: its misogyny, its attitude to homosexuality, its approach to sexuality in general and particularly to sexual health are anti-social, psychologically destructive and/or physiologically dangerous – and I haven’t even got to the appalling situation it has created for itself regarding the sexual abuse of children by a sizeable number of its clergy. The Catholic Church is also an extremely rich organisation: if it wants to put on a World Youth session in Sydney, it should be required to pay for this privilege – it can easily afford it. It is certainly far from acceptable that taxpayers – ordinary people in the community, mostly earning very ordinary salaries, comprising, I might add, women, homosexuals, atheists, etc. – should have to foot the bill for this parasitic organisation. There is supposed to be a separation of church and state, but this does not seem to be the case in NSW, a state which Max Wallace, of the Australian National Secular Association, describes as a ‘soft theocracy’. The public money used for this event would have been better spent on things such as updating public transport, increasing nurses’ and teachers’ pay, providing better assistance to parents for the care of disabled children, etc.

    A further issue is that, as huge sums of public money have now been spent on the Catholic Church, other religious organisations may well decide to hold similar sessions. They may even feel that the government is now under some kind of obligation to allocate comparable amounts of public money to the staging of their celebrations, and so I’m wondering what the policies of the NSW Government and Federal Government are in respect to this question. Events put on by these other religious bodies are not likely to be of the magnitude of the World Catholic Youth session, but these organisations may nonetheless expect some kind of proportional outlay from government sources. If this did occur, Australian and particularly NSW taxpayers would be faced with the expenditure of public money on any kind of religious event. A specific question in this regard – one voiced by other people too in recent times – concerns a possible ‘World Muslim Youth Day’: if Islamic authorities approached the NSW and the Federal Governments with an eye to putting on such an event, how, I wonder, would this idea be received?

    Regardless of the denomination, Catholic, Muslim, or anything else, it is not appropriate that governments fund religious events, especially at the level of the 2008 WCY session: particularly in the 21st century, religion should be a private matter, its celebrations paid for by the religious organisations themselves, not the taxpayer.

    Yours sincerely,

    Anne Horan

    c.c. Ms Lee Rhiannon, NSW Australian Greens.
    c.c. Dr Bob Brown, Federal Australian Greens.
    c.c. Mr Barry O’Farrell, Leader of the NSW Opposition.
    c.c. Mr Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia.
    c.c. Mr Max Wallace, Australian National Secular Association.
    c.c. Australian Skeptics, NSW.
    c.c. Cardinal Pell, Catholic Archbishop of Sydney.
    c.c. Pope Benedict XVI, The Vatican.

  14. Norm Dixon Says:

    More DSP religious bigotry

    By *Barry Healy*

    July 29, 2008 — Dramatic events within the worldwide Anglican Communion (the international association of national Anglican churches) have revealed a “cold split” with the potential for a complete collapse of the Episcopal formation. Superficially, the debates have centred on the right of women and homosexuals to be priests and bishops, and on gay marriage. However, while theological arguments dating back centuries are being mouthed, behind them are class-war elements of more recent vintage, including some connected with the era of US President Ronald Reagan’s backing of Central American death squads in the 1980s.

    Full article

  15. Duroyan Fertl Says:

    Amidst Mark’s rather crazed ramblings there is one cogent point – linking the Pope to Nazism really isn’t useful. He was forced to join the Hitler Youth (against his, and his religious family’s wishes), as were, indeed, almost all young men of his age at the time (so an entire generation has “links with the Nazis”).

    It’s also worth noting that Ratzinger’s handicapped cousin was killed by the Nazis and he left the HJ as soon as he could.

    Calling the Pope a Nazi misses the point, muddies the water, and gives the fundies an extra stick to beat our arguments with. Which is one – lesser – reason why the recent actions weren’t organised by the ThePopeIsANazi coalition.

    His politics and policies are reactionary enough. My family is Bavarian, and comes from just down the road from Maktl-am-Inn, the Ratzinger home town. From experience, there’s more than enough right-wing Catholics with reactionary, dangerous views on the world which have nothing to do with Nazism in Bavaria, and elsewhere, that we have to invent new enemies.

  16. Michael Says:

    Bob’s rant is ridiculous at its best, and arrogant nonsense otherwise.

    For example,
    “I have more sympathy for the gay people involved in the protest. The gay people have a legitimate and clear reason and right to protest against the Catholic Church, but I’d say even to them, that if you actually want to influence attitudes and behavior, it’s wise to consider how you conduct your agitation in relation to religious believers and institutions.”

    How gracious of you. Really, it’s nice that you’re willing to grant them permission for expression of their grievances, even though they might not be Marxist. After condemning the “religious bigotry” of groups that protested, even though they didn’t, in your view, have adequate scriptural precedent, no less.

    Indeed, its interesting that protesting the Pope is religious bigotry. Bob cites as evidence for this proposition signs saying that there is no god, which he says insults believers. It’s hard to know whether even he takes this seriously. Public expression of Catholicism is religion – which he thinks we ought to respect – but public expresions of atheism insult Catholics? Put that aside. The pope *is* reactionary (something that escapes Bob), and is anti-choice, anti-gay, anti-contraception. Bob can’t imagine, say, people in Latin America being unhappy with him, despite his *notorious* comments about how the indigenous population was just dying to be exterminated by the white invaders. However, in Bob’s view, we need permission to protest any of this. Suppose Marxists (which I’m not) should only ever take up causes which are popular in the working class. Does this mean Bob would not advise, say, principled defences of civil liberties, for example? Did he advise against defending Hicks? Would he have advised against defending Dreyfus in France 100 years ago?

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