Source: Ozleft, May 16, 2008
Proofreading, editing, mark-up: Steve Painter
Tom O’Lincoln is quite unfair to Kim Bullimore in their exchange on Leftwrites. He says Kim Bullimore should get over the split and get to the politics.
Bullimore, in particular, has a record of getting to the politics in a very energetic and resourceful way.
I’ve had the odd rather sharp exchange with her in the past, but I’m mightily impressed with her activities in support of Palestine, and I’ve found her frequent factual reports from the political battlefront there of great value and I know that activists in the Palestine support movement share this regard for her activity.
When she gives a concrete and rather brief summary of the way the Boyleites tried to remove her from Palestine work for the DSP, that’s highly political in itself.
In conjunction with the curious emails between some DSP leadership supporters in Brisbane, that provides an insight into the real internal life of the Boyle faction and broadens our knowledge of the real political and cultural climate in the DSP in recent times. In the world of real political struggles and conflicts, particularly in the broader labour movement, the details of the way those things work are highly political.
Over the past couple of years I’ve followed the political upheaval in the DSP fairly closely, and one way or another I’ve managed to get hold of most of the documents. Sometimes one source dries up, but then another source emerges.
I have serious strategic and political disagreements with the Percy group on the Labor Party and trade union matters, but I’ve formed the opinion, following the developments with some care, that the Percy group as a whole is a serious political formation guided mainly by its political program and ideas and that the other group has evolved rapidly into a very opportunistic political cult around a few central personalities, who use every trick in the book to try to present themselves as some kind of majority.
They lie publicly in accusing the other group of splitting, when in fact they had carefully and deliberately prepared an expulsion. There wouldn’t be too many people on the Australian left who would believe the split version as the story unfolds.
Episodically, in a formal way, the Boyle group seems to have moved closer in recent times to some of my strategic and tactical ideas, but that doesn’t impress me terribly much. That’s just belated recognition of the real circumstances that exist in the workers’ movement. Despite this apparent tactical convergence, I don’t trust the Boyle bunch.
After a prolonged factional struggle of the sort that has happened in the DSP, the opposition recording its side of the story in a demotic and public way, as a number of the Percy supporters have done in the past few days, is highly political.
For the past few months I’ve been involved in a mass revolt in the Labor Party and the union movement against the neoliberal fifth column of bankers and speculators that has so publicly become a force in the NSW party.
In my experience, the whole fabric of the struggle is highly political: all the detail of the to-ing and fro-ing in the Labor parliamentary caucus, in the unions, and at the rank and file level, including at the May 3-4 state conference, and now the battle in the parliament (for which one of the catalysts has been Greens MP John Kaye).
Working class, labour movement and Marxist politics aren’t just questions of abstract propaganda. They’re expressed through the activities of people, branches, tendencies and factions, leaders and ranks, throughout the movement, in big formations such as Labor and the Greens and in the small socialist groups.
The argument about the ethics of hacking into emails and the e-list in the DSP isn’t a trivial factional question, but a highly political matter.
Tom’s rather superior dismissal of the detail of these matters is not really political. It think it goes to the heart of the propagandist practice of Socialist Alternative, for instance, which I critiqued in some detail recently.
I put it to Tom that he might consider whether Socialist Alternative would take up my proposal for some public discussion in each city on program, strategy and tactics for the socialist movement and the workers movement. That, it seems to me, would be highly political.
While I understand that all of us will still have to work together in the broader movement, in the short term, I’m unreservedly on the side of the ranks of the Percy group, who in their accounts of various incidents and events have provided an anatomical description of how a socialist group can be transformed into a bit of a cult.
Initially, when I first read the DSP leadership’s charge document I was inclined to put it aside. It was rather more than I really wanted to know, and I’m sure that many others had a similar reaction. But when I went back to it the rather extraordinary implications of it began to anger me considerably.
In my view, this explosion in the DSP is highly political. Many programatic and strategic questions are not yet resolved, but let’s have a rational discussion among socialists about them. The speaking bitterness emails of the past few days may not have been the perfect start to such a discussion, but they are a start.
May 17, 2008, Ozleft
A personal, political note to Luke W.
I don’t mean to be too tough on you, mate, but in your political naivete, you set yourself up for political analysis.
By your own statements in previous posts, you’re relatively new to socialist politics. At one point you rattled off a long list of religious groups you had dabbled in, in your personal quest for truth, before you discovered socialism.
I don’t want to dismiss that kind of personal quest, because that’s how some people find their way, but I’d make a general political point that the sphere of Marxist and labour movement politics is thoroughly different to the sphere of religion.
You seem to me to carry over an essentially religious approach into Marxist politics, which is a pain in the neck, politically.
Wisely, you’ve stopped babbling about Luke Skywaker, and somebody seems to be editing your thoughts a bit, which is all to the good.
I’d make a point a bit similar to that made by Shane Hopkinson and take it a bit further. In your earlier posts, you ignored all real questions of strategy and concrete political organisation and regroupment in favour of a highly moralistic and extremely religious call to all and sundry, both inside and outside the DSP, to drop their different practical orientations and join the DSP, presumably in the same semi-religious way you have.
That seems pretty weird, and rather presumptuous, because you brush aside real differences on practical and theoretical questions in favour of this totally religious appeal. That approach cuts no ice at all with people who have been around in socialist politics for more than a short time, other than with people who share your religious approach and a few cynical bureaucrats who exploit semi-religious people in politics for factional objectives.
As Shane Hopkinson noted pretty effectively, as the split has unfolded you’ve dropped your rhetoric about appealing to all and sundry to join you in political salvation in favour of a much more brutal factionalism towards the Percy group, which has obviously violated, in your mind, the organic unity of the outfit to which you now attach yourself, by obstinately pressing their own necessity to find public practical expression of the political activities in which they differ from the DSP leadership.
You have swung over in a week or so from your idealistic and unrealistic appeal to uncritically join your quest for salvation to treating them as rather hardened enemies, and I have no doubt that you’re encouraged in this transition by your mentors in the Boyle bunch.
In a long and active political life on the left I’ve been through more than one split and I know the landscape pretty well. New recruits like yourself are often rounded up by cynical factional leaders to build up a witch-hunt atmosphere against articulate dissidents, particularly old hands who’ve been active in the movement for some time.
The ignorance of past struggles of people like yourself is pitted against the “troublesome backsliders”, and the rather ignorant newcomers are often persuaded that they know and understand more than the old-timers by a mixture of personal flattery and appeals to the party patriotism of new converts.
That stuff is a very nasty political combination, and I’ve seen it more than once, and I’ve occasionally had to weather witch-hunts of that sort myself.
People like yourself are often attracted by the excitement of the political blood sport of hunting oppositionists. The strategic and political content of the issues involved tends to be completely overlooked in this process.
It’s also my experience that people like yourself, with such an enthusiastic and religious approach to politics, don’t tend to last very long, as the initial enthusiasm of a quasi-religious conversion, combined with the blood-sport entertainment aspect, is usually replaced by equally mercurial disillusionment with the reality of the labour movement and the class struggle.
I’ve seen a lot of people like yourself pass through socialist politics at considerable speed. The small number who do stay, in my experience, evolve into the most aggressive sectarians.
Your essentially religious approach to socialist politics would be much more psychologically suited to an organisation such as the Hillsong church.
I make these observations with no personal antagonism, but with the view that one of these days someone like you might snap out of that frame of mind and approach socialist politics more dialectically and objectively, but I’m not holding my breath.
I am personally hostile to the cynical, small-time socialist bureaucrats who exploit the attitudes of people such as yourself for the narrowest of factional purposes.
May 18, 2008, Ozleft
I got back to work in my shop about 6pm after a Labor Party and community organising meeting against the electricity privatisation push, and did what I usually do on Sunday evening: logged into the computer to have a look at the new issue of Green Left Weekly.
I was particularly interested, for obvious reasons, to see how the paper would handle the expulsion of the minority, but I found nada, zilch, nothing. I had difficulty believing that, so I went through the paper again. Still zilch.
Soaked as I am in the whole horrible story of the Moscow Trials and the Russian Revolution I immediately thought of the rather well-known instance of Nikolai Bukharin, who had been the editor of Izvestia, but disappeared from the masthead of the paper and a couple of months later was tried and received the inevitable bullet in the back of the head.
Happily, the Boyle bunch will never get anywhere near state power, so that analogy falls down a bit, but the malice involved in not mentioning the split in Green Left is breathtaking.
The expelled include at least three former editors of GLW or Direct Action, and more than 20 or so contributors, some of them very active contributors such as Max Lane, John Percy and Doug Lorimer. The expelled also include a number of hard-working people who’ve toiled away on a subsistence living year after year bringing the paper out.
A serious socialist group that produces a newspaper has a powerful moral obligation to at least tell the readers of the paper what the issues are, even if the issues and conflicts are very deep. It would also be reasonable to expect some reasonable appraisal of the years of dedication and collective effort on the part of the departed comrades.
The failure even to give recognition to the work put into the paper by the expelled comrades is a socialist, moral and ethical question, and in that sense a political question.
The Boyle bunch seems to be so paralysed by its insecurity and hatred that it tends to revert to the worst practices of some past periods of trying to turn their expelled comrades into some kind of unpersons. Happily, that’s not possible, but it makes the Boyle group look even more politically eccentric.
The unfeeling inhumanity of this abolition of the expelled ones from the record shows the Boyle group’s inclination, but they’re going to learn that such reversion to the horrible past is not at all popular with the radical public.
May 20, 2008, Ozleft
For quite some time I’ve been proposing a big public discussion on the left on serious questions of strategy and tactics in the workers movement, and some historical questions.
I always make a point of saying that such discussions should involve all the socialist groups without discrimination, and leftists in the Labor Party, the Greens, the trade union movement and the social movements.
Non-exclusion is critical to such an idea. Any proposal to exclude the DSP would blow up the idea of an all-in gathering. Exclusions are usually bad and the problem will be to get serious horizontal participation from all the groups. To exclude one group from the start would be political idiocy, or worse.
Evidence of this is Alan Bradley’s ironical response, indicating exclusion would give the DSP the perfect excuse not to participate in broad left discussion. There can be no exclusions if we want a serious discussion.
Nick Fredman’s most recent post on the Green Left list also deserves careful scrutiny. He refers to a “spiteful anti-DSP gang of provocateurs” and counterposes to scrutiny of the proletarian morality of the methods used to exclude the Percy group a serious public discussion of strategic questions in the workers movement, which he now belatedly favours.
I take the most strenuous objection to the use of the term provocateur against others on the left. In the history of the workers movement that term has a fairly precise connotation. Provocateurs are usually agents of the state. Fredman should withdraw that vicious piece of hyperbole forthwith.
He defines anyone, such as myself and Ed Lewis, who discusses the political practice of the DSP as “DSP haters”. That’s hypocrisy of the first order and nonsensical hypocrisy at that.
How can you project a serious public discussion of strategic questions without examining the theory and practice of the other participants in the discussion?
Tom O’Lincoln and Chav react in a similar way to a political critique of their organisation. I’m immediately accused of an obsession with Socialist Alternative. How silly can you get?
Readers of the Green Left list over a considerable time will remember (although some supporters of the DSP majority don’t display much evidence of memory), that almost every time I’ve raised the need for broad discussion of strategic questions over the years, people such as Norm Dixon and others have poured all kinds of contumely all over me in an obvious attempt to avoid such discussion.
If Nick Fredman now wants a serious discussion of strategic questions, I’ll be the first to support his proposal and participate, and I’ll moderate my language a bit to facilitate the process.
Fredman tries to bury the questions of proletarian morality that have burst into the open by appearing to concede that the DSP majority may have done some bad things, but adding that everyone does such things. He feigns an injured confusion about the detail of particular events, such as the hacking.
It’s very hard to believe that by now, after extensive public discussion, he doesn’t have some reasonably precise knowledge of what took place, himself being someone who appears to know a bit about computers.
The computer business is only one aspect of the question of proletarian morality. The aspect that concerns me most is what led me to make a cautious comparison of the processes in the trial of the minority with some aspect of the notorious Moscow trials.
I don’t think the Boyle bunch are going to shoot anyone in the head, but it’s worth pointing out that the process of the DSP majority’s investigation and expulsion proceedings parallels some aspects of the Moscow trials.
Over the past few years, as someone whose whole political life has been affected by the degeneration of the Russian Revolution, I’ve read with care many of the books based on archival materials now released from the central committee and other bodies of the CPSU throughout the trial period.
One feature of those trials that strikingly resembles the charge sheet is the use of private conversations among old Bolsheviks, even conversations of a relatively innocuous sort, as evidence of plotting crimes against the party or the state, which in the Soviet context of the time almost inevitably led to execution.
The charge sheets against the Percy group show that there was a deliberate policy of the majority leadership to follow around members of the minority, listen to every word they said to anyone, and then turn it into highly coloured charges of party indiscipline.
While the majority leadership happily doesn’t have at its disposal the vast resources the GPU had during the Moscow trials, the political intent of their small-scale snooping is similar.
When all that stuff bursts into the public domain, in this instance from the majority group’s own crazy charge document, it becomes a natural and reasonable topic of discussion by other socialists.
May 21, 2008, Ozleft
Sibylle Kaczorek, who I presume is a supporter of the DSP majority, has just written in Green Left Weekly a first-class report of the present stage of the struggle against electricity privatisation in NSW in all its multifarious aspects.
The report describes the different aspects of these developments with considerable accuracy, including the industrial situation, the situation in the Labor Party, community attitudes, and by implication the contribution of the DSP to these process through a couple of propositions and demands.
Kaczorek legitimately seems to be rather proud of her modest personal contribution in running a street stall for a few weeks in Marrickville on the question.
If this represents a bit of a turn to a more dialectical and sensible approach by the DSP leadership, they’ll get no quarrel from me.
At the same time, however, the inevitable John Tognolini and Alex Bainbridge have a go at me, and Tognolini also has a go at the LPF.
Tognolini ferociously tears into a straw man about the LPF and myself being in some sort of unprincipled combination against the DSP. He can’t have been reading very carefully the cautious exchange between myself and a supporter of the LPF, one Robert Goulash, on these matters, in which we both try to clarify our points of view.
To poor John everything in politics boils down to whether you’re for or against the DSP majority, and whether you’re prepared to engage in strident denunciation of the Labor Party, both leaders and ranks.
Alex Bainbridge lays on me an incoherent charge that I don’t do the right thing in the Labor Party, as by implication the DSP might do it if they were there.
He’s talking obvious nonsense and running through his approach is the completely lunatic proposition that the yardstick in politics is whether you do things like the DSP majority and how you relate to the DSP majority.
The problem is, of course, for socialists both inside and outside the Labor Party, that we’re all rather small potatoes in a primeval upheaval like the one going on over electricity privatisation throughout the trade unions, the Labor Party, the Greens and society at large.
Personally, I like to think that very occasionally in the right conjuncture I influence events a bit, and in fact in this upheaval I haven’t done a bad job, in my own estimation, of pamphleteering and agitating and trying to steer the movement in the right direction.
In my experience, sometimes when big movements reach an impasse, socialists can influence events by putting forward propositions, which may not always be popular, on resolving such impasses.
If you do such things concretely and energetically, sometimes you get an audience, and at great moments of struggle such as the Vietnam agitation, you may get an enormous audience for a while, although it often ebbs when a particular upheaval recedes.
This problem applies to individual socialists and to organisations. Energetic and sensible socialist activity can lay the foundation for recruiting to organisations, or even collect socialist individuals a group of co-thinkers, but in a time like the present the problem still remains of how small socialist organisations and individuals relate to each other.
Absolutely disastrous to the prospects of either organisations or smaller groups around individuals is having an unsound, or even crackpot, perspective. In the debate within the DSP, the LPF clearly established to almost the whole of the socialist left in Australia that the idea of the masses turning to the Socialist Alliance is a crackpot perspective.
In my considered opinion the explosion in the NSW Labor Party over electricity privatisation is the biggest development in the labour movement for a generation and it raises all the important questions, up to and including the very existence of a labour movement.
Very large forces, such as the overwhelming majority of the trade unions, both their leaders and ranks, and the overwhelming majority of the Labor and Greens ranks, have emerged in their different ways as defenders of the healthier aspects of labour movement traditions.
How the whole left relates to this development is of critical importance to the future of the labour movement and the future of the left.
Small-change exposure rubbish, in which John Tognolini is a specialist, and Alex Bainbridge isn’t far behind, is a real obstacle to this strategic clarification.
Socialists should intervene without too many preconceptions and try to push the movement forward, and in fact the composite of demands that has emerged, with a certain amount of conflict, in my view has ended up being a pretty sound synthesis of what’s required to take the movement forward.
It combines industrial action initiated by the unions and supported in the community, with political struggle in the Labor Party.
It seems two strategic approaches are beginning to collide in the DSP majority faction, and I support the Sibylle Kaczorek approach, rather than the Bainbridge-Tognolini approach.
May 21, 2008, Ozleft
Ablokeimet, who posts on Leftwrites, often has the knack of raising serious questions in a sensible way. The issues of socialist morality that he raises are very serious ones, not to be treated in a facile way, because they’re a necessary part of any ongoing discussion among socialists.
I disagree with his view of Lenin. In my opinion there was more tension and development in Lenin’s views on these matters over time than can be simply summed up as Machiavellianism. In the last couple of years of his life, Lenin was deeply troubled by the prospects for the survival of the Russian Revolution and the problem of defeating bureaucracy while preserving the Soviet state.
Witness his rather cryptic statement about being guilty before the Russian masses, etc.
A discussion of these questions can benefit greatly from reading the works of Victor Serge, and Angelica Balabanov’s Memories of Lenin.
Lenin also had great respect for the pioneers of the revolutionary movement in Russia, including Prince Kropotkin and he was moved by Kropotkin’s death, insisting that the Bolsheviks organise a proper send-off for him.
As all of Victor Serge’s books discuss in a fairly concrete way, the questions of state power and revolutionary morality in revolutionary Russia weren’t clear cut. For instance, Krupskaya strongly opposed the execution of the rightist Social Revolutionary woman who tried to assassinate Lenin, on the grounds that it was monstrous for a revolutionary, however misguided, to be executed in a revolutionary state.
Younger comrades should study all the literature available on these historical questions, and it seems that the very large book by Lars P Lih, published last year at the staggering price of $250, about the history of Leninism, has now been released in paperback by Haymarked Books for a reasonable price. I’m sweating on getting the Haymarket edition as soon as possible.
I disagree with Ablokeimet’s explanation of revolutionary morality and would recommend that he re-read Trotsky’s Their Morals and Ours, with which I largely agree.
My understand of that book is that Trotsky rejects a crude Machiavellian end-justifies-means approach in favour of the view that the end is extraordinarily important but that ends and means are organically inter-related.
I welcome the careful introduction of that question in this discussion about the DSP, but obviously it raises much wider questions that we’re not likely to resolve quickly. A longer discussion on such matters would be a good idea when we can all get the time.
Bob Goulash, May 17, 2008 Bob Gould writes: “I have serious strategic and political disagreements with the Percy group on the Labor Party and trade union matters” and also “Episodically, in a formal way, the Boyle group seems to have moved closer in recent times to some of my strategic and tactical ideas, but that doesn’t impress me terribly much. That’s just belated recognition of the real circumstances that exist in the workers’ movement.”
I don’t think this is quite right. Both groups share a strongly different view on ALP and trade union questions to you, particularly on the role of the trade union and ALP bureaucracy. In that context, the way the LPF expressed some of its disagreements with the majority made it look as if they were more sectarian towards the actual movement of trade unions against Work Choices, etc. Yet that wasn’t the disagreement at all. The disagreement was over whether the movement was likely to break away from Laborism and produce a layer of “leftward-moving forces” in the workers movement who could be snapped up by the DSP’s increasingly unrealistic SA fantasy. In that sense, the LPF, like yourself, had a more realistic appraisal of the political forces involved. Like yourself, they did not see it as impossible for the labour bureaucracy to be leading, in a certain limited sense, the struggle, even though they were probably more critical than you of the limitations it placed on it. By contrast, the DSP majority believed this was impossible without “mass pressure”, and the apex of their fantasy world was that it was actions of the “Socialist Alliance” union militants that had “forced” the ACTU leadership against its will to call the two large mobilisations.
If you look at Alen Myers’s useful (if partly hampered by some of Myers’s usual style) document on the DSP’s “degeneration”, he quotes Max Lane explaining the key difference:
“The question therefore arises: is there any evidence that such forces have now been set in motion by November 15, ie significant numbers of people wanting to join and help build a new class-struggle mass workers party? So far there is no evidence of this. It has been reported that SA received 11 clip-offs in the aftermath of November 15. In Perth an SA activist training day built out of November 15 attracted three people outside of DSP members.
“The reports indicate that SA continues to attract small numbers of individuals but there are no new forces (large numbers of activists) mobilising and radicalising away from the ALP and in the direction of a new party. Indeed there is more evidence of people being organised to join the ALP rather than move away from it.”
Myers also stressed that there was no fundamental disagreement over whether there was an actual struggle against Work Choices, or over whether the DSP and “SA” should be involved, but over its relevance to the “SA” question:
“Aside from the exaggeration about all the militants about to be jailed — a repeated theme in the majority’s attempts to portray an environment in which SA could thrive — there was not really a disagreement between the DSP majority and minority about whether there was some sort of struggle against Work Choices taking place, but about how sustained and politically independent of the ALP it was, and in particular whether it was generating an increasing radicalisation of the sort that would be necessary to allow SA to develop into a broad left party.”
“Furthermore, the minority and majority had not disagreed about whether to participate in whatever fight there was in order to help push it forward and to influence the militants involved. The disagreement had been about whether that fight would be of a character to cause new layers of militants to join Socialist Alliance. Here again, the majority had been proven wrong: according to their own figures presented at this plenum, SA membership in the previous two years had declined by 30 per cent.”
At the DSP’s 22nd congress in January 2006, Peter Boyle had characterised the differences between the majority and minority in these words:
“In the opinion of the national executive/national committee majority — there are real and significant forces moving leftward in the working class, forces that we are relating to, on a broad political basis, through building the Socialist Alliance as a new party project.”
That was the heart of the disagreement: in other words, there was not really a separate disagreement between majority and minority over the trade union struggle, rather the disagreement about that struggle was the same disagreement that was already basic, that over the viability and possibilities for the “Socialist Alliance” fantasy. It is difficult to exaggerate how desperately the DSP leadership needed the union struggle to produce these “leftward moving forces” ready to break with Labourism and join the SA, given the complete collapse of allother elements that had made up SA, namely every other socialist affiliate and the great bulk of the nonaligned organised in the Non-Aligned Caucus.
JO, May 18, 2008 Interesting, Bob Goulash. Good to examine this more closely.
Can there be mass pressure (or something much less than mass but still pressure) that does not necessarily involve “leftward moving forces” in the way you describe the DSP majority’s take on the state of the trade union movement in the final years of the Howard government, and presumably still today? Well, yes.
The unions’ national campaigns against Work Choices and in NSW against electricity privatisation were/are defensive struggles that arguably didn’t involve leftward motion at all in the way posited by the DSP majority.
What was being defended in both cases (apart from matters of well-understood basic principle) was partly the very viability of the union movement itself and its leadership, specific important sections of it (like electricity workers) and the most vulnerable and proportionately significant component of the working class, each of which for historical reasons are seen as very important to defend by the trade union leadership and sections of the ALP.
But, as you say, there was little evidence that these campaigns were going to result in people being willing to break away from the ALP (or become active for the first time) and join a group like the SA — either then or now.
This is particularly so given that if this was going to occur it would be the far larger, more influential and respected Greens that would be the beneficiary of “leftward moving forces” given the very strong role they played (still are) in both battles and the undeniable fact they have for some time proven to be the repository of, if not leftward-moving, then certainly left-leaning forces, in Australian politics.
Bernie, May 21, 2008 Exactly how is the Percy group a serious political formation, Bob? For years they’ve pretended publishing a nondescript paper that most of its members never read is equivalent to having a major impact on the class struggle. This is the main thing they did for years and now the lucky Boyle group gets the prize. Individual members got little support from the party for any extra-curricular work they did virtually off their own bat, with the party taking credit. And older full-timers get more loony by the minute and fuck over the younger generation who come their way.
Tom O'Lincoln, May 16, 2008 The debate about the DSP split seems to be dominated by horror stories rather than discussion of the main programmatic issues. That tends to happen in all splits, but it’s more marked here because the DSP put key documents by both sides online way back in December. The result is that the main issues have already been thrashed out, including by me to the extent I have anything to say. So the participants are obsessing about minor issues, like the fact that somebody hacked into an e-list. John Percy went on and on about it on the Green Left list too. I agree it’s pretty tacky, assuming it’s true, but it’s hardly Stalin at work.
Kim Bullimore, May 16, 2008 Tom, in relation to the issue of the email hacking, I would point out that this was the single incident that most broke down comradely relationships between the minority and the majority.
Not only was Linda Waldron’s account hacked into, but a leader of the majority and DSP national executive member made several additional attempts to hack into the list — something he was later forced to admit as he was caught red-handed.
I have a friend from the Israeli Communist Party, which as you know comes from a Stalinist tradition, and when he heard about the email hacking he was extremely shocked and his reaction was that this was not a minor organisational issue, but in his words a political issue because “it said a lot about that majority’s politics and their lack of political and comradely respect for other comrades”. And he is right.
The statement that we in the LPF in Melbourne issued in relation to this points out:
“The unprincipled course of action by the majority leadership only raises a much more important question: if the majority leadership is willing to carry out such a violation and destroy all trust within the membership of the DSP, what could their ends be? It also raises other questions: where will the majority leadership draw the line? When you are set on your objective and willing to carry out such actions as these email hackings, where will it stop? What else are you willing to do and what party rules, norms and traditions would you be willing to distort and destroy in pursuit of your objective?”
Not only were party norms, traditions and even the constitution thrown out the window (with one Melbourne majority leader who served on the so-called investigation committee stating a number of times that the constitution of the DSP was not important) but long-held party positions were junked in favour of organisationally propping up and supporting SA partisans both in and outside the DSP. This happened particularly in the case of Palestine solidarity work in Melbourne. The email hacking was simply the first key indicator that the Boyle leadership had no interest in dealing with the disagreement in the party politically. Instead, they had decided to deal with them organisationally.
As I pointed out on the GLW list, many comrades who supported the majority around the country told us how appalled they were by the hacking but not a single one of them had the political guts to get up and say it publicly or to challenge the Boyleite leadership for doing this.
Members’ failure to make known their opposition to this sort of behaviour gave the Boyleite leadership the green light to go full steam ahead on a campaign to bureacratically isolate, slander and ostracise the LPF, rather than deal with the politics that were at the core of the disagreement.
It became clear over the next two years that the aim was to make life in the party so politically and organisationally difficult — by micro-managing our political work and by slandering us at every turn — that we would leave. When that didn’t work, they had to finally expel us.
In my particular case, because I was one of the most outspoken leaders of the LPF in Melbourne, an 18-month organisationally based campaign to isolate me in Palestine solidarity work was mounted. The majority leadership in Melbourne were so intent on isolating me that they were prepared to organisationally and politically support one of their hardline supporters even if it meant junking the DSP’s long-held position on Palestine. Their factionalism was so rife that when the majority of the DSP branch in Melbourne voted against the party position in April 2007, they refused to redress the situation (and they have still not addressed until today).
Because I continued to defend the party position on Palestine and refused to sit down and shut up, this very vicious organisatonal campaign finally resulted in me being told that I was not longer assigned to Palestine solidarity work at a branch level in Melbourne (the final catalyst for this was that I had attempted to get the Melbourne Palestine Solidarity Network which had not had an open or democratic organising meeting for more than 10 months to be politically open and have democratic and open organising meetings rather than it be a SA-DSP front where decision were autocratically made).
Tom O’Lincoln, May 16, 2008 Kim, this latest rather bitter post just confirms my concerns. I would suggest that if your group is going to progress it needs to focus on the political program around which it’s going to build. I realise being in the minority for three years was terribly vexing, and now you get to “speak bitterness” and that’s attractive. I’ve been there. But grievances against the majority, however well-founded are not a very sound basis to attract support or even hold yourselves together. They will get an audience, too be sure, but whether it’s the kind you want #&8212;
I say this as someone with, unfortunately, some experience with splits.
Kim Bullimore, May 17, 2008 Tom, thanks for your feedback. Actually, to be honest, I am not that bitter and as I pointed out on the GLW list I actually don’t hate the DSP. I may not have a lot of time for certain comrades but that of course is another story.
The DSP was a major, major part of my life for more than 10 years and it was a party I built and defended at every turn (as I am sure you are well aware as we have both gone head-to-head with each other in the past debating political issues and positions held by our respective groupings).
As even you point out, the first few days after any split are usually marked by people on both sides getting things off their chest but then they move on (come on Tom, admit, you have done it yourself!
As you will know, from your own experience of splits, etc, especially when you have been loyal to a particular grouping for a long time, there is of course a grieving period.
For me that period is well over, the party I once knew is dead.
Is that bitterness? No, it’s not. For me it is just a statement of fact. As are the things I outlined in my previous post in relation to the organisational solution to the factional debate in the DSP (oh and by the way, I would point out, as you are well aware, organisational issues are always a result of politics, so I do believe I am correct in saying that the email hacking is not merely an organisational issue but a reflection of the majority’s political approach to democracy and political discussion in the DSP).
So, having said that, I am in complete agreement with you that the basis to attract support and to move forward is politics.
The basis that has held the LPF together has been politics, politics and politics. While the majority attempts to portray us as an unprincipled combination, our centre of gravity has always been the political platform we formed around and it will remain that (ie our adherence to the program of the DSP and to Marxism and Leninism rather then the bastardisation version of it and/or liquidation of it).
I for one am very much looking forward to returning to Australia and engaging in good old-fashioned Marxist and revolutionary socialist politics again.
PS: Isn’t one of the key things that Socialist Alternative does even after all these years, when they recruit new members, is gove a mini-educational on the ins and outs of the split/expulsion from the former ISO?
Tom O'Lincoln, May 17, 2008 Kim, You wrote: “Isn’t one of the key things that Socialist Alternative does even after all these years, when they recruit new members, is do a mini-educational on the ins and outs of the split/expulsion from the former ISO?”
If so, I’m unaware of it; but I’d say that whether it’s a good idea or not depends on what issues were discussed. The split in question raised some important issues about how to build a small group and about the dangers of unreal perspectives — questions that reappear in the current DSP split. Those issues are certainly worth going over with new members, and in fact I’ve put my own thoughts about them online. I don’t mean to suggest for a minute that your group is wrong to debate them, now or later.