Party-Building Perspectives and Tasks

The Activist – Volume 7, Number 9, 1997
By John Percy

[The general line of this report was adopted by the DSP National Committee on October 5, 1997.]

It’s been a busy year, and many of us are feeling it. There’s been a wide range of issues we’ve fought on and campaigns in which we’ve intervened. Check Green Left Weekly, check our calendars. With this National Committee meeting it’s time for reflection and assessment. It’s time to do a stocktake of the immediate past and to set the next tasks, but also it’s sometimes useful to do a stocktake of our strategic perspectives, toss up problems, questions, for us to chew on collectively. This report will raise a number of those, for us to discuss here, and for comrades to think on over coming months.

Achievements this year

What achievements can we look back on so far this year? We’ve carried out an extensive and successful range of interventions.

We can be proud of the work we’ve done in the anti-racism campaign this year. We initiated the anti-Hanson demonstrations in many places. We were key organisers in others. We provided the necessary political leadership and firmness too.

On campus, we participated in practically all actions, and led quite a few of the struggles recently.

We organised a successful range of Indonesia solidarity activities including the ASIET [Action in Solidarity with Indonesia and East Timor] conference, tours, demonstrations, meetings. It’s vital work, fulfilling our responsibility to the struggle there.

There’s a range of other campaigns that we’ve been active in, often playing the leading role, for example, in IWD, high school actions, CPSU Challenge, and CISLAC.

We’ve made some modest progress with our basic party-building tasks. We’ve made some progress on Green Left sales and subscriptions. We’ve made steps forward on literature production and distribution, with new titles, improved distribution. The finance report will show we’re continuing the progress of recent years towards balancing our budget. Of special note is the building refurbishment, a major achievement, costing more than $65,000.

Membership overall has been static during the last few years. Recruitment has been steady, in some cases strong, even easy, we’re attracting more people than we can integrate, but it’s been counterbalanced by the loss of some comrades.

There are two sides to this: (1) There’s a necessary selection process, we keep the serious comrades, the activists (some branches report, they’ve got a more effective membership, even though it might be less experienced). But (2) We hate losing cadres, all that investment of training and education. There’s tremendous lost potential, and so many good comrades we wish were still with us. Some come back, hopefully more will as the class struggle hots up.

Morale is generally high, comrades feel we’ve done well. Even in difficult situations like Melbourne, with a raft of left opponents, comrades feel they’re getting on top of it. The political weight and authority of the party is high in anything it intervenes in.

Our competition

How has our competition – the other left forces – fared this year?

The ISO is still our main opponent on the left. Attendance at their Marxism ‘97 conference was reportedly down on recent years. Perhaps they have a cadre force of around 150. But there’s always the potential to have another reunion with Socialist Alternative, since their politics are still basically the same.

Militant has grown a bit in Melbourne, which is the only place where they are a competitor to us. Partly it’s the temporary boost from their fusion, partly it’s Stephen Jolly’s front and energy. But partly it’s their bluff through press releases claiming credit for actions others organised. They now claim several branches in Melbourne, and Geelong.

The New Labour Party, now the Progressive Labor Party, has little visibility anywhere; certainly they’re not activists. It’s propped up by Militant in Melbourne.

The Socialist Party, now called the Communist Party, has assets and a diehard ancient membership, but despite trying to cash in on Che and Cuba they’re aging, with little future. The Association for Communist Unity, now called Marxist Initiative has a ragged collection, going nowhere. The Socialist Equality Party, a sect with a printing press and sectarian energy, but can find niches in areas we can’t cover.

The spectrum is completed by an array of very small Trotskyist groups – Spartacists, Workers Power, Communist League, Freedom Socialist Party – and Maoists – CPA (ML) and the gang putting out Frontline.

All the radical left groups reflect the dilemma of this political period. The period is hard in some ways – Australian politics is not the most exciting. Conservative forces are confident, and outright racists are able to raise their heads. And we’re still suffering the ideological fallout of the collapse of the USSR.

Nevertheless, there are still tremendous opportunities in Australian politics for growth, especially among youth. And other tendencies, even moribund ones like the CPA, can grow where we don’t have a presence. So it’s very much a competition, a race, on the left for youth recruits.

We still have to run hard to win that race. We might be the largest, in addition to being the most sensible, and with the best politics, but it’s only a small margin. If we stop running we’ll be overtaken.

We are and will be going at a hectic pace. There’s lots to do, we are overworked. But we shouldn’t lapse into any tone of panic. There’s going to be stress, and stressful situations. But comrades have to find their own individual ways to handle that, and resolve it in a political way.

Revolutionaries should be busy. If we didn’t have more than enough things to do, a huge range of tasks and openings, there’d be something wrong. There’d really be something to moan about. (There’s no consolation either, that after the revolution, we can take a break. No, it probably gets busier. Life as a revolutionary will always be busy, but at least it’s a life, not vegetating.)

At this NC plenum, as well as at recent NC meetings, we have recognised more openings than we can effectively handle. Thus setting clear priorities is absolutely important. Priorities need to be based on our collective assessment, on our NC and at our party conferences. We need to give priority to the things that build the party. That’s the criterion – the recruitment, consolidation and education, the creation of, cadres.

Integration and development of youth

But most important is the recruitment, integration and development of youth. This is our key task. As our conference resolution stated, “Today our main tactical orientation is to directly recruit to our tendency newly radicalising youth and to transform them, through education in Marxist theory and practical experience in the mass movement, into professional revolutionary propagandists, agitators and organisers.”

Recruitment of youth has kept the DSP going, and Resistance has been an integral part of our development. We need to keep that youth recruitment flowing, and step it up. But also, we need to close the back door, prevent younger comrades dropping out after a few years in the party, reduce the attrition rate at least. We’ll always have a high turnover in Resistance, that’s partly the function of the youth organisation. And we’ll also have a turnover of provisional members, it has that testing role. But the worrying trend is the too high a turnover of young comrades who’ve been in the party for a few years.

This is the first problem for us to take away from this plenum and continue to think about. It’s such an important question, we all have to keep thinking about how to resolve it, or at least minimise it.

Attrition problem

We think we understand the reasons for the attrition rate, it’s fundamentally a political problem. Comrades who’ve dropped out or stepped back have succumbed to the direct or more subtle arguments of the ruling class, and are making their peace with the system.

But to succumb, in most cases, is the result of a limited political outlook in the first place. Clearly the comrades on the verge of dropping out have only assimilated a superficial understanding of Marxism.

How does the process work? There’s lots of half-way houses on the road to making peace with the system. Thus it’s worth getting comrades to examine more thoroughly the differences between, for example, anarchism, movementism, liberalism, and a revolutionary Marxist perspective. All these have a flawed understanding of the nature of state power, the process of revolutionary change, and the key question of the revolutionary party.

Without a clear understanding of the party perspective, how it unites all other political problems, how it’s necessary for the long term, but also for the immediate struggle, a comrade is not going to last too long.

You might focus on individual excesses of capitalism, not capitalism itself, with a social work mentality, offering band-aid solutions. At first it can lead to cooption as patchers up of capitalism’s excesses, then as apologists for it. Time and again, that’s the case with liberals. A revolutionary Marxist perspective, however, a party perspective, sees the overall picture, and the long-term goal.

Class consciousness, Marxist understanding, provides the basis for commitment and dedication to the socialist struggle. But once having attained that consciousness and understanding, you have to be consistent, honest with yourself, and follow it through, with all the implications: a revolutionary life. A life as a revolutionary, building the revolutionary party as the means, and the socialist emancipation of humanity as the goal.

We are all aware of the pressures to retreat from that consciousness. “Grow out of it”, “go beyond your youthful enthusiasms…” are the refrains. We know the many pushes, the pulls, the inducements, the bribes, which are possible in a rich imperialist country like Australia. You can have an easy life, if you’re smart, or inherited a bit, or escape the chains of consumerism, or compromise your ideals.

There are pressures on young comrades, as they make an assessment of their life choices. (This also confronts the longer term cadres at different times too, if after 10, 20, 30 years of active struggle and you still haven’t made the revolution… is it time to get that proper job that your mum or dad always nagged you about.) And with the calls on our time, energy, finances that being a revolutionary socialist entails, there’ll always be things that we won’t be able to fit into our lives, that in a better world, we could.

But having gained that Marxist consciousness, can you shut it out? As an individual, can you resist all the ideological pressures, the media barrages, all the other avenues of pressure? It’s not very easy, really not possible unless you have a party framework.

So the party is necessary for your survival as a conscious human being. Otherwise you’re beset by contradictions, an alienated person, not honest with yourself. But the party’s not there to cater for the individual needs of people who join (though it does assist that). It’s for the needs, the success of the struggle.

Key to retention of comrades is Marxist education, education in our line, but it’s also important for comrades to be steeped in the culture of the socialist movement, its history and traditions. To know of, and identify with, the past struggles, the past sacrifices, the expectation of the sort of life to lead.

James P. Cannon, in a 1953 speech, put it this way: “The revolutionary movement, under the best conditions, is a hard fight, and it wears out a lot of human material. Not for nothing has it been said a thousand times in the past: ‘The revolution is a devourer of men’…

“It is not easy to persist in the struggle, to hold on, to stay tough and fight it out year after year without victory; and even, in times such as the present, without tangible progress. That requires theoretical conviction and historical perspective as well as character. And in addition to that, it requires association with others in a common party.”

A new generation to take the reins

Retaining all our comrades, especially the younger recruits, is a general problem. But there’s also the specific problem of comrades reaching a certain level of political understanding and assuming a certain level of responsibility, and then pulling back.

At our last NC meeting in June, there was no party-building perspectives report, but I intervened in the discussion on the tasks report trying to address this issue – the attrition – and more specifically the stepping back of some younger party and Resistance leaders once they’d reached a certain point, and should have been on the verge of taking on even more responsibility, taking over from some of the longer term comrades.

I made a specific appeal to NC comrades, to step forward, to volunteer for particular assignments, such as branch organiser. To take the reins of the party, in a small, medium or large branch, to volunteer for a transfer, to volunteer for a full time assignment, now, or in the future.

I got a few takers (although unfortunately probably just as many comrades have been giving an indication that they wouldn’t mind stepping back a bit). So I’d make that appeal again. Volunteer for a particular assignment, say that you’d like a challenge, that you want something that will stretch you.

Don’t do it with a spirit of personal ambition of course. (There aren’t any individual rewards for what we do anyway.) And don’t feel like it’s some sort of hierarchy, that the bigger branches mean you’re of higher rank, the NO [National Office] means you’re at the top. (That’s a totally wrong conception of the party – being in those positions only means you need to work harder, sell more GLs, set an example for the rest of the membership.) No, sometimes you can best serve the party by organising a small branch, or pioneering a new area, and of course by going into industry and developing our trade union work.

So it’s a serious appeal, repeated again. Volunteer for the harder assignment. Motivate yourself, don’t wait for a call from the NO. Be bold and confident in yourself. And be bold and confident about the role of this party and the role you have to play in it.

High school work

Youth are the guarantee of the future of the party, and high school students can be the guarantee of our youth work. Our tendency has had a long, successful history with radicalising high school students. In recent years, during the ‘90s, there have been consistent mobilisations – on uranium, the sex diary, French [nuclear] tests, environment, anti-racism, education issues. We need to continue to be the leading force among high school students, and step up our recruitment.

High school students can be the guarantee of our successful campus work. Recruiting more high school students, integrating them, and then having them strengthen our campus fractions when they come to university can be the way to bypass other left currents, (Left Alliance and NAL especially, since they’re solely on campus). It gives us the possibility of making the qualitative jump on campuses.

The campus club versus the downtown branch dilemma for university students was tackled with the formation of Resistance in 1967. A point to note is that the downtown centre was a much needed escape for high school students, from home, from school restrictions. For university students, campus facilities and relative freedom provided its own lure, a counter-attraction. We should maximise use of our centres for high school students, welding together young workers and unemployed, campus students, and high school students, through our political activities, a social milieu, and tasks and activities to cater to their idealism and energy.

Resistance high school students can organise through many structures: Student Underground or other newssheets; secondary student unions; no work for the dole committees. We’ve learned further lessons this year, but the key thing is, given the special difficulties of high school organising, how can we recruit and train more high school students as Marxist cadres?

Resistance leaderships have to give this constant attention. We have a big responsibility here. We have to look for ways that raise the political consciousness of our high school students; organisation steps that consolidate them to a party perspective, beyond an issue based view. There are more restrictions on high school students, so grab any opportunity. For example, the NE wants to raise the possibility of a special January school for high school comrades going on to campus in 1998. It would prepare year 12s for political life at university, so they would have a head start as campus activists. It could be held in Sydney after the January 3-7 educational conference, for one, two, or more days. Is this feasible? How many high school comrades do we have in this situation, who would be able to attend? Let’s check this out over the next few weeks. Perhaps we can get an indication from Resistance branch organisers here of how many comrades might be available.

It would be run by the Resistance leadership and leading student comrades. The content would not just be information about student politics, but talks on our political perspectives, and discussions aimed at raising the level of commitment, through tackling comrades’ next step in life in a party political framework. We could also do such special training sessions in branches where there were several comrades starting university.

Another special task for high school comrades would be to help out with the ACT election campaign during January-February. A few extra full time activists could be extremely important for this major intervention.

Also there’s the use of Green Left internships, for our comrades. It’s useful help where it’s always needed, and a week or more on Green Left can contribute an enormous amount to the training and integration of high school comrades. Let’s publicise this through the party and Resistance, in Party Campaigner for example.

Project, focus, target

One problem of the stage we’re at, the political period we’re in, is that as a small propaganda group, with the class struggle in Australia at a fairly low ebb, we lack a clear project, a focus for our activity, a clear target for comrades to direct their fire at.

It’s not just a question of tasks, or campaigns in general. We’ve got a full swag of those, many openings, many tasks. It’s the ongoing campaign or battle, the major significant project that we lack.

OK, in a general sense there’s capitalism, bourgeois society, the ruling class, the whole caboodle, there’s plenty to get angry at. But we’re still in an early stage of engagement. We’re at the propaganda stage, so there are no battles on anything approaching equal terms (not even any guerilla skirmishes really).

On a second level, aiming our fire at the secondary lieutenants of capital, there’s the ALP. But it’s so rotten today, making such a meagre effort to distinguish itself from the other main bourgeois party. It’s harder for us to get to grips with.

There’s also the question of where to get to grips with it. In the student movement, we can, but in other arenas, they have less presence, or are more slippery, or we don’t have enough weight. One advantage of the entry tactic is that you’re certainly in close combat. For example, compare the Militant in the Labour Party in Britain, they had a fight providing a very clear focus. Once outside, although they were right to exit, there was some loss of momentum without that regular campaign, the tangible enemy.

The ALP themselves have a reasonably clear focus – parliamentary office, bums on seats. Their one-point program – oppose the Liberals. They don’t even oppose the Liberals’ policies, they just oppose the Liberals. The slogan is simple, “They’re worse than us”, although nowadays they sometimes don’t even have that, aware that people do remember their record. It’s just, Kick the Liberals Out.

We also miss the battles against the old CPA we had in the past. It’s good the obstacle is removed (mostly, there’s still the ghost, and individual remnants), but at least they were sometimes a partner for us to push to involve in united front campaigns, even if treacherous. That’s gone now.

With the current political opponents, ISO, Militant, and the other left sects, it’s more a tiresome chore than a battle we look forward to. We know most of these activists are genuine in their socialist views and commitment, even though often misguided in their politics and tactics. It’s a sad thing when good activists going through their ranks get disillusioned, and lost to the socialist movement. When they make a major error, as the ISO is doing in the anti-racist movement, then we have to stand up to it and fight, and that’s important for the movement, and good for our comrades in providing education and training and a boost to morale. But these sort of battles can’t supply the major focus, the project for our work (otherwise we end up like them, like the Spartacists, with a thoroughly sectarian outlook) since these currents are tiny.

Real polemics are important, as with Lenin’s Iskra, which was narrowly condemned by its opponents, to quote Trotsky’s testimony at the time, of “fighting not so much against the autocracy as against the other factions in the revolutionary movement”. But we do need a decent target.

So are there any uniting campaigns or projects on the horizon? We’ll be on the lookout.

On the local scene, we sometimes worry that perhaps we’re missing out on a few too many of the local campaigns, especially the urban environment ones, freeways, airports etc. But generally these local struggles haven’t involved working class communities under siege, and in revolt. Mostly the natural leaders have been the petty bourgeoisie. A mass revolt in Newcastle, for example, hasn’t happened (it’s unlikely to now, they’re so euphoric with the footy result). Also, there’s usually not the political sharpness, the usefulness in clarifying our political perspectives to people. Anyway, local campaigns don’t serve the purpose of a national unifying project.

What Australia-wide campaigns that have occurred in the recent period have often been the responsibility of Resistance, not so much the province of the party. For example, the student fees, free education campaign, gives a national campaigning focus for Resistance. The anti-racist campaign has given some focus, but also mainly to Resistance. The party still lacks a dominant campaign focus.

Of course, there’s Green Left Weekly, which is a project in its own right, not just a paper.

And there have always been international campaigns, which have often served that purpose for us here – very effectively, with the Vietnam War, which was so all-encompassing; more recently, with Latin America solidarity, and Indonesian solidarity. But they haven’t been issues engaging the majority of Australian society, they haven’t yet had the major national impact.

But we have a hunch that this is where the “big project” will come from, internationally, from the region. The region is undergoing tremendous change, and with the huge, growing working class populations in India, China, Indonesia, there’ll be big struggles there. Future major upsurges or developments here are likely to be connected with international crises in the region.

OK, so that’s the second homework question to ponder: What project next? It’s incumbent on us as the NC to chew on these problems. Even if there’s no clear solution that we can see right away, let’s toss them up for consideration.

Options, other paths

The “new mass workers’ party” can be a useful slogan and perspective, as in our What is the DSP? brochure which devotes quite a bit of space to the concept, but it’s not currently a realisable project. Our conference document restates the perspective of our program, that our goal is building a mass revolutionary workers’ party, stressing that we ourselves are only a propaganda nucleus at the moment, and all our activities are propagandistic in their goals.

Compare our experiences in the ‘80s and ‘90s. There were some possibilities of uniting with actual forces in motion – the NDP, the Greens – or regroupment with larger forces in decline – the CPA, SPA. Today, the pathetic response to the NLP shows the lack of reality of it.

Also compare the British Socialist Party. Their propaganda for a new mass workers’ party is really a call to “join us”. It would be fantasy for them to expect a mass regroupment; there’s still a long way to go for Blair to lose his shine and be discredited (with a 93% approval rating, similar to the euphoria around the Whitlam government in 1972, after years of Tory rule.)

But are there things we can adapt from the populist approach, the experiences of the European left parties, the left social-democratic parties of Stalinist origins, the PT in Brazil, the New Zealand Alliance? For example, the ex-Maoist Dutch Socialist Party has recruited rapidly (up to 20,000 members) and developed a high electoral profile by adopting a left populist approach, with a clear slogan “Against”, catering to the anti-austerity sentiment, with attention to image (tomatoes) and a PR-oriented platform, with limited analysis or education for their members. But their parliamentary success is also partly related to the specific circumstances they’re in, with a conservative-Labour coalition government, and the Green Left party shifting to the right as well. We can learn some things, but not apply them mechanically.

Would it be possible to build both a revolutionary party of cadres, and a broader left-populist party? Facing a more repressive state and the need to work underground, such multilevel organisational forms are necessary. But how would it work in a liberal democratic imperialist country? What would be the difficulties and contradictions?

We’ve had direct experience of some of the contradictions and tendencies a dual structure would impose, or a watering down of the Leninist type party, for example, as in Perth in 1994. As we’ve reaffirmed at party conferences since then, we need the cadre party. We know we couldn’t achieve what we do presently without it, there’d be no Green Left, no apparatus, no financial base, no commitment, a tenth of our current work.

But we should assess the question regularly, incorporate any new information, and think again, if only to be clearer and reaffirm our perspective. And we should measure any alternative options against the other specific problems we face too, for example the attrition of youth. Would a new project help retain them, or just ease the slide out to an easier political perspective, not challenging the system?

There’s tremendous pressure to adapt, not just from the ruling class and its direct mouthpieces, but also from the liberal milieu. The continued retreats and betrayals of the traditional trade union leaderships, and the NGO liberals, who never considered an alternative, means there’s a pervasive milieu thoroughly committed to the status quo.

We get attacked, of course we’ll get attacked, because we have a different perspective. We get especially attacked because for years, throughout our existence, we’ve been more skilled than others on the left, than most of the traditional Marxist, Communist currents, at relating to the real world, at being transitional. (Some of our opponents see this as being somehow sneaky! “Aha, we know you’re really Marxist Leninists, don’t try to fool us with demands or proposals for united front actions that sound so sensible!”)

So is there another project, another step to be transitional, yet still maintain our revolutionary socialist perspective? Are there lessons on elections, for example, we should be drawing from some of those European experiences, where left reformist parties’ or left populist parties’ electoral votes are growing?

From the same milieu and experience there’s another “lesson” for us to ponder, a third question for us to work on, the nature and value of united front work, versus doing things in our own name. For example, the “Tomatoes” (the Dutch Socialist Party) are involved in few united actions and generally do things in their own name. Their leaders asked Max Lane when he met with them and was describing our views and activities, “And what gains do you get from all these campaigns you run?” It’s a pertinent question. We better be sure we have the clear answers to it.

This of course is something we’ve always noted about the social-democrats and liberals. They put up front building their own profile, they abhor united action with others, they prefer to do things in their own name. Should we be following suit?

Do we sometimes misunderstand or misapply the united front tactic? Do we sometimes tend to make it a universal tactical approach, a style, even a principle? Do we sometimes fail to raise our own profile, and do things in the name of a committee, when we could still make it broad, with more direct gains, in our own name?

Misinterpretations of the united front tactic

The united front tactic was developed in response to a very particular situation. Following the October Revolution, and the split of mass social-democratic parties into their revolutionary and reformist wings, and formation of the Communist International, the task for the sizeable Communist parties, especially in Western Europe, was to win the rest of the workers away from the social democrats. The initial formulation, and still possibly the most succinct, is in Trotsky’s March 2, 1922 theses for the Executive Committee of the Communist International.

The united front tactic was a proposal for action, joint action, since “the working masses sense the need of unity in action, of unity in resisting the onslaught of capitalism or unity in taking the offensive against it”.

After breaking with the reformists, the first letter in the ABC of communism, according to Trotsky, the Communists had to “learn how to guide all the collective activities of the proletariat in all spheres of its living struggle… the second letter of the alphabet of Communism”.

The theses had to polemicise with those who argued just for the “united front from below”, that is, just approach the masses, not the reformist leaders. The task was to “drag the reformists from their asylums and place them alongside ourselves before the eyes of the struggling masses”.

But in united actions the revolutionary party retains its independence, and its freedom to present its political perspectives. The theses continue:

We broke with the reformists and centrists in order to obtain complete freedom in criticising perfidy, betrayal and indecision and the half-way spirit in the labour movement. For this reason any sort of organisational agreement which restricts our freedom of criticism and agitation is absolutely unacceptable to us. We participate in a united front but do not for a single moment become dissolved in it. We function in the united front as an independent detachment. It is precisely in the course of struggle that broad masses must learn from experience that we fight better than the others, that we see more clearly than the others, that we are more audacious and resolute. In this way, we shall bring closer the hour of the united revolutionary front under the undisputed Communist leadership.

Our understanding of the united front tactic is clearly set out in our program.

It was certainly the correct tactic for the early ‘20s, correct for those circumstances, but how should it be applied in other times and other circumstances? An extremely successful more recent application was in the movement against the Vietnam War, here, in the USA, around the world. It still is applicable today, in the right circumstances, but it’s not a universal panacea, and we shouldn’t lose sight of the central political purpose of the tactic.

The key criterion is, what will build the revolutionary Marxist party? Sometimes it will be a united front approach to other parties. Sometimes it will be independent action by ourselves. Furthermore, the size of the revolutionary forces themselves is not irrelevant. Whether there’s any real possibility of forcing the leaders of the reformist or liberal parties into a united front action, or at least making them pay, exposed before their supporters, if they refuse.

The closest thing to an application of the united front tactic today would be us calling on the leadership of the ALP and the leaders of the trade unions, to unite in a real fight in defence of workers’ rights and conditions. But after the Accord years, it rings a bit hollow. Nevertheless, at the June 1996 NC plenum, after the March election of the Coalition, we thought we had better prepare for the possibilities of some action, and opportunities to propose action to the ALP, or at least expose any revived bursts of left rhetoric.

After the June ‘96 plenum, there was one experience of a possible united front – August 19. And that was enough for the reformists of all shades. They ran for cover, and vowed they wouldn’t let anything like that happen again.

The united front tactic involves a serious manoeuvre with opponents. It’s not enough to simply set up a committee and declare it, and expect the ALP to join in. In the past, they could squash us easily, vote us down, democratically or undemocratically, so sometimes tolerated us in a joint committee. Today, the ALP doesn’t even want to sit in the same room with us. Thus CAR [Campaign Against Racism] is narrow – us and the ISO often, while the ALP sets up closed committees to organise reconcialition or cultural diversity concerts.

So in the absence of the ALP in the Accord years, and since, we’ve tended to substitute campaign committees, with the small left groups and some independents, and confuse them with a united front. Too often, the “united front” is a pitiful grouping of the small left groups. It’s certainly not what Lenin and Trotsky had in mind.

The united front tactic is not primarily aimed at exposing the inaction of the liberal-reformists, the ALP. If they don’t act, everyone knows this; it doesn’t prove to anyone that we’d be better leaders. The point of a united front orientation is to demonstrate to a broader audience that we are better leaders and fighters than the liberal-reformists. We can’t effectively do this without getting some common action going.

Therefore we have to make serious approaches to the reformist leaderships, serious efforts to entice, cajole, force them into joint action. But if after our best efforts that fails, we have to do our utmost under our own banner, demonstrating to as many as possible that we are the best fighters and leaders.

So have we, by not appreciating the differences, drifted into a distortion of thinking on the united front? That is, the theory, the concept is not wrong. It will be valuable for us, but it’s not a universal panacea. Otherwise, we will drift into errors, for example, not raising the party banner; or not doing our propaganda work properly and thus limiting our recruiting possibilities; or misunderstanding the class basis of the political positions of others in the “campaigns” milieu.

Some certainly do have a distorted view of the united front. For example, Solidarity in the US seems to think that raising your own banner in campaigns is sectarian. Solidarity seems to think socialists should never organise campaigns in their own name, or in the name of a committee you dominate. It always has to be at arms length. For example, their members castigate the Workers World Party, a pro-Maoist split from the US SWP in the 1950s led by Sam Marcy, as sectarian for the campaigns it organises, which are sometimes extremely large and broad, but nevertheless dominated by Workers World. If there was an alternative, mass, campaign on the particular issues, perhaps it would be sectarian to set up your own. And Workers World is certainly sectarian on a number of other counts, but the approach of Solidarity members seems to me to entrench a wrong view of the united front tactic.

We keep urging the integration of our work, but sometimes our party-building tasks, building the DSP profile, seem to be in conflict with the tasks, the perspectives, the actions of the fronts and coalitions we establish or prop up. We can duplicate the things the party should be doing, for example, forums, literature, which are all basic of course, and there’s a natural tendency to duplicate the things we know how to do well.

We should examine each case on its merits. The Resistance high school rallies, for example, have been great.

Compare our use of CPSU Challenge with the ISO’s Red Tape. A lot of our work in the CPSU is now done through other fronts, so should we use Resist! more for our statements? And perhaps compare the gains from the anti-racist conference last weekend with anti-racist conferences we’ve run in our own name.

I’m not proposing we shut down any current committees. But we have to know when to act in the name of the party, and when in the name of a committee.

The general principle should be, pursue our primary objective: build the revolutionary party. Generally we should do things in our own name, raise our own profile, unless there’s a good party-building reason not to. (That’s how the Bolsheviks, the early Communists, did it.)

Good reasons might be:

  • A classic united front situation, which we’re far from at the moment;
  • A united action campaign or coalition that would lead to significantly larger mobilisations than we could organise on our own, or which would allow us to engage in necessary debates with political opponents;
  • To reach out to potential recruits, either new, or steal supporters of other parties;
  • To expand the reach of the party, with extra organisations that are seen as associated with the party;
  • To enable us to tap sources of funds for party projects or causes that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to reach.


A misinterpretation of the united front can also be linked to a misuse of the term “sectarian”. We know the social democrats do it – they denounce everyone to their left as “sectarian”, yet maintain the most sectarian attitudes, in the real sense of the word.

It’s not sectarian to raise our own profile, or to put forward our political positions, or to do things in our own name. It would be sectarian to refuse united action on issues of importance to the class, or to set ourselves apart from the real struggles, content we had the right program, but not attempting to reach the masses.

One of the most frequently misused and misinterpreted quotes from Marx is that from the Communist Manifesto: “The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working class parties. They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.”

But taken with the rest of the Manifesto, and Marx’s other writing and practice, it’s clear it’s essential for communists to form their own party, put forward their program. It’s not sectarian. How we relate to other currents, forces, groups, individuals is determined by the longer term interests of the class, and that’s directly related to building the party.

And all independents are not equal. Firstly, there are potential recruits, or supporters of the party. Secondly, there are the liberal obstacles, never likely to be recruited to a revolutionary working class perspective, but who provide cover, padding, in a campaign in the absence of a real united front with the main reformist outfits.

If it’s just a campaign that involves small left groups and independents of the second variety, perhaps we’re better off campaigning on the issue in our own name, and trying to attract the first type of independents?

Campaigns and movement work

We’ve stressed repeatedly the importance of the integration of our political interventions and basic party-building tasks. And as our conference resolution points out, “the majority of radicalising workers and students will only be won to a clear class-struggle perspective as a result of the exposure to Marxist propaganda drawing out the lessons of their own experiences in struggle. Our propaganda work is therefore most effective if we are actively involved in the mass movement”. Perhaps, sometimes we can achieve an even closer integration, where we can do things in our own name without narrowing the possibilities of the action at all.

We need to refine our perspective of establishing bases. The feasible base we can establish soon is on campuses. The “base” in the Indonesian solidarity campaign is more a question of hegemonising that area politically, and we’re heading in that direction. A base in the CPSU is still a long way off, and requires significant growth in the party to achieve it.

So our priorities are among students, building a base on campus, and high schools. ISO and Militant influence has declined on campus this year, we’re in a position to make a stronger push, and this will be discussed thoroughly tomorrow.

Comrades in discussion should also assess our other campaigns and interventions, such as the projections from our last NC meeting for women’s liberation work. Our education seminars were successful, and we’re well positioned in IWD committees, and preparing for Reclaim the Night marches and the Women and Labour conference.

Raising the DSP profile

Again we need to stress the theme of recent NC plenums – raising the DSP profile. In campaigns and interventions and leaflets and press releases, we’ll use the DSP as the sponsor unless there’s a clear reason to do otherwise. For example, if we’ll reach a significantly broader audience, or if we can tap into funding that we wouldn’t normally reach, as with API sponsoring the Easter conference. There’s an order of priority: DSP; DSEL; Resistance; Green Left; ASIET, CISLAC; API; Cultural Dissent; others, and sometimes we’ll connect the lot.

We’ve continually stressed the central role of the press, of Green Left Weekly. It’s instructive to note the different positions of Australian Militant and the British Socialist Party who state in a document from their recent conference that they have “a long way to go in reconquering the consciousness amongst party members about the vital role of the paper” (perhaps recognising the problems of spitting in your own well, a message the local Militant with their contempt for paper sellers would do well to heed). And again: “we need to… restate the central role of the paper in being the organiser around which the party is built.” It’s “central to party building”.

We’ve never had any doubt about the importance of the paper. But a further question is, how much can we increase the identification of Green Left Weekly with the DSP and Resistance? There are the obvious gains for us in building the DSP immediately. The question is, how much would we lose, in the way of independent supporters, from any increased identification? This is something we should be monitoring and assessing constantly.

We’ve taken some important steps recently towards a higher party profile in the paper: The “Arguments for Socialism” column; the Resistance page; better use of DSP ads; the use of party spokespeople; pushing for a more active role by branches in preparing copy and using the paper.

We can think about further features in the paper, on fundamental issues, important historical lessons from the workers’ movement. Perhaps further down the track we can contemplate a major move, some structural changes in relationship with the party.

Initially at least we need a major effort to reach out to the supporters who subscribe, and the former subscribers. It’s a valuable extensive list, and we should be looking for ways to use it to build the party. Perhaps we can do a big mailout for some issues.

One coming opportunity for connecting up the DSP with Green Left will be the ACT election campaign. We can test Green Left again in the ACT in newsagencies during the campaign, with Green Left ads on election literature – “follow the news about the Democratic Socialist campaign”. (Especially now that the Republican has folded, and Workers News now claims they’re in hundreds of newsagencies in NSW, Victoria, and southern Queensland.)

We should be beating our own drum, about Green Left, and ASIET, CISLAC and the other things we do. That is, an election leaflet that explains what we do and are, not just our policies. We connect it all up on our websites, we can do it with other leaflets, for example, “Join the DSP, read Green Left“.

We should make full use of the internet to promote the party, not just with our websites, but using any local or national mailing lists or discussion groups, e.g., LeftLink, Interlink. We won’t spam, but send useful content – our events, our views. We can use the net for press releases, it’s cheap, and promote our web page addresses and email addresses on all our literature.

My experience in preparing the DSP website reinforced the realisation of what an impressive array of publications and literature we have. It should be the case. After all, we are a propaganda group, at an early stage of building the party. Our assets are our accumulated politics, but expressed in words, pamphlets, books, magazines, newspapers, class series. The website starts to take advantage of that. It plays to our strengths, making use of that political archive. The Dutch Socialist Party website has a very different approach – image, short bites, simple politics, little theory, or a past.

We should be more aggressive with press releases, in the branches as well as the NO. Swamp the media. We can reuse the text for leaflets and Green Left articles, and put them on our websites. There’s a difference between small and large cities in receptivity, but we can break through. Especially let’s use our scoops, for example, Jim Green’s exposes on Lucas Heights.

Regular public forums are important for keeping a high party profile. But let’s make sure we do them properly, all the necessary tasks to build them well, all the right things on the night, so that they’re proud, DSP events. What audience do we aim at? We’ll entice opponents where they can provide a good foil, a debate, but our main targets are firstly, new contacts, recruits, youth, and secondly, our periphery, our supporters.

For our stalls, we should be developing a Resistance and DSP profile. Especially in suburbs where we want to stand in elections, we should highlight the party. It’s best if we can have a task, a focus for the stall, in addition to selling Green Left and other literature, and dishing out leaflets. For example, an election campaign focus, or gathering DSEL memberships to get registered. Building a local meeting can also give it a focus.

Our election campaigns were covered in the Australian politics report and discussion, but in the context of once again stressing the need to raise the party profile, I want to raise again a loose end about our election work. How should we present the relationship between the DSP and DSEL? We need to investigate and think about it.

Growing the party

Even though we haven’t been able to grow in absolute terms in recent years, recruitment has been happening in all branches, and actually from Resistance, a lot. The key task is keeping, educating, training, and integrating comrades. We’ve had some very positive experiences with recruitment and stabilisation in small branches.

Darwin comrades have made a big impact on the city, and have new recruits around. Newcastle and Wollongong, although we’ve squeezed those branches for cadres, are still recruiting youth. Hobart has been an exporter of cadres for some time. The Resistance branch in Lismore is doing well, with new recruits, a large periphery, and some impressive successes, although there’s no party branch there yet. Penrith-Blue Mountains branch has a periphery around them, and has recruited two new members, but the main problem is the lack of a youth component, though we know there’s potential at UWS and among high school students out there.

Unfortunately, we had to retreat from a separate Fremantle branch. It was partly circumstantial, in the end we didn’t have enough leadership to run both branches in the Perth district. And perhaps we also learned a little more about the political demographics of Fremantle, that it’s now an old political community, and increasingly a petty bourgeois milieu. But also it’s a further illustration of the difficulties of dividing a branch in one city, something we still have to solve.

But in other cities and regional towns, we can see the potential, there’s plenty of room for expansion. People want us, are calling for us to come. The anti-Hanson demos in regional towns were another indication of the possibilities. We just need a little more solid growth, and we could expand to a few more places.

Launceston, with some active Resistance members, high sales rates, a large periphery of students and contacts is probably at the top of our list at the moment. Rockhampton, with an enthusiastic supporter who wants to join, buying four more subs for friends and relatives, and Brett K rejoining and moving there is also interesting. Townsville, has a large subscription base, and considerable political activity. Geelong, Bathurst, Armidale, Cairns, the Latrobe Valley are all places we should also keep an eye on.

Perhaps we should be ambitious on the side of geographical expansion. These are challenges for comrades, the chance for a couple of enthusiastic comrades to really take on responsibility, and see tangible results. The fact we’re not hitting Launceston, Rockhampton, or Townsville immediately probably means we’re squandering opportunities.

As an interim measure we should be organising regional visits, selling Green Left and subs, and visiting contacts. For the ACT elections, NSW branches can organise a trip, and focus the nearby contacts on the election campaign. Brisbane has to plan the long trips up the Queensland coast. Hobart has to service Launceston, and Melbourne, the Victorian country towns.

But as well as keeping an eye out for regional expansion opportunities, we also have an orientation to strengthen Melbourne, with quite a large reinforcement from experienced comrades at the end of the year.

For large branches, there’s continuing debate about how to organise, how to establish a district structure, how to divide. Are branches without offices and a meeting centre possible? What balance between district and branch structures?

The key problem is finding meaningful, satisfying assignments for all comrades. That’s especially the case in larger branches, but a generalised problem. There’s some flexibility in Sydney, with more experienced comrades at a loose end helping out in the NO and Green Left. It’s worked well so far, and we’ll investigate it further. But how do we divide the large branches? That’s another question for comrades to keep pondering on, the fourth question for our homework.

Marxist education

Our educational conference, January 3-7, has the theme of “150 Years of the Communist Manifesto“. It will be a serious, intensive educational event, for our members and contacts primarily. We’ll publicise it, with a poster shortly after the NC, and in Green Left, and on our web page, and leaflets.

The January conference will have all the usual conference features – rally, cabaret, Green Left multimedia presentation – and will have talks setting out the party’s perspectives for the coming year as usual. But it will be different from past educational conferences in that we want to encourage more active participation in the education process from comrades. Specifically, there will be reading guides for some of the classes and seminars, which will be available in the branches soon, and comrades will be expected to have done reading for the topics discussed beforehand.

In addition to the feature talks, and a wide selection of multiple choice talks, there will be two sessions on the Communist Manifesto in small tutorial groups which everyone will be able to attend (we’ve booked 20 tutorial rooms at the college), and five seminar streams which comrades should be encouraged to select in advance – Marxist economics; Uninterrupted revolution, from Marx to Lenin; Stalinism, State capitalism, and Marxist theory; Internationals and internationalism, from Marx to today; and the impact of historical events on Marx and Engels’ theories.

After the report I’ll circulate the outline of the conference agenda, so comrades can think about it, and decide what talk or seminar topic they might want to offer to do, or suggest extra topics. (About 80 comrades will be giving a talk or taking a class.)

Branch leaderships have to get moving straight after the plenum to organise attendance at the conference, it will be an essential part of every comrade’s political life and educational activity.

There’s also the three-week full-time school immediately after the conference for 10 or so comrades. Requests to attend, or suggestions from branch secretaries, should be directed to Doug Lorimer. There’s also the possibility of the special school for first year university comrades.

This year, unfortunately, the Jim Percy memorial lectures won’t be given by Renfrey Clarke, we had to pull back from that tour, and reschedule a tour by him for next April-May, so branch comrades will be giving the talks, on the topic, “80 Years of the October Revolution”.

What it means to be a Marxist cadre

I want to make some points about what it means to be a cadre, today, in Australia, some things for all comrades to bear in mind, to help us exist as revolutionary cadres in these times.

1. We’re active, not passive members. Activity is the source of our satisfaction, the way to last, and we shouldn’t see it as a source of “burnout”. We take responsibility for the party, by our activity, and by deciding on its course. Participation in meaningful assignments is key.

2. We’re mobile – footloose – revolutionaries. We’re not retreating from the idea of mobility of cadres, meeting the parties needs – moving between cities, colonising new branches, moving between assignments, moving between full time for the party, into the workforce, back on full time, back to the campus arena.

3. We’re serious, not dabblers. We’re mobile, but it’s also good that we we have some comrades who begin to build our base in the trade unions, in particular industries. It’s good also to have some comrades as specialists in different areas, for example, Latin American solidarity, who are familiar with the politics of the region, learn Spanish; or Indonesian solidarity, learn the scene, learn Indonesian. Such comrades will have an ongoing role, whatever their primary assignment in the party. So we build stable areas of intervention, and experience.

4. We’re Australian revolutionaries. We’re a very internationalist party, we’ve stressed this from the beginning. We need to be, we’re Marxists, and it’s especially important in Australia. But we can suffer because of our emphasis: “the grass is greener” syndrome, or trip – and then the next trip. But we’re Australian revolutionaries, and our duty is here. Overseas trips can be a cop out. We provide political cover, contacts, even accommodation help for comrades. OK, there’s a certain usefulness – comrades see the world, broaden their horizons. But with international travel cheaper, and the interesting contacts and ports of call we can provide, we’ve got to be careful comrades don’t see this as an escape from their revolutionary commitment here, as a substitute. Don’t let the lure of overseas travel distract you from the main task here. And don’t justify it by denigrating the level, or importance of, the struggle here.

There’s also the question of whether comrades remain an Australian revolutionary, or yield to the attraction of your country of origin. A number of comrades have been feeling the need to check it out at the moment. Sometimes it’s necessary, sometimes you need to get it out of your system, test it out. But mostly it will reconfirm the uniqueness of our party, the need for it, and reconfirm that the greatest contribution can be made in your own party. And let’s not glorify the overseas political situation – it’s better here. In most countries the precondition for successful political work – a Leninist party nucleus – is lacking.

5. We’re dedicated socialists. Our commitment is real, not just lip service, words. We understand what it means to be a revolutionary. Once we accept compromises, the real norm of dedication is shattered, cynicism results. We take responsibility for our ideas, and put them into practice.

How to lead, how not to

As leaders of the party and Resistance, all of us here in this room have extra responsibilities on top of the above, so there’s some further points we have to note, how we should lead, and how we should not.

We make full use of existing forces. The most successful leaders get the most from our existing cadres, and don’t give up on comrades. They don’t wield a heavy whip, but politically motivate, and encourage others to lead too.

Lenin’s example was used by Cannon in a speech during World War II:

We’ve got to grow up to the level of political people who are able to make use of members who want to belong to the party. Lenin was a great master at utilising material that wasn’t 100 percent perfect and he even succeeded in making a revolution with this defective material. One of the best stories I have ever heard was the remark made by Serge Evrikoff, leader of the Left Opposition and secretary in the party under Lenin, when he was in this country. He remarked to some American comrades, “You will never begin to understand the genius of Lenin or to appreciate him in his full stature. You know that he made a revolution, but you don’t know the material he made it out of.”

And every one of us should try to be a little like that and try to hold onto and utilise members of the party and kick them out only as a last resort… You can get far more out of people by inspiring them than by nagging them and hounding them. That is the general manner in which our party operates, that is the way in which we get out of our party such sacrifices, activities, contributions – whatever it may be – such as no party in the history of America ever aspired to get… and let us try that with some of our laxer and backward members in the branches.

We don’t substitute. A branch secretary, organiser, leader of a fraction or other party committee can’t do it all by themselves. Firstly, it leads to exhaustion. But more importantly, it won’t help train others. We have to find satisfying assignments for every comrade in the party. The best leaders are those who recruit, who bring on others, who find useful, satisfying roles for others, for everyone, i.e., those who teach to lead, who expand our cadre force.

And similarly, we can’t expect solutions from the National Office, or from another branch. No branch is big enough, the party is much too small for our tasks, our appetite. Remember, a transfer to your branch is a net loss to another branch.

We reject commandism. We’re not a bourgeois institution, not an army, in spite of the analogies we use. We do need the discipline, the organisation, the commitment, but we are a voluntary institution. So we’ll achieve the most, in the long term especially, through political motivation, and comradely encouragement.

We need comradely relations, professionalism and civility within and without the party. There are no excuses for venting your anger on individual comrades, especially publicly, and especially against newer comrades. We have a special responsibility as leaders of the party to set an example of comradely behaviour.

We don’t need cliquishness, but a political atmosphere. We know young people have social needs, so should develop an attractive social milieu in Resistance. But it severely limits our ability to grow if new comrades join and find they’re excluded from social groupings, that are half personal, half political. Resistance needs an inclusive social atmosphere.

We set the example. As leaders we have to lead from the front, showing the commitment and effort that’s required of comrades. For example, on Green Left sales; on finances; showing real serious commitment, not posturing to maximise the effect (comrades can see through that).

Certainly we don’t want to encourage any apolitical competitiveness – for posts, for titles, looking to “rise in the hierarchy”. But I repeat, volunteer for the hard jobs. Encourage political motives, a political culture in the party and Resistance.

We need a collective team spirit, but also be aware that you contribute to the team as an individual. To build the team, you have to do your best, contribute to the maximum. So let’s have political competitiveness, not to overshadow other comrades, push them down, revel in their misfortune, as happens in bourgeois institutions and society, but to help them, and contribute the most that you can, organisationally and politically.

We’re an inclusive team, encouraging, allowing, all comrades to develop to the full, politically, as leaders, as cadres. We have no permanently fixed assignments, in Green Left, or the NO (It’s not a place to retire to!). We believe in multiskilling. The Resistance leadership has to see itself also as leaders of the party, increasingly taking over leadership functions. The goal is not to kick the older layer out, but expand what we can do, by competing, in the best sense, with current party leaders, to take the reins, to learn, through experience, to run harder, to think smarter.

International work and our perspectives

In the final section of this report I want to deal briefly with our international work. How have we gone in implementing the international work perspectives presented to the party conference in January? What are the next moves here? (Which is question number five for us to think about.)

Indonesian solidarity, either through ASIET, directly through the party helping the PRD, or in other ways, is our most important priority. It’s our duty to do all we can to help the revolutionary movement develop there, and hopefully win. Their actual situation is exciting, their prospects are good. It’s a revolution on our doorstep.

It’s our duty, but the solidarity work helps build us here also. It strengthens and educates our comrades, gives them an idea of the seriousness, the commitment of the revolutionary forces there, and what it takes to make a revolution. We gain from their struggles, their successes, and the solidarity work we do wins us respect, here and internationally.

The most important part of our solidarity is building ASIET and its activities, its propaganda battle here and internationally. Trips to Indonesia can help inspire comrades, and sometimes assist the comrades there a bit, but let’s make sure it’s not just to escape the grind here, looking for secondary stimulation and excitement. Solidarity, yes, inspiration, yes, but the difference between us and liberals is our commitment to making the revolution here too.

We can make a very positive assessment of our solidarity work this year – the ASIET conference; the tour by Edwin and Naldo; the ASIET publications and email lists and web page, which have an international impact.

The Asia Pacific Solidarity Conference next Easter, April 10-13, will be our biggest event next year. It’s the big public event we really want to build, in Sydney, nationally and internationally.

Solidarity is its upfront aim. Important struggles are occurring in the region, and will increase in the future. We have to maximise the solidarity work here, and within the region, linking up the different struggles too.

We should project the conference amongst comrades as us hegemonising this area in Australia. We’re heading in this direction already, with our Indonesia work, the East Timor work, our Green Left coverage. That is, we’re gradually beating back the conservative old layer. For example, in Perth, the November 12 reversal – we’re doing it now, in previous years we were excluded. Similarly in other cities. The conference can further consolidate our role, and put us in a very good tactical position for other initiatives in the future.

But the conference is also an important component of our international work, increasing our links with left forces in the region, and helping the process of socialist renewal. The conference will raise the key issues being debated on the left, internationally and in the region. Hopefully, the occasion will help important groups in the region, such as the CPI (ML) and the Philippines comrades, to take a higher profile, and not just talk about their own issues, but relate to other forces on the international left.

It will also be a party-building event, helping us recruit and integrate new DSP and Resistance members.

We have to start building and motivating the conference now, from this NC plenum, not just from the educational conference in January. We’ll be building both conferences simultaneously. We’ll have a poster out shortly, a full page ad in Green Left, and a new edition of the leaflet.

We still have to work to get further funding, but US$10,000 has guaranteed the attendance of most of the initial list of speakers. (John Pilger is not coming, but will do a Sydney public meeting for us at the end of May.) Max was able to promote it further at the APCET meeting in Malaysia that he’s just returned from.

Links magazine will continue to be an important component of our international work. In spite of the shift to the right of some of the original participants in the project, we’re reaffirming its importance. We want to make it more regular, stabilising it at three issues a year. Each issue will have a theme, a special focus, making back issues more useful for continuing sale on our bookstalls. Links will cater more to our own political needs, for analysis and debate that will help the education of our own cadres. It will be less academic and waffly, and reach out to the left.

Our web pages are now set up as a more useful, interconnected collection. As projected in January, we now have an extensive DSP site, a Resistance site, the Links site is updated, and so is the DSEL site, the Green Left site is getting revamped, the ASIET and CISLAC sites are regularly updated, and they’re all interconnected and will be more so in future.

The internet will be increasingly important for our work in Australia. Certainly it’s now an essential tool for cheap and efficient communication between branches and the National Office. But also as a propaganda group, we can’t neglect an increasingly important avenue for getting out our propaganda, for reaching people.

Internationally, the internet is also important for projecting our party and our ideas. It will be an increasing component of our international work. There’s been a great, and growing, response to the Green Left site over the years, it’s had an international impact. There’ve also been good initial responses to the DSP site.

Is there any chance of encouraging a looser international grouping, that would involve the healthier revolutionary parties, the FI, the CWI, us, others? This would entail the abandoning of cloning perspectives by those two outfits. The FI de facto could be heading in that direction. Observations from comrades’ recent trips indicate a weakness, disorganisation, and political looseness. The CWI still sticks strongly to its narrow and inflated view of itself. We had some modest hopes with the CWI and the FI. We have political differences, but hope that the parties prosper and develop, even though their “internationals” are an obstacle to laying the basis for real international collaboration and renewal.

There are other discussion forums that we want to be involved in. In Europe there’s the NELF-type framework of left reformist parties of Stalinist origin. Their prime orientation is parliamentary, so to participate in discussions we really need other leverage while we have no MPs. But our media, Green left Weekly and Links, provides and impressive introduction.

In Latin America we want to continue our contact with the left milieu and forums. Allen J is attending an interesting conference sponsored by the magazine America Libre in Rosario, Argentina. Ana K attended the FZLN founding conference in September. And Steve O will be representing the DSP at the FMLN congress in December.

What are the possible future directions of our international work? That’s one of the tasks of the coming trips by Doug Lorimer and myself to Europe, to see if there are any new indications, or possibilities, but it’s up to all of us to think on it.

On the way there, I’ll attend the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist)’s congress, and have discussions with them, hoping to convince them to attend the Easter conference, and participate more fully in the Links project. Greater involvement of the CPI (ML) in international work might expand the possible options for socialist renewal. We’ll continue to work with and encourage international contacts – Links, etc – with revolutionary parties that have a healthy practice and trajectory, even if coming from political traditions different from us.

We’ll be attending the CWI’s International Executive Committee meeting in London, and also discussing with leaders of the FI. We’ll also attend a broad seminar in Paris on the 80th anniversary of the October Revolution, sponsored by the French CP, the FI, and others. We’ll meet with the Dutch Socialist Party, the German PDS, and other left parties. I’ll try to attend the Left Alternative conference in Budapest. On the way back Doug will have discussions with comrades in San Francisco.

Projections for 1998

We’ve got clear tasks, for the rest of the year, and a line of march for 1998. But this report has also left us a number of questions to ponder, our homework. To repeat the specific issues I raised: the attrition of younger party members; what unifying party project; the party profile in united front work; organising branches as we grow; and what next for our international work.

We need serious thinking on these issues, not an excuse for any new idea nor a rehash of tested and rejected approaches. We do have a line of march, we just need all our collective thinking on refining that course, and are always on the lookout for new opportunities. We are getting greater clarity on party-building perspectives – the extensive record in The Activist over the years of NC and conference reports is an invaluable manual of ideas and party-building experience.

Our battle plans for the year ahead are:

  1. All the basic party-building tasks, the essentials, that we know how to do, and have discussed, and are embedded in our traditions, and reports and documents, and have done already in the past, even if we’ve let them slip sometimes, must be carried through.
  2. Also, the rounded interventions and campaigns, prioritised and integrated with our party-building tasks, and implemented with a consciousness about raising the DSP party profile in all our work.
  3. We reaffirm our youth orientation, but in 1998, we will establish those bases on campus solidly. We’ll prepare and entrench them by our high school work.
  4. We’ll consolidate and train and educate the new generation in Marxism, at the January educational conference, reinforcing our seriousness about Marxist theory.
  5. We’re modest about our international work, but are confident in the contribution we can make to international socialist renewal, through Links, solidarity in the Asian region, and the Asia Pacific Solidarity Conference.

The Activist was as the internal discussion bulletin of the Democratic Socialist Party