[The general line of the following report and summary was rejected by the national committee. The vote for adopting the report was seven full NC members in favour, 19 against, with no abstentions, and three candidate members in favour, nine against, with one abstention.]
How has the majority line measured up?
The proposal that the Socialist Alliance can in any way start along the path towards becoming a real mass-based class struggle party is wrong. The objective conditions, i.e. a radicalisation producing new partners for such a project, do not exist. Deciding to become purely an internal tendency in the SA was wrong and is even more wrong today. We have dissolved the public political presence of the DSP for a project that has no basis.
This is one mistake. Persisting with it in the face of objective conditions which do not justify the decision increasingly generates other mistakes:
b. the need to avoid discussion of reality – distractions.
c. hype and avoidance leads to opportunism, seeking wherever one can a basis for showing success, even where it does not exist.
d. avoiding discussion leads to now not wanting to have the faction around – it is a signal that there are differences serious enough for people to group around them – discussion and debate on reality cannot be avoided.
Burying the DSP’s profile – no DSP statements, no identifying ourselves as DSP in movement meetings or on public platforms or in Green Left Weekly – when the SA is increasingly empty leads to substituting the DSP for SA, rebadging. The DSP starts to disappear; whether intended or not we are put on a path with a liquidation trajectory.
These internal and external mistakes and weaknesses are the consequences of persisting in a wrong line for too long. We know they are NOT the outcomes that comrades in the majority are hoping for or want. But it is what is happening and a responsible leadership must be able to see these mistakes and correct them.
Four months into implementing the line of the DSP majority leadership adopted at our congress January 5-8, how has it measured up? How has the line compared with reality, how have the projections and predictions compared with the actual political developments and our experiences? How have the majority actually tried to implement and test their line? That’s an essential element of any serious party-building report to this NC. What has the majority offered?
There were perhaps three main “pillars” of this false majority line that they fought the PCD on, and that were central to the line projected in the adopted congress reports:
1. The Industrial Relations upsurge will happen in 2006
This has not occurred, and does not look like happening. Since November 15 there’s been hardly any activity, either on the ground, or in the form of propaganda.
- We focused on petitions, trying to inflate our own weight and importance.
- The ACTU executive called a national week of activities for the end of June. It’s not a strike. This was what the ACTU was proposing all along, while we were trying to push for an NDA in March. It’s still in the framework of a controlled letting off steam – not too much of that – to profile the ALP. It’s still under the tight control of the ACTU/ALP, and nothing is likely in the way of a real mass campaign.
2. Socialist Alliance is our ‘new party project’
This has not happened; in fact SA is even deader than the minority thought it was.
- All the other affiliates have either left SA or stated that they will not be actively participating.
- There are very few independent SA activists around the country, and the more prominent ones are resigning or stepping back from activity.
- The SA National Executive meetings held so far this year have consisted of DSP members, plus the solitary and insignificant Mark Lockett.
- Not many SA branches have held actual branch meetings this year, and few are projected in the next few months. There have been forums or video screenings billed as SA meetings, decided on and built by the DSP, but it’s clear these forums would have been bigger and more politically useful if they’d been built from the start as GLW forums.
- Almost no decisions get taken and implemented in any SA body, branch, state, or national. It’s either pre-prepared in a DSP body, then ratified, or just taken by a DSP body or DSP comrade, and implemented as “SA”.
- There’ll be no SA conference this year. (This was Peter Boyle’s proposal at the April 3 NE – with an admission that if we went ahead “it would just be the DSP”.)
3. Resistance will be built through the ‘young workers campaign’
This has not happened. Nothing of this nature has been organised, in any branch.
- The initial projection for a national young workers conference in Geelong in March has been shifted back to June. It’s now a Victorian conference.
- The more varied political campaigns and activities that Resistance has built and grown from in previous years has instead been the norm.
- Venezuelan solidarity has been the most inspiring issue, able to bring young people around Resistance, as the minority projected.
- Now we’ve plucked a date out of the air for a “national student strike” on June 1 – a stunt, with grandiose hopes, and little real support.
The options being implemented
In my party-building report to the congress I outlined four possible options in 12 months’ time, if the majority line is adopted. But already, after just four months, we can see that the majority is pretty much implementing my “Option C”:
“C. Nothing much changes with SA, it remains pretty much just the DSP. So we drift back to de facto building the DSP as our party, SA withers further. Again, without any political assessment of our SA experiment.”
But also we see the signs of “Option D”, a more rapid degeneration and liquidation:
“D. Nothing much changes with SA, it remains pretty much just the DSP. There’s no breakthrough with SA, but we keep it as our main public face, our halfway house. As is starting to happen now the liquidation of the revolutionary Marxist party proceeds further, in favour of a left social democratic party. Some comrades in the discussion who already favour this course would dissolve the DSP into SA.”
How has the minority line measured up?
At the centre of the October NC report I presented a list of five party-building projections for 2006, and these were reaffirmed in our DSP Perspectives report to the congress. How have they measured up?
A lot better than the main majority projections.
1. Concentration on rebuilding Resistance
- Certainly we can see the potential for building Resistance using the methods that have been successful over the years (and ironically which have been copied to an extent by Socialist Alternative, giving them dominance on so many campuses now.)
- There are some good new Resistance activists around. Some campuses had OK results in O-weeks. We can see the potential from Resistance educational camps.
2. Making more of Green Left Weekly as a general tactic
- GLW is still the dominant left paper in Australia, and on the web, in spite of the weakening of it as the result of the misguided “SA as our party” tactic-cum-strategy.
- Where there’s been a GLW forum, we’ve seen the potential. But the majority are still reluctant to properly organise and build a regular GLW forum series in each branch. The big potential is nevertheless very evident.
3. Reorganising Socialist Alliance as an important tactic
- Did we have this point too high up on our list? Given how dead SA has proved to be from the experience of the first four months since the congress, perhaps we should have been even firmer in putting it in its right perspective.
- But of course, the only way to test how much real life was still left in SA would have been by adopting our line, trying to build it as a campaigning alliance. This would have entailed approaching the ISO, for example, to convince them to get reinvolved. That option now is even more remote
4. Venezuela solidarity
- From the extra experience gained this year we can see that this should be the central issue we’re campaigning on.
- We need to build a real, independent Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network, with membership, its own structures, full participation by other collaborators, a real united front.
- This has certainly proved to be the issue that can and will inspire new people, to enable us to recruit to Resistance and the DSP.
5. Early projection of APISC, and beginning building against Bush
- Through the International Committee, early invitations have been sent to a number of our international contacts, some of whom have already responded in the positive, such as PRD, PST, PSM, Lalit and the Philippines.
- The Secretariat has voted to operate as the actual organising committee for APISC, with inputs from the International Committee, which will obviously be orienting to the invitations and international liaison. If the conference is to achieve its maximum outcome the Secretariat will have to quickly formulate proposals for publicity, organisation, agenda and so on.
- As a conference to be organised under the banner of Green Left, GLW coverage of issues central to the conference and GLW forums on these issues during the rest of the year should be an important build-up to the conference.
What were the key majority charges against the minority?
1. ‘The minority line would kill SA’
(After their initial wild charges that we wanted to close down SA.)
In practice, however, as we were pointing out by the time of the congress, it’s the majority line that is killing Socialist Alliance, and increasingly makes resuscitation impossible. Their vain perspective of turning it into “the party we build” has not just harmed the DSP, it’s harmed SA, turning away all the other affiliates, and nearly all of the independents who had some level of activity.
Since the congress this has been even clearer. There’s been almost no independent activity. There’s nothing much there apart from the DSP. (Some majority comrades are actually revelling in this – it’s good that the other affiliates have left, that makes it easier for us!) The thing which really killed SA was the DSP congress vote.
2. ‘Horrors – the minority wants quarterly SA branch meetings!’
In practice, the average SA branch meeting has been less frequent than quarterly over the last 12 months. Quarterly in the present circumstances would be an increase in frequency.
3. ‘The minority wants to circle the wagons’
In actual fact, the majority line on SA has led us into a “circling the wagons” approach. By persisting with their SA line, the majority has made us miss out on real movement opportunities, such as:
- The majority approach to Melbourne LPF comrades in CRD and IWD.
- The limiting of our Venezuela solidarity possibilities.
- Missing actual trade union solidarity opportunities.
- Substituting fake SA meetings or committees for real united front possibilities in campaign after campaign.
4. ‘The minority wants the old style DSP, the ‘Old Guard’’
We certainly want the methods and politics that built us and got us this far. The “new style” is not making big leaps for us, but taking us backwards. We’re forgetting the gains and the positive results we achieved with that “old style” DSP.
How have the minority charges against the majority stood up?
Because there’s been very little SA activity at all so far this year, this mightn’t seem crucial, but it is happening. Because there are hardly any SA branch meetings or exec meetings or other structures that aren’t just DSP comrades, really any SA meetings have just been rebadged DSP events, or could have been better as GLW forums, for example, and any SA leaflet or press release has been just done by the DSP.
A better description – the DSP is masquerading as SA.
This process continues. But even though it’s been the DSP that’s functioning and meeting, not the SA, the majority SA line still fails to properly educate newer comrades, and is continuing to eat away at longer-term comrades.
What the 12 months of recadreisation push since the last May NC shows is that we’ve been able to halt the decline on sales, finances, by suspending the building of SA as a second party or as our party.
This process continues. The majority are not able to implement their “SA as our party” line, but they’re not building the DSP publicly either. The liquidationist approach takes different shapes.
- Deepening political errors are developing, such as tailing the trade union bureaucracy;
- GLW is not being used for building the DSP. Since the congress, there have been just two mentions of the DSP in GLW – first, the report on the congress, and second, the obituary of a supporter.
The bottom line is, we need to resurface the DSP.
4. New elements of majority line
There’s increasing sectarianism to movement work; some campaigns are neglected, or totally ignored.
We’ve lost the political initiative through the whole SA tactic.
We shy away from real united front work. The majority want the campaigns to be handled by SA, but everyone else rightly regards SA as the DSP masquerading as SA.
The SA cloak not only cuts us off from campaigns, since the majority attempts to force them through the structure of SA, but it cuts us off from contacts as well. GLW is a much better outreach and contacting vehicle.
There’s been a real circling of the wagons. The line has resulted in a weakened position of the DSP on the Australian left.
Majority responses to the failure of their line?
What have been the majority leadership responses to the experiences of the last four months and the indications of the failure of their line?
Certainly there’s been no honest facing up to the reality by any of the majority leaders, let alone the thorough reassessing of their line that should already be required from a realistic looking at the objective situation and experiences so far.
The majority have avoided testing the line properly. We want it to be tested. We have not obstructed its implementation. But there’s been plenty of actual experience, and further refutation.
In fact, I doubt if there’s been such a total failure of a line in the history of the revolutionary movement. By the time we even got back from congress, there was nothing there to test it on!
But the majority still persist, and try to shift the blame.
For example, in response to our approach of not obstructing in any way the testing out of the majority line, and thus abstaining in discussion of how to work out their implementation of the “SA as our party” line, they’ve tried to turn this into a scandal, distorting our position to say it means abstaining on implementing the congress decisions. No. We want the majority line adopted at the conference to be properly implemented. Test it out. Without any modifications or distortions by our intervention in that discussion. We’ll implement it, and see.
But in Sydney branch, (and also more recently in Brisbane) this was concretised in a factional “leadership report” to the branch conference, arguing that this approach disqualified LPF comrades from leadership. On this basis they purged Chris A from the branch exec, via a “slate” motivation from branch secretary Alex B (not the norm for our branch exec elections).
Peter Boyle, in his capacity as national secretary sent a “Please explain” letter to the LPF asking us to justify our approach on the abstaining question. In fact the explanation had already been presented very clearly by LPF comrades in branch and exec meetings. And in fact he knew exactly what the LPF position was, since by then the majority had hacked the LPF List and had the “Rules of engagement” we’d drawn up in the early days of the LPF – all NC comrades should have read them by now, they’ve been emailed to you! [Printed on p. 84 of this issue of The Activist.]
There’s a weird contradiction among majority comrades on the NE – sometimes accusing us of “not being prepared to put forward our political views.” Or “the frustration comes from the LPF not engaging in discussion.” If you want to reopen the political discussion in the party, just give the word, go right ahead. If you think your line has been tested, let’s debate it.
But it has been tested quicker than we expected, and it’s a failure.
As a result of the stark failure of the majority projections, they have made some pragmatic adjustments, to an extent. In the absence of any real progress in building SA, the majority have relied more on Venezuela solidarity campaigning, and are looking for other campaigns to be involved in.
Hype and delusion
The hype continues since the congress, but it’s more in the nature of self-delusion, denial of reality. There hasn’t been much that could really be hyped up, but defeats or retreats get ignored, and very modest or poorly attended events get portrayed as “extremely good”, or examples of the success of SA.
The National Newsletter is becoming increasingly unreliable as an accurate source of how an event went. The norm now is that branch organisers are expected to hype it up.
The Melbourne NE SA forum with Craig Johnston attended by 24 people is a classic case. It’s been hyped by Sue Bolton; at the NE Dick Nichols pointed to it as the way forward, and it’s been repeated here. Yet we’ve now got several confirmations that Craig himself thinks it was a flop, a waste of time, speaking to the converted, and he doesn’t want to speak at any more such events.
There’s a new level of dishonesty in the majority hype, because it’s now starting to be expressed outside the party. For example Peter Boyle’s puffed up report of SA on the GLW List. It’s even seeping into GLW itself.
Blaming the LPF for the failure of the majority line
Also, we’ve noticed at both Secretariat and branch meetings the casual dropping of phrases about how “the exceptional circumstances” or “the debate” or specifically “the faction” has led to us not being able to succeed with this, or has slowed the development of that. Obviously among the more factionalised members of the majority there’s an atmosphere being whipped up to blame the minority for any failure of their line, for the moribund nature of the SA. This has stepped up in recent weeks.
Combined with the pragmatism and hype, there have been a multitude of attempts by the majority leadership to increase the level of factionalism. They need to demonise the LPF, polarise branches, marginalise LPF members, make it harder for us to have comradely political discussions with majority supporters. Now they are questioning the very right of the faction to exist.
And they are making political and organisational mistakes as a result of their factionalism.
The Brisbane paedophile case
A self-confessed convicted paedophile member of SA (he claims in a letter that he’s a convicted paedophile) sexually harasses Lynda H. (Not just “sexist language” as some NE comrades claimed when it was brought up). But the branch leadership not only refused to accept his resignation letter, but they did not even discuss it with him. They just swept it under the carpet.
The branch secretary Paul B politically defended that individual against comrades bringing the complaint, and justified his actions because this individual comes from bourgeois society, has a Catholic background, and we are not an island of socialism anyway! LPF comrades protested at Paul B’s mishandling of it. [See the letter to the NE from Brisbane LPF comrades and other material beginning, p. 71.]
This amounts to endangering the party, and SA and Resistance, for factional reasons. But it also shows the desperation to prove somehow that SA is “working”, by boosting the numbers, any numbers. (What percentage of the “active” SA members quoted by Lisa Macdonald are in this category? People we’re really wasting our time with?)
Attempting to marginalise the minority
- The majority has sacked LPF comrades from full-time, for example Marcus P was sacked from the Finance Office.
- The majority are knocking LPF comrades off branch executives. In Sydney, Chris A was excluded through the slate they introduced, so that Marce C is the only LPF comrade left on. But many majority exec members are unable to take on major assignments, and LPF comrades who were rejected from the majority slate are actually leading a lot of the work of the branch. In Brisbane, only Jon L was left on the slate, although “with reservations”!
- They are gutting branch executives of political life. In Melbourne, the actual leadership is outside the executive, with the “senior comrades” Sue Bolton, Dave Holmes, Pat Brewer (and Dick Nichols when he’s in town) making the real decisions. Now an “SA Steering Committee” has been set up. The exec is increasingly purely organisational.
- The majority are limiting LPF comrades in their political assignments. They are deassigning comrades from Resistance, for example Sam K in Adelaide, and Chris A in Sydney.
- They whipped up sectarian hysteria about my initiatives in getting APISC organised.
- They are attempting to institutionalise a culture of ostracisation of LPF members.
- There have been a number of examples of aggression and abusive language by majority comrades which have been reported on the LPF List. NC comrades can read about this at their leisure. This has been a continuation of the harassment that occurred during the PCD last year.
Attacks on the minority’s democratic rights
- Our congress reports for The Activist were factionally edited. NC comrades can see the extent of this; it was set out in an LPF email list posting, part of the emails circulated to you.
- A “please explain” letter was also sent to comrade Jason C by Peter Boyle, in his capacity as national secretary, asking him why he’d joined the LPF! This is quite outrageous, a very bad precedent.
- The majority has refused to give us equal time for counter reports at this NC.
Hacking the LPF discussion list
This has been the most serious assault on our democratic rights. We strongly protest the hacking of the LPF email list, and the violation of the privacy of individual LPF members, and the violation of the rights of the LPF itself. We know of at least four successful or unsuccessful attempts by the majority to gain unauthorised access to our LPF List. [See the account of Terry T’s attempt to hack the LPF List by fraudulently impersonating an LPF member, p. 81]
One result is the 130 stolen emails circulated to this NC. These were not “leaked”! They were stolen! [See Melbourne LPF statement, and other material beginning p. 76] Reading other comrades’ emails is unprincipled. It violates our right to have private political discussion amongst LPF members. We have nothing to be embarrassed about with these emails. In fact, the majority has a lot to be embarrassed about in the content of these posts, as they record the majority’s further degeneration and unprincipled attacks on LPF comrades, harassment both petty and major, and the mounting examples of the refutation of the majority’s political line in practice.
As we stated in our letter to the NE, [See p. 79]] some questions demand urgent answers, and our democratic rights need reaffirming.
Read other people’s mail? Of course you’ll find things about yourself that aren’t flattering.
Reports on what’s happening in the DSP and on the left around the country, scandalous! Of course LPF members want to know, and will be well-informed.
The LPF raises these terrible political accusations against the majority? Yes, all of which were stated many times in the PCD last year. Do you want to censor this point of view?
There’s not a single thing from those stolen emails that embarrasses the LPF. But there’s a lot that would embarrass the majority, so please read them all!
The right of factions to exist, and function
In our party, factions have a right to exist. It’s in our constitution. But in practice, unfortunately, it seems not sanctioned.
Dave Holmes’ proposals for constitutional change and “interpretations” take us in a very dangerous direction.
He wants to institutionalise the majority’s thinking and practice of the last four months, in fact, the thinking since September, when differences started to clarify on the Secretariat, that political collaboration in a PCD period is impermissible unless you immediately form a faction. At the start of the September 26 NE meeting when Pip Hinman noticed that Marce C had a copy of my draft report (he’d expressed views similar to the Secretariat minority at the branch meeting the previous Saturday, and asked for a copy of my draft) she jumped up and demanded that we should “form a faction!”
The majority is making a weird re-interpretation of the 1986 change to our constitution. The intention then was not to ban political discussion and political collaboration. It was not to force any such developing political differences to become a faction. It was deciding not to regulate in the constitution on anything but a faction.
In the 1986 report by Jim Percy, Building the revolutionary party, he writes:
The Trotskyist tradition that we drew from tried to make a distinction between factions and tendencies. A tendency was supposedly simply a trend of thought within the party – one that wouldn’t assume organisational form or discipline, and in particular wouldn’t attempt to change or overturn the leadership. It would simply argue for its views. But in reality, if comrades think they have a difference that’s important enough to struggle around ideologically, they’ll also organise around it.
No one ever could draw the line where a tendency ended and a faction started. The whole attempt to regulate inner party discussion to that extent was wrong headed. We don’t need such an arsenal of organisational forms for our discussion. Above all, we don’t need organisational forms that automatically sharpen differences by institutionalising an adversarial approach.
The interpretation being touted by the majority that any political collaboration between comrades in a pre-conference discussion period is illegal unless a faction is declared is one of the most dangerous departures from our real traditions that has been proposed, posing the danger of further degeneration of the democratic framework of our party.
Jim Percy stated in his October 1982 NC report: (printed in Socialist Worker Vol 2, No. 3)
We have the right to factions in our party; that will happen in the course of the life of our party even if it hasn’t to date…. As Trotsky said, if we don’t allow factions, then:
“What follows from this? If factions are not wanted, there must not be any permanent groupings; if permanent groupings are not wanted, temporary groupings must be avoided; finally, in order that there be no temporary groupings, there must be no differences of opinion, for wherever there are two opinions, people inevitably group together….
“The principle of Bolshevik organisation is ‘democratic centralism’, assured by complete freedom of criticism and of groupings, together with steel discipline in action. The history of the party is at the same time the history of the internal struggle of ideas, groupings, factions. It is true that in the spring of 1921, in a time of terrible crisis, of famine, of cold, the Tenth Congress of the Bolshevik Party, which at that time was 17 years old, suppressed factions; but this measure was considered exceptional and temporary, and was applied by the Central Committee with the greatest degree of prudence and flexibility. The real annihilation of factions began only with the victory of the bureaucracy over the proletarian vanguard and rapidly led to the virtual death of the party.”
Our tradition is the Bolshevik one, not the Stalinist one, and obviously there are going to be two opinions on lots of questions plenty of times in our party.
The right of the LPF to exist and function
As the statement distributed at the start of the NC stated [printed on page 70 of this issue of The Activist], the members of the Leninist Party Faction of the DSP have declared that we are not leaving the LPF and that we are not disbanding our faction until its goal of getting the DSP back on track has been won.
As the statement declaring the formation of the LPF issued at the end of the DSP Congress stated, our goal is “to restore the DSP as a publicly functioning Leninist party by fully rectifying the mistaken and failed party-building line adopted by the 21st DSP congress in December 2003, a course that has increasingly undermined the DSP’s ability to implement the Leninist strategy of building a revolutionary Marxist cadre party as the key to advancing the struggle for socialism.”
Our faction has only existed for four months, has a clear political platform, and will dissolve when the political issues we formed around have been resolved.
This National Committee meeting has to reaffirm that:
1. Factions are permissible, and a right, in the DSP (see Article 4, Paragraph 1 (i) of the DSP Constitution.)
2. The Leninist Party Faction has a right to exist, and discuss among its members.
3. Non-members of the LPF have no right to try to hack into the LPF’s discussion list or otherwise access internal materials of the LPF.
Peter Boyle writes that the contents of our list postings “reveal that the faction is systematically encouraging its members to see their primary loyalty as being to the LPF instead of the DSP, and that the faction is on a totally unjustified split trajectory”. These are totally false charges.
Firstly, our loyalty is to the DSP and the Program of the DSP and we will defend the party and our program to the best of our ability. However, we currently do not have political confidence in the majority leadership to do this. That is the very nature of a faction, we want to change the political line and change the leadership. Certainly with the majority’s distorted understanding of democratic centralism and what a faction is and should do, we should never have formed (even though you passed a motion at the congress that we should form a faction!) For the majority, it seems that although the DSP Constitution supports the formation of factions (and it’s totally within the tradition of the Bolsheviks and Cannon’s SWP), it’s only OK as long as the faction is ineffective, or doesn’t discuss amongst its members!
Secondly, the LPF is not on a split trajectory at all. In fact, the battle is to stay in the DSP, to win it back, and convince our members not to be demoralised about revolutionary socialist politics and give up, in the face of a political and organisational decline in the leadership of the party that we have worked so hard to build. It is the majority actions since the congress which have effectively had a split dynamic – sacking LPF comrades from full-time assignments, knocking LPF members off branch executives, limiting LPF comrades in their assignments, and attempting to institutionalise a culture of ostracisation of LPF members.
The majority does not equal the party
Loyalty to the majority leadership is not the same as loyalty to the party. Such a view assumes the minority has no rights. Even worse, that view wants to write the minority out of the party. Democratic centralism means unity in action, not unity in thought. The clash of contending political positions can result in greater clarity for the party.
So comrades, get used to it! We have differences, and we’ve formed a faction! We might not have had many serious big debates in the party’s recent history. But this involves a difference over perspectives among the party’s leadership, and has the support of 25 percent of the party’s membership (probably greater than that in terms of activists).
The tasks and perspectives ahead
These are some assessments four months after the congress. The majority line is clearly failing. The majority leadership would say, “It’s all too early to tell,” “the new party project is a long process.” Etc etc.
But we’ve actually been testing this line for more than three years in its initial form, and for a year in its adjusted form since the May 2005 NC. The report at last May’s NC actually recognised that SA couldn’t be built as a party, and since our congress it’s gone further downhill. It’s not working as “a new party project”.
What are the prospects ahead?
With the majority line?
Unfortunately it looks like the majority wants to stubbornly continue with their wrong line. Plunge deeper into the swamp. But more errors are inevitable and more blows to the DSP will ensue.
We’ll soldier on too, gritting our teeth as error piles upon error. And we’ll do our best in the areas that can build the party:
- Rebuilding Resistance
- Doing our utmost in the Venezuela Solidarity campaign
- Carrying out our assignments in other campaigns
- As well as any assignments given us in regard to SA
And we won’t obstruct the majority in their efforts to try and breathe life into SA. But it’s sad, to see so much wasted effort, and so many demoralised cadres.
We’ll do our best to lead in all other areas to build the party:
- Pushing on GLW sales
- Helping organise GLW forums
- Carrying out education and recruiting tasks (although there are signs that the majority is trying to exclude LPF comrades from this area of work, sad since the LPF includes many of the DSP’s most capable educators.)
- Organising fundraising events and campaigns
LPF comrades have often been the ones to lead the way on sales of GLW and writing for GLW, on financial contributions, and also in leading many of our campaigns. Despite this the majority engages in factional attacks, spreads slanders and abuse, and cuts us off branch executives.
What’s needed? We don’t have to be stuck with this failed line. We have an alternative perspective.
The DSP needs to adopt the LPF line. We need to recognise the mistake we made in 2002-03 turning to build “SA as our party”. Remember what we used to be able to do? We’re increasingly being asked to adjust to less ambitious perspectives, we’re lowering our standards.
What can we still do with SA? Perhaps it can be an electoral vehicle. But as an electoral alliance, the precondition would have to be that we resurface the DSP publicly. Otherwise any potential partners would just think that we’re conning them again.
The bottom line is – resurface the DSP. Restore the DSP as a properly functioning Marxist party. Put our priority on rebuilding Resistance, and recruiting and educating new cadres. Have regular public GLW forums. Publicise the DSP line and spokespeople again.
The resolution adopted by congress has proved totally inadequate.
We were right to vote for it then – our most important amendments had been accepted – but it has proved to be too ambiguous and contradictory. The real, counterposed, lines came through in the two party-building reports.
Four months on, and the resolution is useless. SA is deader than it was last year, and the possibility of SA being a campaigning alliance is ruled out – there’s nobody in SA left for us to ally with, the affiliates have left or don’t participate, most of the independent activists have gone or are hardly involved. SA leadership bodies – it’s us!
The LPF has put forward a draft of a resolution that the DSP needs to adopt, to get us back on track: It’s a very positive perspective. Read it. [Printed on p. 67 of this issue of The Activist.] We will fill it out between now and the October NC, with more experiences, more tests. There’ll be discussion around it in the LPF; it would be good if it was with the whole party.
So I urge all comrades, to honestly compare the two perspectives over coming months, and draw back from the deepening errors.
Comrades, in only 15 minutes I won’t be able to respond to everything, there’s such a lot I want to talk about and I hope there’ll be many more opportunities to do so.
Certainly I won’t be able to give Margie W a full description of all the examples of how Socialist Alliance is cutting us off from being able to do united front work, and where we’re substituting SA, trying to do something in the name of SA, rather than trying to build a real united front with other forces. It came out in the NC in many contributions actually, and I’m sure it will come out more in Melbourne, and you should certainly talk to Melbourne LPF comrades – it would have been good if Kim had been able to give reports to the executive on the civil liberties campaign, and give other reports to the exec (and I wish Pat wouldn’t interject all the time – she’s making a practice of it).
But it astounds me that Margie expects that no LPF comrades are going to be on the Melbourne exec after this NC! Certainly you’ll get less collaboration and cooperation without an LPF member there on the exec. I think you should rethink that. It’s up to the majority. (Interjection from Margie – “the ranks won’t elect them”.) Oh, so it’s just the members who are not going to elect them! You can put a slate, as other branch secretaries have been presenting slates, if you want an LPF comrade off or on the executive. You can get it.
Now on the words “palace coup” used on the LPF List. I didn’t use that. But it is actually a bit mild, and you shouldn’t worry too much about it. In the course of the political discussion last year, as our political differences developed, around the time of the October NC, I found out that there had been discussions behind my back about replacing me as National Secretary. Dave Holmes admitted it, he’d been involved. Yes, “who else?” I asked him. “Oh, Pat Brewer’s been talking about it too”. I presume Pip Hinman had spoken to Peter Boyle about it as well. So that’s four comrades! Is that a secret faction or not, according to your own criteria spelled out at this NC? That’s your definition, you agreed with “four”. Behind the back of the National Secretary. Or, had you already replaced me in your minds some time ago?
As to getting the “inside dope”. Jon L reported what he got, the inside dope from Peter Boyle and Pip Hinman about “John and Doug up to their old tricks”. Now am I to believe that he was the only one that got messages over the phone like that? I’d be stupid to think that, and comrades would be stupid to think that it didn’t happen. Obviously that happened. So it’s rather hypocritical, all the demagogy in Peter Boyle’s report against the LPF.
Another one. Who did Dave Holmes discuss with in preparing his report to the last session of the congress on the party officers? It certainly didn’t come up in the National Executive or the Secretariat. It’s no big deal, but I think I was probably wrong in describing the majority as a “faction” in that letter to Peter Boyle about the hacking of the LPF email list. It’s not a scientific, accurate description yet, but they operated in a rather factional way.
Now Katie C argued that party leadership bodies have an absolute right to private discussions. No, not yet Katie, and I don’t think the rest of the majority believes that. If they do, we’ve gone even further down a bad and dangerous track. I’ll just read out, and comrades can all read it, it’s there as an appendix in the letter we sent to the NE, and it quotes from Peter Camejo’s pamphlet Against Sectarianism, which our party reprinted:
“Through the years, James P Cannon raised certain concepts of how a leadership should function. Many of these concepts were once known as norms in the SWP. For example, in trying to learn from the experiences of Lenin in Russia, Cannon argued that when a higher body, say an executive committee of a local branch, has a meeting, its deliberations should be kept to the members of that body.
“The purpose was to make it possible for members of the executive committee to feel free to express their views without feeling that they would have to defend or be responsible for whatever they said before the entire membership. The executive committee discussion should aim at arriving at a collective decision.
“These norms are valuable but they are not the same thing as regulations or rules. Cannon himself wrote a letter to the party in 1965 [which we’ve reprinted in our collection of Cannon articles] making this explicit when he felt that the party leadership might be turning the norms into rules.
“Another example of a norm that is not a rule is the concept that after National Committee meetings the National Committee members are not supposed to present their own reports on what happened at the plenum to select people but that reports should be presented to all members. These norms are never maintained once serious political differences, with tendency and faction formations, appear. That is also a law of politics, as Cannon explained.”
Now that is a dangerous direction, as I said in my counter-report, a dangerous direction the party is heading in if the party takes up the interpretations that Dave Holmes wants us to.
Susan Price discussed the process by which we started political collaboration as a minority, leading to the formation of a minority platform for the PCD, and after the congress a faction. I explained, that after speaking to Doug Lorimer after the Socialist Alliance National Conference in June last year, we agreed the Democratic Socialist Party had to re-emerge. I then spoke to Peter Boyle, in the Melbourne office the following day, and he disagreed. The oral and written Pre-Congress Discussion was opened on June 29. Doug and I raised our views on the Secretariat, and the NE. We then put forward amendments to the proposed congress resolution. That was the right way to do it. What would you have had us do? Go off half-cocked? Or as we did, start the discussion on the Secretariat and NE, and then put something in PCD. That was the right place. Comrades remember; we were in a Pre-Congress Discussion period! It does make a difference. I think Nick E explained it fairly well.
It does make a difference. When should the faction have been formed? Exactly when we formed it! That was the absolutely correct time. We were hoping that things would be better, that more comrades in the PCD and at the congress would draw back from the wrong line we’d embarked on. So the struggle continues. How can the struggle continue once the PCD and the congress is over? Through a faction! Some comrades have been badly miseducated; you hear comrades saying, isn’t a faction dissolved when the congress is over? Comrades with six, 10 years in the party, saying, “shouldn’t the faction dissolve once we’ve had the congress?” Where does that come from? It happened once in the history of the Bolshevik Party (in dire conditions of famine and civil war!)
Now Susan also said she was shocked when she saw LPF comrades chairing and minuting the Sydney branch meeting, and taking down comrades’ names. There’s nothing sinister about that, that’s Dick Nichols new model minutes being implemented, nothing sinister at all.
Karl M commented about Nick E’s behaviour on Canberra executive, abstaining on the vote about May Day, and tried to construe something out of that. I think he got himself tied in knots, and I hope it’s just that, and he didn’t really mean all the things he said. The comrade – the branch secretary – is not allowed to disagree on the exec? Not allowed to abstain on the exec? Was that an LPF position? No. We do not micromanage LPF members like that. Nick thought for himself. That was his view. There was nothing wrong at all. Karl also said that there are clearly political differences in the LPF, and that shows an unprincipled combination. The LPF comrades sometimes voted different ways. Terrible! Well, perhaps we should have been better organised, but if we had been tighter, then it would have been, “terrible, LPF comrades are so tight, they’re too disciplined… shows they put their loyalty to the faction ahead of their loyalty to the party!” You can’t have that both ways comrades.
Comrades here would have read our LPF List more recently than I have. I do not remember Jammo’s post where he supposedly wrote about not implementing something. But, time and again, the LPF has said that that is not our position. We are implementing the decisions of the congress, and the decisions of the majority after the congress. We will carry out what actions are decided upon. That was said in our rules of engagement. I don’t for the life of me see how Emma C can construe from that that the rules of democratic centralism will not apply for us. Absolutely the opposite. And in my counter-report, I said that, that’s how I finished the report! I stated it again, that’s our position.
Finally just a little thing, Sue Bolton’s comments about Andrew M. My memory is that he objected to his National Newsletter article getting cut because he was having a go at the bureaucracy. Not so much his Green Left article. And I’d also point out that in Brisbane branch comrades inform me that Andrew was the only working comrade to actually go out and collect signatures on the petition at his workplace, implementing the instructions. And this was just a week after he’d started on the job at a new workplace, so he was still in a bit of a precarious position.
Comrades, we haven’t had much discussion in the Leninist Party Faction on this question, but there’s something that I would like to discuss further in the Leninist Party Faction, and also in the party, when the opportunity arises. And that’s the positive and negative sides of our party’s peace and homogeneity over the years.
We know the good sides. Our faction fights have been few, and the disruption from our political debates has been small. We have had party peace, and you plod along.
But it also makes you lazy, politically and intellectually lazy. I think we have to recognise that. We can get lazy habits, of not thinking things out politically. I admit guilt on that score. I think every other comrade on the party leadership should also admit guilt on that score. We do gain from fierce political debates. You come out clearer. (If you don’t come out clearer at least you hone your debating skills.) There is something very positive about that.
Comrade Max Lane was just chatting to me and saying that was something he was thinking about too, and that after his recent trip to the U.S. he was thinking about the positive and negative sides of us leaving the Fourth International. At least you had debates in there – you had permanent debates – and they were very fierce, and they were very educational. And that’s a key point I would make in writing the second volume of the history of our party and Resistance – those debates were extremely educational. So we lost something when we left. The fact that a lot of our best new thinking and writing of documents happened in the ‘80s, as we left the Fourth International, and broke with the US SWP, had to think things out for ourselves, tells us something. Today we have international relations with a range of parties but they’re rather diplomatic, we don’t go hammer and tongs with our international collaborators. Anyway, that’s something for the future.
So, we’ve been at peace in the party for so long, and without that international debate, we don’t have that dialectical outcome of greater clarity.
So look at the good side, comrades, adjust to it, accept the LPF’s right to exist. You’re going to have more debates, and we’ll all gain from it. I urge comrades to vote for the motions regarding the LPF that we’ve presented.
– The Activist was as the internal discussion bulletin of the Democratic Socialist Party