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DSP Congress platforms now available

by Dave Riley
As a mirror of an ongoing debate across the far left, the Australian Democratic Socialist Perspective has been debating the broad party options for the past two years in the context of a minority opposing the party's Socialist Alliance engagement.

The DSP Congress convenes on January 3rd 2008 in Sydney and the opposing platforms are now available here on the DSP web site.

After such a long period of focused debate the DSP membership has considered the tactical issues involved in some detail. This congress concludes an extended period of preconference written and oral discussion.

Over this time the DSP membership has been actively involved in two years of activity building the Socialist Alliance so this has been a very informed debate especially in the context of all the denunciations of the Alliance as a regroupment failure and the cries that the time for broad party building is not ripe.

The majority National Executive platform concludes:
15. The DSP sees the struggle to build a broadly based anti-capitalist party as an important tactic in the struggle for a mass revolutionary party in this country. The creation of a serious anti-capitalist alternative, whatever its particular form of presentation (“red-green”, “real people’s party” etc) but founded on a complete break with class-collaborationism, can open the way to working class and broader social movement victories in the struggle against the capitalist imperative to make working people bear the costs of the system’s survival. The tactic is necessary in order to develop the forces needed to challenge the domination of the Australian labour movement by the ALP and the trade union bureaucracy as well as other bureaucracies within the social and environmental movements. While such a party begins with a class struggle platform of social, economic and environmental reforms and a broad socialist objective (i.e. does not have an explicitly revolutionary program), in the course of united engagement in mass struggles, it will steadily and democratically develop its program in a more explicitly revolutionary direction as struggles develop. This requires that revolutionaries provide it with serious and patient leadership.

16. If there is a new rise in the class struggle, new partners will be drawn into the project for a new party and the Socialist Alliance may have to become part of or be transformed into or be supplanted by new structures for organising the strongest and most effective political voice for anti-neo-liberal struggle.

17. While it builds the Socialist Alliance as a broad, class struggle socialist party project, the DSP should continue to maintain its own structures and to build a highly united and disciplined revolutionary cadre core. Revolutionary cadre, systematically educated in Marxism and experienced in struggle, are indispensable in this and any other tactical stage we go through to build a mass revolutionary party. We need to continue to recruit strongly to the DSP from within and outside the Socialist Alliance and, primarily through Resistance, win, educate and develop a new generation of revolutionary youth cadre. The DSP will openly seek to win others in the Socialist Alliance and the general public to its revolutionary politics.
And the minority Leninist Party Faction urges:
13. The DSP must publicly acknowledge that our unilateral attempt to build SA as a new broad-left party in formation was a mistake, a sectarian error and a setback for socialist collaboration. Until today’s conditions of continuing working class retreat change, a broad left party of anti-neoliberal resistance is simply not on the agenda. The necessary partners for such a party, substantial new class-struggle forces and leaders, do not yet exist and will not come into existence until there is a sustained mass upsurge of working class resistance.

14. In the absence of such a critical mass of willing partners, our unilateral declaration that the DSP plus a handful of our supporters is such a party, or party-in-formation, is just clowning. We must resume building the DSP as our public party and seek support for retaining SA’s electoral registration as an electoral vehicle for presenting revolutionary socialist politics in a popular way.

8 Com:

Anonymous | December 23, 2007

Finally some honesty from a section of the DSP,"The Socialist Alliance is not, nor will it ever be, a mass workers party or the embryo of a mass workers party."

Tim B | December 23, 2007

Reassuring to see that not all DSP comrades think that building left unity and collaboration means revolutionaries having to hide their politics in coalitions with phantom reformists.

Trying to build a mass workers party in a period of relative downturn and without the participation of significant working class forces can only lead it seems to me to the pointless destruction of marxist cadre.

That's not to say that the Socialist Alliance can't be valuable as an avenue for introducing revolutionary politics to a wider working class audience during election time and building cooperation with other marxist groups (as in the case of the Workers Party here in NZ), rather that simply wishing SA was a mass working class party (or embyro party) can't make it so.

Dave Riley | December 23, 2007

Nonetheless the membership of the DSP is better placed than anyone to plumb the length and breadth and potential of the Socialist Alliance.

You'd have to agree,right?

So there is a considered & informed choice before this membership in regard to the DSP's future engagement with the SA.

So if you are correct and the SA project is a grave mistake then many more others should be able to see the error in their DSP ways and change course.All they have to do is put up their hand and vote accordingly.

After months of debate and a disputation that goes back over 2 years the options seem straightforward and clear. All the DSP members have to do is decide which platform they want to support and the SA is yea or nay...and commentators such as yourselves could possibly wallow in the prospect that you were right all along (and the vote in the DSP served to confirm that).

But on the floor of congress will the bulk of the DSP membership agree with you ? And what does it mean if they don't and the minority perspective remains a shallow current within the DSP?

Does that then make the DSP membership a bunch of political fools or you wrong in your assessment of the Socialist Alliance (given that you know very little about it day to day)?

Tim B | December 24, 2007

"So if you are correct and the SA project is a grave mistake then many more others should be able to see the error in their DSP ways and change course.All they have to do is put up their hand and vote accordingly."

I think you misunderstood my comment - as it seems to me the disagreement is not over the wisdom of the SA project per se, but rather over differing strategic conceptions of it.

On one side there is the idea of SA as a "broad left" workers party into which revolutionary marxists should simply dissolve.

On the other side is the idea of SA as an electoral united front for revolutionaries to take their politics out to a wider working class audience while also fostering collaboration with other marxist groups.

Now of course it's up to the comrades in the DSP and SA to make the choice between these two options and I wouldn't pretend othwerwise.

But that doesn't prevent other interested parties from observing and commenting, just as you yourself have done extensively in the case of RESPECT in the UK and even RAM here in NZ.

After all we wouldn't be internationalists if we didn't take an active interest in developments on the marxist left in other countries.

And in this case the existence of two clearly defined factions in the DSP is certainly of interest to socialists here in NZ, given the obvious convergence between the strategic line put forward by the DSP majority and Socialist Worker-NZ.

Anonymous | December 24, 2007

"On one side there is the idea of SA as a "broad left" workers party into which revolutionary marxists should simply dissolve.

On the other side is the idea of SA as an electoral united front for revolutionaries to take their politics out to a wider working class audience while also fostering collaboration with other marxist groups."

I think you missed the point of both the platforms.

For example where does it imply that the majority want to "dissolve" into the Socialist Alliance?

This just isn't what the debate is about. I think you should read them properly and look at what each side is ACTUALLY proposing.

Dave Riley | December 24, 2007

But you are wrong Tim. You suffer from two much either/or just as the British SWP does and a range of other commentators on the tactical options.

You write: On one side there is the idea of SA as a "broad left" workers party into which revolutionary marxists should simply dissolve.

And thats' simply not true. Whats' with this universe comrades like you and SAlt seem to inhabit? It has to be tactically one thing or another -- revolutionary or reformist. Liquidate or not. Arthur or Marther.

No one said that engaging in broad parties was about "dissolving" one's politics. Can you sight one example of the revolutionaries "dissolving' their politics in the context of the SA?(in the case of the ISO I can as they too pandered to such a perspective as the SWP did in Respect. The ISO did not want an avowedly socialist party for instance. It shared your crude schema that the exercise was to pander to these creatures called "reformists". ) Can you argue that the DSP has softened its revolutionary advocacy or its desire to recruit to itself and its revolutionary program or no longer has the perspective of building a Leninist party ?

So where's this "dissolving" supposed to be located?

Sure there can sometimes be a price to pay and for the moment the DSP carries the great bulk of its political work and propaganda within the SA envelope. Nonetheless where is the revolutionary short fall supposed to be at? Can you see it or log it, for instance, in the pages of Green Left Weekly? But how is that "dissolving"? Don't you do the same when you join a local coalition? You "don't" dissolve, right? You simply work in partnership with others on those points you agree on. And most work by revolutionaries -- is, if they want to think they are succeeding, in partnership with others: in trade unions, in campaign coalitions, and communities.

You then point out an option:"On the other side is the idea of SA as an electoral united front for revolutionaries to take their politics out to a wider working class audience while also fostering collaboration with other marxist groups."

...And that leads where? And, by the way, which "marxist groups."?

The SA began life like that way but the truth is these other "marxist groups" wanted it to stay that way. They weren't interested in merging together at a closer organisational and programatic basis. They weren't interested in pitching the exercise more aggressively to non aligned layers so that they too could be bought in as stakeholders on the project. They did not want to democratise the process. They wanted, like an aged Senate, to control the project and limit it to a day out on polling day.

So what's the point? All it does is widen the circle very very briefly. If theres' a unity gloss it soon fades as outsider soon enough lean how dismissive these "marxist groups" can be of deeper and ongoing 'unity'.

I say that after having been involved in a few electoral coalitions before the advent of the SA. Unless you say --and the other partners say: this is a precursor to fusion perhaps at a later date then it can be an indulgent wank. Because the Day After polling day it's back to Monty Python Judean Peoples Front politics again.

Even in the SA the Marxist affiliates only allowed the project the option of doing neighborhood work while the rest of the big movement stuff was carried out in their own patented copyrighted shibboleth-driven names. They did not want to encourage more competition and wanted the SA to stay in its place.

And as it turned out, in 2003 the pressure to move from an "electoral united front" to a party came from non aligned membership of the SA which by then was larger and much broader than all the membership of affiliates combined.

Then there is the other aspect you miss out on. Nothing is stopping any Marxist group from running an election campaign under the umbrella of the SA. We have made that proposal before to the Socialist Party and other socialist election campaigns for instance. If you want, as you argue . "an electoral united front for revolutionaries to take their politics out to a wider working class audience while also fostering collaboration with other marxist groups" --- the SA is that too. If you think the platform should be different from the politics required you may have a point. But nothing I've seen suggest otherwise in regard to the politics advocated by the SA.

So some of these assertions need a reality check because while I recognise how genuine you are -- in the real world these "marxist groups" are not always very consistent. Rather than take "their politics" to a working class audience nationally they passed on the whole exercise.(And don't bother suggesting that they opposed any of the SA's electoral platforms as that was not the case.)

So this either/or game is a bit of schematic fantasy that broad party opponents indulge in.

You also write:"And in this case the existence of two clearly defined factions in the DSP is certainly of interest to socialists here in NZ, given the obvious convergence between the strategic line put forward by the DSP majority and Socialist Worker-NZ."

I think you miss something. While there is a convergence between the DSP views and those of SW that convergence is on a broader international scale too involving other Marxist formation and activists. There is also a 'convergence' of views driven by other factors too --such as the Venezuelan revolution. So we could just as easily say that there is a convergence between you and the DSP perhaps on that issue?

(You could also argue that there is a convergence of views between the DSP and ISO Zimbabwe, or the DSP and the US ISO, or the DSP and any number of parties on the planet that the DSP has ongoing comradely relations with.No one, is suggesting that to 'converge' you have to be into broad party mode. This is all about having a discussion and, most importantly, having the humility to learn from one another. )

However, there is another convergence that is galvanizing and that is one that opposes broad party politics. Thats' the significance of the recent Socialist Alternative statement and no doubt the ongoing dispute in the British SWP and the Australian DSP. So you could say there is an "obvious convergence between the strategic line put forward by the DSP minority and myself, et al."

And that would be true too.My original suggestion was not that you had no right to comment or that the platforms weren't of interest -- but that given that the DSP membership has availed itself of the most intensive debate on the topic of broad party making how that membership lines up is of some consequence in terms of the issues and arguments in play. If they can or cannot be convinced then thats' a salient result given the level of debate more internationally.

Tim B | December 24, 2007

Dave I'm not saying that "half-way house" centrist formations which leave open the question of reform or revolution cannot exist, rather that it's not the job of marxists to pretend to be such.

Since the SA is led by and largely composed of marxists it would seem sensible for it to put forward an openly revolutionary program.

This is obviously very different from the case of a party like the WASG in Germany or (at least until earlier this year) Rifandazione Comunista in Italy, which despite lacking a clear committment to the overthrow of capitalism did include a real mass working class base.

In those instances the task of revolutionaries was clearly to participate fully in building the party while at the same time trying to win the membership base to marxism.

But in the absence of real and significant working class forces such "halfway house" ventures seem altogether pointless.

Dave Riley | December 24, 2007

Again Tim you want to impose a formalistic language --the hoary old "centrist" formations -- in the same way the the IST proceeds to order the process by numbers by arguing over united front and special kinds thereof.

How can the SA be a "centrist' formation? It's being lead by the DSP-- last time I looked it was.

You also have this focus on being "openly revolutionary"(as the DSP minority does). I ask you to point out where the SA is doing day to day what the DSP would not be doing day to day as a public Marxist outfit. So wheres' this "centrism" at?

You also said that your own election campaign was openly 'revolutionary' or in effect was a vote against capitalism and you suggested that that was located in the fact that you called for factory occupations.

But any two bit radical can call for factory occupations. Propaganda is cheap and means very little when it comes to the business to hand. Factory occupations? When? Where? How? By whom?

Struggle cannot be ripped from the air -- at least not here in Australia it can't and I'd assume its' the same on the other side of the Tasman. It takes the doing and the organising with forces outside the narrow reach of the Marxian far left.

Sure this debate has to be about propaganda. and the role thereof -- but it is also about activity: doing the linking up with people in motion. And in the face of it, those who support the narrow party focus are in effect often end up calling for more propaganda in place of this other stuff.

You write:Since the SA is led by and largely composed of marxists it would seem sensible for it to put forward an openly revolutionary program.

But you are wrong. The SA is not largely made up of Marxists. The DSP is a Marxist tendency in the SA but there are still another 500 or so  (at the moment-- the majority) who are , as far as I know, only socialists.

But you are right to question the scope of the SA membership base --and thats' a  key issue too in this debate. The DSP majority platform addresses that if you read it again you'll see that.

In the case of SAlt -- if you cast your mind back to their perspective here -- it's couched in terms of a raiding party operation. And this was a persistent problem with the small affiliates who wanted the SA to be this huge milk cow they could relate to and 'intervene in' with their programatic insights. But as for taking responsibility for the project -- forget about it.

But for the DSP the SA is "the party" they "build". Its' not something foreign -- it's the milieu within which DSP members (all of whom are SA members) do the  bulk of their political work.And, at the moment, the DSP recruits the largest share of its new members from within the SA. But that doesn't mean SA comrades have to join the DSP or need to suck up to it. This is all about partnerships.

When I rejoined the DSP after several years work in the SA I did so because I wanted to support the formation that was committed to left regroupment and this project. So there is a dynamic there -- a route that many comrades traverse . And, if you were to study the majority platform you'll see that the DSP is arguing that this is part of a journey towards a future mass Leninist party. If you want to check the wherewithall go re-read Lenin's What Is To Be Done?, with a  fresh mind. It's not about grabbing a  template from 1917 and saying thats' it! That's the formula! All we need do is tick the boxes.

You conclude:But in the absence of real and significant working class forces such "halfway house" ventures seem altogether pointless.
And I can relate to your point if view. (And the DSP minority  more so!) Because thats' the preferred put down.

But in effect it's a pretty meaningless statement for  Bolsheviks to make. Here's a few parallel examples:

But in the absence of real and significant working class forces such  ventures as the anti war movement seem altogether pointless.
But in the absence of real and significant working class forces such  ventures as building marxist cadre parties  seem altogether pointless.
But in the absence of real and significant Maori working class forces such  ventures as struggling over issues of indigenous rights seem altogether pointless....etc.

In my experience with the small affiliate Marxist left in the SA I've learnt one thing: there is never going to be a threshold that will satisfy them. If its not membership numbers, its votes on polling day or some other reason why the exercise is pointless.

So what constitutes "real" "working class" forces and if they were indeed in motion to where would they locate themselves?

Again re-read the majority platform as it covers this point very clearly in regard to the militant current in Victoria and the SA's competitive edge vis a vis The Greens.

Here we're stuck with the working class we've got and at some point you have to read the line of march that seems to be developing and risk your future on the potential you consider is unfolding.That takes guts and a bold approach to politics.  Many will relent but the DSP has the option this January to re-affirm its course.

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