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DSP makes major turn towards building the Socialist Alliance

The Democratic Socialist Perspective decided at its June National Committee meeting to make a major turn towards building the Socialist Alliance. .

As Peter Boyle said when he delivered the report to the gathering:
We’ve been held back for far too long already, first, by the hesitations of former Socialist Alliance affiliates and then by the former minority in the DSP. It was the responsible thing to take some time to deal with the destructive factional split in the DSP but that is behind us now and it is time we moved forward to build the Socialist Alliance as a bigger, more influential and more working class-based socialist organisation, than any currently in existence in Australia.
Important opening for the left in Australia
After exploring the current political context Boyle then reviewed the history of the Socialist Alliance and the DSP's engagement with it:

The unprecedented unity of these left groups,[within the Socialist Alliance] which until then had spent lots of energy criticising each other, made a significant impact on the much broader layer of left activists who had not joined any of the pre-existing socialist groups. Hundreds of them joined the Socialist Alliance, quickly becoming the majority of its members. Among those who joined were a number of militant trade unionists – shop-floor delegates as well as a few elected leaders of militant unions, some leading indigenous activists, activists from other social movements and some left-wing intellectuals.

This was an important opening for the left in Australia, which was (and remains) small and relatively isolated in the labour movement. Would the left seize this as a chance to build a multi-tendency socialist party with a significant connection to the labour movement and other key social movements? This was clearly the wish of the large majority of Alliance members who were not members of any of the founding affiliate groups, and the DSP agreed with them. However, all the other affiliated revolutionary socialist groups disagreed. Each thought their own “correct” programs would be liquidated if they built the Alliance as our common party. They could conceive of the Alliance only as a site for their “real” revolutionary parties to intervene in or, at best, as a “united front of a special kind”.

This view is sectarian because it spurned a chance to unite politically with a broader layer of left leadership in the movements. We have learned to treat the question of left unity seriously and not to play with it. Those who play with unity always pay a political price.

By the Socialist Alliance’s May 2005 national conference, it was clear that all the other revolutionary groups affiliated to the Alliance were opposed to taking the Alliance forward. At most, they were willing to participate in the Alliance as a loose electoral front in which a minority retained veto powers by right of their group affiliate status. They began to pull back even the relatively modest resources they had put into the Alliance. By 2007, all the founding affiliates aside from the DSP and Resistance had formally left the Alliance.

The unwillingness of the other affiliates to really build the Socialist Alliance added to the cost on the DSP of keeping the project going – and made it harder for us to see how to move forward.

The DSP then underwent a protracted three-year-long internal faction fight, which took significant energy away from building the Socialist Alliance, Resistance and the DSP. Basically this faction fight was an expression in the DSP of the same sectarian political response of the departing Socialist Alliance affiliates.

But through all this the majority of the non-affiliate group membership of the Socialist Alliance continued to see the Alliance as their party. This resilience of Socialist Alliance is extremely valuable especially in the context of the Australian political landscape (in which it has most often been hard work to recruit and retain serious socialist activists). It is a strong reason why DSP members now need to focus on building the Socialist Alliance as our new party.
The SA today

He then summarized the state of the SA today:

Each one of the small socialist groups outside the Socialist Alliance say they'll be in a new left party if what is on offer is a new mass party. Indeed, they'd be in such a party even if its politics was reformist or liberal. The Socialist Alliance is not a mass party, but it is an opportunity to regroup the willing left around a developing class struggle program. It is already the biggest and most influential socialist organisation in Australia and it continues to regroup the left. Non-DSP members remain a majority of the paid up membership of the Socialist Alliance. So it is a party significantly bigger than the DSP or any other socialist left organisation in Australia today. And with the total efforts of our comrades going into building it, the Socialist Alliance can be even bigger than it is today.
The National Committee meeting unanimously decided that the DSP:
  1. Elects an NE charged with the tasks of investigating and preparing a plan for the merger of the DSP into the Socialist Alliance and to lead a discussion with Socialist Alliance about such a prospective merger.
  2. Opens written and oral pre-Congress discussion from the plenum (ie: national committee meeting).
  3. All DSP branches and districts should attempt to organise as much of their work as possible in the period leading up to the Congress (in January 2010) through the Socialist Alliance branches, districts and caucuses/committees.In this time, the DSP branches and/or districts should meet as needed to facilitate this shift and organise pre-Congress discussion and other preparations for the Congress.
  4. We cease producing the DSP national newsletter and offer to transfer that effort into producing a Socialist Alliance national newsletter.
  5. The DSP NC in October 2009 should re-assess these arrangements and make proposals for the Congress.
Boyle then concluded:
These measures will leave the January 2010 Congress with the full option of altering or reversing these perspectives. It also reserves to the Congress the question of what form, if any, the DSP should continue to take after that Congress. The October National Committee plenum should make proposals on these matters.
Read the full report: Party-building perspectives report (June 2009 National Committee plenum) delivered by Peter Boyle on behalf of the DSP National Executive and adopted unanimously by the DSP National Committee (NC) on June 7.

1 Com:

Dave Riley | July 02, 2009

And those discussions held among DSP SA members, SA members and others have been rather interesting if my own experience is any judge.

I think the NC report lays out the format in a straightforward manner while allowing plenty of room for adjustment. But primarily what is projected is an open democratic process of engagement and experimentation.

Early indicators are that motion is kicking in and I think one locality has doubled its SA membership this year already primary due to the sort of changes promoted in the report.

As the report notes, the DSP from 2005 to 2008" underwent a protracted
three-year-long internal faction fight, which took significant energy away from building the Socialist Alliance, Resistance and the DSP. Basically this faction
fight was an expression in the DSP of the same sectarian political response of the departing Socialist Alliance affiliates.

"But through all this the majority of the non-affiliate group membership of the Socialist Alliance continued to see the Alliance as their party. This resilience of Socialist Alliance is extremely valuable especially in the context of the Australian political landscape (in which it has most often been hard work to
recruit and retain serious socialist activists). It is a strong reason why DSP
members now need to focus on building the Socialist Alliance as our new party."

This salient fact -- this loyalty to the project DESPITE, I add, what abuse has been thrown at it by the rest of the socialist left AND the rather shallow political buoyancy we've had to deal with AND, of course, the exit of the
registered socialist outfits -- cannot be discounted no matter which way you try
to call it.

Now, the ball is very definitely in the DSP's court in terms of its ongoing perspective and commitment to the Alliance and, I guess, helping to deliver more
from the SA package than what has been on offer for some time.

I don't mean to exaggerate where we all may be at or especially where the SA may be located, but just this last week alone the Socialist Alliance has hosted two meetings in Brisbane. One of 30, mainly Tamil activists ( in a community of
less than 3,000)-- and another of 70 around the Privatization of public assets.

No one else can do that because no other outfit has that sort of alliance building perspective.We do take our partnerships seriously.

And that's the point that needs to be tested aggressively in the Australian context: how far can we go NOW to regroup activists together -- either within
the Alliance itself and around a sharply defined struggle alignment which we help to foster?

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