Let’s unite behind Green Left Weekly

Thursday, September 8, 2011

For many years we were regular contributors to Green Left Weekly and proud supporters of the paper. We’ve now decided to resume writing for GLW and we urge other former contributors to consider doing the same.

In May 2008, we and about 50 other former members of the Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP) launched the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) and the monthly paper Direct Action (DA) following a bitter internal dispute in the DSP that centred on the Socialist Alliance.

In August 2010, we and six other members of the Sydney branch of the RSP left the organisation as a group, having concluded that the RSP was not viable as a Marxist party because it lacks both a critical mass of activists and realistic possibilities for recruitment.

We were unable to establish enough of a readership and support base for DA to justify the effort that goes into the paper.

GLW, on the other hand, has established itself over the past two decades as a socialist publication with a relatively high profile, readership and support base.

It’s the only such publication that comes out weekly and its website is among the ten most visited Australian political websites.

It has to be recognised that GLW is a valuable institution for the left as a whole whether or not one agrees with the politics of the Socialist Alliance, the organisation that underpins GLW.

As socialists we disagree on many things, yet most of the content of a typical 24-page edition of GLW is stuff we probably all agree on, or largely agree on.



If space is made available to express a variety of viewpoints and facilitate constructive debate among those opposed to capitalism, GLW can be both Socialist Alliance’s paper and something more: a publication of, by and for the socialist movement as a whole.

We’re not members of the Socialist Alliance and we don’t intend to join. The Socialist Alliance isn’t the kind of party we want to build. Yet we recognise the value of GLW to all of us.

With the class struggle at such a low ebb in Australia it’s very difficult to build radical left parties. “The battle of ideas” in a more pure form than the traditional party/paper combination, and non-party forms of socialist collaboration, assume greater importance.

Radical left publications, especially those with an attractive online presence, can be one form of such collaboration.

GLW could be an institutional bridge of continuity between the small and splintered socialist movement and a new, future wave of anti-capitalist radicalisation in Australia precipitated by the unfolding of capitalism’s multiple systemic crises.

In a deep crisis of capitalist rule the need for revolutionary organisation would be posed as an objective necessity and real steps could be taken towards a mass revolutionary socialist party.

In the meantime, GLW could and should be more of a collaborative project in the inclusive spirit of the introduction on the paper’s website: “Green Left Weekly aims to provide a much-needed forum for discussion and debate about changing the world ... by sharing a wide range of views.”

From GLW issue 895

Comments

Perspective on polemics

I've been heartened by the generally positive reception to our article/statement, both via this discussion and privately. By the same token, some old habits are bound to be aroused by any twist in the tortuous plot of Australia's socialist left.

That our humble little statement can stir up some of the more nonsensical stuff is a sober reminder of the still immature sense of context and perspective infecting the movement. How easily we can turn into a school of Siamese fighting fish in a soup bowl.

Of course, I'm not dismissing the value of polemics, but we just need to be mindful of the circumstances and limits of it at any given time.

And right now, we cannot resolve the question of revolutionary organisation, no matter how much we spray back and forth. The key thing is to collaborate on our agreements while continuing an open dialog around significant differences (to the extent that it's useful at any point), without any stupidity about how much ground can/cannot be shifted given the nature of the present objective conditions.

As such, let's value what we do have -- GLW for one, but also anyone extending a spirit of principled collaboration.

Iggy Kim

Welcome

I think the approach by these comrades, which they have spelled out not just in the article but also the discussion in comments, is very positive one to be welcomed.

Marce for one, in his contributions under the article he co-authored with Iggy, has been very open about the reasons for the move and also the difference he and the other comrades he is working with have with the Socialist Alliance and its approach.

This is not surprising. Does anyone expect people to just throw out sincerely held beliefs?

What is positive is a willingness to collaborate where possible. This does not preclude ongoing discussion, debate or even further agreement as a result of practical experiences. The only way to test this out is to try and work together where possible in the course of the struggle.

I think it is a very positive example and everyone involved should be to take all the collaboration that is possible and see where this goes.

Those who went through the experience of a very intense faction fight for two-to-three years inside the DSP inevitably carry the baggage of that fight with them -- it was draining and painful for all involved.

But the past is the past. It can only be overcome through open collaboration in all areas it is possible to do is, without demanding more than is possible at this stage. Then we will see where it goes.

As an editor of Green Left, I sincerely welcome the offer of assistance. I can already see ways that Green Left will be a better tool for the left through this offer.

I am not going to demand more than it is possible for these comrades to agree on at this stage, recognising this might change in a positive or negative direction in the future, in order to take steps forward there are to be taken in the here and now.

Stuart Munckton,
Green Left co-editor.

A great boon to GL

So glad to hear we will be able to read more from Marce and Iggy. There is little enough in this pathetic political climate to be excited about... a quality, thoughtful, lively working class paper is a life saver. literally.

Karen Fletcher

My 2c worth

I am dedicated to the revolutionary party project so am a committed RSP member. Whatever political or tactical disagreements I may have with Marce Cameron and Iggy Kim I am continually inspired by their passionate and cerebral contributions to anti-capitalist struggles. I subscribe to Marce's blogspot translations and articles on Cuba and I read with keen interest his latest posts. I look to him as an authority on the Cuban revolution, not just historically, but particularly regarding its current struggles to reinvent itself.

I don't believe the left should unite around GLW as the point of a revolutionary paper is to build a revolutionary party. If its not doing that then all the web hits and brand recognition in the world will not advance the class struggle in any meaningful way. Key editorial staff behind DA were former editors of GLW and its predecessor DA. It was GLW's original aim to build a revolutionary party which contributed to its present reputation and recognition. Leninist-Cannonist strategies argue that if DA remains committed to revolutionary party-building it will have much greater authority and influence in future times than what either DA or GLW currently enjoy.

Having said that I have no problem with Marce and Iggy writing for GLW. I will not stop reading GLW just because it publishes articles by 'social chauvinists' (one incorrect characterisation of these comrades by 'anonymous' ) nor will I refuse to read Marce's articles because he calls for unity behind the organ of the Socialist Alliance (ex-DSP majority).

(Like many others on the left I am dismayed by the bile and invective that characterises radical political 'discussion'. I think comrades should develop either a sense of proportion or at least a modicum of humour but hey that's just my opinion...)

I won't post my name because of security issues. But I am a female socialist with a longstanding interest in the Labour Party of Pakistan and Pakistani politics so ex-DSP members (both those in and out of SA and RSP) can guess who I am. I express my personal views here only.

Get a grip!

There's more Marxism in a month of GLWs that there is of any other newspaper in this country in a year. Articles by John Bellamy Foster, Ian Angus, Derek Wall, and Marxists in and outside of the Socialist Alliance, articles from the US Socialist Worker ... I could go on.

We might not have the newspaper or the party that we would ideally like, but GLW and the Socialist Alliance are the closest things in this country.

What's most important is that they don't prevent "Marxists" from participating and putting forward their ideas and activity, and -- as this thread indicates -- postively encourage it.

What the former and current RSP members don't seem to get is that, by not involving themselves in the Socialist Alliance, they are cutting themselves off from the largest group of organised socialists in Australia (many who are Marxists).

Marce and Iggy's arguments in favour of GLW apply equally to Socialist Alliance. That's why there's howls of "traitor" directed towards them, coming from some in the RSP.

Marxists don't organise as secret societies or as saintly sects whose canon cannot be sullied by the real world. They get down and dirty with the organised left and prove their worth. Just ask ol' Karl!

Red Rod.

No, they dont

No, these arguments in favour of our approach of contributing to GLW don't apply equally to SA. If that were the case then I would consider joining SA.

As for SA being the largest socialist organisation in Australia, Socialist Alternative are of comparable size and they're more youthful in composition. They also don't hide their revolutionary politics as much as the revolutionaries in SA, though they have a fatal flaw: they're hostile to the living socialist revolutions.

Why doesn't SA just put aside its "petty" differences with Socialist Alternative and join them? That's where the youth are. Why not "get down and dirty" with Socialist Alternative? How can you justify your separate existence, isn't that sectarian?

Or: why not fuse the the Greens? They have parliamentarians and resources that the socialist organisations lack. By not involving yourself in the Greens, you're cutting yourself off from all this.

Marce Cameron

Socialist Alternative is a

Socialist Alternative is a sectarian cult that chews up and spits out all it's youthful members within a few months or years. They mostly recruit bright but middle class kids with no life experience to know better. The rest of the left needs to get it's shit together and start picking up these kids before SAlt (or any other sects like the RSP or frankly like SA in some of it's branches) puts them off socialism for ever.

Socialist Alternative

"Anonymous" says Socialist Alternative is a "sectarian cult" I agree SAlt is sectarian, but to see only this aspect is one-sided.

SAlt's sectarianism is reflected in practices such as misrepresenting the views of others on the left in order to portray them in a bad light (e.g. as "Stalinist").

However this does not explain SAlt's growth. They build movements such as those for same-sex marriage, refugee rights, and Palestine solidarity, particularly on campus, and recruit students as a result.

Are they so sectarian it is impossible to contemplate unity with them? I don't want to pre-judge this. Surprising things can happen. In the meantime, we should work together whether possible.

Chris Slee

Talk to them too

I think it should also be possible to talk to SAlt too, or at least some of their members. It would be useful to get non-trivial and thought out versions of what they think "Stalinism" is, for example.

It's true that it gets used as a sectarian jibe, but what do they mean by it? We have to presume they actually believe it, so we can insist on them explaining what they mean in a serious fashion.

That means two things. First, we need to not be fobbed off. They need to take the time to think about what they are saying. Their more thoughtful members should have not problem with that.

Secondly, we have to listen to them, and take what they are saying seriously. This is the hard part. We can't expect them to take us seriously unless we take them seriously - and that means thinking about what they are saying. It's horribly easy to dismiss what people say if we think we already know what they are saying and that it's nonsense.

Of course, learning to listen is useful in all kinds of other ways too.

SA should get down and dirty with all genuine socialists

In Melbourne Socialist Alliance has indicated to SAlt that our relatively few differences could be worked through with greater collaboration and a sense of proportion around what actually divides us.

Such division -- and the lack of comradely relations -- does divide and weaken the genuine socialist left. And if possible, we should try to put aside our differences and work together wherever we can, without ruling out future developments in left unity.

I hope the former RSP comrades take the same approach as things develop.

Of course, the Greens are a different matter, as they are not a socialist organisation, but SA and GLW do have very good working relations with sections of the left Greens.

All Bob J. Turner's comment reveals is that some on left continue to be incapable of addressing what is actually said.

Red Rod

the largest group of organised socialists in Australia?!

Really Red Rod, the Socialist Alliance `is the largest group of organised socialists in Australia'?!

That's an extraordinary claim to make ... maybe you should do a head count at the next demo. Or do you mean paper membership?

From my recollection of recent history, none of the SA organised conferences have come close to the attendence of the Marxism conferences organised by Socialist Alternative. Not by a country mile.

Geez Rod, the puffery of your comment lends itself to paraphrase the earlier post by Peter Boyle:

'Moreover, when you think you are the largest, the tendency is to collect the windbags and to substitute for the fact that you have no real mass weight, with a certain arrogant posing: to talk about your claims to continuity with Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky — as though you could inherit a program instead of forging one in life, in the class struggle itself...''

I really like the original post by Peter, the quote from Jim Percy. I knew Jim a little and learnt a lot from him. It seems that Peter and his erstwhile former DSP comrades in SA knew Jim a lot but learnt little. That's a shame. To proclaim SA as the be-all or even the step towards the party needed to overthrow capitalism is a gross overestimation. It is the hard and inescapable lesson of struggle that will bring this to light, not proclomations by SA or any left oufit.

Bob J Turner

Sorry Socialist Alternative,

Sorry Socialist Alternative, but the Hari Krishna's and Scientologists still have much bigger memberships than you.

The problem here is Trotskyism not Stalinism

'Moreover, when you are small you have a tendency to collect the windbags and to substitute for the fact that you have no real mass weight, with a certain arrogant posing: to talk about your claims to continuity with Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Trotsky — as though you could inherit a program instead of forging one in life, in the class struggle itself. And then this written program is elevated above everything else, because if you’ve got nothing — you’ve got no mass press, you’ve got no trade union implantation, you’ve got very few cadres, you don’t have a functioning team — at least you have “the program”. Remember all the sayings we were brought up on: The program will conquer the party; the program will conquer all these things.'

Jim Percy, "Trotskyism and the Socialist Workers Party" (1984)

We're all isolated

Just catching up on the discussion so haven't seen where the references to Stalinism and Trotskyism came from, but I think that in the current climate, both are extremely silly.

Socialists (in Australia and other countries with similar political climates) who operate outside of the USSR-led parties haven't had the same recent experiences of being marginalised from radical struggle for a long time, because that dominance by said parties dwindled decades ago, as they folded or became more nakedly pro-capitalist. So analogies to the isolation of Trotskyist-influenced socialist groups in the mid-20th century (and its impacts) are misleading if overused. Of course, all our groups had their origins in a time when those dynamics were real, and we have indeed inherited political positions from that - some of us have modified them considerably since. But we don't have a situation where any Trotskyist groups are marginalised (via exclusion by other radicals) from progressive struggle and are hence caught up in sectarianism because of that. Socialists of all stripes continue to play a vital role in various progressive campaigns.

I think it's probably truer to say that with the working class in a fairly low state of radicalism and organisation, all socialists have a marginal influence on the working class right now (not because we're not involved in the struggle the workers need, but because most workers aren't). All our groups are small and we are all impacted by the low levels of radicalisation. Calling particular groups arrogant for being unabashed about the ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin won't help. And one can't separate the aim to realise those ideas from questions of cadre, team-building, press etc. You can't have those things without a marxist program. Which is getting into a larger discussion (but it's certainly true to say Jim wasn't calling for Marxist ideas and a marxist program to be deprioritised). I just wanted to get us back to the current situation so we stay grounded.

Virginia

stalinism

Socalist Alliance is no risk of becoming Stalinist. we know for experiences with the cpa how were pro soviet about the beaucratic nature of soviet union and the way that the cpa conducted its internal affairs is way different form democratic manner in which dsp was run, which allowed rank and file of party to vote on any policies did allow right to object and propose any policies. It was not top down. Socialist should not throw the word stalinism around willy nilly as some parties do. They are wrong in their analysis of cuba and venezuela.

There is no risk of socialist alliance becoming stalinist because we allow the right to all rank and file members. For example, Libya. We had many different opinions about NATO's intervention, with majority opposing the bombing of Libya. Stalinism would see those who object to policies reprimanded, which is in democratic.

by sam bullock brisbande

Stalinism is political, not organisational

Sam Bullock misses the key point about Stalinism - it does not refer to a particular organisational form, but rather is a description of a particular political approach, whose key feature, compared to Trotskyism, is the downgrading of the role of the working class in its own emancipation.

The anti-stalinist Socialist

The anti-stalinist Socialist ALternative are pretty stalinist organisationally. They are opportunist and they are bureaucratic with no free thinking mind. They are the most arrogant socialists on the left, now what kind of socialist would be like that? a counter revolutionary that is who.

Unity. What a dangerous idea.

The idea that leftists who have a few differences with each other could work together on broad agreements is dangerous.

I mean, how will the ruling class ever be able to keep the socialist left an irrelevant fringe group if the groups work together? That Karl Marx was the worst of the lot when he popularised the slogan "workers of the world unite"!

OK, end sarcasm. Great news, it's always been sad that the other various groups have sought to denigrate GLW as "just the SA/DSP" when it has such potential to get the word out about our struggles for a better society and discuss the way forward. Holy, hell, struggles? Going forward? What about elaborating our programmatic differences? Can't the struggle wait? (I can't help sinking back into sarcasm again!)

(Sarcasm put aside again) However conditional the unity embodied in GLW, this is great news, good on you comrades and looking forward to whatever level of collaboration we end up with.

BCC

How much agreement?

I hate to say this but how much agreement is warranted before you sign up to any project? Only fools and infantiles insist on an absolute 100 percent. So the point has to come back to the old political stand-by of "line of march" . And the fact is that the SA and GLW on are on the same journey and I find it disingenuous on Marce and Iggy's part to consciously try to separate the two.

Th neither came down in the last shower.

But of course there can be a difference between IDEAS as expressed in the pages of GLW and the sort of ORGANISATION that is built. I give you that. But to not recognise that there is some relationship between the two is unfair.

We're not fools and 100s on the left recognise that there is something happening between what the SA does and strives for day to day and what is published in the pages of GLW.

But to say " However the question of how much agreement is necessary is ultimately up to individuals..." is simply to pander to subjective apolitical double think. Tens of thousands sign onto the ALP despite that fact that they agree with only a smiggin of what it does. Millions are trade union members even though their unions do fuck all for them.

At some point you have to step back from what's "ultimately up to individuals" and make a decision about what is needed and with whom you seek to align. Not in a boutique customized way -- but with a decision that makes historical sense. And playing up to separate subjective preferences is a massive undermining of what we collectively need to do.

In Australian politics at the present time the options are straight forward: go with Labor, the Coalition, the Greens...or...and that's the rub. How can the less than 50 members of the RSP address this conundrum or even the 6 who left that organisation?

How can even each one of the separate would be socisalist parties address this question?

But we are told that separatism for the sake of disagreement is right, just and warranted.(Adter all we value our individuality after all). Maybe grudges are involved ... but while this angsty business goes on our working class peers are faced with increasingly worse political options JUST SO OUR DIFFERENCES CAN BE SUSTAINED.

Grudges?

We hold no grudges towards anyone. However, we do have political differences on the question of SA. Despite these differences we believe collaboration around GLW is both possible and necessary.

Marce Cameron

Political differences?

Of course we all have political difference with anything we do any one day of the year. Nothing I ever do is what I want it to be. Everything is a disappointment...but I still negotiate through this and club together a political journey that I may think makes the best of what is to hand.

That's life on the left.We have to get used to it as we strive to remake the modus operandi.Thats' what folk like Lenin did.

While Marx and his mate talked about a socialism that was Utopian AND scientific most far left politics (post Trotsky) is ruled by Utopianism as it's individual dynamic is ruled by niche hunting: seeking an outfit who suits personal political preferences...as though history and the imperatives of history matters not one iota.

But, in the beginning, it nonetheless took the disaster of the rise of Fascism in 1933 before Trotsky gave up on he Communist parties...

Everything is ruled by 'last hesitation' thinking: I cannot join THEM because I have differences. This cannot be built now because I expected something much more to happen. I'm a socialist but I cannot sign up with any socialist party because I don't relate to any socialist party that exists...but the one I like is so small.

As for this aside about 'since you're big' I hate to say that's a very old excuse to stay small ..and irrelevant -- because what you mean is that you're right and the rest is wrong. But the complication is how do we know that is true? Because you are small, failed to grow,and are more read up than the rest ..so of course you're small and side lined but magnificently right? That supposedly justifies it. So what you do is focus on the differences between you and any larger activity as proof positive that you are right..a proof positive that justifies your smallness.

How can that logic work enough to be justified under an anti capitalist agenda?

On the other hand you could take the view that you can have confidence in the ability of any number of people to come together and create a viable political enterprise through a shared commitment to socialist transformation of society and en route work through any differences as they may occur.

Whats' wrong with that as a game plan? Because it isn't big enough yet? But just look at where your ruling from? IF it was at take off maybe you'd reconsider...But the fact is that even for the Greens the take off was a long time coming and they won that not because they were special but because historical circumstance(pre existing senators) and main party duplicity was so bad that such a come together ordained them as the primary alternative political option.

And today Greens members, including those who see themselves as socialist, have to sign onto a party that is enmeshed in neo-liberal cut backs and committed to the capitalist market.

The Greens are much more conservative than I expected them to become.As a political option for socialists I think they have failed miserably to deliver. So the question of what to do/what to form/where to go still hangs...To presume that you can then negotiate a future coming together without utilizing the unity vehicle that exists in the form of the Socialist Alliance borders on naivete.

If GLW is a major asset on the left then so too is the Socialist Alliance .

Against alliances?

It would be nice to have all the far left in one big happy family. There's valid points here. But this is also an attack on Marce et al for being "disingenuous" when they make a decision to work with other leftists. This is the old DSP approach in spades. You can work with us, it's imperative for the class in fact, but we're bigger so you have to do it on our terms. What a lot of crap. Didn't work in the past, it was an attitude that destabilised the Socialist Alliance while the DSP still existed as an affiliate, now apparently it's still being used to prevent people working together. Get over it.

Published on the authors' request

Just to clarify one thing: This article was published on the request of the authors, asthe authors and Green Left editors can confirm.

Confirmation

Yes, the commentary was published at our request. We decided to resume writing for GLW and we asked to be given space in the paper to offer an explanation to readers, some of whom may be interested. As well as an explanation we offer a suggestion for a way forward.

We make it clear in the commentary that we are not members of SA and we have no intention of joining, because SA is not the kind of party we want to build. We want to build a party that explicitly and consistently argues for the need for a socialist revolution in Australia, not a party that fudges the question of revolution in order to present itself as less radical and therefore more acceptable.

We want to build a party like the pre-2003 Democratic Socialist Party, but we were unable to persuade a majority of the DSP to adopt this course and the attempt of the expelled DSP minority to reestablish such a party through launching the Revolutionary Socialist Party has failed. Given this, we believe the most constructive contribution we can make to the future prospects for a mass revolutionary socialist party in Australia is to unite behind Green Left Weekly, to contribute to the paper and help ensure its viability in these rather bleak times for revolutionary party-building.

We see no reason why GLW cannot be a more collaborative project if there is goodwill on both sides, despite the differences on SA. The fact that SA and the GLW editors decided to publish our commentary and that the editors have welcomed our offer to resume writing for the paper means that a door has been opened to such collaboration. That can only be a good thing for GLW and for the socialist movement as a whole.

Our contribution to GLW won't be to promote SA or its politics. SA members already do that and will continue to do so whether or not we contribute to GLW. What we'll be contributing to is GLW as an institution that is both SA's paper but also something more. To do as we're suggesting nobody need abandon their views on SA nor cease contributing to other socialist publications.

How many times have we submitted articles to trade union journals when we don't agree with the approach of the union leadership? In such cases the political divergence is far greater and more irreconcilable. There's nothing unprincipled in our approach and it's the right thing to do in the circumstances.

Of course, we understand and accept that what is published in GLW is at the discretion of the SA-appointed editors. We're not asking for it to be otherwise and it would be silly to demand special consideration as a condition for collaboration. We'll be submitting our contributions to GLW just like anybody else.

Marce Cameron

anti-sectarianism

While I agree that the running and publicising of this article could be seen as churlish and sectarian, I do think that the intent of the statement written by Iggy and Marce, and possibly the other four comrades who left the RSP, was to indicate to people that despite their differences with SA that they thought the project of Green Left was inclusive and should be supported by socialist identifying individuals and groups as a mechanism through which to build the left in Australia.
Supporting Green Left should not require 100% percent of its content, just like being in an organisation should and cannot be based on 100% agreement with its program and actions (such a requirement can only lead to sectarian dead ends). However the question of how much agreement is necessary is ultimately up to individuals.

While i have had my disagreements with both Marce and Iggy in the past I do think that their attitude towards Green Left (irrespective what you think of Green Left or Socialist Alliance, or how much you may or may not agree with them) is a healthy non-sectarian one which is needed now more than ever on the Australian left if we are to overcome the setbacks and retreats of the past decades.

What is this?

Ok so I'm also not a member of SA, and I also still like Green Left. But what is the point of this article (aside from a dig at the RSP)? So some people left a political party, formed another one, then left it, and now they say they support the paper of the original party. You could have put something interesting in this space...

And Marce and co, get an imagination ffs! Go try something new. Then we might be able to move on an stop having the same arguments over and over again.

The last comment is

The last comment is disingenuous. There us no contradiction in Marce, Iggy and any other people wanting to collaborate with Green Left but not wanting to participate in the Socialist Alliance, while the two are linked they are separate entities. It is possible that this experience of collaboration may change their minds re SA, or alternatively it could reinforce the reasons that they do not want to be in SA.

By questioning their reasoning in the way above it actually suggests that SA is not open and inclusive as it poses collaboration as being based on willingness to join SA, rather than welcoming any collaboration as a postitive in and of itself.

Any collaboration welcome

I welcome this any such collaboration. The movement for socialism can only move forward if more in the left abandon the unhealthy and self-destructive tradition of demanding agreement on more than is necessary to work together and move forward. We need to work together around what we can agree now and then, later, on the basis of the experience of working together, come to greater agreement and forge deeper unity.

At this stage Green Left Weekly is 90% of our political work and therefore agreeing to support Green Left Weekly could be said to be 90% agreement, though in fact it is more.

Peter Boyle

demanding agreement?

Your kidding aren't you.

Let's not let a little disagreement about a fundamental issue in world politics get in the way of "collaboration"! I mean c'mon: support for the NATO attacks is not just a tactical quibble! As the other post says: why not involve supporters of the Iraq invasion?

Isn't it better to follow Marce and Iggy's example?

I'm sorry to introduce a reality check but the party that is needed is in fact one that is "open, accountable and democratic" not one that you have to agree with 100 percent (nor with a paper which you may not be able to relate to unless you can agree with 100 percent of its content).

Look there are other excellent journals on the far left -- no question about that -- but the fact is (and here's another reality check) they all more or less say the very same thing issue by issue varying only occasionally from one another in their POV. Of course they pretend that they are different but place them side by side article by article and the difference is not significant enough to warrant that there by x number of journals rather than one presenting the richness of the socialist analysis and perspective. And of course, GLW is not the party paper of the Socialist Alliance much as some folk want to rule that way. It supports the SA, carries SA stuff, the SA has a major say over its content -- but it still can function as Marce and Iggy point out (and underline) as a paper that is open to a larger reach out than the SA membership and its supporters.

And the fact is no matter how good a journal may be it still is only going to be as useful only as the scale of its readership. In that regard -- and here's another reality check -- GLW's readership and support base outstrips all the others combined. Direct Action may indeed be the best thing on the left as far as we may know -- but unless it is being read so that these few differences in perspective can be independently asserted -- isn't it better to follow Marce and Iggy's example and sign on with Green Left?

building unity

Re the previous two comments - I'm unable to grasp the logic of distributing something which argues a basic political direction with which I disagree, simply because its readership is larger than Direct Action's. And DA certainly is read, despite not having built up the readership GLW has been able to over decades.

Re Peter's criticism of those "in the left [who won't] abandon the unhealthy and self-destructive tradition of demanding agreement on more than is necessary to work together and move forward" - funny, I could have sworn I was expelled from the DSP precisely because of disagreeing not with the DSP's Program (increasingly, the majority were disagreeing with it), but because I was in a minority whose politics were disagreed with by the majority.

But if, as Peter says, "At this stage Green Left Weekly is 90% of our political work" (meaning SA), then my disagreement with GLW's political approach surely does constitute a significant overall disagreement with SA.

It really isn't healthy to approach building left unity by implying it's best achieved by everyone joining our party. (And that will be especially ineffective with those who've had the history with that which I have.) Nor by overlooking the best way to achieve unity amongst socialists right now, by collaborating in the various left campaigns in which many socialists are in fact working closely. In my experience, more positively, and with more trust, following discussions over what went wrong in the SA experiment. Many of us found that the contradictions imposed by pretending SA was more real than it could be, was a real impediment to socialist unity.

Virginia

I prefer Direct Action :-)

Some of us *may* indeed think that the SA is "a much-needed forum for discussion and debate about changing the world ... by sharing a wide range of views”, or might also think GLW fulfils that purpose.

But speaking as someone whose views were very clearly unwelcomed from both, I have to say that nice as that *sounds*, wanting something to be the case doesn't mean it is.

A year or two ago I tried to use GLW to engage in serious debate about the change in the political nature of the views on domestic violence being put forward. Despite the fact that during the '90s, GLW used regularly to host debates in its pages on various issues, I was unable to do so. I was told that my only recourse was to submit a very short piece to the letters page (the word limit I was given was shorter than some articles by SA members in the letters pages of around that time). However, it was odd since despite my attempting several times to submit pieces on this issue, it seems they weren't received. [See http://directaction.org.au/issue17/domestic_violence for a letter on this issue I sent to my party's paper, Direct Action, instead.]

Re SA, as soon as the DSP had expelled its dissident minority in early 2008, I found that I had been removed from SA's notification list of its events. Mind you, by that stage, Perth SA meetings (especially of the decision-making kind) had pretty much dried up.

But our experience of the decisions being made (in the DSP and now SA) is that they were made with regard to what we thought many inactive SA members (or people who we'd like to have been SA members) *might* want, or anyway were increasingly influenced by an increasingly inactive membership, and by many of the real decisions increasingly being made behind the scenes. And by the fact that members of the DSP were losing their political confidence to support Marxist politics due to acting as the non-revolutionary partners we'd hoped to find in SA, with this causing many decisions to be affected by hopes for quick short-cuts. With the DSP now dissolved into SA, I can't imagine that that problem wouldn't have increased.

I can't agree that I have sufficient agreement with the contents of GLW for it to be worth my while distributing it. I haven't seen any signs that the political decline in GLW over the past 6 or so years has been substantially turned back. That's not to say I disagree with all its content, of course; it would be odd for socialists never to agree, and I've certainly enjoyed some recent real-time discussions with SA members. I've noticed some of the more recent coverage on porn is pretty sharp. I'm glad of that, but still I feel life is too short to be spent distributing political propaganda which argues for an approach to struggle with which one disagrees. A paper that was genuinely a forum for socialist debate about the way forwards might well be a different matter (depending on various factors such as alternatives, who's involved etc), but we're not discussing that.

Virginia Brown

Beside the point

I might say I prefer Direct Action too. But that’s beside the point. Hardly anyone other than RSP members read Direct Action. It can be as revolutionary as it likes; but if that message is not reaching anyone, what does it matter?

Further, Virginia writes, “I'm unable to grasp the logic of distributing something which argues a basic political direction with which I disagree, simply because its readership is larger than Direct Action's.”

But Marce and Iggy’s proposal makes no mention of distribution. The point is writing, being heard, getting out the revolutionary message. And that can’t be done with DA. Direct Action is hardly sold, hardly read, comes out just once a month in print format, sometimes goes months at a time without having its web presence updated, and elicits zero feedback. It amounts to a great pile of paper on an office floor.

On the other hand, Green Left is a weekly, has an established long-term readership, has an increasingly relevant web presence, and as this very debate attests, generates feedback on its content. Like it or not, it is an institution on the Australian left.

Owen Richards

what this means

Ok, well of course a monthly only comes out once a month, and DA's hard-copy sales have, as I said, not managed to approach anywhere near GLW's built-up audience, we could certainly fix them up a lot. It is also read online, and while I don't think it's ever gone "months" without being updated with new articles, we've sped that up more lately.

But I'm left to repeat my earlier point “I'm unable to grasp the logic of distributing something which argues a basic political direction with which I disagree, simply because its readership is larger than Direct Action's.” Still don't get it.

Nor do I understand being urged to write for and distribute (by some) a paper which I've already explained has refused content for me without explanation, but apparently because the GLW editors or SA leadership didn't like my challenging of its economistic retreat from a formerly marxist analysis of domestic violence. Especially since I haven't seen any SA leaders explain that this situation would change.
http://directaction.org.au/issue8/letters and
http://directaction.org.au/issue17/domestic_violence

I take it Owen isn't disagreeing with the other criticisms of GLW taken up in Direct Action, but simply believes GLW is now open to marxist articles. I am curious as to whether this offer is extended to all, or whether ex-RSP members are more welcome contributors. Since Marce himself indicated he doesn't think GLW should be obliged to take any article, I'm quite unclear on the basis on which he is urging us to support it.

It seems rather contradictory to maintain that those who've tried to get revolutionary content in GLW and failed, should still get behind GLW to "get out the revolutionary message".

And I don't see the point in trying to pursue unity via a paper supporting a failed socialist unity project that's not marxist and seems to have no immediate prospects of becoming more so, nor of becoming a more real unity project. (And even if all ex-DSP members joined it - which I know is not at all what Marce and Iggy are proposing - that would not make it less of a mockery of a unity project.)

All in all, the more the article orients to those involved in other approaches, the less it seems to make sense to me.

Virginia

No sense of perspective

Virginia:
"...believes GLW is now open to marxist articles"
"...those who've tried to get revolutionary content in GLW and failed..."
"...a failed socialist unity project that's not marxist"

Translation: we're Marxists and you're not. Cos we said so. So there.

Basis for our suggestion

Iggy and I are urging other former contributor to resume writing for GLW on the basis that:

1. It has a profile, audience and support base that is relatively large compared to any other Australian socialist publication, something that has been built up over the past two decades.

2. It is the only weekly socialist publication, which means that it is able to house a greater range of contributions to analysis, discussion and debate than any of the other socialist publications.

3. GLW "aims to provide a much-needed forum for discussion and debate about changing the world" by "sharing a wide range of views".

This last point is important because the tiny, fragmented, dispersed and marginalised anti-capitalist left in Australia needs such a collaborative project if we are to wage the battle of ideas effectively, even if we disagree on some of these ideas and their organisational embodiment.

If you restrict yourself to writing for a publication that hardly anybody reads then you won't be making the most effective contribution you can to the socialist movement as a whole. I think the logic of this argument is compelling.

Virginia writes: "Marce himself indicated he doesn't think GLW should be obliged to take any article". Well, it would be hard to disagree with that. The Socialist Alliance has every right to decide the content of its paper, just as the RSP has the right to ban eight former members from writing for its paper on any issue because of the opinion expressed by two of them on Libya.

However, alongside this right SA and the GLW editors also have a responsibility to all of us, in our opinion, to ensure that point (3) above is implemented as far as is practicable in the circumstances. Those circumstances include, among other things, the willingness of people other than SA members to write for the paper. Hence our appeal for other former collaborators to resume writing for GLW.

What I said in my earlier contribution was that we're not asking for any special consideration as a condition for offering to resume writing for the paper because that would be silly. Whether GLW copy submissions by RSP members are more or less welcome than those of other people I have no idea. That's something only SA and the GLW editors can answer, and something that could be put to the test if RSP members were willing to resume writing for GLW as well as for Direct Action.

Marce Cameron

Distribution

True, our proposal doesn't specifically mention distribution. But it does say that we recognise GLW to be a valuable institution for the left as a whole because of its profile, audience and support base. As an institution, GLW it is not just dead trees and a website. It's also a network of people who write for the paper, produce it, promote it, distribute it and raise money for it. It follows that if we're going to support GLW as an institution we should not rule out helping to promote and distribute it.

I'm happy to promote and distribute a publication that I contribute to. Why not?

Giving money is a different question. As I understand it there is no financial separation between GLW and SA, and I don't want my money being spent on things like the glossy SA climate charter that could have been written by the Greens. "Challenging the capitalist market" is bullshit and most SA members know it. Our only hope lies not in challenging but abolishing the capitalist market and replacing it with a social order based on economy-wide, democratic planning with a subordinate role for market mechanisms. This can only happen through a social revolution, as in Cuba and Venezuela. That's the truth, so why not say so? Because you don't want SA to be too radical because you want lots of people to join it. In my opinion that approach is dead wrong. You can be non-sectarian, flexible, creative, whatever. But you have to tell the truth. Otherwise you end up tail-ending, rather than leading, the battle of ideas.

Marce Cameron.

challenging the capitalist market

Marce says: " "Challenging the capitalist market" is bullshit and most SA members know it. Our only hope lies not in challenging but abolishing the capitalist market and replacing it with a social order based on economy-wide, democratic planning with a subordinate role for market mechanisms. This can only happen through a social revolution, as in Cuba and Venezuela. "

But Venezuela has not "abolish[ed] the capitalist market". It has made some inroads into the capitalist market, by nationalising some enterprises and carrying out experiments in workers control. I would say that Venezuela is "challenging" the capitalist market through such measures. But it has not abolished the capitalist market. Much of the economy is still privately owned.

It is wrong to counterpose "challenging" to "abolishing". Challenging the capitalist market it potentially a step on the road to abolishing it. This is a transitional approach.

Chris Slee

The SA approach

It's true, Venezuela hasn't gone as far as Cuba in abolishing the capitalist market. But the conscious goal of the Bolivarian Revolution is the same: socialism. So why not use these societies as positive examples to emulate in SA's propaganda on climate change? Why leave it at the cryptic "challenging the capitalist market", which can have both reformist and revolutionary interpretations?

If SA is an anti-capitalist party why not be more explicit about its anti-capitalist objectives and how SA believes these objectives can be achieved, i.e. through a revolution? Then, use Cuba and Venezuela as examples of revolution so it's less abstract for people. This can be done in an intelligent way without coming across as lecturing people. It's only wrong to counterpose "challenging" to "abolishing" if you're trying to deliberately fudge the distinction between the two. Why not tell people what you actually think is necessary, what your party really stands for?

Revolutionaries masking themselves as reformists may be the SA approach, but it's not the "transitional approach" as advocated by Leon Trotsky. In any case, according to Peter Boyle the problem with the far left is Trotskyism. If you share his view then I'm not sure what relevance the transitional method has for SA., unless "transitional method" is a theoretical justification for what Lenin called bowing to spontaneity.

What a shame that thousands of copies of expensive glossy SA Climate Charter brochures made no mention of the Cuban and Venezuelan revolutions as inspiring examples of the kind of "climate change movement" we really need: a movement for the revolutionary transformation of capitalist society incorporating an ecological emergency plan. Instead, we read about scientific facts that are readily available elsewhere and an action program that is sheer utopianism unless it's part of an overall strategy directed against the core problem: state power in the hands of the capitalist class.

If SA's propaganda doesn't enlighten people about this fundamental obstacle to urgent action on climate change, if it doesn't help people glimpse beyond the ideological and programmatic prison-house of capitalist reformism, it's not going to be much help in building a movement for socialism.

Marce Cameron

Don't hook the environment question to shibboleths!

It would be a serious mistake for the SA to tie their environmental position to support for a capitalist oil rentier state and a tiny isolated state that ultimately will be forced to revert to capitalism. (Socialism in one country, remember?)

This is especially true since such support is not a requirement for SA membership - it is entirely possible for an SA member to hold a state capitalist position, for example.

trotskyism and transitional program

Marce says: "according to Peter Boyle the problem with the far left is Trotskyism. If you share his view then I'm not sure what relevance the transitional method has for SA..."

The tradition we come from in the old DSP was one that rejected "Trotskyism" as a specific current to be defined and limited by, but without seeking to throw out the positive legacies from Trotsky -- and this, especially, included the concept of the "transitional method".

Therefore I think it is wrong to suggest that because Peter says the problem is "Trotskyism", he therefore is saying the problem is the "transitional method" or that simply by rejecting "Trotskyism" that means you reject the transitional method.

Of course, how you apply that at any stage depends and judgments are made at what is a useful approach in any brochure, leaflet pamphlet etc. And that is what Marce disagrees with.

The one point I would make is that the Climate Charter was never the be all and end all of what we said on the climate crisis. We did also talk about Cuba and also Venezuela in a range of other places and ways that existed alongside the climate charter.

The charter was never the be all and end all of what we had to say -- it was just one document -- one four page brochure that could only say so much.

We helped tour Cuban permacultarist Roberto Perez, screened documentaries on Cuba's "green revolution", covered it in Green Left, among other things. Whatever was or was not in the climate charter was not all we were saying.

Stuart Munckton

Trotskyism etc.

Well, let's agree to disagree on the party question and get on with collaborating around Green Left Weekly.

Marce Cameron

Welcome involvement in Green Left

I think the second comment here is a bit churlish. We should welcome positive engagement with Green Left on its self-avowed basis that it isn't just a party paper, but a broad socialist paper. We should welcome that some talented socialists have chosen such engagement, which is a higher level of joint work than merely collaborating in this or that campaign, when too many drop out completely or restrict themselves to union or single issue work when left groups do not measure up to their standards. Socialist Alliance as it is is but one stage in the fight for a the party we need and we need to engage with others, including small groups and individuals, at the highest level we can. I look forward to Iggy, Marce and friends' articles.

Nick Fredman.

Unity with NATO

What's curiously missing in this article is the evolution of their politics after leaving the RSP: they came out in full support of the NATO bombing campaign in Libya.
DA had still being running articles by Marce until early 2011, but after his position on Libya was mistaken for that of the RSP the national committee decided not to run any more.
Well I guess we can all be for "unity". But when it comes to fundamental positions like to support or not support for imperialist intervention unity pretty much becomes impossible.
Given the blood of the Libyan people that is on their hands, I surprised anyone would touch them with a barge pole. It's a real reflection of the sorry state of the left in general and Green Left that this article is even running.
I'm glad these pro-imperialist turncoats have found a home. It makes the politics of Green Left even clearer...

It's called discussion ...

My understanding is that the RSP decided to not allow Marce to write on Cuba ... because of his position on Libya! Whatever the case, Marce's article on Libya (http://links.org.au/node/2247) was part of an ongoing discussion among leftists of many traditions, which was also hosted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal (http://links.org.au/taxonomy/term/222).
Such discussion is essential to the left as a whole coming up with a correct position. The idea that if one takes an unpopular or wrong postion on one issue, that condemns them to being wrong on every other issue, or worse, an "agent of imperialism" with "blood on their hands", is simply childish.
As editor of Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, I collaborated with Marce, as editor of the very useful "Cuba's Socialist Renewal" (http://cubasocialistrenewal.blogspot.com), for a number of months prior to the ex-RSP group's decision to work with GLW. I'd like to think that that collaboration helped pave the way for this small but important step forward in left unity.
Hopefully, others on the left can emulate Marce and Iggy's example.
Terry

Response to "Unity with NATO"

Anonymous says: "Well I guess we can all be for "unity". But when it comes to fundamental positions like to support or not support for imperialist intervention unity pretty much becomes impossible."

Normally this is the case, but there can be exceptions.

In 1999, the Democratic Socialist Party supported Australian troops being sent to East Timor to end the massacres and to ensure implementation of the referendum vote for independence. Most other left groups, including the International Socialist Organisation, were opposed to the sending of the troops.

Despite this difference, the DSP, ISO and other groups came together in 2001 to form Socialist Alliance.

This illustrates that differences of over such issues do not necessarily prevent groups from working together. (The ISO and other groups later left Socialist Alliance, but this was not due to the differences over East Timor)

Of course, the specifics of Australia's intervention in East Timor and NATO's intervention in Libya are very different. Each situation must be looked at on its merits.

I have argued against support for NATO's bombing of Libya (see for example http://links.org.au/node/2300#comment-107302). But this does not mean I am against any form of cooperation with those who take a different view. I welcome the decision of Marce, Iggy and others to write for Green Left.

Chris Slee

Brain-dead sectarianism

Well maybe we need to first sort out Marce and Iggy's trials at The Hague for the war crimes our friend here is happily accusing them of. We'd also better hold off saying anything positive or agreeing with anything put forward by Fidel and Chavez too, due to their quite awful support for the neo-liberal, racist butcher Ghaddafi.

By the way I'm being sarcastic.

Nick Fredman.

United in brain dead opportunism?

That's extraordinary Nick: you're willing to gloss over these people's support for imperialism! Pointing this out becomes "sectarian"!

"We'd also better hold off saying anything positive or agreeing with anything put forward by Fidel and Chavez too, due to their quite awful support for the neo-liberal, racist butcher Ghaddafi."

Actually I think they got it right, certainly better than most of the Western left. The opposition is even more neoliberal, more racist and more butchering. Just ask the migrant African population.And as for this nasty beast that you feel Ghadaffi was... why then did Libya have the highest human development index score for Africa?

It was always a conflict between imperialism and Ghaddafi and Fidel and Chavez rightly sided with latter.

I know who I would prefer to be "united" with and it's not the bombers.

May you share your grisly bed together...

Here, I entirely agree with

Here, I entirely agree with Nick Fredman.
Virginia

Bizarre

Virginia;

Marce and co.'s position on the NATO bombing is well known. It is not "bonehead sectarianism" to point this out and to query the motives of why GL would welcome the participation of the pro-imperialist left. As difficult as it is on a personal level: those are the political facts.