Boyleite Third Period abuse combined with
By Bob Gould
backward Popular Frontism: a poisonous mix
An argument has erupted on the Green
Left Weekly discussion list about the Howard government's use of
short-term work visas to exploit guest workers and to undermine
existing wages and conditions in Australia.
This is a very serious question that should not be made a crude
factional football. It should be discussed carefully throughout the
whole labour movement. I disagree with the emotive way it was raised by
Marcus Strom, and handled by Norm Dixon a while ago concerning Kim
What's really required is a careful discussion throughout the labour
movement of all the conflicting working-class interests raised by this
issue. I'll write at more length on this matter soon.
Discussion of these questions, however, and Norm's waspish response to
a couple of new posters about the Socialist Party on the GLW list, throws into bold relief
another aspect of the Geelong Trades Hall Council document. This is the
combined Popular Frontist and Third Period tone of the Geelong
document, which is carefully designed to suit the Boyle DSP leadership
group's current political orientation. In replying to Marcus Strom,
Norm Dixon clearly indicates that the document was written by the DSP.
The document implicitly places an equals sign between the Labor-Greens
side of Australian electoral politics and the Tory side by addressing
all political parties with what is, in effect, a kind of maximum
program on industrial relations.
If anyone from the larger political parties were to respond to this,
the Greens would probably agree with about 85 per cent of it, the Labor
Party with about 80 per cent, the odd wet Liberal maybe 40 per cent,
and the dry Liberal majority none of it, but of course the Socialist
Alliance, which wrote the document, would agree with 100 per cent, and
so would the Socialist Party, probably. This would open the way, in the
minds of the DSP leadership, who designed the document, living in the
political cloud cuckoo land that they inhabit, to try to induce the
Geelong Trades Hall Council to call for a vote for the Socialist
Alliance in future elections.
The real world of the labour movement will in due course settle that
particular Boyleite fantasy. The more dangerous aspect of the documents
is the equals sign it places between the Labor-Green side of politics
and the Tory side.
At its most Popular Frontist moments, and in organisations such as the
NSW Teachers Federation in past times, when teachers were less
radical than they are now, the old Communist Party used to get the
Teachers Federation to present equally non-class Popular Frontist kinds
of propositions to the political world at large. However, the CPA in
its better and less Stalinist moments had a rather different approach,
exemplified in the slogan in many elections: “Kick the Liberals out.
Put the Liberals last.”
It's ironic that there is a widespread discussion in the Greens right
now and the more leftist Greens all over the country are arguing for
exactly that correct slogan against some more conservative Greens who
tend to elevate hostility to the Labor Party as the prime current
political question. These conservative Greens are uneasy about the
Greens vigorously taking up opposition to the industrial policies of
the Howard government, as they argue that industrial relations is a
Labor issue. On this point the views of the conservative Greens receive
some reinforcement from self-appointed theoretical advisers such as
David McKnight and Clive Hamilton.
Discussion of these matters is clearly vital in the run-up to the next
federal elections, and the Popular Frontism in the Geelong document is
dangerous to the immediate interests of the working class, which are
embodied in the main necessary electoral demand of the labour movement:
“Throw the Liberals out. Put the Liberals last.”
When you superimpose on the question of the Popular Frontism in the
Geelong documents, Norm Dixon's unbridled Third Period rhetoric about
Unions NSW and the Blacktown protest on June 28, you get a poisonous,
opportunist mix indeed.
As I've established quite satisfactorily, the Boyle leadership has been
trying to talk down the great success of the Blacktown protest by
infantile playing with figures. Now Dixon says that Unions NSW was
dragged “kicking and screaming” into the protest, when in fact Unions
NSW was the main organiser and co-ordinator of the very successful
Dixon's ultraleft rhetoric gets madder by the second. He talks
recklessly about “Unions NSW apologists and Groupers” and in another
place “according to the big nobs and their lackeys” etc, etc.
The parallelism between Dixon's rhetoric and the reaction of the Tory
labour minister Andrews to the whole mobilisation is very striking.
Norm implies that the modest forces of the Socialist Alliance were the
main force in this “dragging” of Unions NSW into the protest. This is
Third Period fantasyland, again trying to establish to their own
satisfaction, in the minds of the Boyleites, their own significance.
This Boyleite rhetoric clearly has a function in the DSP's internal
debate, in which the Percy minority has a more realistic appraisal of
the current situation, which is demonstrated in the documents of the
May DSP national committee meeting, the key six of which the DSP
leadership should now publish to enlighten the socialist public about
The Socialist Party also has a schema about creating a new workers'
party, which seems to me rather metaphysical, strategically at this
time. At least the Socialist Party, however is realistic enough to
recognise in the editorial in the current issue of its paper that none
of the more militant union leaders are at all likely to support such a
venture at this time.
To throw more light on the Socialist Party's new workers' party
proposal, the SP should publish the results of its email poll, which is
mentioned by one of the posters on the GLW list.
Concerning the DSP, the combination of Geelong Popular Frontism and
Norm's NSW ultraleftism towards the big battalions of the unions in NSW
is bizarre and dangerous, and is no basis for a useful socialist