I announce the dissolution of the Red Eureka Tendency (RET), effective immediately. I also tender my resignation from the Socialist Alliance.
The struggle of the socialist movement in this country and internationally continues, as we all know it must. In this sense, the issues involved relate not to one tendency, or one party. It is rather about which is the best method to use when attempting to build socialism.
There are no socialists that I'm aware of who are not in favour of left unity as an abstract concept. Virtually all socialists want to help create a mass, revolutionary socialist workers party, of whatever formation. It is to the credit of SA that we have made unending attempts to unite the left over the last decade or so. But I maintain that we have misunderstood what left unity should entail, and the way we have pursued left unity has in my view led to a number of errors.
Left unity should mean a unity of socialists, a unity of those parties and individuals who agree with the program of Marxism. Rather than “left unity” what we need is Marxist unity — organisational unity of those who agree with and accept the need for a party based on Marxist-Leninism. A unity of socialists with social-democrats, Greens, anarchists, libertarians, environmental activists, progressive religiously based activists, trade unionists, etc., who only agree with socialists on some issues is appropriate for a united front, or a campaign group. But in my view this is not an appropriate base on which to form a party.
Our experience with attempting to form a party or alliance on a broad basis, one that does not require full agreement with a Marxist program, in my view has led to a situation where SA as a whole is not able to adopt positions which go beyond those of left social democracy. The broad left coalition can take its members as far as can be provided within the existing capitalist system, but it can go no further. It is the task of socialists to win people to Marxism, to win people to accept the need to build a Marxist vanguard party as the first step towards leading the workers in their historical task of overthrowing capitalism via the taking of state power. In my opinion, we are not able to do this if we are not building a Marxist party, or preparing for the building of a Marxist party.
For example we are unable to enact a key task of a Marxist party which is to defend those states created be the overthrow of capitalist rule. So while not having a specific line on the People's Republic of China (PRC), SA shows sympathy to the forces attempting to destroy the PRC workers' state such as the US funded right wing group Falun Gong, anti-communist dissidents like Han Dongfang, pro-Dalai Lama forces and so on. SA also fails to show any serious solidarity with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK). It is welcome that SA members are mostly pro-Cuba. However even in this case we do not make it a part of SA's policy, to take account of the broad left coalition tactic.
Socialism is connected to Marxism organically, theoretically, historically and practically. I don't believe that we can be socialists without being Marxists. If we believe that Marxism “needs to learn” from other theories, or that it is not the only theory of social change, or that it needs to be added to by other theories, then I don't believe we have a correct understanding of Marxism. Socialists are not Marxists because we fetishise the theory. Socialists accept Marxism because we accept a scientific and materialist understanding of both the organic and inorganic world. This does not mean that we do not study or engage with other theories — it simply means that we accept this theory until we are convinced that another theory is more correct scientifically. In my view in SA we elevate non-Marxist theories to an underserved place alongside, or above, Marxism, leading to an overall downgrading of Marxist theory and practice.
It is axiomatic that socialists must be involved in building social movements. It is a vital part of the practice that plays a large part of socialist political activity. Yet, socialists must also recognise that the politics of a social movement are often based on a single issue, the politics are half-formed and one-sided. In short, currently almost all movements are dominated by one or another form of liberal politics. Socialists take part in social movements to help movements win their immediate demands, but also to win participants, where possible, to socialism.
Socialists should also take part in social movements to help guide the movement towards a class-struggle, anti-capitalist direction. This may pose a split in the movement, for example some anti-union liberals involved in the refugee rights issue may object to pro-working class slogans being connected with the refugee rights struggle. However, linking the social movements to working class demands gives the greatest chance of winning organised working class support for the campaign which, alongside a strategy that places trust in the power of the masses and does not foster illusions in the capitalist state, is key to the movement actually winning its demands. Furthermore, by working to shape the politics of the movement in this way we ensure that the political consciousness of those who are influenced by the movement grows in key aspects of the socialist program — the centrality of the working class to the struggle for socialism, the need to oppose the capitalist state and so on. This in turn helps us to win activists in the movement to a full Marxist program.
In my view our approach to building movements presents an ongoing problem for SA. We are not building a Marxist party, nor building Marxist currents within a larger organisation. So we struggle to win people from the movements to socialism. As we have no Marxist party to join people to, we tend to overemphasise the politics and activity of the movements, as if they are politically more advanced than they actually are. I of course accept that Marxists can learn from all participants in a social movement, whether they are first timers or experienced in political activity. I also accept that sometimes the social movements can run ahead of where Marxist parties may be at a particular point in time. But the politics of social movements should not be placed above Marxism. In my view, in SA there is a strong inclination to do this, due to the fact that there is no vanguard party which we are building.
Marxists are of course not superior to any other participant in a social movement. Marxists have, however, accepted the only scientifically verified theory of social change humanity has yet discovered. This is one reason why socialists “intervene” in social movements. And if socialists intervene in social movements without the main agency of Marxist theory — a vanguard party — then socialists in the movements are just the same as any other participant. Going into a social movement without a Marxist party, a Marxist program or Marxist theory, in my view does not advance the struggle for socialism. And then we have to take into account the fact that not all social movements have progressive politics to start with. In my view, we in SA have to overemphasise the politics and activity of social movements so it appears to confirm our position that non-Marxist theories are the equivalent of, or better than, Marxism.
In recent years, our SA has oriented strongly towards the Australian Greens. We have adopted policy which states that we seek close political collaboration with the Greens. In my view, this is not what socialists should be doing. The middle class is a very varied section of society — some are very well off, and some are close to ruin, being crushed under the weight of big capital. But until the working class shows it is capable of becoming the ruling class, the middle classes generally accept the capitalist system, even while it's poorer or more economically insecure layers harbour deep grievances about it. As a party generally representing the small l-liberal section of the middle class, the Greens have no explicit or implicit opposition to capitalism itself. The middle class can either support the rule of capital or support the rule of the workers, depending on how the class struggle between labour and capital is unfolding at a particular point in time. And given that they clearly do not support the rule of the workers, in practice the Greens are a pro-bourgeois party.
In my view, socialists should tell the workers the truth — that ultimately the Greens are a third party of the capitalist system. In SA, however, we try to work with the Greens as much as possible, which sends an ultimately misleading message to the workers. Our practice here tends to build the Greens themselves, and builds support for them. We provide platforms for them to come and vie for the votes and the political support of the workers, platforms they are only too happy to make use of. The Greens are able to gain some measure of left credibility, while also garnering more support for their parliamentary aims. There is not much left over for SA in this scenario. In a sense SA becomes an extra activist arm of the Greens. In my view socialists should be building a socialist movement, rather than building political support for the Greens.
By politically supporting the Greens, SA also comes under pressure to adapt to their politics. The Greens were the most fervent of all the parliamentary parties in advocating the NATO bombing of Libya, and today are the most active in demanding imperialist intervention in Syria. Arguably SA made a concession to these positions of the Greens by continuing to support the Libyan opposition even after NATO had directly intervened on their side. Today while stating opposition to all forms of imperialist intervention, SA still supports the “democratic movement” in Syria which is being conducted by allies of Western imperialism.
In my view it is also possible that deference to the Greens has led to SA strengthening its stance against the People's Republic of China (PRC). Officially, SA has no position on the PRC. In practice however, SA utilises the false theory of capitalist restoration in China, a theory put forth by the former Democratic Socialist Party (DSP). It appears that since the DSP dissolved into SA, SA's stance against the PRC has increased even more than when the DSP was operating. This could be to take into account the Greens' anti-China stance, which also flows through into uncritical support for the Dalai Lama and Tibetan “independence”. Similarly, SA now buys into Western demonization of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), which I maintain is a trap that socialists should not fall into.
SA's support for the Greens could also lead to another danger — the danger of parliamentarism. The parliament is the Greens' reason for being — all activity and effort is directed to winning and maintaining seats in a (bourgeois) parliament. Given this, for SA to seek collaboration with the Greens, it is virtually inescapable that we must also support what the Greens are doing in local, state and federal parliaments. And we must promote and highlight amongst the working class the work the Greens carry out in parliament. In my view, this is not a socialist approach to parliament. Capitalist parliaments are part of the apparatus of oppression wielded by the capitalists against the workers. Socialists may run for election to parliament, and may on some occasions win seats in parliament. If this occurs, socialists should be clear that we go into the parliamentary arena with the understanding that it is an enemy compound, a den of very real anti-working class scheming and planning. If socialists do use parliament as a podium, it is only to tell the workers that this body is one which enacts and enables your suffering. However, this method can't be used if we are supporting the Greens work there, while we hope for a seat for ourselves.
The defacto adoption of the theory of ecosocialism by SA arguably led onto the orientation towards the parliamentarist Greens. In my view, ecosocialism has no theoretical or scientific basis, and has no links to scientific socialism. It tends to imply that socialism is inherently environmentally destructive, and thus it needs to be “completed” by environmentally aware policies. Socialism itself deals with both the exploitation of the worker and the environment by capitalism — it is the only answer to these dual depredations. Ecosocialism is not only unnecessary; it potentially encourages even more prejudice against socialism amongst the working class.
Ecosocialism is another example of SA grasping onto any theory other than Marxism in order to campaign on a “broader” basis. Like other non-Marxist theories though, in my view ecosocialism pushes the workers further away from socialism. It certainly does not advise the workers to form a Marxist vanguard party, or to aim for the taking of state power. It is an example of a distorted orientation to environmental movements and environmental campaigns, regardless of the politics involved. The environmental or green movement does not necessarily have better politics than other social movements simply because the environmental crisis is looming large in recent years. The environmental crisis is urgent, but this has not automatically improved the politics of the environmental movement, which largely remains in the liberal sphere.
Green politics, and/or the environmental movement, does not contain the perspective and outlook that is going to save the planet from the ravages of global capitalism. Green politics and the environmental movement are not able to win over the majority of the working class. One reason for this is the fact that the Greens or the environmental movement does not fully support, and sometimes opposes, the trade unions and the workers' movement. Despite this, SA's outlook is to seek to merge the green and red movements to the fullest extent possible. In my view this can lead to green politics holding back the red movement, due to elements of green politics which are not at all progressive.
As we know, the youth are the future and it is imperative that we are able to win radicalising youth to the ideas of socialism. Youth are the living flame of the revolution, but they need to be schooled in revolutionary politics. It manifestly appears that SA is failing to do this. SA, as a broad left coalition with no Marxist currents, only appears able to organise youth to take part in movements and activism. But activism and movement building is a heavy grind unless those who do it have theoretical conviction. The youth cannot obtain this theoretical conviction from SA, as the broad left structure of SA means that it is necessarily ambiguous on questions of revolution.
Thus it appears that the current difficulties Resistance is experiencing are political, not organisational. I say this only as an observer, not having been directly a part of Resistance for some years. Of course we need to recognise the objective difficulties of drawing youth into socialist politics in the current era of capitalist financial crisis. Youth have to work and/or study for long hours, severely limiting their spare time. Nevertheless, the attempt to draw in progressive but non-revolutionary youth seems to have misfired, and it is not helping to recruit youth in any case. Perhaps such youth do join the Greens as they are larger. Youth who are looking at revolutionary politics must in such cases investigate other left parties, who are openly able to declare that they stand for revolution.
A key part of the struggle for socialism is an ideological struggle conducted in the course of real living mass struggles. To win people to socialist ideology, we can't avoid using Marxism. In my view, in SA we struggle to win people to socialist ideology partially because we have an ambiguous position on Marxism, and partially because we have to accommodate those who believe that socialists should not be ideological at all, as well as those who believe that ideology is a hindrance. These views ultimately reject socialist ideology, but such views tend to become the view of the Socialist Alliance as a whole, due to the fact that we have to try to maintain members with such views within the organisation. If socialists cease to engage with the ideological struggle, in the end it means that capitalist ideology will triumph, as only socialist ideology has the historical power to counter capitalist ideology.
In all struggles for socialism, socialists need numbers. We need party members, activists, allies, supporters and others. There is constant pressure for all socialist parties to be larger, and have more members than is the case currently. This applies during “normal” times as much as it applies during pre-revolutionary situations. Politics has to come before numbers. Yes, we need to grow and become more influential. But the politics cannot be sacrificed in the struggle for more numbers. In my view, there is a real danger that SA is willing to concede any element of socialist politics in order to gain more numbers. We should remember that “one revolutionary is worth a thousand social-democrats”. The quality of our members is what is more important than our numbers, even while recognising that the socialists have to increase numerically. A smaller cadre nucleus of well trained and ideologically prepared socialists is incomparably more valuable than a large group of members with social-democratic or Green politics. The numbers are important, but the fear of being “small” could lead us to make political concessions. I think there is a real danger that this is occurring within SA.
Socialists campaign for the complete liberation of women from the oppression engendered by class society. Ultimately the ending of women's oppression can only come about once we reach the classless society, and the first step towards this is the revolutionary seizure of state power by the workers. In my view it is unclear whether SA, as a broad coalition which includes many shades of liberal political views, can support a victorious workers' revolution, which is also the first step towards the complete liberation of women. It seems that SA is able to campaign for women's rights within the existing capitalist system, but the broad left nature of the coalition means it must stop there. This potentially affects our ability to campaign effectively for women's liberation, and our ability to draw in women who wish to take political action to advance this struggle. While socialists today must take part the current campaigns against the effects of the oppression of women, we cannot leave it at that. Socialists must go further, and advocate the full program of women's liberation.
The struggle for democratic demands is a key part of the struggle for socialism, this is not disputed. Democracy does not exist in a vacuum, however, and its content is determined by the nature of the class which currently holds state power. Socialists fight for democracy for the workers, rather than a democracy for the capitalists. A democracy which does not specify for which class it seeks democracy, in the long run assists business and capitalist interests against the interests of the workers, as they have vast resources with which to steer democracy to serve them. In my view, in SA we tend to emphasise democracy regardless of class, which in the end serves the interests of those with the most social and economic power. I realise now that this was a part of DSP's previous approach. Now SA, due to being a broad left coalition, which includes many variants of liberal thought, is taking this even further. If SA as a whole cannot fight for socialist democracy, the fall-back position is to campaign for democracy in general. And democracy in general, or democracy for all regardless of class, is a democracy which restricts democracy for the workers, and enhances democracy for the rich.
These are only some examples of SA's political positions that in my view are being, or have the potential to be, influenced by its current political direction. If SA remains ambiguous in relation to Marxism, many dangers present themselves. There is a danger of electoralism and parliamentarism. Political support for the Greens means a danger of shifting away from socialism. An overemphasis on the environmental movement could also lead to a danger of moving away from socialism. There is a danger of movementism, of just building movements based on their existing non-class struggle politics. There is a danger of avoiding the building of a revolutionary party. Less focus on ideological work could mean a danger of accepting the ideology of the opposing class. A focus on unity with non-socialist groups and individuals presents the danger of major political concessions to non-socialist forces.
In my view the best way to avoid such dangers is to continue to aim for the building of a party based on Marxist-Leninism. I am becoming more convinced that the politics of the Trotskyist Platform group currently represent the best way forward for the socialist movement. I urge SA members to consider Trotskyist Platform's views.
I do not regret my time as part of the Socialist Alliance, and indeed I am indebted to the many comrades I have worked with over the past 15 years. I am confident that all Socialist Alliance members will remain a part of the socialist movement. Whatever your decision about your political future, I look forward to working alongside you all in future struggles for the workers and the oppressed.
Long live socialism!