Q and A on the Red Eureka Tendency (RET)

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Question: What is the RET?

Answer: The RET is a Marxist tendency which operates within the Socialist Alliance (SA). The politics of the RET are briefly summarised in the Platform of the RET.

Question: What is the basic rationale behind the RET?

Answer: The RET sees its main task as that of combating liberal tendencies within SA. We believe unintentional liberalism has led to a number of problems within SA which has come to be demonstrated in the practice, positions and policies of SA. There are a number of examples of liberalism within SA, in our view. For example, the defacto adoption of ecosocialism is one. Ecosocialism is a theory which seems to have emanated out of the German Greens in the late 80s, but has recently been taken up by others in the last couple of years. While there are a number of strands within the body of those who identify as ecosocialists, none of them can claim that ecosocialism explicitly supports the working class taking state power, which is an essential aspect of socialism.

We believe that unintentional liberalism was one reason why SA adopted what we see as an incorrect policy on the Arab Spring and the war on Libya. In our view, it was incorrect to support a violent coup against the government of Colonel Gaddafi, regardless of what politics the Gaddafi government used in its operation. While SA claimed to oppose the NATO intervention, in practice this was ineffective due to its support for the uprising against Gaddafi, which would not have been successful without the massive and unrelenting support of NATO’s bombardments.

We believe that unintentional liberalism is also largely behind SA’s current overemphasis on movement building. The RET is in complete agreement with SA that building movements is an important ingredient of Marxist theory and practice. However in our opinion SA has gone too far in this direction, to such an extent that it leads to a position of adapting to the politics of social movements, regardless of what the politics of the movements actually are.

In the case of the environmental or green movement, it appears that SA exaggerates the politics of this movement. Just because the green/environmental movement campaigns around an issue which is of vital importance for the future of humanity, this does not necessarily mean that the politics of this movement are any more progressive than the politics of other social movements.

Question: Does the RET seek to “narrow” SA down to an exclusively Marxist/ Leninist party or organisation?

Answer: Not at all. The RET supports the building of SA as a broad socialist coalition. The RET does believe, however, that Marxist/ Leninist politics should predominate in SA. To this end, we seek to build a Marxist/Leninist tendency within SA in an attempt to influence the political direction of SA. We are concerned that liberal pressure is being applied to SA, despite the best efforts of many comrades.

Question: What is the RET’s view of participation in parliamentary elections?

Answer: The RET agrees that at this stage it is necessary for socialists to take part in parliamentary elections, at the local, state and federal level where possible. However, the RET is opposed to an obsessive focus on elections, as this could easily lead to electoralism and/or parliamentarism. This appears to be occurring within SA currently. We think this is reflected in some of the policies that SA is putting before the people during election times. While we agree that it would impractical to go to an election which is held under capitalist conditions with a central policy of abolishing the state, for example, we believe it is equally impractical to have a policy which states “more funding for schools”. The policy should be something along the lines of free education.

The positing of minimal reforming type demands during elections can have the effect of reinforcing the apparent legitimacy of the institutions of bourgeois rule, including the parliamentary and electoral institutions. At a time when the Occupy movement has questioned the entire claim to legitimacy of the capitalist’s electoral machinery, this appears to be the wrong approach, even if it is not intentional. While we are not yet at the stage where we can call for a boycott of parliamentary elections, neither should we take part in parliamentary elections in the same manner as all the other parties, all of which support capitalism in one way or another.

Question: Why does the RET see defence of the former Soviet Union (USSR) as important, when it has not existed as such for around 20 years?

Answer: To some extent, discussion of the former USSR is a historical question, and we accept that younger generations emerging are now growing up unaware of the former existence of the Soviet Union. However, any current study of Marxism or socialism would be incomplete without some reference to the former Soviet Union. What we are concerned with in SA is a trend where the former USSR is condemned outright, as if nothing positive came out of that experience, and implying that the working class should not investigate or discuss what occurred there. We believe it is still necessary while campaigning for socialism to defend what was a gain for the workers in the former USSR and internationally.

The advantages of a planned, nationalised economy, with guaranteed jobs, welfare, housing, health care, subsidised sporting participation and other things were all huge gains for the workers of the USSR and also internationally. The capitalist West had to provide a measure of the social benefits to its working class lest its “own” working class come to the conclusion that socialism was for them! These elements need to be defended, and not defending them makes it far more difficult to argue for them in an Australian context.

We can and need to have discussion on why the former USSR also delivered a lack of democratic rights, a bureaucratic caste leadership entrenching itself in power, the waste of productive resources and so on. By all means we need to mention these shortcomings. But we need to do it from the perspective of critical support, not downright condemnation — for if we do this we become indistinguishable from liberal anti-socialists.

Question: Does the RET take a similar view of North Korea — the DPRK?

Answer: That’s right. The DPRK is in our region, if “our” region is the Asia Pacific. It is important for this reason, but also to understand international politics. In a nutshell, the DPRK was formed out of a civil war within Korea, in which the US and Australian governments intervened on the side of the pro-capitalist forces. Were it not for this imperialist intervention, all of Korea could now be socialist. As it turned out, this was not to be, and the war was fought to a standstill, with the capitalist powers on one side, and the socialist forces, including China, on the other. The DPRK is now in the situation of being a barracks type state, where it is constantly on a hair trigger alert due to the very real threat of imperialist invasion and overthrow. The US, Japan and South Korea have thousands of troops ready to invade North Korea at a moment’s notice.

Attempting to build socialism under these circumstances is virtually impossible, but the North Koreans have managed to hold out against these odds, and even provide a measure of socialist support for its people. We can and must discuss how the DPRK goes about doing this, how well it does this given the circumstances, the apparent leadership cult, and so on. We don’t deny the excesses that may take place. But even so, we need to do this from a position of critical solidarity. This is important for the people of the DPRK, but also so we correctly understand the geo-politics of the Asia Pacific. What we fear is taking place in SA currently is not critical solidarity with the DPRK, but irrational vilification.

Question: What is the RET’s view of Green Left Weekly?

Answer: The RET supports Green Left as the newspaper of the Socialist Alliance, and also as a newspaper for the broader left to contribute to. RET members commit themselves to writing for Green Left where possible, and distributing Green Left while campaigning for socialism. Nonetheless, the RET is concerned that the content of Green Left has come to reflect certain trends aligning with the political direction of SA. In particular, it seems to be adopting more and more liberal and mainstream politics, which appears to be reflected in the content of many of its articles.

If we understand Green Left as part of our propaganda, we should understand that propaganda is directed towards the vanguard of the working class — and we are referring to a vanguard here in a very broad sense, not just a party membership type vanguard. As such, liberal politics just will not suffice for the vanguard — it needs a diet of socialist and Marxist politics. The working class can find information about politics from anywhere, but we should be providing a socialist or Marxist analysis of current and historical developments. Hence, the RET will aim to ensure that Green Left contains much more explicitly socialist and Marxist content.

Question: How does the RET view Resistance?

Answer: The RET welcomes Resistance as a socialist youth organisation which is affiliated to SA. The RET will be seeking to join Resistance members to the RET in the same manner in which we will be seeking to join SA members. We understand that Resistance will be considering a motion for dual membership with SA at its upcoming national conference. This decision is entirely for Resistance members to make.

The RET would be concerned, however, that if Resistance became the “youth wing” of SA, it may have to adopt what we see as the more liberal or mainstream politics of SA, which may then mean that it would cease to be a radical youth organisation. It may work the other way, however. The more radical politics of Resistance may end up influencing the more liberal politics of SA. We hope this is the case.

Question: How does the RET differ from an affiliate of SA?

Answer: I think the main difference is that the RET will be actively seeking to join SA members, whereas an affiliate group may not necessarily do this. An affiliate party or community group may join SA in order to support the general aims of SA, but not take part in the development of positions and policies of SA, as is their wont. The RET, on the other hand, does seek to adjust the political direction of SA. As such, we will be attempting to change or amend the positions and policies of SA where it is possible to do so. And we will be enlisting RET members to help in the task of carrying out this aim.

Question: Is the RET anti-Greens?

Answer: No. We are happy to work with the Greens in the environmental and social movements in the same manner in which we work with any other participants in such movements. We agree that SA should generally direct its first preferences to the Greens in bourgeois electoral contests. What we are opposed to is the integration of SA’s political work with the Greens, or, the prioritisation of political work with the Greens over other political forces. Amongst other things, it makes it more difficult for us to dissociate ourselves from the Greens when, for example, the Greens deliver an austerity budget in Tasmania, or support NATO’s bombing of Libya.

Question: Is the RET an antagonistic grouping within SA?

Answer: Certainly not. The RET seeks to work with and alongside all members of the Socialist Alliance, whether or not they agree to join the RET. At all times, RET members will be open to friendly and comradely relations and discussions with fellow SA members. We recognise that some SA members may have sharp disagreement with the politics of the RET, but we are determined to work through these political differences in the most civil manner possible while simultaneously building SA.

Question: Does the RET believe it holds the one true interpretation of Marxism?

Answer: There is only one socialism, and as such there is only one Marxism and only one Leninism. There are many parties and perhaps individuals who believe that they have the correct interpretation of Marxism, when their interpretation differs from others who identify as Marxist. The RET is not trying to assert that our interpretation of Marxism is more correct than other Marxists inside or outside the Socialist Alliance, as this would be counter-productive. The RET is simply trying to ensure that a Marxist and Leninist outlook is the dominant force within SA.

This may occur through the growth and influence of the RET, but it may just as likely occur through the forming of other Marxist tendencies within SA. It could also happen via the joining to SA of other Marxist organisations and parties who do not currently take part in SA. The RET would not have an issue with eight or ten different Marxist tendencies vying for influence over SA. In fact, such a situation would in our opinion strengthen SA ideologically, theoretically and politically.

In a similar fashion to which the RET is content to work alongside other Marxists within SA, the RET is also content to work alongside those in SA who do not identify as Marxist, and may not wish to. The RET does contend though, that those SA members who do not identify as Marxist should both be actively encouraged to develop Marxist politics, as well as be given the opportunity to do this by joining the RET or another Marxist tendency within SA.

Question: Why does the RET include an item on Leninism in its platform?

Answer: Leninism has seemingly dropped off the radar in the drive to build SA as a broad party. This may have been unintentional, but it does seem to be a serious oversight. There are many tactics and strategies that socialist parties can use to implement Leninism at different times. Lenin and the Bolsheviks themselves used many different forms and attempted to build their party in many different ways, depending on the objective conditions.

The RET still believes that for a revolution to be successful, a disciplined, committed and highly organised vanguard party is necessary. It needs to be largely based on the working class themselves, although it may contain elements from other individuals who are technically not part of the working class. It needs to be highly centralised, while also operating democratically on an internal basis. In Lenin’s words “a party of iron” is what is indispensable.

Question: Does the RET hold the position that the building of a broad party is always an incorrect tactic?

Answer: Not at all. The building of broad parties, such as SA, can be a necessary part of building a revolutionary mass workers party. Indeed, they are likely to be needed in some form while trying to unite the left. What the RET is concerned about is the dissolution of Marxism/Leninism to achieve the broad party, or, the premature dissolution of Marxist tendencies into a broad party.

For a Marxist tendency to dissolve into a larger formation, a number of conditions need to be in place. The Marxist tendency has to be 100% convinced that the new or larger formation will remain on the path to socialism, will be able to maintain a Marxist/Leninist outlook, and will be able to pass on these traditions to younger generations. If these conditions are not present, dissolving then runs the risk that the broad party will lose its focus on socialism, or will implode when differences that are too far apart arise. This seems to have been the case with the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) prematurely dissolving into the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) in Scotland, and with the Revolutionary Communist League (LCR) prematurely dissolving into the New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) in France. Both the SSP and the NPA are now in dire straits, seemingly as a result of the broad party not holding a sufficiently Marxist/Leninist outlook. In the case of the NPA, it wasn’t even a sufficiently socialist outlook.

We fear that an impending collapse or some other catastrophe will befall SA if it continues its current course. We believe that the former Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP) prematurely dissolved into SA in 2008/9. At the time we voted for it, and went along with it. But it has turned out to be a major error, with SA as a whole now being inexorably pushed in the direction of liberalism, with Marxist/Leninist politics sidelined. Political errors are then compounded, as is evident with the mushrooming of ideas such as ecosocialism, excessive adaptation to movement building, electoralism, the acceptance of any political theories, and so on.

We are aware that we cannot turn back time. We are also aware that at the time of dissolving, the former DSP warned its members that at some point in the future, there may be a need to re-forge a Marxist tendency within SA, if SA developed a proclivity towards social-democratic or liberal politics. We believe this has occurred, or perhaps has been occurring over the past three years. Hence, the formation of the RET.

Question: How do people join the RET?

Answer: You must be a member of SA in order to join the RET. Members of Resistance, who, for whatever reason, are not members of SA, are ineligible to join the RET until such time as they join SA.

From there, the only prerequisite is general agreement with the Platform of the RET. It doesn’t cost anything to join. The conduct and the activities of the RET will be determined through discussion with existing members and new members. All members of SA, and members of Resistance who are also members of SA, are more than welcome to join. If you believe the time has come to form a Marxist tendency within SA, you should consider joining the RET. Please contact one of the members below:

Adam Baker
Email: eastwest31@acenet.net.au
Phone: 0421 408 692

Sam Bullock
Email: sambullock79@hotmail.com
Phone: 0420 413 938

Correction

In the “Q and A on the Red Eureka Tendency”, there is a factual error. The document refers to the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) which it claims existed in the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP). This is incorrect. No such tendency or platform existed. The tendency, or platform, we intended to refer to is the International Socialist Movement (ISM) tendency.The ISM, which was based on the same tendency that called for the formation of the Scottish Socialist Alliance (SSA) and later the SSP, did indeed dissolve into the SSP in 2006. The RET apologises for this error, which was caused by insufficient research.

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