Australasian Spartacist No. 208
Anti-Communist Opportunists Fall Out
DSP Endgame; RSP Same Old Game
In January the Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP), arguably Australia’s most widely known reformist left organisation, “dissolved” into Socialist Alliance (SA), a “broad left” electoral front set up at the DSP’s initiative in 2001. At its liquidation congress, lider maximo Peter Boyle denounced the “sectarian” idea of a single party based on a “‘correct’ program” in favour of SA’s sub-reformist and green-nationalist mish-mash of policies for a reformed Australian capitalism. Consisting of not much more than itself and a handful of lower-level union bureaucrats and Aboriginal leaders, competing opportunist appetites will surely blow this amorphous lash-up apart. Whatever happens the slippery Boyle, now SA leader, will no doubt keep control of the DSP’s financial assets.
In liquidating into SA, the DSP has imitated reformist opponents of revolutionary Marxism across the world who have imbibed in the capitalist myth of the “death of communism” following capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union and dissolved into larger forces to their right, making their peace with the capitalist “new world reality” blatant. Foremost amongst these, the French “Trotskyist” Ligue Communiste Révolutionnaire put the final touches on a long process of reconciliation with the French bourgeois order when it dissolved into its New Anti-Capitalist Party last year, finally junking any pretence to affinity with Trotskyism and the Russian Revolution (see “‘Death of Communism’ Leftists in New Guise,” Workers Vanguard No. 934, 10 April 2009).
The only group to lament the liquidation of the DSP is the misnamed Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP). The RSP was formed in 2008 by DSPers, including founding cadre John Percy, who opposed continuing with the moribund SA project and were expelled from the DSP after a sordid clique fight. That the RSP declares it stands proudly on the “revolutionary tradition” of the DSP underscores that it is neither “revolutionary” nor “socialist.”
Anti-Soviet Pimps for Racist Australian Imperialism
The DSP was always an opportunist outfit of the most unbridled variety, lacking even the most rudimentary loyalty to the cause of the working class. Standing “for the universal application of the principle of [classless, i.e., bourgeois] democracy,” the DSP’s maximum demand was that “the main assets of society must be publicly owned and democratically managed” (Resist!, 28 August 1998). This is a call for “reforming” capitalism while not touching a hair on the head of the capitalist state. Consisting at its core of the military, cops, courts and prisons, this state exists to defend the rule of the exploitative capitalist class against the workers and oppressed.
A defining feature of the DSP was its social-democratic hostility to those countries where capitalism has been overthrown. Throughout the Cold War 1980s, its predecessor, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), stood with the Hawke/Keating Labor governments, the reactionary National Civic Council and all manner of rightist scum, against the Soviet Union and Eastern European deformed workers states. This included cheering on the CIA-backed, Catholic reactionary Polish Solidarność that spearheaded capitalist counterrevolution in Eastern Europe. In the service of promoting counterrevolution in Yugoslavia, they also embraced the Croatian Movement for Statehood (HDP) who identified with the fascist Ustasha, bloody butchers of hundreds of thousands of Serbs, Jews, Gypsies and Croats in World War II.
The SWP’s name change to “Democratic Socialist Party” in 1989 perfectly captured this outfit’s embrace of unfolding “democratic” counterrevolution across Eastern Europe. When Boris Yeltsin, hand-in-hand with U.S. imperialism, carried out his countercoup in Moscow in 1991, the DSP joined with much of the left to cheer for capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union, an outcome that wrought devastation on the working masses. DSP leader Renfrey Clarke bragged he spent a night inside Yeltsin’s “White House” helping a Scottish Labour MP deliver a letter of solidarity to Yeltsin from British Labour Party leader Neil Kinnock, infamous for his role in knifing the heroic British miners strike in 1984-85. Such yeoman’s service for social-democratic anti-communism summed up the DSP’s political essence. Today, tailing the anti-China, protectionist, pro-capitalist Laborite union tops, SA actively supports Australian imperialism’s drive for capitalist counterrevolution against the Chinese deformed workers state. They champion every imperialist cause from Taiwanese “independence” to pro-imperialist dissidents like Han Dongfang, to “Free Tibet.” In April 2008, following counterrevolutionary riots in Tibet, the DSP/SA
scandalously joined with ardent anti-communists in a pro-Dalai Lama, anti-China demonstration in Canberra.
Against the pro-capitalist ALP, trade-union bureaucracy and their appendages on the left, we Trotskyists fought for the unconditional military defence of the Soviet Union and the deformed workers states of Eastern Europe against imperialist attack and internal capitalist counterrevolution, while fighting for proletarian political revolution to oust the venal nationalist Stalinist bureaucracies. Today we fight for this program in defence of the remaining deformed workers states of China, Cuba, North Korea, and Vietnam.
The DSP’s long history of supporting capitalist counterrevolutionary movements is of a piece with promoting the “democratic” “White Australia” imperialist rulers as potential friends of the oppressed. From Cambodia to Somalia to West Papua, the DSP backed Australian imperialist military interventions under the guise of “humanitarian” assistance. In 1999, the same year it declared China had become capitalist (albeit in 1992!), the DSP’s pimping for Australian imperialism plumbed new depths. Along with the bulk of the reformist left, the DSP unashamedly joined with the Laborite union tops in mobilising thousands on the streets for the Australian military occupation of East Timor. These chauvinist marches, which featured RSL “diggers” and Indonesian flag-burnings, were in some cases led by the DSP who demanded “Send Australian/UN Troops NOW”!
Having long appealed to jackal Australian imperialism to adopt “a progressive foreign policy,” the DSP was ecstatic when then-prime minister John Howard despatched the Australian military to East Timor. To this day, the DSP/SA and RSP continue to trumpet their 1999 campaign for bloody Australian imperialist intervention. The decade-long occupation enforces the plunder by imperialism of the vast oil and gas reserves of the Timor Sea and the hideous neo-colonial impoverishment of the East Timorese people. Opposing the chauvinist campaign, we demanded not one person, not one cent for the Australian imperialist military and called for “Independence Now for East Timor! Australian/UN Imperialist Troops Out of East Timor!” (Australasian Spartacist supplement, 3 December 1999).
The DSP’s social chauvinism has provided a culture medium for violent anti-woman and anti-communist creeps. At a 2006 Melbourne union rally, when a woman supporter of the SL offered then-DSPer Azlan McLennan a copy of Australasian Spartacist headlined “Australian/UN Imperialist Troops/Cops Out of East Timor and the Solomons Now!”, he ripped the paper from her hand and then punched her in the face (see “We Will Not Be Silenced!,” ASp No. 196, Spring 2006).
The Unspeakable In Pursuit of the Inedible
SA and the RSP are well-known as uncritical cheerleaders for the Stalinist Castro regime in geographically distant Cuba. This selective “Stalinophilia” is and always was directed at cosying up to petty-bourgeois and bourgeois nationalist forces. Thus the SWP/DSP championed Latin American petty-bourgeois nationalists such as the Nicaraguan Sandinistas and, today, both the RSP and DSP/SA are in thrall to the so-called “Bolivarian Revolution” of Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez. Contrary to their anti-Marxist fantasies, Chávez is nothing more than a bourgeois nationalist running a capitalist state (see “Opportunist Left and the Chávez Referendum; Break with Bourgeois Populism! For Workers Revolution!,” Workers Vanguard No. 907, 1 February 2008). Similarly, the DSP acted as press agents for outfits in the Asian region, from the petty-bourgeois Peoples Democratic Party (PRD) in Indonesia to Sonny Melencio’s fake-socialist, and now defunct, Socialist Party of Labor in the Philippines. Today, Boyle’s DSP/SA maintains an association with Melencio’s new outfit, Masses Power Party, which confers with shadowy opposition groups inside the blood-drenched Philippines bourgeois armed forces.
Under pressure of anti-Soviet Cold War II, and clearing the way to its unrestrained pursuit of alien class forces, in 1984 the then-SWP dumped the “Trotskyist” label (having never in fact been Trotskyist) and denounced Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution—a program confirmed by the 1917 Russian Revolution led by Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik Party. (For more on permanent revolution and an extensive coverage of the DSP and its history of betrayals, see “What Is the Democratic Socialist Party?,” (Australasian Spartacist No. 167, Autumn 1999.) The SWP also declared that the ALP was, and always had been, a bourgeois party. This was a crude rejection of the Leninist understanding of the ALP as a bourgeois workers party—a party that is pro-capitalist in its leadership, outlook and program but based on the trade unions. In Percy’s own words, “Once we had broken with Trotskyism, and once we had corrected our analysis of the ALP, the way was open for our party to contemplate a much wider range of political options” (A History of the DSP Part II, January 1990).
The SWP/DSP’s posture on the ALP did not stem from opposition to the ALP’s pro-imperialist leadership and program but from the fact that it thought its brand of reformism did not depend on the ALP as its agency. Over the years the DSP embraced bourgeois formations from the Nuclear Disarmament Party to the Greens. In fact, the DSP leadership proved capable of adopting almost any political posture if it perceived the possibility of gaining “influence.” The common thread was its disregard for basic Marxist principles, centrally the independence of the working class from all wings of the capitalist exploiters. This outlook, including rejecting the elementary working-class principle of not voting for the parties of the class enemy, is shared by SA and the RSP.
These Laborites have a strong attachment to “little Australia” capitalist democracy, particularly when administered by the ALP. Today SA, in its reformist and parochially titled campaign brochure, “Another Australia is possible
,” declares the election of the Rudd ALP government a “very small step forward.” Spending years pushing for the election of Labor as a “lesser evil,” an ALP win was the outcome they worked for in the 2007 federal elections. In typical DSP-style parliamentary cretinism and unprincipled manoeuvring, the DSP-led SA called for a vote to SA and then the bourgeois Greens (who delivered preferences to the ALP, winning it a significant majority).
The Rudd government a “step forward”!? Rudd’s ALP government has enforced draconian anti-union laws, stepped up mandatory detention of “illegal” refugees, escalated the racist “war on terror” targeting in particular the Muslim minority and enforced the police/military occupation of Northern Territory Aboriginal lands. And under the counterrevolutionary U.S./Australia alliance the Rudd government has maintained Australian imperialist marauding from East Timor to Afghanistan.
In sharp contrast to the Labor-loyal DSP/SA and other reformist groups, who grovelled before the ALP and Greens, we forthrightly declared that Rudd’s ALP was committed to waging war on workers and the oppressed, and called for “No Vote to ALP! No Vote to Bourgeois Greens!” Noting that the ALP is an obstacle to advancing the interests of the proletariat, we stated in our 16 November 2007 statement, “The working class needs a party that stands on an internationalist, revolutionary, proletarian program. Such a party will be built through a political struggle against Laborism. This means splitting the working-class base of the ALP from its pro-bourgeois leadership, centrally through the fight for a revolutionary class-struggle leadership of the unions.” A touchstone for revolution in this country is a political break from Laborite reformism. This is crucial to the working class achieving revolutionary class consciousness.
RSP: Old Muck in New Pail
The split in the DSP over Socialist Alliance was not based on programmatic differences but divergent opportunist appetites. The Percy wing of the leadership only began to part company with Boyle when the wheels started falling off SA. Back in 2001, when SA was launched, Percy was no less enthusiastic for the project. At that time the DSP was pumped by the “success” of its East Timor “troops in” mobilisations, energised by the anti-globalisation movement and hoping to cash in on some increased disaffection with the Labor Party. Joined by the International Socialist Organisation (ISO) and other left groups such as the Freedom Socialist Party, this electoral vehicle sought to corral opposition to the ALP safely within the Laborite parliamentarist fold. However contrary to the DSP’s projection of “a period of upsurge,” the world has been, and continues to be, decisively shaped by the counterrevolutionary defeat of the Soviet Union. The period is marked by a historic retrogression in the political consciousness of the working class internationally and a rise in bourgeois reaction. In Australia, the post-Soviet period has seen the growth of nationalism and militarism, which the DSP itself helped foster through promoting Australian imperialism.
Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t long before the “broad left” Socialist Alliance began to shrivel, with the ISO and every other left group bailing. The Percy minority, fed up with pouring resources into a bottomless pit with little return, came to view SA as an obstacle to pursuing new and bigger opportunities like cheerleading for Chávez, and called to “resurface” the DSP as a “public revolutionary Marxist party.” Devoid of any proletarian principles, Percy simply recognised, unlike Boyle, that there wasn’t much to liquidate into. In short these social democrats fell out over the declining proceeds of their opportunist crimes.
Since exiting the DSP, the RSP has postured to the left of its erstwhile partners. For example, it excoriates the DSP for supporting the Indonesian PRD-Papernas (a 2007 fusion between the PRD and the Islamist Star Reformation Party, which supported the incumbent Indonesian government). The RSP cynically attacks the DSP for covering for the PRD-Papernas’ orientation towards giving electoral support to multi-millionaire ex-Kopassus leader Prabowo in the last elections. What you don’t hear is that RSP cadre (then in the DSP) schooled the PRD in class-collaborationism, giving support to bourgeois PDI leader and Javanese-chauvinist Megawati Sukarnoputri in the late 1990s.
At “home,” the RSP has taken the DSP to task for softness on arbitration and protectionism, two planks of Laborite reformism. This is rich coming from the RSP. It effusively praises the WA maritime union leadership of ex-SAer Chris Cain, whose idea of fighting union-busting moves behind the Maritime Security Identification Card is to disgustingly tell the government to target foreign seamen instead because they could be “Osama bin Ladens” (West Australian, 2 February). They also whine that SA women “watered down” the call for free abortion on demand to suit “the Greens and the more conservative elements of the pro-choice campaign” (Direct Action, December 2009). Yet RSPers at the 6 February Women’s Abortion Action Campaign (WAAC) forum in Sydney had no problem supporting a WAAC resolution that servilely pleaded with the Queensland Labor government of Anna Bligh to “repeal all criminal abortion laws.” It was up to the Spartacists at the meeting to argue that “free abortion on demand is the bottom line!” and to link this to the fight for the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a revolutionary government such as existed under the Bolsheviks following the 1917 Russian Revolution.
The RSP’s “left” rhetoric partly reflects just how openly rightwing the DSP/SA has become. SA is currently backing a campaign embraced by the anti-union National Farmers Federation against coalmining in Caroona, NSW. And in response to a racist motion at SA’s January conference opposing “immigration and refuge” and declaring “mass migration” a threat to everything from the environment to “democracy,” SA adopted a polite rejection of “simplistic populationist theories to explain climate change” and resolved to have a public “debate” in order to establish policy!
But for the most part the RSP’s rhetoric is merely a pathetic and cynical attempt to politically distinguish itself from the DSP/SA. The RSP is led by the same gang responsible for some of the DSP’s worst betrayals. Take, for example, Allen Myers, now assistant editor of the RSP’s newspaper Direct Action. In 1984, in the service of cosying up to the Vietnamese Stalinist bureaucracy, Myers praised the Stalinists’ 1945 murder of the heroic Vietnamese Trotskyists who led a workers insurrection against the reimposition of French imperialist rule at the end of World War II. Or Max Lane, one-time member of Australia’s diplomatic corps in Indonesia. In 1999, Lane enthusiastically led rallies for Australian troops to East Timor. To this day the RSP considers these “troops in” mobilisations a high point of struggle. Then there is Doug Lorimer who has made it his life’s work to refashion Lenin into a liberal democrat. Lorimer was the DSP’s chief exponent of its denunciation of Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution. As for RSP honcho, John Percy—he helped lead the DSP in its active support to capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union in the name of “democracy”!
For New October Revolutions!
Since the destruction of the Soviet Union, the imperialist ruling classes have been escalating their war against the working class and oppressed, ripping up social programs and democratic rights at home, while conducting military occupations abroad. To facilitate this agenda, they foster nationalism and racism along with religion and all-sided backwardness. The more politically advanced workers generally no longer identify their needs with the ideals of socialism. And the reformists trip over themselves in a race to adapt to the generalised retrogression of proletarian consciousness resulting from the final undoing of the world’s first workers state.
In spite of its later degeneration at the hands of a Stalinist bureaucracy that usurped political power beginning in 1924, the Russian Revolution showed that it was possible for the working class to overthrow capitalism, ushering in an unprecedented development of the productive forces. The fundamental lesson of the Russian Revolution is that to emancipate humanity the working class needs a revolutionary communist vanguard to lead it, at the head of all the oppressed, in the overthrow of this rotting capitalist system. Such a party will be built in sharp political combat against the likes of the Laborite DSP/SA and RSP who are opponents of the dictatorship of the proletariat, having long ago made their peace with the imperialist ruling class. The Spartacist League of Australia, section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist), is committed to building a Leninist-Trotskyist party in the struggle for new October Revolutions.