A Glasgow Kiss for Greg Adler
I am writing to comment on Greg Adler’s contribution to Weekly Worker 603, “DSP split over future”.
I joined the (Australian) Socialist Alliance in January 2004; the NSW State Conference elected me on to the SA National Executive in April 2005, and the SA National Conference in June 2005 did so too. My main work within SA has been chairing the Green Left Weekly – Socialist Alliance Liaison Editorial board, a board charged with overseeing the production and publication of material relating to Socialist Alliance within the leading left-wing newspaper in Australia, the DSP-owned Green Left Weekly.
The main reason I joined SA in January 2004, after a decade-long hiatus in political activity, was the fact that the Socialist Alliance was taking concrete steps to transform itself from a loose elections-only alliance of socialist groups into a united, broad “multi-tendency” socialist party, a kind of party loosely resembling the inspirational Scottish Socialist Party.
Following the National Conference of SA in June 2005 I decided to join the DSP. Why? The main reason was that my experience within SA since January 2004, at branch, state and national level, clearly told me that the main engine driving the move towards the formation of a broad, united socialist party in Australia was the DSP. Indeed, the DSP had voted in December 2003 to begin putting its considerable assets at the disposal of SA, including a relationship with its highly successful paper Green Left Weekly. Week in, week out, I had ample opportunities to compare the approach of the DSP members working within SA – diligent, practical, politically sophisticated, non-sectarian to a fault, friendly, and often even charming – with the approach of the members of many of the smaller groups affiliated to SA – sectarian in the extreme, motivated by a desire to promote the perceived virtues of their own tiny sect to the complete disregard of the cause of left-regroupment, dogmatic, underhand, unhelpful, rude, politically unintelligent, and (sorry folks!) BORING. This was borne out in particular in the debates that raged over the relationship between Green Left Weekly and Socialist Alliance. The DSP, recognizing that a nascent political party needed the formal backing and support of a newspaper, put control of SA material in GLW under the control of a board democratically elected by the Socialist Alliance. None of the other affiliated groups with newspapers were prepared to match this offer or to do anything comparable. Indeed, the lack of actual commitment of the other groups to the cause of founding a united socialist party in Australia manifested itself in an attack on the whole idea of a formal relationship between SA and GLW, an attack that I frequently experienced at first-hand as a participant in the GLW-SA liaison board.
I hope that at least partially explains why I joined the DSP in June 2005. I had seen the DSP comrades attacked time and time again by sectarian bigots for their efforts in trying to establish a left regroupment party project in Australia, and more than anything else I felt a need to display some solidarity with them in their struggle against the sectarian opponents of a broad left party project.
Greg Adler’s contribution, then, failed to surprise me. It exhibits exactly the qualities that so turned me off from (many of) the smaller affiliates in SA. For one thing, it is underhand. Adler has put into public circulation a set of quotes from documents that he knows were intended for private circulation only. He has done this without the permission of the writers he quotes and without the permission of the DSP. Moreover, by taking the quotes out of context he has presented a crude snapshot of the views of the writers he quotes that is incomplete and open to the grossest distortion. Having read the documents he has pilfered for quotes, I think I can say that he succeeds in representing certain of the authors as having views that are actually the exact opposite of those they explicitly hold! Of course, Adler’s reply to this is to challenge the DSP to publish the internal discussion in full. By why should the DSP do that? Why should the DSP be forced into making public a private discussion just because some blinkered sectarian has illicitly published a selection of quotes that grossly distorts the views of some of its members?
More importantly, Adler has attempted to create the impression that the outlook he tries to pin on the writers he mangles is that of the DSP. It should be noted that Adler has pilfered and mangled these quotes from a pre-congress discussion. The DSP has yet to vote on the nature of its continuing relationship with SA (this will take place at the DSP Congress in early January). What gives Adler the right to attempt to undermine or pre-empt internal democratic processes taking place within the DSP?
In conclusion, it is perhaps worth reflecting on some figures. Adler is a member of Workers League, which as far as I am aware has a membership of around 3. Under the leadership of the DSP, and in the teeth of sustained sectarian obstruction from the likes of Workers League, the Socialist Alliance has grown from an organization consisting of a few hundred members belonging to the founding affiliates (of which the DSP was the largest) to a fledgling political party of around one thousand members, the majority of whom are not in any of the founding affiliates and who clearly favor the attempt to build a new broad-left multi-tendency socialist party in Australia. The whole regroupment process is of course very delicately balanced and fraught with difficulty, but the numbers surely speak for themselves. Adler’s contribution has one aim and one aim only: to derail that regroupment process, by fair means or foul.
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