It’s been a while eh — over two years, in fact (see : #TrotGuide 2016, April 21, 2016). That said, while there’s been some interesting developments on The Far Left : Down Under Edition, for the most part things are continuing to remain fairly calm and capitalism remains really really really late.
Still having a crack :
1. Alliance for Workers’ Liberty (AWL);
2. Communist League (CL);
2 1/2. Communist Left (of Australia);
3. Communist Party of Australia (CPA);
4. Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) (CPA M-L);
4 1/2. Communist Workers Party of Australia;
5. Freedom Socialist Party (FSP);
6. Progressive Labour Party (PLP);
7. Socialist Alliance (SA);
8. Socialist Alternative (SAlt);
9. Socialist Equality Party (SEP);
10. Socialist Party (SP);
12. Spartacist League of Australia;
13. Trotskyist Platform (TP).
1. ML Group (MLG);
2. Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP).
Tired and emotional :
2. The Socialist.
1. Left Unity;
2. Victorian Socialists.
The Far Left in Australia since 1945
To begin with, The Far Left in Australia since 1945 (Routledge, 2018), edited by Jon Piccini, Evan Smith & Matthew Worley, contains a number of essays of relevance to spotters, especially ‘The current of Maoism in the Australian Far Left’ by Drew Cottle and Angela Keys, which details the activities of Maoists in Australia in the 1960s and ’70s and inter alia the sometimes rather hostile relationship between Maoists and Trots.
The mutual hatred of the Trotskyists and Maoists for each other was not simply over ideological differences. The Maoists were seen by Trotskyists as ignorant, dogmatic Stalinist thugs, prone to violence and lost to the quest of reactionary nationalism. Maoists denounced Trotskyists as police agents, full of talk about the need to build the international socialist revolution, wreckers or cowards. In a 1970 Vanguard article, Trotskyism was condemned as an apolitical diversion in its promotion of drug-taking, sex-obsession, homosexuality and pop culture.
Maoist students were known to resort to physical rviolence against ‘Trotskyites’ in demonstrations and on campus. At Flinders University in 1972 Maoists bashed Trotskyist paper-sellers. Maoist activists at the gates of car plants in Adelaide and Melbourne jostled and punched Trotskyist speakers and paper-sellers. A Trotskyist activist was beaten unconscious by a student Maoist after a rowdy meeting at La Trobe University in 1977. In 1978, Maoist students threw another Trotskyist student through a plate glass window at La Trobe University. Maoists often attacked Trotskyist activists at union rallies. Maoist demonstrations often involved violent confrontations with the police. Maoists destroyed the Nazi Party headquarters in Carlton after a mass rally at the Yarra River in Melbourne was called to protest their activities. Trotskyists condemned this act of ‘people’s violence against fascism’. The Maoists were arguably the most divisive grouping of the Australian Far Left in the 1960s and 1970s.
Sadly, the essay fails to take note that ‘the first organised public debate in Australia between leading proponents of Maoism and Trotskyism took place at Latrobe University on 12 October’ 1978 (Maoist “in the service of peanut king Carter”: Spartacist League debates Albert Langer, Australasian Spartacist, November 1978). Langer, now known as Arthur Dent, is still fulla opinions, which you can read on Barry York’s blog C21st Left. York’s 1989 book STUDENT REVOLT! La Trobe University 1967-73 (Nicholas Press), along with Dan Robins’ 2005 thesis ‘Melbourne’s Maoists: The Rise of the Monash University Labor Club, 1965-1967’ are also relevant. See also : Bold thinking, revolutionary democracy and ‘the children of Karl Marx and Coca Cola’, C21st Left, October 20, 2017 | La Trobe Three revisit university 45 years after being locked up for protesting on campus, Josie Taylor, ABC 7.30 Report, February 24, 2017 | Communist Party of Australia (Marxist-Leninist) @ Reason in Revolt Archive.
Everybody’s favourite Trot group, the Spartacist League, also get a guernsey in Isobelle Barrett Meyering’s essay ‘Changing consciousness, changing lifestyles: Australian women’s liberation, the left and the politics of ‘personal solutions”:
… women’s liberation saw itself as rejecting ‘male left’ politics and demanded that it be recognised as an ‘autonomous’ movement. For those who maintained their connections to the organised left, this proved to be a point of ongoing friction. As women’s liberation expanded, some self-described ‘political women’ within the movement complained that they were treated as suspect due to their allegiances to socialist groups. These debates reached their apogee with proposals to expel Spartacist League members from women’s liberation in Melbourne in 1973 and Sydney in 1977, prompted by complaints that they were ‘disruptive’ and not genuinely committed to women’s liberation. The proposals were the subject of significant controversy, with only the Melbourne motion succeeding.
The proposal to expel the Sparts is denounced by them in “Radical” feminism going nowhere: Fight women’s oppression through class struggle! (Australasian Spartacist, March 1977), Red-baiting in women’s movement: Stop anti-Trotskyist purge! (April, 1977), Sydney Women’s Liberation: Feminist purge defeated … (May, 1977) and no doubt in subsequent issues. See : Australasian Spartacist.
Sadly, the CPA (M-L) ceased the print publication of its zine Vanguard back in 2014, but you can continue to read the online version here. The CPA (M-L) also has an online forum of sorts called ‘Australian Communist Discussion Site’ which inter alia contains a discussion from November 2017 indicating the CPA M-L’s participation in a NEW! (to me) project in Adelaide called ‘Left Unity’; indeed, ‘our people were among the founding members of a group called Left Unity, a loose alliance of Socialist Alliance, CPA, anarchists and individuals’. You can read more about Left Unity here. And speaking of Left Unity …
See also : Anti-Revisionism in Australia, Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line.
Like Left Unity, Victorian Socialists are a NEW! project on the left, an electoral campaign which has received the support of a number of socialist groupings including Socialist Alliance and Socialist Alternative.
Who are the Victorian Socialists?
Our political system is broken. The Liberals rule for their corporate mates. Labor is little better, tailing the political right and selling out its working class supporters to big money and developers.
It’s time for a genuine left alternative.
In the November 2018 state election, left wingers are uniting as the Victorian Socialists to get Yarra councillor Stephen Jolly elected to the upper house for the Northern Metropolitan Region.
We are for the poor against the rich, for workers against their bosses, for the powerless against the powerful.
The Victorian Socialists brings together socialist groups including Socialist Alternative and the Socialist Alliance, and individual activists, unionists and community organisers.
While Stephen Jolly will head the campaign, the ticket will also include Colleen Bolger from Socialist Alternative, and Socialist Alliance Moreland councillor Sue Bolton …
Whether or not Jolly will be able to win a seat would seem to depend upon: a) getting a reasonable amount of first preferences and; b) the flow of preferences from other parties. At this stage, it seems likely Labor will preference him behind Fiona Patten (Reason Party), an eventuality which would make it more difficult for Jolly to win. Still, stranger things have happened, amirite? In any event, you can read an interview with the Victorian Socialists by Riki Lane of Workers’ Liberty Australia — Vote Victorian Socialists! Put a socialist in parliament for Northern Melbourne — here.
Oh, and the Victorian Socialists will also be contesting the Western Victoria Region Legislative Council electorate in the November state election.
Still, not everybody’s on-board, and that includes the leadership of the world socialist movement AKA The International Committee of the Fourth International AKA The Socialist Equality Party, what reckons that this ‘latest opportunist manoeuvre by the pseudo-left is a calculated response to immense disaffection within the working class towards the Labor Party, which holds government in Victoria, and to the breakup of the longstanding two-party-dominated political system. Its aim is try to capture some of the social and political discontent and channel it into new parliamentary illusions.’ The electoral vehicle is subject to further excoriation by Patrick O’Connor in Australia: The pseudo-left Victorian Socialists and its pro-capitalist election manifesto (wsws.org, September 12, 2018).
See also : The Immodest Victorian Socialists, Ivan Mitchell and Daniel Lopez, Jacobin, September 8, 2018.
Speaking of the leadership of the world socialist movement, I also recently stumbledupon a NEW! (to me) site called classconscious.org, which exists in order to ‘promote the unity of the international working class in the struggle for socialist revolution.’ The site, which began publication in March 2017, has a small number of articles on it, many concerning Julian Assange (for example: The I.C.F.I must expose the petit-bourgeois and far-right forces who have co-opted the campaign for Julian Assange: An appeal to ICFI members and supporters, September 9, 2018), and while ‘This blog has no relationship with the World Socialist Website or the ICFI, its publishers … it is from this organisation that we have gained our education in Marxism and upon which we base our perspective.’ So there you go.
BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!
**Futilitarian has kindly reminded me of the existence of a ‘Communist Left’ (of Australia) in Sydney (not to be confused with the seemingly quite short-lived ‘Communist Left Discussion Circle’). They (?) publish a zine called Red which you can read here. (The latest available issue is numbered 118 and dated March 2017.) A statement published in late 2000 describes the groupuscule’s history:
Communist Left was formed in June 1976 by Owen Gager. It was formed in continuity with the record of New Zealand Spartacist League (which became Red Federation), Owen Gager’s struggle within that grouping against Spartacist League US supporters B. Logan and A. Hannah (backed by the majority of Wellington Branch). Gager had the support of Auckland comrades, notably Bruce Jesson. Jesson was expelled for building the Republican Movement at the expense of Red Federation. It supported the 1970 Programme of the NZSL and Owen Gager’s political record in Australia, mainly on East Timor and the 1976 Australian Constitutional crisis (the Kerr Coup). The first members were Bill Keats and Terry Millar who remained CPA members. Terry Millar was a member of NZSL and a comrade of O.Gager in New Zealand. A glazier, Paul Azzopardi joined shortly after.
The programme of the Communist Left, written in 1977 and published in 1978, firmly established the group’s political basis. Key points include full support for Trotsky’s founding of the fourth International but recognition that Fourth International was dead and none of the proclaimed continuers or reformers of it maintained in any way the continuity of the tradition as established by Trotsky. This includes the Mandelite United Secretariat, the Healyite International Committee, those in solidarity with the Socialist Workers Party (of the US), the Morenoite and Posadasite variants and the International Spartacist Tendency. As communism is by definition internationalist, there is an urgent need for a fifth international.
Communist Left made many important interventions on the Australian left. Gager and Azzopardi intervened within the Labor Party. Keats and Millar within the Communist Party of Australia. There were also key political interventions on such issues as the colonial nature of Australian capitalism combined with its mini-imperialist domination of parts of SE Asia and the South Pacific, the crisis of manufacturing and subsequent unemployment, the nationalist crisis of Stalinism internationally leading to the third Indochina war (and the ostensible Trotskyist sell out to Stalinism). CL made practical interventions on issues such as unemployment and housing.
Communist Left supports the founding document of the Fourth International – The Transitional Programme. The aim of the Programme of the Communist Left is not to replace Trotsky’s programme but to relate its method to a new period – the post-war boom, the expansion of Stalinism, the degeneration of Trotskyism. The document sets out international principles and applies them to Australia.
Internationally CL/A was in solidarity with the NZSL which was re-established in 1978. This group became CLNZ in 1983. Discussions were also held with the Revolutionary Communist Party of Britain.
CL/A grew in size as a result of practical work in unemployment and housing (squatting). CL/A was party to a major squatting of the Glebe estate area of Sydney (October 1984) involving hundreds of people. This however led to the expulsion of founder leader Owen Gager due to his indiscipline. Gager refused to argue for tactics previously agreed to by Glebe squatters and declared war on the majority when they insisted he did so. He then pretended that he was CL and that the majority had “stolen” the organisation off him. He then constituted himself as Communist Left (Leninist) and now is actively part of the Melbourne Anarchist movement.
Until the end of 1987 CL did some important work in unemployment and housing. A bulletin Communist was published. Interventions were made on a political level on issues such as the Hawke Government’s Prices and Incomes Accord (the Accord) and the left responses such as Broad Left and Fightback. We remained involved in housing and unemployment as members of the Union of the Unemployed, the Squatters and Tenants (UUST).
Communist Left Australia spit into fragments at the end of 1987. The majority supporting calling the police against their former comrades, giving the police names and addresses, totally unacceptable placing them outside the workers’ movement. Communist Tendency was established to maintain continuity of the CL tradition. CL was re-established when two former members including Paul Azzopardi rejoined. Red has been published consistently as a quarterly since March 1988. The issue currently in preparation will be the fiftieth issue. Leaflets have also been issued. Communist Left has also published an unemployed bulletin called Unemployed Action.
Communist Left broke off relations with Communist Left New Zealand when that grouping affiliated with the League for a Revolutionary Communist International (LRCI) whose leading section is the British group called Workers Power. We intervened to show that this was fundamentally an economist tendency, whose strategy was extending the trade union struggle into a general strike “posing the question of power”. We pointed out that the question of power must not only be posed but resolved – through a revolutionary programme confronting the totality of state power. This LRCI consistently avoided. We also pointed out the consequence of this was adaptation to the existing political consciousness of the working class – their reformist chauvinist consciousness. We pointed out Workers Power attacked Benn primarily not as a chauvinist but because of his inconsistency in mobilising the rank and file. This blocs with workers who whilst being critical on a trade union outlook share his fundamental political perspective – a reformist chauvinist one. Workers Power pointed to many heart felt examples of organising against chauvinism. However these are not of strategic consequence to them in drawing class lines. Workers Power lines of struggle are organising workers on the shop floor against the bureaucracy and extending militancy. It is not drawing class lines which involve fighting for an interest independent of capitalist social relations – the capitalist state.
In New Zealand sections of the Workers Power leadership who were also leaders of the Communist Left of New Zealand split with other militants internationally to form the Liason Committee of Militants for a Revolutionary Communist International [1995–2004]. This did not constitute a fundamental break from Workers Power but argued, correctly that the current leadership were adapting to imperialist pressures. Whilst we agree with their criticisms, the totality of LRCI, from the beginning must be addressed. Since they haven’t done so we can not reconsider re-establishing solidarity.
See also : Contemporary Trotskyism: Parties, Sects and Social Movements in Britain, John Kelly (Routledge, 2018).
Oh yeah — I haven’t looked at Teh Left in NZ for … six years? In Good News for spotters, the —
1) Communist League;
2) Communist Workers’ Group of Aotearoa/New Zealand;
3) International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT);
4) International Socialist Organisation (Aotearoa/New Zealand);
5) Socialist Aotearoa (SA) and;
6) Socialist Appeal
— are all still kickin’, though Socialist Worker (Aotearoa) — which possibly survives as the Eco-Socialist Network? or maybe not — and the Workers’ Party of New Zealand (WPNZ) have undergone some ch-ch-changes. theicebloc blog has published a neat0 spotters’ guide to the extra-parliamentary left here, which includes Canterbury Socialist Society, Fightback, Organise Aotearoa, Redline, ☭Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (A/NZ)☭, Socialist Equality Group – New Zealand and finally Socialist Voice – Aotearoa/New Zealand. Anarchist groups and projects include Aotearoa Workers Solidarity Movement, Black Star Books, The Freedom Shop, Rebel Press and Tāmaki Makaurau Anarchists.