Left Unity (You Are My Destiny) [Trot Guide December 2012 Update]

Clenched fist salute to Axeris; here are some links to blah blah blah about unity (RSP+SAlt=SAlt) on the Australian (Marxist) left. Note that at their weekend conference, SAlt agreed that the RSP was tops and could totally join them.

What politics to unite Australia’s left?, December 8, 2012 (Peter Boyle, Socialist Alliance)
A response to “What politics to unite Australia’s left?”, December 14, 2012 (Mick Armstrong, Socialist Alternative)
What can be the basis of unity on the left?, December 14, 2012 (Allen Myers, Direct Action/Revolutionary Socialist Party)
• Building unity and a stronger left [PDF], December 2012 (Solidarity National Committee)

Elsewhere:

Socialist Alternative Australia: Strange sort of unity, December 13, 2012 (Weekly Worker/Communist Party of Great Britain)
Australian pseudo-left backs imperialist intervention in Syria, December 14, 2012 (Patrick O’Connor and Nick Beams/Socialist Equality Party)

As for me, I’m still waiting a response from SAlt to this.

See also : Trot Guide November 2012 Update (November 1, 2012).

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2015 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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5 Responses to Left Unity (You Are My Destiny) [Trot Guide December 2012 Update]

  1. There’s been some interesting discussion (for the spotter without any social life at least!) on Tad Tietze’s Facebook profile. This for example:

    For ease of reference, I thought I’d turn some FB comments I made in response to a question about what I thought about Socialist Alternative’s “Left Unity” proposal in the context of two recent articles — one by Peter Boyle from Socialist Alliance (http://www.socialist-alliance.org/page.php?page=1230) and the response by Mick Armstrong of Socialist Alternative (http://www.sa.org.au/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=7608:a-response-to-%E2%80%9Cwhat-politics-to-unite-australia%E2%80%99s-left%E2%80%9D&Itemid=546)

    Mick’s article helpfully clarified the Socialist Alternative position and answered many of my questions about the approach that informs the unity proposal.

    ***

    I haven’t really set out a huge amount of what I think before this because I was trying to get my head around what the issues were driving the merger.

    In its particular way I thought Peter’s article tried to address how socialists should proceed in terms of a concrete analysis of the concrete situation. You can tell, in broad terms, what the Alliance perspective is. But Mick’s article argues that such analysis and the practical conclusions drawn from it should be decisively subordinated to unity around a general set of principles (or “program”) — that these principles are the most important guide in how to intervene in campaigns/activities you participate in (beyond the frame of “building the party”) — indeed, “much more important than which campaigns you intervene in”.

    For example (just one), Mick writes: ‘Peter Boyle states that “Socialist Alliance is the only group actively involved in the environment movement.” To raise this as an important difference that impacts on the possibility of socialist unity is in our view seriously mistaken. It would effectively prevent Socialist Alliance uniting with any other socialist group.

    ‘Involvement in the environment movement is not a criterion for deciding whether an organisation is socialist or revolutionary or whether it is possible to unite with them. After all, the decidedly unrevolutionary Greens are involved in the environment movement and it would be absurd to unite with them.’

    This seems to me to have things upside down. The question of whether Marxists should engage with the environment movement as a priority (and how) can only be decided in terms of a careful analysis of that movement and its relationship to the balance of class and political forces in Australian society, as well as of the forces that revolutionary Marxists can deploy. It is a concrete question, and not one that can be derived from general principles, because history unfolds dialectically in the real world, and not simply through a logical derivation from some initial starting point.

    For me, unity discussions — if they are to have any chance of increasing the social weight and influence (not just raw numbers or warm feelings of all getting together in the one party) of revolutionary Marxists in Australia — would be best to seek common ground about concrete priorities based on the kinds of criteria I’ve outlined. Let me be clear that this does not mean dropping one’s principles, but deciding which ones affect the possibility of genuine unity in action around shared perspectives to meet the actual situation we find ourselves in. Socialist Alternative recognises this at one level by raising the issue of the class nature of the Soviet Union, but does so in a “grand sweep of history” kind of way by referring to the death of actually-existing socialism. Differences over that question are linked to other differences that may make analysis of the conjuncture and ideas about how to intervene difficult to agree on. Or they may not. It’s a question of the complexities of how the immediate situation and the general principles interact.

    Also, I’m not suggesting that revolutionaries should drop being open revolutionaries, but I am open to much broader and varied “Left unity” projects than just that of two explicitly revolutionary groups — again, my judgement would depend on the concrete analysis of the concrete situation guiding Marxists’ choices. Now, it could be that Socialist Alliance has a really lousy analysis of the current political conjuncture and therefore is mistaken to engage as deeply as it does with the environment movement, but I would say that the prima facie case is that one would have to have a very clear (and, again, concrete) perspective as to why that was (which may be as simple as it being too far down a list of strategic priorities for a tiny group to expend significant resources on; you can’t do everything, after all!). But that is not what Mick seems to be arguing here; rather he is saying that such an argument is subordinate to the need to unite as revolutionaries around a general set of principles.

    I have raised the question of what is the concrete political perspective that informs this merger is with a number of Socialist Alternative comrades over the last few weeks. The answers I have gotten have included: (1) puzzlement at the question, (2) a suggestion my question is not relevant, (3) an argument that the organisational and ideological (i.e. general principles) unity *is* the political issue, (4) suggestions (some laced with colourful language) that my only reason to exist is to attack Socialist Alternative, (5) a vague notion that all the old certainties are melting away, and (6) that the conjuncture is not so important to the motivations for this merger. Mick seems to reaffirm the last of these in more explicit and developed form here.

    Nevertheless, the really positive thing that this unity push has done is open up precisely this kind of discussion, so at least I can put my two cents’ worth!

    ***

    Gramsci puts the general approach much better than I can, so I’ll quote him here:

    “The active politician is a creator, an initiator; but he neither creates from nothing nor does he move in the turbid void of his own desires and dreams. He bases himself on effective reality, but what is this effective reality? Is it something static and immobile, or is it not rather a relation of forces in continuous motion and shift of equilibrium? If one applies one’s will to the creation of a new equilibrium among the forces which really exist and are operative basing oneself on the particular force which one believes to be progressive and strengthening it to help it to victory—he still moves on the terrain of effective reality, but does so in order to dominate and transcend it (or to contribute to this). What ‘ought to be’ is therefore concrete; indeed it is the only realistic and historicist interpretation of reality, it alone is history in the making and philosophy in the making, it alone is politics.” [Selections From The Prison Notebooks, p 172]

    Spotters will also find the discussion thread that follows entertaining.

  2. Barry 'Kanga' Purvis says:

    Kieran, this is a fascinating review of the latest skit by our friends in SAlt and the RSP. And throwing in a tidbit of Gramsci the way you did, like a prolix exclamation point, was quite inspired. Your piece certainly stirred some profound dialectical cogitations in my tired old mind.

    However, a question remains for me, a question that has tormented my spirit for many decades, and for which I have never been able to receive a satisfactory answer: Who won the game of chess between Comrade Lenin and Tristan Tzara at the Cafe de la Terrasse in Zurich in 1916?

    Some say it was a draw. Some say it couldn’t reach a proper conclusion because each played by different rules. Some say it’s not important. But to my mind it represents the most urgent question of our age: Is a dialectical synthesis between Marxism and Dada a practical possibility TODAY? And if so, would everything we’ve ever believed about our beloved revolutionary praxis be turned on its wooden head?

  3. Barry 'Kanga' Purvis says:

    My apologies, Kieran, I erroneously credited you with authorship of the above review. Credit must go to Tad Tietze. The ways of Dada are mysterious indeed.

  4. Pingback: League for the Revolutionary Party Communist Organization for the Fourth International (Australia) | slackbastard

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