Trot Guide 2008: Forging Unity For The Struggle Ahead!

Comrades! Let Us Forge Unity For the Struggle Ahead!
For The Defeat Of Ignorance Concerning Solidarity – From The Near East, To Ireland, The Caribbean and New Caledonia!
Rebuild The IST-Trainspotting Tendency!
Break From the Gouldite Leadership!
For The World Party of Socialist Revolutionary Trainspotting!

The ISO has finally got around to telling the world that on February 3 it successfully forged unity for the struggle ahead with the Socialist Action Group and Solidarity. The statement, dated February 13, reveals nothing with regards the reasons for the amalgamation, other than the experience of working together in the anti-war movement and in preparation for the APEC protest as having provided an opportunity for members of the three organisations to overcome whatever differences may have existed between them in the past. Outside of their relationship to the SWP International — aka the International Socialist Tendency — the chief difference between the re-forged Solidarity and its main rival in Socialist Alternative would appear to be the result of their history; in other words, personal differences between the party’s leaderships. In which case, at some point in the future, it may be that the two join together; alternatively, that there is a further split in SAlt. Note that SAlt split from the ISO in 1995; in 2002, it proposed the two re-fuse.

A Stronger Left and Stronger Socialist Organization : Forging Unity For the Struggle Ahead

On Sunday, 3 February, a conference of three socialist groups, Socialist Action Group, International Socialist Organisation, and Solidarity voted to merge their organisations into a united group to be called Solidarity.

The merger represents a significant step forward in re-unifying the key groups of the International Socialist Tendency in Australia and the emergence of a new national group committed to building the left and the social movements in Australia.

The merger brings together the members of three groups that have played an important role in the fight against the Howard government – in the fight against the cuts to Higher Education and the introduction of Voluntary Student Unionism, against One Nation, on the side of militant unionism in the MUA dispute, the fight for refugee rights, against scapegoating Muslims and against the so-called war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Together with a joint commitment to the politics of socialism from below, it has been the experience of working together particularly in anti-war work and the lead up to the APEC demonstration against George Bush and John Howard in Sydney that laid the basis for forging the unity of the three groups…

The fight for social justice cannot be waged from the sidelines. The unified Solidarity is committed to throwing itself into struggles for social justice, to overturn the legacy of the Howard years and to strengthen the confidence of rank and file unionists on the shop floor.

We look forward to working in common struggle with other activists from social movements and the wider left to further these aims.

On Socialism From Below, see Tom Keefer, ‘Marxism, Anarchism, & the Genealogy of “Socialism From Below”‘, Upping the Anti, No.2, January 2006, for a cautious but still very useful critique of the concept which the IST, following Hal Draper (‘The Two Souls of Socialism’, 1960/1966), has claimed as its own. A detailed response to David McNally’s writings on the same subject — and employing essentially the same arguments as Draper — may be found in The Anarchist FAQ, Reply to errors and distortions in David McNally’s pamphlet “Socialism from Below”.

McNally performs the same role today as Draper served in the 1970s and 1980s, which is to counter anarchist criticisms that Leninism is an authoritarian doctrine, both in theory and practice. The idea that Leninism is somehow compatible with some form of ‘socialism from below’ has become increasingly untenable over the last few decades, not only as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Empire, but also under the impact of movements in opposition to neo-liberalism.

As for the SWP itself, following the recent (November 2007) split in the RESPECT coalition between an SWP-dominated faction (Respect — The Unity Coalition) and another (Respect Renewal), this week has seen one of its local councillors, Ahmed Hussain leave the SWP for… the Tories. The boofheaded leader of the SWP, John Rees:

…issued a press statement in the early hours of this morning [February 14] attacking the Advertiser‘s story as “a rumour”. They insisted Cllr Hussain remained firmly on their side. But after spending the night thinking, Cllr Hussain called the paper at 9.30am to confirm he was defecting. Three hours later, he met Cllr Golds and former Tory group leader Simon Rouse to sign his party membership forms, then emailed the council’s chief executive shortly after.

Here’s a man, they’ll say, who was first a Labour supporter, then a Respect councillor and then a cheerleader for the Socialist Workers Party. And now he’s a Tory!

Bring forth a beverage for Cllr Ahmed Hussain of Tower Hamlets, east London, who was said on Wednesday to be defecting from Respect to the Tories, a notion he dismissed. “There are some people who want to jump on any rumour,” a press release explained. But by yesterday the deed was done, completing Cllr Hussain’s passage from the George Galloway wing of Respect to the Tories via the SWP, a journey only equalled in length and complexity by the astronauts of Apollo 11. He must be tired. Get him a drink.

Ooops. For the record, here’s how Reespect handled the initial allegation regarding Hussain’s defection:

vers. 1.0 [since deleted]

Tower Hamlets Councillor stays with Respect
Tower Hamlets Councillor Ahmed Hussain quashed rumours that he had joined the Tory party today and insisted that he was sticking with Respect.

Following stories in the local paper, The East London Advertiser, the leader of the Respect group of councillors Oliur Rahman said: “I spoke with Councillor Ahmed Hussain today and he made it absolutely clear that he is staying with Respect and stands by its values.”

Councillor Rahman added, “there are some people who want to jump on any rumour that gets out to damage Respect. They would be better advised to check the facts with me. Our Respect group remains united and ready to join the fight against the Tories and New Labour in the Greater London Authority elections.”

And following the cat’s leap out of the bag:

vers. 1.1 [still current]

Statement from Respect on Cllr Ahmed Hussain’s resignation
We are sorry to hear that Cllr Ahmed Hussain has joined the Tories. We had discussions with him yesterday where he agreed that he was going to stay with Respect. We issued a statement saying that, in good faith, but clearly his assurances meant nothing.

He has joined a party which supports war and privatisation, which has little representation among ethnic minorities, and which has few supporters among working class people in Tower Hamlets or anywhere else.

This is a betrayal of the principles on which he was elected and will be a great disappointment to those who voted for him. He should resign immediately and stand in a by election, where voters will have the chance to cast their opinion on his change of politics.

See also : Inveresk Street Ingrate | On the Road from Trotsky to PNAC, see Ted Widmer, ‘What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been’ — “From exile to redemption to exile again: a history of the “militaristic idealists” known as neocons” — The Washington Post, February 3, 2008, a review of They Knew They Were Right by Jabob Heilbrunn, and this wicked chart; further disco at sans everything.

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 2024 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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22 Responses to Trot Guide 2008: Forging Unity For The Struggle Ahead!

  1. Lumpen says:

    Yes, but what about all the nice things Lenin did?

  2. @ndy says:

    This is true. I have a copy of Lenin Among Children which reveals that Lenin was a member of the Clean Plates Society.

    And one for the stamp collectors:

  3. @ndy says:

    Mind you, he did have a temper.

    Thus Lenin continued to call for “pogroms” against Anarchists and Socialists, doing it with even greater intensity than in 1921. Now he openly called for executions of Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionists. And a call issued by Lenin in practice meant a command. How did the dry guillotine work during the last two years of Lenin’s life? How was Lenin’s command carried out in practice? Let us now turn from theory of terror to its description in practice.

    The terroristic activity of 1922 did not differ much from that of 1921, and it proceeded along the same route: struggle against workers, struggle against peasants for more grain, finishing off the insurrectionary movement and the “green” bands, purging the country from Socialists and Anarchists. This purge, as is known, was initiated in 1921, but in the following year certain changes were introduced which somewhat modified the nature of this struggle. Since it was rather impossible openly to shoot Anarchists and Socialists for the fear of releasing a powerful wave of resentment and mass protests abroad–and the Bolsheviks did not altogether relish such interventional repercussions–the authorities reverted to the dry guillotine as a way of annihilating their political opponents. They restored political banishment, exiling politicals to most dismal places; the concentration camps were built on sites which, together with the frightful regime, worked powerfully to decimate the inmates through illnesses and unspeakable privations.

    ~ Gregory Petrovich Maximoff, The Guillotine At Work, Vol 1: The Leninist Counter-Revolution, Cienfuegos Press, 1979 (1940), pp.206–207

  4. grumpy cat says:

    …the chief difference between the re-forged Solidarity and its main rival in Socialist Alternative would appear to be the result of their history; in other words, personal differences between the party’s leaderships.

    @ndy that is total bullshit. SAlt is a tight knit highly centralised propaganda group with a general hostility to all other militants — except where they think they can make some profit from the twists and turns of the Left. Solidarity and Socialist Action Group were loose groupings with a movementist approach. The new organisation Solidarity does not even have a Leninist-style central committee. Both in their way represent the crisis of Leninism – and both are responding by going in different directions. Ultimately I hope Solidarity will leave Leninism behind…

    Maybe Solidarity will turn out to be rubbish — but then again all of the formal and semi-formal revolutionary tendencies in Australia are pretty rubbish. The new anarchist federation is also likely to be rubbish. But there is a chance that it might be something more. Same with Solidarity.

    A few militants, in total probably less than 100, have come together to rethink the questions of revolutionary organisation. That’s great. Actually it’s really important stuff and I would think that we should all pay it critical attention. I get really disappointed @ndy that you are so sharp on some many things but you still go in for this ideological tit-for-tat…

    Furthermore your satire of Leninist-speak at the top of this blog entry would have worked better if any of the contemporary IS groupings used such language. It just falls flat. It’s like the various Fast Forward spin-offs doing “bogan” jokes in the 90s.

    Also from what I have heard the old ISO leadership lost the vote on the form Solidarity will take; it was many of the new younger comrades who have taken a role defining the organisation.

    rebel love

  5. @ndy says:


    In terms of the differences between SAlt and Solidarity (the ISO, Solidarity and the Socialist Action Group), it’s not total bullshit to claim that the chief one revolves around their respective party leaderships; or, further, to claim that these are a product of history.

    SAlt split from the ISO in 1995.

    Q. Why?

    I dunno, but the one document that I’m aware of that addresses the question at any length was issued in the name of SAlt’s NE in September 2002. It claims that the ISO was at the time of the split possessed of an overblown analysis — this line, dubbed ‘the 1930s in slow motion’, was the product of the SWP’s ruminations. Secondly, those opposed found themselves victims of ‘democratic centralism’ — the democracy you have when you’re not having a democracy. Thus:


    The leadership set tasks for the ISO which would have been impossible to achieve even if the political climate had been as favourable as they made out. Even in a favourable climate it would not have been possible for the ISO, given its small size, to develop a grandiose network of paper sellers (the pet project in the mid-90s) nor to develop a swathe of suburban branches, establish Global Action clubs with thousands of student members, establish an electorally successful Socialist Alliance or revive the anti-war movement. A socialist group is never going to be built by grandiose proposals that take no account of the capabilities of the organisation or by downgrading the need for political argument to convince people of socialist ideas. In fact, in a period of intense politicisation, with all sorts of confused ideas competing for a hearing, an emphasis on political clarity is even more important.


    As interpreted by the ISO leadership, “democratic centralism” became a caricature, with the emphasis overwhelmingly on centralism over the democratic component. Whenever leaders of socialist groups start making a fuss about “democratic centralism”, alarm bells should start ringing. It is a sure sign that something is wrong. At the very least it indicates that the leadership is inflating its importance in the world out of all proportion. Usually it indicates there is a crisis that the leadership feels incapable of resolving by debating the issues, and instead is preparing organisational measures to silence its opponents. That is exactly what happened in the years leading up to the 1995 split.

    Q. Who lead the split (which became SAlt)?

    Mick Armstrong and Sandra Bloodworth (among a handful of others).

    Q. Who remains at the helm of SAlt?

    With regards the 2003 split — which produced Solidarity — at the time 21 members signed a letter dated May 23, 2003 declaring the reasons for their mass resignation.

    It blames the leadership.

    This prompted (the) SAlt (party leadership) to engage in further reflections.

    When the Socialist Action Group formed as result of a split in SALt a year later in 2004, another letter of resignation was made public. In essence, its complaints are very similar to those found in the other letters of resignation.

    To me — and ignoring, for the moment, any broader critique of Leninist politics — this suggests a pattern of behaviour which centres not on ‘political’ questions but ‘organisational’ ones.

    Is Solidarity a Leninist party, or not? I dunno. If you’re correct, it’s moving away from ‘democratic centralism’ towards some modified version of a more ‘traditional’ concept of party democracy, one which doesn’t mandate the existence of a central committee. Insofar as this is indeed correct, that’s a positive development for those concerned. However, I think you may be jumping to conclusions. To the best of my knowledge — and correct me if I’m wrong — there has been precisely one statement issued by the new group. As I noted above, it reveals very little. What it does commit the new organisation to is membership of the IST (aka the Pomintern) and ‘socialism from below’. As indicated, I believe both to be deeply flawed.

    Finally, with regards the use of ‘Leninist-speak’, that’s a reference to an older entry regarding the Spartacists, from which the quote — suitably-modified — more directly derives. And as far as I’m aware, ‘bogans’ are still around, only they’re more likely to be termed ‘cashed-up bogans’, and their cultural predilections satirised in Kath & Kim; a fairly highly-rating program from what I can gather.

    Q. Perhaps there’s a little bogan in everyone?

    Still flyin’ the flannel,



  6. grumpy cat says:

    Okay yes there is a family feud element in the IS – often going back to the 70s when a bunch of them meet as anarchists in Brisbane. But the splits and subsequent differences are around the questions of the internal culture of the organisation and the relation of the organisation to struggle. Both groups are wrong on huge points : questions of class composition, the nature of reformism etc. But there are real differences between them you are ignoring because (I think) you are too invested in a kind of hand rubbing point scoring: which is a pretty standard trait in Australian anarchist circles. Hey after all it keeps your hands warm and is a good distraction from how shit so much of anarchist activity in Australia is. I wonder how much anarchism as an ideology needs Leninism – as a constant excuse for its failings and as something to define itself in relation to…

    rebel love

  7. @ndy says:


    I wrote: “…the chief difference between the re-forged Solidarity and its main rival in Socialist Alternative would appear to be the result of their history; in other words, personal differences between the party’s leaderships.”

    You replied: “@ndy that is total bullshit.”

    Note my use of the term ‘appear to be’. Note also that I’ve gone to some lengths to account for that observation, which I admit could be mistaken. Finally, note that one of the reasons I went into some detail regarding the various splits in the IST in Australia over the last 13 years was to draw your attention to the fact that the reasons given for them invariably revolved around the question of a certain leadership style, organisational culture and party structure. Even the question of the concept of ‘the 1930s in slow motion’ blah blah blah was the result of a political imposition from HQ — in this case, the SWP. On my reading, these problems are not incidental but intrinsic to this tradition; further, such problems come to the fore during periods of relative quiet, and as a result of the tendency’s increasing disrepute (which is another story, and closely related to more general political and social changes over the last few decades in the West in particular).

    Regarding the nature of the current Solidarity, I’d like to know your opinion on the following. I repeat:

    Is Solidarity a Leninist party, or not? I dunno. If you’re correct, it’s moving away from ‘democratic centralism’ towards some modified version of a more ‘traditional’ concept of party democracy, one which doesn’t mandate the existence of a central committee. Insofar as this is indeed correct, that’s a positive development for those concerned. However, I think you may be jumping to conclusions. To the best of my knowledge — and correct me if I’m wrong — there has been precisely one statement issued by the new group. As I noted above, it reveals very little. What it does commit the new organisation to is membership of the IST (aka the Pomintern) and ’socialism from below’. As indicated, I believe both to be deeply flawed.

    Is this assessment wrong? Has there been more than one statement issued by the new group? Is Solidarity aligned with the IST, or not? Does it embrace the notion of ‘socialism from below’, or not? How do you view Tom Keefer’s summary of the problems inherent in Draper’s notion of ‘socialism from below’, and do you think anti-authoritarian socialism is compatible with Leninism?

    I think it’s mistaken to claim that I’m “ignoring” the differences between the ISO, SAG, SAlt and Solidarity; on the contrary, I’ve provided links to the documents which spell out those differences in the words of the tendencies themselves. I’ve also quoted, in near-fullness, the only document that I’m aware of that has been produced by the new group. And if members of any of these groups are unable or unwilling to comment themselves, I think it’s unreasonable to blame me for it.

    In reality, I think we have a difference of opinion. I’m not convinced that the new organisation represents a decisive break from the IST; in fact, it appears to be the IST’s franchise in Australia. Insofar as the new franchise is like the old one, the same criticisms I have of the old will be brought to bear on the new.

    As for the point-scoring and hand-rubbing… uh-huh. If my only activity consisted of blogging about the ins and outs of the IST and similar political formations, you’d have a point.

    It doesn’t and you don’t.

    On the history of the IS:

    According to Tom O’Lincoln (‘Marching Down Marx Street, The International Socialists in Australia, 1972–1992’ [rtf]), the Brisbane branch of the IS was established in 1974 by ex-CPA member Graeme Grassie and Carole Ferrier (UQ). As far as I’m aware, neither has ever described themselves as anarchist, nor were they members of the Self-Management Group. On the other hand, Ian Rintoul was — so was Drew Hutton (Greens), and so was Brian Laver.

    Anyone for tennis?

    According to Takver, “the Self-Management Group, which was a highly structured libertarian organisation of over three hundred people, led Brisbane’s marches against Vietnam in the early 1970s”.

    Godwin know what they’re all doing now eh? (You’ll find Brian at Ahimsa House, site of a recent rubbishy discussion regarding a rubbishy proposal for a rubbishy federation.)

    In any case, in my experience, anarchists are generally written out of history: a product, in part, of the fact that its history is written by its enemies. Another reason is that relatively few anarchists are in a position to correct this; the academy so far having proven to be far more hospitable terrain for Marxists than it has for anarchists. Then there’s the course of twentieth century history, and the fact that, for most of it, in Australia, anarchism was embraced by a bunch of working-class wogs (Bulgarian, Italian, Spanish…) not University students.

    Speaking of which:


      “While some celebrated the rejuvenation of south Fitzroy, others were ambivalent. Most who had lived in Fitzroy prior to the 1970s appeared to accept the suburb’s make over with resignation or indifference (or an initial sense of helplessness in the case of slum clearance). Others, however, did ponder the effects of the middle class ‘moving in, doing up cottages, (and) pushing up the values that squeezed out the oldies’, with one resident asking: ‘where else could the drunks sleep it off… Kew? Balwyn?’

      Yet the rapid demographic and social change occurring in Fitzroy in the 1970s did not pass without more rigorous public challenge. Opposition to what was labelled ‘Trendy Kulture’ was voiced loudly by a particular activist group, the ‘fitzroy anarchists’, comprising of both old and new Fitzroy residents. The group produced a series of newsletters and pamphlets from mid-1974 to 1975 entitled get out of fitzroy!

      The campaign launched by the fitzroy anarchists focused on the social and economic baggage that accompanied the changes in the suburb. In an uncompromising and many ways prescient fashion, they tackled head on many of the groups who felt that they were acting in the best interests of Fitzroy’s poor and marginalised. get out of fitzroy! attacked ‘the student population with their trendy bourgeois tastes and friends’. It called for ‘a boycott on all the pizza places the kentaky fried chicken houses and trendy pubs and shops’.

      The fitzroy anarchists were critical of the Fitzroy City Council for abandoning its working-class and migrant constituency, for pandering to ‘trendy tastes’ expressed in the council’s period-detail restoration of the City Library. The anarchists claimed that through this restoration the council was attempting to identify with the renovated terrace owners in the surrounding area, rather than its working-class ‘heartland’, subsequently launching a catchcry ‘multi-lingual papers not chandeliers!’

      In another campaign, this time in response to the council’s predilection for the construction of traffic barriers and roundabouts (a definite middle-class fetish), the anarchists offered the ultimate solution to Fitzroy’s traffic problems: ‘if necessary, create a bubble over Fitzroy—let them go round’.

      The group also waged a graffiti campaign that saw the slogan ‘piss off trendies, piss off’ daubed on factory walls and inside some properties under renovation.

      Some of its more serious criticism, however, was reserved not for ‘trendy’ renovators but for those perceived by the fitzroy anarchists as nothing more than ‘trendy’ political activists:

      The trendy [Marxists] are the very people who are making the area one of the ‘best’ middle-class areas of Melbourne… as well as making the needy suffer and with an apparent complete lack of conscience… [They] are to blame for the suffering, in spite of the fact that fitzroy is needed for the poor, the migrants, the single mothers, the alcoholics, the pensioners and the lower working-class whites.

      In a poster that was pasted throughout the suburb, ‘get out! …of fitzroy’, the fitzroy anarchists lampooned the baggage of the ‘trendies’ and provided an eclectic list of all that it wanted banished from the suburb: ‘charity organisations, antique joints, The Flying Trapeze (café) and The Melbourne Crime’ (a variant on the name of a local newspaper that carried extensive real estate advertising). Perhaps the most effective expression of the fitzroy anarchists’ cause came in the form of a poem by long-time south Fitzroy resident and poet ∏O. A founding member of the group, ∏O wrote his ‘get out of fitzroy’ to remind the middle class of what they had previously feared or despised and how they had transformed the suburb:


      get out of fitzroy

      …you’ve sidestepped the bloodpools
      the pusholes &
      raised the rents
      classed the restaurants
      closed down the hamburgers
      gouged out the stomachs of houses
      & photoed the bedrooms of drunks
      you’ve made this place hell.
      we’ll burn down the street signs
      we know our way around

      get out of fitzroy

      Although the ‘get out of fitzroy’ campaign received wide publicity and some media support, over the next twenty years Trendy Kulture proliferated across the suburb. In many other parts of inner-city Melbourne also, an increasing number of properties were transformed from ‘slums’ into places where the middle class could imagine the ‘respectable self’; where they could ensconce themselves in such fashionably renovated accommodation as a ‘balcony terrace in Gore Street, Fitzroy’ that ‘brought the idea of the Victorian bourgeois family into the present’.

      Throughout the inner suburbs, but perhaps in south Fitzroy most dramatically, the arrival of the new bourgeois family began to displace those who found it increasingly difficult to afford to live in a previously maligned suburb that had been their home…”

      — Tony Birch, ‘The Best TV Reception in Melbourne’: Fitzroy ‘Low-life’ & the Invasion of the Renovator [PDF]; see also Mission Yuppie Eradication Project

  8. @ndy says:

    PS. There’s shitloads more commentary at the Socialist Unity blog of Andy Newman’s.

  9. grumpy cat says:

    You’ll find Brian at Ahimsa House, site of a recent rubbishy discussion regarding a rubbishy proposal for a rubbishy federation…

    Yes I know. I (unlike anyone involved in any ‘organised’ anarchist activity in Brisbane) was at the federation meeting and it was pretty good.

    My point is very simple, that just as people/groups with a formal adherence to anarchist ideologies of one sort or another can act like authoritarian jerks, so too people/groups with a formal adherence to Leninism can act in ways that advance [and] that are pretty decent. This is because communist potential lives in the material conditions of society which criss crosses all our lives… funny old world.

    rebel love

  10. @ndy says:


    I’ve got no idea who was at the meeting in Brisbane. I’m surprised none of the folks involved in BASTARD/Beating Hearts/Black & Green were there. Maybe they were too busy cleaning the toilets? Or simply aren’t interested? I think I’ll write and ask. Outside of this, I’m actually unaware of any ‘organised’ anarchist activity in Brisbane… if by that you mean the existence of self-proclaimed anarchist organisations with a public profile. Feel free to let me know otherwise.

    Regarding the potential contradiction between an individual or group’s avowed purpose and actual practice, I agree… on some level. But I think your point raises issues that have only a tangential relationship to your original observation, which was much more specific. From what I can gather — and leaving aside a number of other issues — what this boils down to is what might be the most appropriate response to news that the ISO, the Socialist Action Group and Solidarity have (re-)combined.


    On the one hand, I maintain that this is probably not a ground-breaking development, especially insofar as what it amounts to is the refoundation of the IST in Australia.

    Initially I wrote — and in response to ‘juancastro’, a supposed member of SAlt — that:

    For what it’s worth, from an outsider’s perspective, the splits appear to have had a large personal dimension, for which political disagreements have served as a partial cover…

    A dirty stinking rotten communist wrote:

    I think everyone is missing the key trainspotting question here: does this mean that the ISO has given up its claim to the International Socialist Tendency Australian franchise, that the ISO will remain an ‘official’ IST tendency within Solidarity, or that Solidarity will now become the franchise-holder?

    You replied:

    Actually i think the main question will be if the new organisation will continue in the generally good direction of Solidarity and SAG (which is not without real problems) or will it fall back in to the errors of the ISO? I think this is also linked to the unstable fusion of Luxemburg and Lenin that is in the ‘hard kernel’ of the IS tendency.

    To which I, in turn, foolishly replied:

    I’m not sure exactly what direction SAG and Solidarity were moving in beforehand — perhaps you could elaborate? — nor am I sure of the errors of the ISO (that is, outside of and in addition to adherence to a particular interpretation of Trotskyist doctrine) but it’s quite apparent that, whatever its precise content, it’s brought them and the ISO full circle and back into the one organisation. Further, assuming Bob the Bookseller is correct, as Lumpen indicated, “The general framework of the common orientation, which was the consensus of the conference, is based on electoral support for the Greens and then Labor under the preferential system and a broader united front tactic towards the ranks of the Greens, the trade unions and the Labor Party”. Is this what you mean by “good direction”? A particular orientation towards the Greens, Labour and trade unions? If so, on one level, it may be a good thing — but I think that really depends on your political perspective. As it stands, what happens appears to have been a rationalisation of the IST outside of SAlt. Given the otherwise minimal political disagreements among the three previously separate organisations, this makes a good deal of sense, and places the IST in a much better position with regards its rivals on the student Left: SAlt and the DSP/Resistance/SA.

    And it’s at this point that I think you became pissed off (or “disappointed”) and the rest, as they say, is trainspotting history.

    To return to your comment above. I don’t dispute that individuals who formally adhere to some concept of Leninism are capable of acting with integrity, or that because of this fact all of their actions are therefore worthy of complete and utter condemnation, regardless of their meaningful (and sometimes contradictory) content and motivation. By the same token, I’m aware of the fact that ‘anarchist’ is a label, not a warranty.

    I take this as read.

    But even if it’s correct to state that “communist potential lives in the material conditions of society” — a concept which obviously requires much further elaboration, as I’m sure you’re aware and which is something I believe you to be interested in contributing to — this does not mean that this potential is closer to being realised simply because a few groups have decided to re-forge the IST in Australia. This, as I see it, is the subject of this thread. That is, it’s existence is partly a function of leftist trainspotting — a hobby which is, as should be obvious, only quasi-serious in its intent — and partly an attempt to understand the various trains of thought that constitute contemporary radicalism.

  11. grumpy cat says:

    Hi Andy

    At work break (shit just finished) so just quickly on one point: I spend a fair bit of time with “BASTARD/Beating Hearts/Black & Green” as the bookshop is in my house, actually it’s next to my bedroom. Those I have spoken to have little to no interest in the federation because they have very different ideas about meaningful activity.

    rebel love

  12. @ndy says:

    Stolen from Socialist Unity blog…

    ‘A contribution to what passes for debate on the UK left over the new Australian Solidarity group’
    Mark Lockett (Solidarity)
    February 17, 2008

    Red Wombat is once again full of rubbish. Contrary to his ridiculous claims that ‘…the space for an activist group that is seeking joint practical work over concrete issues is largely taken by the Socialist Alliance.’ The Socialist Alliance has unfortunately collapsed. Between the 2004 and 2007 elections [there] was approximately a 50% decline in the Socialist Alliance. As measured by their own report put out by them in Jan 08. I see very little sign of the Socialist Alliance dominating the Australian left (or at least the activist parts of it). Firstly there are almost no activists from the SA who are also not activists from the DSP. They intervene as the DSP, meet as the DSP, caucus as the DSP, organise as the DSP. Their participation in the movements is fairly light overall.

    The Solidarity group represents a step forward for the left, although a modest one. Certainly the paranoia and conspiracy theories put forward by Wombat and some other members of the DSP (and echoed here by Andy Newman) are not useful. Chris Harman in my opinion can write letters to anyone he likes but I don’t really see any evidence that SAlt are in contact with any of the UK SWP leadership on a regular basis. Or that anything would come of it if it were true.

    The reasons for the groups merging [haven’t] really been discussed (other than by sectarians and conspiracy theorists). Essentially the decline of the Socialist Alliance and the decision to abandon it by the ISO was part of [the] reason as to [why] there could be a merger. In fact since 2005 it has been nearly impossible for anyone who didn’t agree chapter and verse with the DSP to be active in the Socialist Alliance. The other part of the reason for the 2003 split was the question of refugee rights vs anti-war movement as the priority. The old ISO put forward a position that essentially called for the refugee rights movement to be liquidated into the anti-war movement. When old Solidarity split from the ISO in 2003 almost all the refugee rights activists from the ISO went over to it. From late 2005 on the refugee rights movement began to win a series of victories over a very right wing and racist government.

    It is also important to note that in Oct 2004 there was a split from Socialist Alternative that created the Socialist Action group in Brisbane but also resulted in a significant layer joining old Solidarity in Sydney. The old Solidarity group when I joined it about 12 months ago didn’t really see itself as a split from ISO alone, it also saw itself as a split from Socialist Alternative.

    Also old Solidarity was heavily involved in the successful campaign at Sydney University against Voluntary Student Unionism.

    The success of both of these campaigns meant Solidarity grew (I joined Solidarity via the refugee rights campaign even though I was heavily involved with the Socialist Alliance).

    By the end of 2006 the level of activity in the refugee rights campaign was declining (because so many things had been won… as well the VSU campaign ended) [so] old Solidarity came to focus more on the anti-war movement. At the same time the ISO whilst remaining focused on the anti-war movement moved towards a more sensible outlook towards that movement.

    This paved the path to the merger.

    The merger of three groups results in a reconfiguration of the left. Now there are three groups of more or less the same size[:] new Solidarity, the DSP and Socialist Alternative. I believe … Solidarity now could become the most influential group in the Australian left.

    The DSP – Are hobbled by their orientation to the Socialist Alliance and their ridiculous over emphasis on Venezuela. Unfortunately neither has proved to be very popular. They are also divided internally with a minority faction with the support of about 20% of their membership favouring shutting down the Socialist Alliance to focus even more on Venezuela. Despite their formal adherence to Cannonite organisational theory this faction fight appears to have become a permanent fixture in the DSP. The DSP have traditionally had a low level of political sophistication but a high level of activity, particularly sales of their paper the Green Left Weekly. The politics have become even more basic but the levels of paper sales have dropped too.

    Socialist Alternative – Have what we characterised as an abstract propaganda routine. They focus on the campuses, they produce a magazine and hold forums on campus largely discussing questions of abstract theory. They do recruit from this, there are plenty of angry young people on Australian university campuses who want to change the world. On the face of it joining Socialist Alternative appears to be a way of doing that, but of course if all [you] talk about is high theory and you aren’t active then you are[n’t] changing the world. And the angry young mostly don’t stay in SAlt for very long.

    Solidarity also has a different approach to movement work (for want of a better term) than the other two groups. Comment #5 by howardt “Swamp the meeting with papers sellers, find out who the best militants are so as to recruit, – sod the rest” in Australia more accurately describes Socialist Alternative and the DSP. In fact exactly the situation described occurred in the Sydney Refugee Action Committee, whereupon the great Ian Rintoul managed to find a solution which involved banning paper selling in the meeting room and moving it to outside.* All despite the fact that occasionally his group had a paper to sell. Essentially both SAlt and the DSP have an orientation towards the movements that means that they compete with the movements. We are attempting to move away from this.

    A bit more on the Socialist Alliance

    I feel that it has to be said but [Kieran] made a big mistake in saying that some of the blame for SA’s collapse belongs with the ISO. It doesn’t[:] the DSP won … every vote, the DSP controlled the national leadership (sometimes with allies), the DSP controlled almost all the state and local branches. The DSP’s perspectives were the ones enacted[.] They bear 100% of the responsibility because they had 100% of the power.

    The only extent [to which] the ISO is ‘responsible’ is that they failed to convince the unaligned members that the DSP was wrong. Locally in Perth (my home city) I was able to organise a fight back against DSP sectarianism with other unaligned members as well as the ISO. We won a majority of the unaligned to our side but tied on the final vote. The heat of the divisions was then (this was May 2006) such that we could no longer work with the DSP. Most of the people we were involved with are still friendly with us (Solidarity as it is now), although some are inactive not really having a project to be involved with and Solidarity not really being the group for them.

    I think the ISO were hobbled by an unrealistic perspective and this is why the DSP could out maneuver them.

    A lesson for the UK left

    I believe that some former members of the SWP (including those expelled recently) will be meeting during February.

    There is a lesson in events in Australia for them, particularly those involve in Respect Renewal. If I read the new Respect Renewal paper and the Socialist Worker there is a glaring difference. The Socialist Worker tells me that to create socialism a revolutionary party is needed, Respect Renewal is (rightly) silent on this issue. But it is true socialism requires a revolutionary party. I think by now you understand the reasons why.

    I propose you form an ongoing group, to in whatever way suits you chart a revolutionary course forward. You shouldn’t give up on the SWP either (or indeed any other Marxist group that participates in the struggle). In this respect the experience of the old Australian Solidarity is probably a good one to follow. The debates that lead up to the 2003 split were often rancorous, but Solidarity maintain[ed?] a position that it [sicc?] was aligned to the IST. The leaderships would meet occasionally (but some of the meetings were very hostile). Eventually though it all came together … something positive.


  13. grumpy cat says:

    @ndy wrote:

    But even if it’s correct to state that “communist potential lives in the material conditions of society” — a concept which obviously requires much further elaboration, as I’m sure you’re aware and which is something I believe you to be interested in contributing to — this does not mean that this potential is closer to being realised simply because a few groups have decided to re-forge the IST in Australia.

    You are correct. At the most the activity of any overt self-identified revolutionary group will probably only have minimal impact in the recomposition of emancipatory and proletarian forces even if they “get everything right”. But I don’t think such a recomposition will fall from the sky (as many trad ultra-leftists seem to think) and as if a handful of comrades — whatever their ideological label — can add a little to this, well that’s probably all any one of us can do. And, perhaps I am being optimistic here, from what I have seen of Solidarity and the now defunct SAG they may just do this. Their organisational strategy seems to be one of honestly building open and democratic collectives — which I think are the cell form of class recomposition. As for the IST… I am off to the movies with friends.

    rebel love

  14. juancastro says:

    I find this organisational bullshit SO. Incredibly. Tedious.

    Personally I am yet to read anything that suggests anything other than the story I heard in which Sandra and Mick (and supporters) were kicked out of the ISO by the executive committee of the same, whatever their official title. This rationalisation of the ISO outside of SAlt is a great thing in my opinion, and I hope that in the long term there can be further amalgamation of the IST’ish forces – including SAlt. There is no reason that comrades should allow personal bullshit to get in the way of changing the world. In fact, to do so is fucking criminal. Just my 2 cents as a total newbie to the organised left.

    I’m going to try and read Draper’s article (and the anarchist reply to McNally) tonight and get back some sort of response. I’m a bit exhausted though, so take your time.

    PS. I think we might begin by assuming a certain level of trust… if I say I’m a member of SAlt then I can’t see any reason to doubt me. But whatever 🙂 I’m determined to actually build my ideas, in spite of all the shitfights taking place here there and everywhere.

  15. @ndy says:


    I agree that the political differences between Solidarity and SAlt are in reality minimal; certainly, there are no differences of political principle as far as I can tell. On that level, it would make sense for the two to amalgamate. Politics, however, is never that simple.

    Regarding Draper, Keefer’s article provides a useful critique, with what is in my view a weak conclusion.


    Judging by the above, I think the discussion is returning to the question of ideology and on the basis of its articulation in, for example, Richard Gombin’s Origins of Modern Leftism.

  16. Lumpen says:

    My own unsophisticated prediction is that questions of ideology will come to naught and that Solidarity will probably try to outflank SAlt on style rather than substance. What choice do they have?

    Judging from what Dave says and the little that Solidarity and the ISO have put out, their position is too nuanced to appeal to youthful exuberance (“Support the Greens!” “Let’s re-interpret Tony Cliff, wahooo!”). I’m not putting shit on the work Solidarity members are putting into campiagns, I just think SAlt have more of a knack for making boring activity look like sexy and serious business for the under 25 set.

    What’s more, SAlt can do it all without co-operating with other groups and are able, through some impressive efforts, to still claim to be part of a movement against capitalism whilst being incredibly isolated.* This is their strength, I’d suggest.

    Taking into account what other SAlt and ex-SAlt members recount of their participation, the majority are so removed from the leadership and meaningful decision making, and happily so, that they see questions of internal democracy as resolved or irrelevant. The dissatisfied ones usually leave quietly. I doubt SAlt will hemorrhage members to Solidarity, and I doubt Solidarity will make significant inroads outside of Universities to make up for this. (By extension, I think the number of students attracted to authoritarian socialism has already reached saturation point.)

    If I was a betting man, I’d lay my money on SAlt coming out on top.** Any direct competition between the two will get ugly very quickly, and SAlt have proven time and again that they can be the ugliest Leninist group there is. Solidarity newbies won’t have the stomach for a protracted turf war, particularly if Solidarity is pitched as an activist group rather than a Leninist party.

    Of course, all this is judged from afar on my part. Seems likely though.

    * Even with a few years of relatively large numbers in NUS and at Melbourne Uni, I can’t see any evidence of SAlt’s ideas influencing anyone outside of their party. SAlt have been thoroughly stitched up by the student ALP, who can legitimately claim to have far more influence despite being complete sell-outs on just about every issue I can think of. Proven significant corruption and sustained co-operation with the nutty Young Liberals didn’t even break their stride!

    ** I define “victory” in this case as being the dominant force in the lunar left.

  17. grumpy cat says:

    Hi All,
    I can’t see any real competition between SAlt and Solidarity because i think their approaches are in practice so very different. If anything SAlt will try to keep its members away from anything Solidarity is involved in. And from what some comrades told me at the Solidarity founding conference the general argument was to break with the old IS practice of raiding movements and collectives for recruits.

    @ndy does the Gombin book make a Lefebrve style argument around ideology? It’s been at least 8 years since I have read it.

    communist dreams

  18. juancastro says:

    I’m going to a Solidarity meeting in Melbourne next week… I’ll report back any impressions I get RE orientation towards activism, SAlt, general political clime, etc.

  19. Lumpen says:

    ^^I can not fucking wait.

    I tried talking to a couple of Solidarity members last night, but I was too pissed to say anything beyond “I reckon ya gonna FAIL.” They seemed nice enough, though.

    I still think they will come to loggerheads with SAlt. Solidarity might be kinder, nicer Trots but they’re still directly competing with SAlt even if they do have different recruitment strategies.

    Do Solidarity still consider themselves to be Trotskyist?

  20. @ndy says:

    As the local franchise of the IST, yes.

    Others, including My Favourite Trotskyists, would disagree…

    ISO, SAlt: Anti-Communists to the Core

    Two groups in Australia who don’t claim capitalism has recently been restored in China are the International Socialists (ISO) and Socialist Alternative. These Laborite reformists consider the 1949 Chinese Revolution merely a step sideways to “state capitalism,” with the Chinese bureaucracy a new ruling class. This anti-Marxist “state capitalist” “theory” serves as a justification for their abiding hostility to the workers states and siding with “democratic” capitalism. Here they stand in the traditions of their British parent group, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) of the late Tony Cliff.

    In 1948, bowing to the pressures of the Cold War, Tony Cliff latched onto the “theory” of “state capitalism” promoted by earlier social democrats. Two years later he acted on the real purpose of this bogus theory by refusing to defend the Soviet Union, China and North Korea against imperialism during the Korean War. This was a cowardly capitulation to the British bourgeoisie and its social-democratic lackeys, the British Labour Party government. Cliff and his followers were correctly expelled from the Trotskyist Fourth International for this treachery.

    From Afghanistan and Poland to East Germany and the Soviet Union, tailing the anti-Soviet union-busting Hawke/Keating Labor governments, the Cliffites in Australia have embraced every imperialist-backed counterrevolutionary force. To this day they uphold the reactionary Solidarność movement of the 1980s. They swooned over the 1991 ascendancy of the imperialist-backed Yeltsin in the Soviet Union, vilely declaring: “‘Communism is dead’ …. It’s a fact that should have every socialist rejoicing” (Socialist, September 1991).

    In contrast to these renegades, we of the ICL fought against capitalist counterrevolution. When the anti-Semitic, woman-hating Solidarność made its bid for power in Poland in 1981, we forthrightly said: “Stop Solidarność Counterrevolution!” In late 1989, the ICL intervened into the incipient workers political revolution in the former East German (DDR) deformed workers state fighting for the revolutionary reunification of Germany and against the capitalist anschluss that eventually swallowed up the DDR. In Moscow in 1991-92, we fought to mobilise worker opposition to the impending catastrophe of capitalist counterrevolution, distributing over 100,000 Russian-language leaflets calling for “Soviet Workers! Defeat Yeltsin-Bush Counterrevolution!”

    In early April of this year, the Refugee Action Coalition, led by Ian Rintoul, a long-time Laborite state-capitalist and leader of yet another Cliffite fragment called Solidarity, organised what essentially became an anti-China protest in Sydney. Calling a demonstration ostensibly to defend refugees, Rintoul & Co. provided a platform for the bourgeois Greens and the counterrevolutionary Falun Gong and “Free China” crowd to vituperate against China. Demanding “Howard it’s time to go” the demonstration provided a glorification of White Australia capitalist “democracy” and was a thinly veiled call to elect a federal ALP government. This Laborite anti-communism can only undermine the interests of refugees currently interned in the concentration camps that were “upgraded” by the very same ALP that the likes of Rintoul doubtless want to see restored to the federal government benches.

    As for the ISO, in 1996 when the U.S. Democratic Party Clinton administration sent a carrier battle group to waters around Taiwan, their British parent group, the SWP, stated: “We would oppose any Chinese invasion of Taiwan as an act of imperialist aggression (Socialist Review, April 1996). Also embracing this counterrevolutionary cause were the reformist DSP who declared “the Taiwanese people are a distinct nationality,” supporting “The struggle for national self-determination in Taiwan” (Green Left Weekly, 5 June 1996).

    Ever since the counterrevolutionary Nationalist army and the Chinese bourgeoisie fled to Taiwan after the revolution, Taiwan has been an outpost for imperialisms’ counterrevolutionary schemes, military threats and interference in Chinese internal affairs. Taiwan has since ancient times been a part of China—it is ethnically, linguistically and historically Chinese. We Trotskyists have stood and will continue to stand with China in the event of any military conflict with imperialism over Taiwan. We are also opposed to the Chinese Stalinists’ proposals for reunification embodied in the slogan of “one country, two systems.” We call for the revolutionary reunification of China: that means a workers socialist revolution in Taiwan to overthrow and expropriate the bourgeoisie and a proletarian political revolution on the mainland, as well as the expropriation of the Hong Kong capitalists.

  21. @ndy says:

    Jim Higgins
    More Years for the Locust
    The Origins of the SWP

  22. grumpy cat says:

    Hi all
    Interestingly a comrade in SAG recommended that book to me about a month ago
    rebel love

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