Pistols at dawn? Well, probably not. Recently, in a flyer dated September 5th, the SL (Spartacist League) ‘Condemn DSP Thug Attack on Spartacist Woman at Union Rally’, claiming that a male member of the DSP (Democratic Socialist Perspective) took Spartacist Woman’s paper — without purchasing it first — then punched her in the face. Or: “He ripped the paper from her hand and threw it to the ground! Pushing the DSPer away, our supporter loudly protested this unprovoked attack and violent attempt at political censorship[!] Then, as she moved to pick up the paper, he punched her in the face!”
…Acts of violence such as this attack have no place in the workers’ movement! Evidently some Green Left Weekly (GLW) salesmen/DSP members are willing to substitute the fist for the brain when losing an argument[!]
Such social chauvinism is evidently providing a culture medium within and around the DSP for violent anti-woman and anti-communist creeps[!] At the Melbourne May Day rally earlier this year we had to defend ourselves against an unhinged GLW salesman—known as “Alex”—who kicked over our literature table and attempted to bully a woman comrade[!] He has twice since threatened Spartacist salesmen, including screwing up the papers of a [the?] Spartacus Youth Club member at the 28 June mass union rally[!] “Alex” denounces our forthright defence of those, such as Melbourne schoolteacher Karen Ellis, who have been victimised under the reactionary age-of-consent laws[!] Like the cowardly assailant on 29 August, he also aggressively embraces the DSP’s support to the Australian imperialist military invasion of East Timor[!]
We note that these attempts at violent political censorship of the SL are taking place at the same time the bourgeoisie is carrying out chilling state repression against Muslims, leftists and unionists under the bogus “war on terror”[!] Moreover these GLW goons reek of anti-communist social-democratic nationalism, which glories in the anti-woman bigotry of this remote, white imperialist enclave[!] Their hostility towards the SL is fostered by the DSP’s touching faith in the capitalist state, which consists at its core of the military, police, courts and prisons and exists to enforce the rule of the capitalist class over the working class and oppressed[!] Unable to defend the politics of the DSP, they seek to silence communists who fight for the political independence of the proletariat and for class-struggle actions against the depredations of Australian imperialist oppression abroad and state repression at home[!]
[‘Condemn DSP Thug Attack on Spartacist Woman at Union Rally’, Workers Vanguard No. 876, September 15, 2006]
And in response: “Did not!”
…WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED
At an August 29 solidarity rally in the city in support of the 107 victimised WA construction workers, a female SL seller hawking their paper fronted one of our male comrades. At a previous demonstration he had received the standard aggressive and harassing treatment from this same Spart. This time, in exasperation, he ripped the paper out of her hand and threw it on the ground.
That same day the DSP sent a letter to the SL. The letter apologised for the incident, said that we did not approve of such actions, explained that we had spoken to the comrade concerned and that he recognised that his behaviour was wrong. (In fact, he was quite mortified about the whole incident.)
The Sparts say that our comrade punched the Spart woman in the face. Our comrade emphatically denies this. And knowing the SL’s general political frenzy and strange take on reality plus our comrade’s quiet behaviour and demeanour ever since we have known him, we frankly do not believe the Spart account of the incident. If anyone had actually punched a woman in the face in the middle of a union demonstration, there would have been a considerable reaction.
SECT SEIZES OPPORTUNITY
The SL is notorious on the left (and justifiably so) for its extreme sectarian theory and practice. It is a rabid propaganda sect which has hardly ever done anything positive in its entire history. In fact, irrespective of what its members think they are doing, the objective function of the SL is simply to convince people that socialists are crazy people and generally give socialism a bad name.
If we were dealing with even a halfway rational organisation, the DSP’s clear and direct letter might have closed the unfortunate incident. However, the Spartacist League is a mad-dog sect. This is a heaven-sent opportunity for it to raise a general hullaballoo, make propaganda for itself and attack its arch-enemy, the “pseudo-socialists” of the DSP (as the SL leaflet puts it).
It seems that this campaign is absolutely their number-one priority right now. In such a testing period, another organisation might be trying to actually do something to drive the struggle forward — but not the SL. It sees its chance and it is going all out to pillory the DSP. But the Sparts’ righteous pose is a fake.
In 1985 we held a function at the Sydney Trades Hall with a speaker from the Vietnamese consulate. It was around the theme of 10 years since the liberation of Saigon (today Ho Chi Minh City). We were prepared for an attack by Vietnamese right-wingers and so we had a strong defence contingent around the narrow entrance.
No rightists fronted that night but suddenly about 20 Sparts in military formation — two abreast, the bigger ones at the front and the smaller ones at the back — marched down the pavement and crashed straight into our defence guard.
Within moments people were spread right across Goulburn St in a wild melee. Papers were all over the street and traffic was stopped. People around the entrance to Chinatown were gobsmacked! After about five minutes of this, the Sparts backed off and formed a revolving picket in front of the doorway! They chanted and held up placards demanding access to the meeting. A short while later the fracas was on again, all over the street. Then the Sparts again settled down to their revolving picket.
We can be proud of our consistent record in defence of workers’ democracy. The DSP has always opposed violence within the left and labour movement. It cuts across the open political discussion that is essential to work out what needs to be done. A number of times over the years our comrades have been the victim of violence or the threat of it.
On August 29 one of our members was provoked and made a mistake — an understandable mistake but a mistake nonetheless. We have apologised to the SL and explained our policy to the comrade concerned. That should be the end of it. But a dead-end sect has lied about what took place and is using the incident as factional ammunition with which to attack the DSP.
I suggest a grudge match. Involving jelly. And wrestling.