A hongi too far? What about class lines in politics?
The following article appeared on the site of the International Socialist Organisation yesterday. It is a critique of ISO’s involvement in the Mana Party and, even more so, a critique of its support to the Mana Internet Party lash-up. Interestingly, it makes many of the same points that we have been making on Redline; indeed a Redline contributor was already thinking of writing something taking up the article that appeared in Andrew Tait’s name, the article that Martin Gregory begins his examination with. Since reading Martin’s article, our contributor has decided he needn’t bother as Martin’s article makes the salient points!
We have some rather large disagreements with ISO, however we strongly commend them for running Martin’s article. The revolutionary left can only benefit by having organisations that are prepared to conduct their political debates in public. When the original Workers Party and revolution group merged, part of our merger was the decision that members could express their views publicly, rather than enforcing the standard bureaucratic-centralist nonsense that people with minority views had to pretend publicly that they agreed with majority positions. We always felt this was simply lying to the working class and had no place in a serious revolutionary organisation.
We’re running Martin’s article here for several reasons. Obviously, we politically agree with most of it; moreover, Martin is a veteran Marxist and trade union activist. His views carry some weight. However, we’re also running it because there’s simply no other facility for having a discussion about it. For instance, there’s no comments section on the ISO site. As important as this issue may be to ISO itself, it is also a clear dividing line for revolutionaries as a whole. Simply put, we believe support for the Mana Internet Party lash-up means crossing a class line. Some on the left recognise a class line when it takes the form of something rather obvious like a picket, but have a great deal of difficulty recognising that there is a class line in politics that is just as important (if not more so). Mana Internet Party is, whether it lasts three months or three minutes, a cross-class alliance in an imperialist country. There is no way that it can be justified in terms of fundamental class politics.
We do not believe, obviously, that it is some kind of life-and-death question. In the overall scheme of things, the lash-up is a relatively small affair. However, it is important because it does mean people who support the lash-up are crossing class lines and history shows us that crossing class lines almost always begins with something small, something that is accepted on the grounds of being small and for short-term tactical reasons. This, of course, has a certain logic; it means that the next step in crossing class lines becomes a bit easier, and the one after that easier still.
We hope that people, including ISO members, will respond to Martin’s article here. While we disagree strongly with some of ISO’s practice, we have no particular axe to grind against them. We’re not trying to build a rival organisation (and, indeed, when a number of us were leaders of the Workers Party we went out of our way to try to establish a positive working relationship with ISO and get them to join the merger process that we led); we would much rather see ISO adopting consistent revolutionary politics than see it fall apart. Moreover, we frequently run excellent material produced by ISO’s Australian co-thinkers, Socialist Alternative.
Below is what was published July 3 on the ISO site:
[The ISO recently published an article 'Should Socialists Support the Internet-Mana Alliance?', the product of discussion within our organisation. This is a response and a contribution to the debate from Martin Gregory, a member of our Poneke branch.]
The publication of ‘Should socialists support the Internet-Mana alliance?’ on 18 June on this website marks, in my opinion, a new low-point in the trajectory of the International Socialist Organisation. The article was sanctioned by the ISO’s national committee. A continuation along this track will spell the end of the organisation’s prospects of becoming the nucleus of a revolutionary workers party. Theoretical clarity is essential, and we are losing it.
The developments of the last few months have given the ISO ample opportunities to re-assess its affiliation to Mana and return to principled socialist politics. We have had the prospect of the alliance with Dotcom prior to Mana’s April AGM, the AGM decision to seek alliance, the interval for negotiations, and the announcement of Internet Mana. Unfortunately but a change of direction has not been taken.
So where does the ISO stand on the Internet-Mana alliance? Although not baldly stated, it is clear from ‘Should socialists support the Internet-Mana alliance?’ that the ISO’s publicly declared position is for an Internet Mana party vote. Whether the ISO will support Internet Party candidates in electorates is not discussed. The article is equivocal, although overall it is an apologia for the alliance and the ISO’s continued support for Mana.
One of the contradictions of the article is that it states that the ISO was Read the rest of this entry »