Evading the class struggle

by Humphrey McQueen

The Socialist Alternative is committed to the self-emancipation of the working class. Its 2012 Marxism conference shows why that will be necessary. On the basis of the topics to be discussed our class cannot expect much help from the Socialist Alternative hierarchs.

Out of more than seventy sessions, eighteen connect with Australia. Of those, twelve are historical. One is a Radical History tour – not of worksites or communities – but of Melbourne University, aptly to be conducted in the dark. The study of our past is devalued if not integrated with on-going resistance.

The six sessions on contemporary Australia are tangential to proletarian politics. They include refugees, gay narriage, Mundouh Habib and Gary Foley. A session on China and Australian Imperialism does not know that, for Lenin, Imperialism is monopolising capitals, not a latter-day colonialism. The sixth is on rebuilding grass-roots unionism. Rebuilding requires more than turning up at picket lines to flog your publications. Its inclusion is an improvement on the SA’s Marxism Conference in the year of peak struggle against Work Choices which had nothing on trade unions, not even in the USSR during the 1920s.

The lack of interest in working people is eloquent from the matters on which the talkfest is silent. There is nothing on education, employment, health, housing or transport; nothing on OHS despite the latest Killard attack laws; nothing on the right to strike; nothing on farmers or supermarkets; nothing on the Trans-Pacific Partnership that threatens subsidised prescription drugs. Nor is there a session devoted to the nurses dispute.

The environment is relegated to a reflection on whether green can be red. There are no sessions on fracking, the carbon tax or threats to the Reef. Similarly, there is nothing on the US Marine base in Darwin, and nothing on the intervention.

The class nature of the conference is given away in its subtitle: ‘Revolution in the Air’ instead of on the ground. John Pilger salutes the organisers for staging ‘Australia’s premier festival of debate and free speech on issues that are either excluded from or suppressed by the mass media’. By excluding class struggles from his list, Pilger underlines that Marxism 2012 is a radical version of the Adelaide Festival of Ideas.

The topics that are on the schedule indicate the social composition of SA recruits. The programme is a pot-pourri of undergraduate assignments and post-graduate theses. Far from being a school for the working class, the conference looks like career placement for would-be academics. In spite of this, the Socialist Alternative’s inability to engage with the lived experience of capitalist exploitation here and now is underscored by there being nothing on the precarious employment confronting graduates.

The politics informing the event are spotlighted by its marginalisation of the crisis in the accumulation of capital. Instead of making the catastrophe the spine of the conference, the programme offers three papers: Is there a way out? is money the root of all evil? and an ABC of Marxist economics.

A cluster of sessions on issues that fascinate Left grouplets include could there be a revolution in Australia?; might it be tweeted; are police part of the 99 percent? A further pair against autonomism and ‘Consensus decision making’ will be lamentations on how the Socialist Alternative has not been able to commandeer the Occupy upsurge.

Compare the mentality on display at Marxism 2012 with that of Marx and Engels in 1847 as they drafted the Manifesto. At the time, they had had next-to-no contact with the working class but knew that they needed a catalogue of demands and so came up with ten pretty general points. In 1875 for the Critique of the Gotha Programme, Marx used his by then unparalleled appreciation of the international movement to insist on precise policies in place of the six pieces of waffle in the Draft Programme of the German Workers’ Party. Lenin did the same in 1917 by calling for Land, Peace and Bread. SA rank-and-filers need to summon up the courage to ask why their cult leaders are not following these examples.

Most outsiders will find Marxism 2012 no worse than the latest bourgeois academic alternative to socialism. Others will record it as desertion in the face of the class enemy. At the very least, its organisers have gone AWOL again.

16 thoughts on “Evading the class struggle

  1. Mike Foster says:

    I attended the Socialist Alternative event in Melbourne as an interested observer. A couple of things struck me.

    First, the very large majority of attendees appeared to be undergraduates. Nothing wrong with recruiting students. But the pre-dominance of young students gave the event a very ‘undergrad’ feel: rather abstract and theoretical talk about what the unions and the workers should be doing. To the extent that any mention was made of industrial struggle today, it was usually in the context of very general declarations that all unions are always conservative and sell workers’ out. That’s it. No sense of the complexity of union and industrial politics and how socialists should engage with this. ‘All unions’ are X, ‘all defeats’ are because of Y etc. God help these young radicals if they ever find themselves in a real union and have to deal with the complex and contradictory dynamics of why many unions and their members currently behave as they do.

    Second, the event had a strong ‘cultish’ feel. As a non-SA member I was quickly identified as a potential recruit. Several SA members pretended to having met me before as a means of engaging me in conversation. In one of the sessions, several SA members made lengthy contributions from the floor as part of the ‘discussion’ which basically repeated everything the main speaker had said. To SA cadres, this kind of behaviour may appear fine: building the revolutionary party and showing unity in public. To others, it can appear and feel cultish and simply weird.

    I have been to similar Marxist conferences in the UK over the years – organised by the British SWP and others. They usually benefited from having union activists, community leaders and high-profile strikers speaking at them. This helped to root the discussions in some sense of industrial and political reality. Such a reality was noticeably absent from the SA conference.

  2. Dave Eden says:

    Humphrey McQueen has quite lot of fun pointing out the political limitations and organisational foibles of Socialist Alternative. This in itself is a worthwhile thing. SAlt is probably the most public, active and largest expressly anti-capitalist organisation in Australia. Its viciously sectarian behaviour and its shallow politics probably contribute little but take away much from building a genuinely emancipatory politics.

    Humphrey thinks he has found the main problem – the absence of a meaningful class politics. Humphrey thinks he has found the cause of this fault – rather than talking about the actual lived conditions of daily life SAlt focuses on a series of Lefty ‘issues’ something which is itself due to its social compositions – mainly uni students.

    Both these points are certainly true. The nature of an ideology sect is that the ambiguities of having to think about daily life are pasted over with pre-thought out doxa that focuses on ‘big questions’ and it is also certainly true that the composition of SAlt is mainly uni students. This is not unique on the Left – the only groups which would have a substantial blue collar membership would be the CPA and the CPA-ML. We can also think the reverse – that the kinds of politics that SAlt (and all ideological groups) peddle appeals mainly to the young and students.

    But I think there is a deeper problem that Humphrey only glances at.
    The popularity of such ideological groups can only be understood by grasping the changes in class composition. The working class, understood as those that have only their labour-power to sell, makes up the vast majority of people in Australian society. But the work that we do, both the type of jobs, and the internal organisation of the actual activity, doesn’t correspond to the dominant image of what the working class is. More than this the post-Fordist working class is profoundly heterogeneous. Not only in the differences in wages (compare the wages of a miner with that of a cleaner) but also in the types of work people do and the cultures that inculcate them. Even though during Fordism not ever worker, not even a majority, worked in factories the factory was a common reference to think the experiences and conditions of exploitation. Even in social occasions today people who do different kinds of work often struggle to meaningfully communicate with each other about their jobs ( they do but it takes a lot of effort). These divisions are also gendered and racialised. Capital puts to work a working class that at the level of appearance doesn’t look like one class but many castes or segments.

    The expansion of access to income distanced but reliant on wages – credit, share-ownership, financial investments and super. These serve to both further individualise workers from each other and involve them and invest them in the fluctuations of the financial markets
    This doesn’t mean, as it is often concluded from such points, that class struggles and communist practice is off the agenda. Rather that a certain series of assumptions about both no longer operate and thus is perhaps why ideological groups that peddled abstract certainties do so well.

    The solution is identical to that suggested by H. One can’t know a peach without bitting into it. Militant investigation into daily conditions, and the generalisation of the investigations in politics might help us makes the road as we walk it.

  3. Tom Bramble says:


    Tom Bramble, 15 April

    For the information of those readers of this site who were not lucky enough to attend the Marxism conference that was held in Melbourne over the Easter weekend, the first thing to report is that it was Australia’s largest left wing conference for several decades. More than 1,000 people bought tickets, and 925 showed up for some or all of the conference. And in what was Australia’s biggest left wing book sale of the year, $15,000 worth of literature was snapped up. In these days when so many young people are turned off “politics” by the circus in Canberra and when the media, the schools and universities consistently decry radical politics, these were amazing achievements.

    Nothing else has come close to the annual Marxism conferences in recent years in attracting so many people from around Australia, and internationally, to a conference that is unashamedly radical and left wing. This is something that you would think that a communist like McQueen would celebrate. But no, pouring cold water on it is evidently more his style.

    It is difficult to make much sense of McQueen’s criticisms of the talks that were given over the four days of the conference. Apparently there were too many international speakers. We plead guilty to bringing the spirit of this age of world resistance and revolt to our conference, with speakers from the front lines of struggle in Afghanistan, from the Philippines, from Palestine, from New York and many others besides.

    McQueen thinks that our conference did not feature class struggle front and centre. This is really a pretty odd accusation to make against a conference whose by-line was “Revolution in the air”. The spirit of revolution is in the air, but the struggles that were reported on are firmly rooted on the ground. These include the Filipino speakers who reported on their leading role in the fight by Philippine Airlines staff against their six month lockout, the Japanese speaker who gave an eyewitness account of Occupy Tokyo and the New Zealand speakers who told us of their efforts to build a left wing party centred on Maori workers, the future vanguard of any revival of class struggle in that country.

    Perhaps McQueen thinks that talks on “The German Ideology”, “Socialism: Utopian and Scientific” or “The Mass Strike”, all classics from the Marxist canon, have nothing to do with class struggle? He may care to reacquaint himself with his bookshelves if that is the case.

    But what about class struggle in Australia today? How about: “How does the 1% rule?”, “Witness to Australia’s class battles” or “The revolutionary working class: a 19th century concept?” (hint, that was not about the 19th century). And then there were sessions on “The 1969 Clarrie O’Shea strike against the penal powers” and “The 100th anniversary of the Brisbane General Strike”. Surely as a historian, McQueen might understand that the lessons of the past can do so much to inform our struggles today?

    McQueen apparently “knows” that the session on “Rebuilding grassroots trade unionism” was restricted only to telling the audience how to “flog your publications at picket lines”. Because he didn’t actually attend he would not have a clue that this was one of the most successful sessions of the conference, bringing together union activists from around Australia to talk about their efforts to build stronger unions.

    And since when has trying to sell socialist publications to workers been something to sneer at? This is just a red-baiting phrase beloved of right wing union officials and Labor politicians who don’t want to see workers exposed to socialist politics. Goodness knows what McQueen would think of the enormous efforts that the Bolsheviks devoted to smuggling copies of Iskra into Tsarist Russia, precisely so they could “flog their publications” at picket lines. For McQueen, flogging his own books at forums organised by trade union officials and academics is rather more congenial.

    Underlying McQueen’s criticism that the conference lacked anything of consequence on class struggle is an utterly un-Marxist notion of “proletarian politics”. So, for example, in McQueen’s version of Marxism, the working class has no need to fight racism, homophobia or the War on Terror, as he dismisses as “tangential” the sessions on refugees, indigenous rights, homophobia and speeches by Malalai Joya and Mamdouh Habib. According to McQueen, these aren’t topics of interest to workers who are concerned only with bread and butter issues of health, housing, transport and the right to strike. Perhaps McQueen might refresh his memory of Lenin’s What is to be Done? and his instruction that communists should fight for the rights of the oppressed on every front. His accusation is an utter insult to every left wing militant worker in this country.

    McQueen tries to dismiss Socialist Alternative, the co-sponsors of this conference, as a bunch of students and aspiring academics. He is evidently unaware that Socialist Alternative has more members involved in serious union work than any other left group in Australia. Our members have played leading roles in the ASU equal pay campaign for community sector workers, in the struggle to resist redundancies at Sydney University, where one of our (non-academic) members chairs the campaign committee, and in the recent strike at the Tenants Union of Victoria. These are just three amongst many. And, where we have the resources, Socialist Alternative mobilises its branches to help out on picket lines – with more than 100 members from the Melbourne branches helping to staff the picket line of workers at the Baiada chicken processing plant in November last year on a 24/7 basis. This effort earned us a letter of thanks from the state secretary of the National Union of Workers.

    The involvement of our members in all these struggles, the lessons that they have learned and the experience that they have garnered infused every session at the Marxism conference. Not for us some Chinese Wall between such struggles and the fight for gay marriage, the fight to shut down the detention centres, to free Palestine and so forth.

    McQueen may sneer at students, but does he not know that students have played a crucial role in every small revolutionary group since the days of Marx and Engels? And now more than ever, with so many more young people going on to further study, any revolutionary group which aims to build amongst the young in Australia is going to have students playing a central part. We welcome this. We are proud of the fact that those attending our conferences are 30 or more years younger than the audiences at most conferences of the left where the half-filled seats are full of those “wise heads” with greying or no hair who long ago doused the fires that burned in their bellies as youths.

    Our student members learn skills that equip them for future careers as union activists – not just those they learn in fighting the Liberals and Labor Right on campus, but off-campus as well. Our student nurse member in Melbourne spoke up and rallied his fellow workers during the long campaign by Victorian nurses against the Baillieu Government in recent months and our Brisbane student members who works part time as a shelf stacker at Target has featured in the national gay and lesbian press for his efforts to take on the SDA leadership on the issue of gay marriage.

    And, really, that’s the main project for revolutionary socialists in Australia today: to build an organisation whose members try to put themselves at the heart of every struggle and to fan every flicker of resistance wherever we possibly can.

    McQueen doesn’t like this: he thinks we tried but failed to “commandeer” events like Occupy. Has McQueen got a clue? Did he actually go anywhere near the most significant Occupy event, that in Melbourne, where our comrades worked with those in the Socialist Alliance and RSP and others in a left caucus, the better to fight the right wing? Because he wasn’t at the Marxism conference, McQueen wouldn’t actually know that the sessions on Occupy drew in many people not from Socialist Alternative who participated in Occupy Melbourne and who used the platform we provided for some lively debate.

    McQueen only diminishes his own stature with such a silly piece. One can only guess what motivated him, but perhaps his own friends offer a clue. Two of them contacted me saying that while they didn’t agree with everything he said “you might invite him to speak at your conference next year”. Could it be that McQueen felt slighted that we had not invited His Eminence to speak at our event?

    Perhaps McQueen, with his lengthy experience on the fringes of the Australian left, might care to use his own advice to build a socialist organisation rather than simply knocking the efforts of Socialist Alternative. Right now, he is writing as the leader of a faction of one, testimony, I would suggest, to his own capacity to offer Australia’s largest revolutionary socialist organisation any useful advice.

    Readers of this site who missed out on Marxism 2012 and who are wondering what all the fuss is about should head to http://www.marxismconference.org where YouTube videos and mp3 recordings of speeches will be progressively added in coming days and weeks. And put the following dates in your diary for Marxism 2013 – 28-31 March 2013 – when Melbourne will once again be filled with the hubbub of revolutionaries and radicals gathered together from across Australia and around the world.

    See http://www.sa.org.au

  4. LeftInternationalist says:

    I don’t quite understand the sneering attitude taken to Socialist Alternative by so many on the Left. Is it a case of envy, because they are the largest left wing group? I’m not quite so sure it has ‘shallow politics’. Sure, they have their problems, but they have more consistently stood for liberty than 98% of the whole life and history of the Australian Left. Do they defend any authoritarian ‘socialist’ regime, like Cuba? No, they certainly do not defend a one party state, instead demanding its democratisation and the extension of democracy into political and economic life, i.e. socialist democracy. As socialists, they do not believe monarchy is a worthwhile political philosophy, but apparently many on the left were quite happy to accept the passing of power from Fidel to his brother, no different from Napoleon handing out the crowns of Europe to family members. They defend the right of a free and independent Cuba, not troubled by the hostility of american imperialism, but they do not subsequently accept the excuses of the regime for its authoritarianism, which are the same excuses every regime under pressure has used for centuries. They are not Stalinists, as the CPA was for most of its history. Neither are they Labor Party hacks and apologists. They try to take a principled stand, that is a democratic and libertarian position, in the mess of difficulties and contradictions our world presents us with. They will certainly fail on occasion. They will probably be sectarian, or make a bad decision on occasion. I’m sure there are some problems with its politics. But at least its banner is not stained with the blood of innocents slaughtered by ‘socialist’ dictatorships, which were then uncritically supported and defended by far too many on the Left in the past. Socialism must be free and democratic or it will not be at all- anything less is a betrayal of the very idea.

  5. Sandra Bloodworth says:

    I can’t get over the fact that people think it’s a mark against Marxism 2012 that it was domonated by young people. Lenin had the right attitude to age:
    “let us leave it to the Cadets to collect the “tired” old men of thirty, revolutionaries who have “grown wise”, and renegades from Social-Democracy. We shall, always be a party of the youth of the advanced class!” (1906)
    I feel nothing but pity for those who sneer at young people trying to learn from the struggles around the world and from history. Saeed, the Palestinian speaker reduced his session to tears, he taught himself English using the internet so he could get the truth about the oppression of his people out to the world, Malalai Joya was barey 25 when she first caused a storm in Afghanistan.
    Socialist Alternative is proud of our young members, even if they don’t always explain things as well as some old “sophisticated” fart might, but the fire in their bellies makes my decades of organising the struggling to get a revolutionary organisation off the ground all worth while.
    Around the world, those who are trying to build revolutionary organisations think it is our biggest achievement to have such a young membership. They don’t ask how sophisticated they are, they know it takes times for a cadre to develop.
    One of the Fourth International leaders at their recent conference, referring to Socialist Alternative laughed nostalgically about how when he was young, they all made fun of the old fuddy duddies of the Communist Party, something all genuine revolutionaries can identify with.

  6. So gay marriage is tangential to proletarian politics? Most gays are proletarians, and getting equal rights will make it much easier to build united proletarian action.

  7. Commie Bastard says:

    I was there and I’m non-aligned and whilst I didn’t think it was the best thing ever I thoroughly enjoyed the conference. Couple of sessions on theory could have been meatier.

    However, what I find amazing is some of the comments above. “A further pair against autonomism and ‘Consensus decision making’ will be lamentations on how the Socialist Alternative has not been able to commandeer the Occupy upsurge.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Sort of comment to be expected from an academic!

    And then there was “doxa” man, that’ll impress the academics, I had to look it up. Interesting the line he spins about how easy it was, when we all “went down pit”, for the miller (and they have nothing to do with flour) to explain to the brickie what their job entailed.

    It was noted that the session on the Trade Unions had two union activists as the lead speakers. They must have come from a REAL CULT! eh Mike?

  8. i’m not sure that not attending the conference makes one unable to comment on the conference. I think points about SAlt (and other groups also) not being engaged with working people’s daily realities is very valid. When i was at uni i was involved with a socialist group, at one point i deferred uni to work to save money to study abroad. i was employed at a coffee cart on campus that had horrendous working conditions – cash in hand $10p/h, a dictatorial boss, and longer hours than legal. needless to say i didn’t last long and ended up with no pay at all. i told my “comrades” who not only didn’t seem to care but also continued to drink coffee at this particular establishment. i then went on my merry way to another workplace, armed with my socialist propaganda and a fair degree of belief, which my fellow workmates found irrelevant, if not repugnant, and which made my life at work rather difficult. breakdown in communication? i reckon. it’s easy to romanticise struggles far from your own engagement, and pretend that revolution is in the air, the difficult thing is being engaged in the struggles that are near to you. i’d like to know about the working lives of the people who work where the papers are sold… and how socialist politics are going to engage with them… please pretty please.

  9. Underlying the debate of all commentators I accept is a genuine interest in the advancement of the working class. I also accept that all are trying to establish cooperation in this objective. But I can’t help reiterating from experience that some of us get caught up more into why we are right in our party and others are wrong in theirs.

    Consequently we lose sight of the points Eliza raises (below) and which HM alludes to in the weakness of the Socialist Alternative approach. By the same token I know that in the wilderness of socialist politics in Australia particularly after the dissolution of the CPA the Socialist Alternative is pushed into the direction they are taking.

    Socialist Alternative may (be) justified in its satisfaction of growth in this wilderness but it downplays the great advancement that would result if all socialists were more organised into a cooperate (co-operative) approach of opposing the capitalist class.

  10. Tom Bramble says:

    Saeed Amireh, the young Palestinian activist from the West Bank town of Ni’lin, wrote of his experience at the Marxism 2012 conference:
    “i was very moved and inspired by the Marxism 2012 conference, with more than 70 interesting ,session with a lot of inspiring people and more over, is the end of the conference where every body sang an inspiring song called Internationale!! what ever i say, im sure there is no word is enough to express about my exact feelings!!!

    “actually i have learned alot, and i have met with amazing people who i will never ever forget!! and i was so inspired actually!!
    “and i really would like to encourage everyone to attend to the coming conference in the next year 2013 to see and feel as i did and then you would all feel my feelings.”

    His full report, including his speech, is here:

    [see also http://www.marxismconference.org]

  11. If Marxism 2012 had been held in Brisbane I would have tried to attend. Coming from Brisbane I was unable to attend the conference because of a combination of distance, prior social commitments and cost.

    I found the account at Marxism 2012 by the Palestinian, Saeed Amireh, both moving and informative (see http://youtu.be/qmNAO4GjrsM ). Saeed eloquently addressed difficulties of non-violent struggle in his village of Ni’lin.

    There is a big gap of experience between Saeed and his audience at the conference e.g. activists outside Max Brenner do not get shot and killed by Victorian police whereas they do in Jenin and Gaza. Many people (myself included) have never been to Palestine.

    After Saeed spoke, activists sang the song of the workers – The Internationale followed by chants of ‘Workers United will never be defeated’.

    Should activists in Australia be precluded from making critical observations about what Saeed said in his talk?

    Should activists express opinions about the struggle in Palestine from their safe haven in Australia?

    Certainly our distance from the reality of the day-to-day struggle in Ni’lin may invalidate criticism of tactics of the popular committees in Saeed’s village. For one, we are so far removed from the suffering of Saeed’s family … yet surely we should do our best, where we are, to make our workmates and unions aware of their struggle and the difficulties faced by them?

    So too, comrades who have been part of struggles here in Australia, many for over 40 years, surely are entitled to express their opinion of the Marxism 2012 conference program without being ridiculed for making comment without having attended it? Yet this is the accusation made on these pages by people against criticism of the conference.

    Both Tom Bramble and Humphrey McQueen have spent a good deal of time working at Uni. I do not think this precludes either from commenting on industrial disputes here or in other parts of the workforce.

    Looking at the books Tom and Humphrey both have written, neither seems to disagree.

    If Humphrey is right and Marxism 2012 conference has lost its way, then it is probably a reflection of a wider failure of the Left in Australia rather than that of any one group.

    Ian Curr
    April 2012

  12. As I see it, the common problem in all the perspectives on this discussion so far is an apparent underlying assumption that the Australian working class is ready and willing for revolution and all that is needed to catalyse economic transformation is a united socialist movement focusing on the real issues of the working class.

    “The working class” is not a real sociological entity, it is an element of a theoretical economic analysis – the factor of labour in the production process. The working class is an ideological construct, not a construction of material history.

    In Australia, the working class has transformed from predominantly rural agricultural workers, when the working class did indeed exist as an economic/sociological entity, to scattered and isolated urban workers where the class exists purely as a demographic category with little relevance to their political opinions, voting habits, experience of the workplace or role in their local community.

    The Australian working class, as a demographic category, is a dependent ally of capitalism. It does not perceive a conflict of class interests between themselves and their employers, rather they perceive a common interest of maintaining profits in order to protect their jobs. By home loans, superannuation, personal investments and job security, the economic interests of the working class and their children and grandchildren lie in the continuing success of capitalism, their historical motivation is to maintain stability and security, they are inherently threatened by the possibility of radical change by any cause.

    In Australia, the midwives of history, those with a motivation for radical change, are the underclass – the working poor, pensioners and long term unemployed. These are the people who are most alienated by capitalism and they have everything to win and nothing to lose by radical change.

    Australia’s underclass are largely invisible. Centrelink statistics are sanitised and euphamised to show a rapid increase in disability pensions and sickness benefits and temporary part time work, disguising the growing numbers of long term unemployed, but more importantly this underclass is totally devoid of political organisation, with the exception of the Aboriginal community. While there is an army of social workers who appoint themselves advocates of the underclass and engage in various government policy and funding discussions, the underclass itself has no organisation or self advocacy.

    It seems to me that socialist organisation amongst unions and universtiy students are both inherently futile as it represents a clumsy attempt to awaken the middle class from their comfortable slumber. While it may be possible to create some small radical subculture within the middle class, this will necessarily be based around ideas and opinions, not on any inherent material class motivation.

    If historical dialecticalism has anything to do with socialist considerations, the middle class is not the place where the shit is hitting the fan. The middle class are the cleaners in the maternity ward, not the midwives of history.

    The underclass is growing. Socialists with a long term vision would do better looking towards the organisation and politicisation of this growing class rather than trying to breathe life into the middle class against its will. – http://unlearningtheproblem.wordpress.com/

  13. Socialist Alternative’s Marxism 2012: Worth our engagement | Kieran's Review says:

    […] And Humphrey McQueen declared in his review, written and published before the event, that Marxism 2012 was “evading the class struggle”. […]

    [Editor’s note – see this thoughtful analysis of Marxism 2012 from an anarchist perspective at Kieran’s ReviewI have included some quotes below]:

    “Their [SAlt] position that the so-called socialist countries after WWII were not socialist but “state capitalist” class societies bears more than a passing resemblance to an Anarchist description of these states. Alternative rejects the dictatorships in Cuba, Vietnam and elsewhere, and do not foster delusions about the nature of events in Venezuela and Bolivia. Alternative does not carry the baggage of having to simultaneously reject their connection to Stalin whilst defending the legacy of Stalinists in Cuba (and elsewhere).”

    Which brings me to Marxism 2012.

    Socialist Alternative is an organisation of no more than three hundred members. This years conference at Melbourne University drew nearly one thousand participants. These were a whole cohort of people with whom anarchists should want to engage.

    Of course the formal conference structure offered little to no broad opportunity that anarchists could use to engage with these people as a group. All sessions were chaired by Socialist Alternative members, and all but the international speakers were well versed members of socialist alternative. The question and answer sessions that followed gave some small forum for different views, but only within a structure that saw them heavily rebutted by Socialist Alternative members, before discussion was capped off by a Socialist Alternative chair.

    As a project of Socialist Alternative, we should expect nothing less from this conference!

    But even within this structure there were still a multitude of opportunities.”

  14. jim sharp says:

    in reply to the rambling brambles

    a poem or whatever from

    One Of-not for-the working class

    a reality check

    believe it or not for

    those puritan brambles

    marxist politics springs

    only from “Marxian” sects!

    Whosoever tell the workers’

    Which faction to vote for &

    Not from their workday vis-à-vis

    wage- slaving class life realities.


    a paraphrase pinched from

    the great scot poet MacDiarmid.

    pilger, bloodworth & bramble

    i’ve read them all, hoping

    against hope to hear

    the authentic call… & know

    the explanation i must pass

    is this “you can’t light a match”

    from pertinacious gobs.

    Jim sharp

  15. This article is bang on point!

    Marx did not just write about injustice.
    He identified the organised labour movement as having the potential to change society.

    This does not mean they are always the most oppressed etc, it means they have the most potential leverage for change.

    Historically, only the organised working class has made Australia stop dead in it’s tracks and change direction.

    This will never happen over any campaign, no matter how fair, to amend the Family Law Act. For Marx, marriage was a bourgeois institution about property.

    Gay workers are having their lives devastated by lack of job permanency, housing affordability, uncertainty over hours and conditions, privatised utilities and the destruction of injury compensation schemes, not by the absence of a wedding certificate.

    I have yet to meet an “equal love’ activist that can tell me the difference between the de facto rights gay couples are already entitled too and the benefit that formalising those rights would be.

    I am sure there are differences, BUT just that like the differences for others, being in a “de facto” or a formal “de jure” relationship has increasingly similar rights and obligations.
    The “big roar” over rights is in fact a 2 or 3 % maximum difference in a future property dispute, plus a certificate.

    Of course I support formal legal equality for everyone, but so too do many Neo Liberals. After all they know that changing the Family Law Act will not challenge their class power one iota.

    Orwell had a great insight when he observed that rulers will seek to allow and orchestrate bogus debates, to deflect attention away from issues that would directly challenge them.

    No wonder bourgeois media gives more publicity to smaller Equal Love events, than to larger May Day rallies on the same day.

    Marxism, it is about the working class.

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