Wednesday, May 11, 2005

My disected response to Socialist Alternative

Greetings ---,

I was disappointed to see that you have begun to sell Green Left Weekly around the traps...

I made this decision after a lot of careful thinking, and reflection on my experiences with Socialist Alternative. This decision was by no means a personal attack on the members of Socialist Alternative or Socialist Alternative itself, but rather a conclusion I came to based on my personal political and ideological beliefs. Something you have attempted to discredit from the first day I joined Socialist Alternative (ie; Che, Fidel, Chavez, Cuba, Venezuela, the SSP, Left Unity, etc etc)

It was a shame that you did not feel that you could advise us first of your decision, given that you are still a member of Socialist Alternative.

There was many occasions that took place that cemented in my mind that; perhaps it is better to keep my mouth shut - Some of which I will list now. I do not know if you recall the events that transpired on March 20, so I will outline the main ones (the way they came across to me):

At the start we had a meeting where you said "I do not want you talking to people from other groups... We can do that anytime." - However am I not free to talk to whom ever I want, when ever I want, about what ever I want! - Should I not be free to associate and discuss my political and ideological beliefs with others regardless of their political orientation at anytime.

You did not approve me even speaking to ---- from the DSP, in fact you advised me not to talk to him on the basis that it was his sole intent to "steal" me away from Socialist Alternative. Call me strange, but does this not sound as if you regard your members as if they were a commodity (a capitalist sounding thing to me)?

You claimed that the DSP has tried to "steal" members on a number of occasions - I believe you even used the word slime... At that time (and to this day) it felt as if you were trying to keep me trapped inside this bubble of Socialist Alternative - whereby anything outside this bubble is of course by nature wrong - and is to be completely discredited... On the sole basis of furthering your own sectarian and dogmatic political agenda within the walls of Socialist Alternative...

Do you also remember when I was talking to someone from Socialist Action Group - and you came over swearing, telling the guy from SAG to "Piss off, Lewis doesn't want to talk to you!" and continued to argue with him for 5-minutes or more during one of the speeches? - To me, this was an assumptuous and completely undemocratic suppressive act, for reasons mentioned earlier.

With this is mind I would like to pose a questions:
Why was it so important that I not talk or discuss issues and ideas with him or anyone from another organisation?

We would have liked to have had the opportunity to try to convince you of the genuine Marxist tradition of socialism from below and also to explain why Resistance and the Green Left Weekly newspaper cannot be the home of those who would like to see a genuinely socialist society.

Why do I say that Resistance and GLW cannot be the answer to those seeking working class liberation? Resistance is a Stalinist organisation. This is not an insult or swear word but a reflection of their politics, specifically the ideology of "socialism in one country" (really, state capitalism) and the glorification of the one-party state led by an all-knowing, all-powerful Communist Party.

A socialist revolution from below, still has to come from somewhere... In the real world (the world we live in), a whole species isn't going to have a complete reversal of behaviour and understanding over night - and even if they did, would there not be some form of transition period? - Would there not be some form of organising body needed, to show people how it (socialism) can work and how it will work.

Do you think 7-Billion people would be able to organise themselves without some form of leadership in the beginning, and with some countries standing out by themselves - as part of a transition period? Leadership of some description is needed - on the basis that something has to get the ball rolling...

Now, is this not what Socialist Alternative is attempting to do - to get the ball rolling via education "from above" - and point towards the direction of Socialism/Communism. Isn't this what EVERY SINGLE SOCIALIST ORGANISATION HAS IN COMMON - they are trying to educate people... This is what the DSP, the ISO, Resistance, Socialist Alliance - everyone is trying to do, educate. Where does this knowledge come from if it doesn't come from "above" (if you wanted to term it that way).

Isn't it Socialist Alternatives goal to point the way forward and allow the working class to realise their full potential and eventually take power? - Isn't this by definition an act of "socialism from above" - Where does a socialist revolution come from without some form of body to educate them?

This is not an insult or swear word but a reflection of their politics, specifically the ideology of "socialism in one country" (really, state capitalism) and the glorification of the one-party state led by an all-knowing, all-powerful Communist Party. This is most evident, of course, with Cuba, the regime that Resistance has uncritically worshipped for decades.

Am I correct to assume you feel that Cuba is not internationalist and that it simply believes in "socialism in one country"! - Perhaps it is necessary to "re hash" some of the internationalist things this tiny third-world country has done in its attempt to spread socialism around the world.

  • Cuba has more than 10,000 doctors, 8000 educators and 2000 sports trainers, agricultural experts, military advisers and technicians working in Venezuela alone!!! Surely this is a just indication of the tiny and poor country's internationalism and attempts to spread socialism.
  • Cuban doctors are also quietly saving lives in East Timor and healing the sick and wounded in tsunami-devastated Sri Lanka!!! Surely this is a just indication of the tiny and poor country's internationalism and attempts to spread socialism.
  • And what about the decisive role of 50,000 Cuban volunteer fighters who defeated South Africa's imperialist aggression against Angola and Namibia between 1975 and 1990: Just the plain fact that soldiers from Cuba were able to beat back a South African invasion of Angola sent shock waves throughout the continent!!! Surely this is a just indication of the tiny and poor country's internationalism and attempts to spread socialism.
  • What about Cuba giving scholarships to hundreds of poor people from all around the globe to study and become doctors and technicians!!! Surely this is a just indication of the tiny and poor country's internationalism and attempts to spread socialism.
  • Not to mention the heroic deeds Che Guevara attempted to do in the Congo and Bolivia - wether he did it correctly or not - this was a just indication of the tiny and poor country’s internationalism and attempts to spread socialism.

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With these things in mind - how are you able to justify your statement, by saying that Cuba has no interest in spreading socialism abroad - and as for it being "state-capitalist" - I think the fact we are still living in a Capitalist world should be explanation enough to your criticism.

Marxism, by contrast, is about workers taking power in their own hands. The Cuban regime violates this in every respect. [...] But I don't see how socialists can have any truck with a government that has supported military takeovers and the banning of independent trade unions elsewhere, as the Cuban government did with Czechoslovakia in 1968 and Poland in 1981.

Please correct me if I am wrong, but was it not the USSR who did this - was not Cuba merely a bystander, a 3rd-World country whom would not have been able to survive at that time without Soviet trade... I am sure you would agree that Cuba was manipulated and taken advantage of by the USSR - and about the only thing Cuba could have done about Czechoslovakia and Poland was "speak out" (which Castro did) - What would/did that achieved? - Russia would have the oportunity to crush them along with Czechoslovakia and Poland... And would that have been helpful to the leftist movement in any way, shape or form?

[...] Human Rights Watch reports as follows:
"The Cuban government systematically denies its citizens basic rights to free expression, association, assembly, movement, and a fair trial. It restricts nearly all avenues of political dissent, and uses police warnings, surveillance, short term-detentions, house arrests, travel restrictions, criminal prosecutions, and politically-motivated dismissals from employment as methods of enforcing political conformity.

"Human rights monitoring is not recognized as a legitimate activity, but rather is stigmatized as a betrayal of Cuban sovereignty. No local human rights groups enjoy legal status. Instead, human rights defenders face systematic harassment, with the government placing heavy burdens on their ability to monitor human rights conditions. Nor are international human rights groups such as Human Rights Watch allowed to send fact-finding missions to Cuba
"Political prisoners who denounce poor conditions of imprisonment or who otherwise fail to observe prison rules are frequently punished by long periods in punitive isolation cells, restrictions on visits, or denial of medical treatment. "There is only one official labor union in Cuba, the Worker’s Central of Cuba (Central de Trabajadores de Cuba, CTC). Independent labor unions are denied formal status and their members are harassed."

Source: http://hrw.org/english/docs/2005/03/10/cuba10306.htm

In nearly 50 years of revolutionary Cuba there has never been an extrajudicial execution or a missing person. There has never been a Cuban mother who is still looking for the remains of her murdered son or daughter. There has never been a reporter killed in Cuba. There has never been a prisoner mistreated by his keepers. And there is no evidence given to suggest that political dissidents in Cuba are killed or tortured.

Even the US State Department, in its 2004 country report, trying its hardest to vilify Cuba, acknowledged that Cuba had: "no political killings ... no reports of politically motivated disappearances". The US also acknowledges there were no reports of religious repression, little discrimination, compulsory and free schooling, a universal health-care system, substantial artistic freedom, and no reports of torture.

With that in mind; has there ever been a Socialist Alternative member who went to Cuba to see first hand the revolutionary government and peoples in action? - Obviously not, otherwise we wouldn't be having this argument today - whereby you are picking and choosing snippets of information out of imperialist bourgeois-backed websites - With little to no evidence provided to back up their claims...

Cuba was (and is) a milestone in history, it has achieved things that the rest of Latin America (and the world for that matter) are only just starting to catch up with. I cannot see why Socialist Alternative refuses to officially recognise and support the remarkable things this tiny third-world nation has managed to do.

Why is that exactly?

On press freedom, Journalists without Borders, an NGO which campaigns to free imprisoned journalists and for freedom of the press around the world, reports that Cuba lies second to bottom on a ranking of press freedom, at 166th place, just one place above North Korea. Cuba rates as a worse violator of freedom of the press than democracy-loving regimes such as Saudia Arabia, China, Turkmenistan, and Burma. Journalists without Borders further reports that
"Cuba is second only to China as the biggest prison for journalists, with 26 in jail (China has 27). Since spring last year, these 26 independent journalists have languished in prison after being given sentences of between 14 and 27 years. "

Source: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=11715

What both you and the website fail to mention is WHY those 26 journalists are in gaol - If one were to do some independent research instead of accepting this website blindly, you would find that the majority of those journalists were arrested for receiving money from the US Government. More specifically from a Miami-based terrorist group (CANF), with the aim of overthrowing the Cuban government and the Cuban Revolution.

As for other aspects of Cuban press freedom; the press, the radio and the television stations are all owned and operated by the people of Cuba and serve their interests. About the only restriction Cuba has on the press is the fact that it will not allow newspapers and TV networks funded by the US government (Why do you think that is?).

Do you think this is fair?

How this can be reconciled with socialism is beyond me.

This is something, in my opinion, Socialist Alternative fails to realise (Brisbanes branch atleast) - The works of Marx and Engels, Lenin, Trotsky and anyone else for that matter - ARE NOT BIBLES - Socialism is by nature anti-dogmatic - it is a flexible system designed to be adaptable for any number of circumstances. Every revolution in every country is not going to follow a strict pattern - culture, history, poverty and the people in general all have a mutating effect on how the revolution will look.

The "tunnel vision" that appears to be present in Socialist Alternative severely limits and restricts your ability to move forward. Especially considering you refuse to publicise and acknowledge revolutions that are CURRENTLY taking place around the world (ie Venezuela)

While the example of Venezuela may not be "pure" socialism (yet) - surely it is a step in the direction of socialism - about as bigger step as you can take in a capitalist's world - Why doesn't Socialist Alternative support, show solidarity with, or even recognise Venezuela? - Is it because it hasn't followed the correct path towards socialism?

http://www.venezuelasolidarity.org/index.php?module=pagemaster&PAGE_user_op=view_page&PAGE_id=48

Would you agree that Communism can be reached from a number of different paths?

By way of response, I would like to say that you are still welcome to attend meetings of Socialist Alternative, which I hope you find of interest.

I would like to give credit where credit is due... So I will say; your weekly meetings are of a very high standard - and never fail to bring about a good range of discussion, and they have helped me reach a better understanding of Marxists politics.

Socialist Alternative is a good organisation based on excellent theory - your only downfall being your ultra-leftist dogmatic and sectarian approach towards socialism - and your failure to understand that socialism is town with many roads leading into it...

With that in mind, I am regretful to say, that I will not be attending any Socialist Alternative meeting now, or in the foreseeable future. Not until Socialist Alternative mends its ways and takes a new view on left-unity and many other key concepts that put it at a point of difference with many of the other organisations out there - who appear to have a much broader and well-rounded approach and formula towards leftist politics.

Furthermore, I would like to formally renounce my Socialist Alternative membership - and I would like to have my name and other details officially removed from Socialist Alternatives computer database - until and if - I personally request to be again reinstated as a member of Socialist Alternative.

I do hope that consideration of facts such as these will give you pause to consider your political choice.

I have considered my political choice - and I feel I have made the right one... Perhaps I could make the suggestion that Socialist Alternative reconsiders and re-researches its own facts and figures and consider its own political choice and approach towards socialism and many other aspects within the organisation.

If you would like to discuss these points any further, don't hesitate to give -----, -------- or I a call.

I will most likely not be calling you or anyone from Socialist Alternative in the near future however I will ask some questions that I have asked before - With which I received less than satisfactory replies (if at all)...

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Why was it that Socialist Alternative spit from the ISO? - Especially considering you have almost no visible differences in politics (and if there is - what are they). I would also like to make the point that -------- made towards me: "We don't agree with people leaving for having problems with a persons personality..."

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Why was it that Socialist Action Group split from Socialist Alternative? - especially considering they have no visible differences in politics (and if there is - what are they).

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And why is it that Socialist Alternative refused to join the Socialist Alliance? - The nature of the alliance being; You work together on things you agree on, and work separately on things you do not agree on... My interpretation being that the overall movement progresses on the big issues (such as No War, No Racism, No Sexism etc) - Thus helping the whole movement move forward.

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How and why does Socialist Alternative think that the socialist movement in Australia is going to be taken seriously, when there is petty in-fighting going on between groups who have virtually nothing dissimilar within their political doctrines?

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And why did Socialist Alternative refuse to march with the Red Contingent on May Day? - I mean even the real Stalinist managed to do that (the CPA)

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I would like to make just one final point, and that is that, I do not want you or anyone taking personal offence to anything I have said within the content of this email. But rather that Socialist Alternative is to reflect and learn from what I have said and move forward in a more effective and promising direction. Perhaps one day in the future we can all reach some kind of agreement - but Socialist Alternative, in its current form, is not for me...

Comradely Regards
Lewis C. (formerly Socialist Alternative)