The Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP) in Australia has suffered a destructive split organised by the Leninist Party Faction (LPF), a minority whose perspective of retreating from left regroupment and engagement with broader forces in struggle had been decisively rejected by large majorities at the last two DSP congresses.
From the May 2005 NC, it was clear that there were different assessments about the value of Socialist Alliance within the leadership of the DSP. But this is a difference that we could have easily and constructively dealt with within a united DSP if the minority leadership had kept a sense of proportion and responsibility about their differences. Instead, they chose to factionalise the DSP and develop new theoretical differences, including labeling the democratically adopted course of the DSP as "liquidating" its revolutionary socialist politics.
The main documents relating to these differences can be found at in this website under "Documents of the DSP". Further material will be made available on this website shortly.
- Download The Activist with reports and documents from the 23rd congress
- Final report of DSP internal investigation into recent actions of the LPF
A revolutionary socialist organisation like the DSP cannot exist without internal democracy: it requires the maximum possible discussion and democratically exchanged ideas at all levels if the party is to be able to chart a correct course through the shifts of the class struggle. Likewise, centralism is implicit in the very existence of a revolutionary socialist party: we are a voluntary union of revolutionaries precisely because we understand that united action is more effective than the uncoordinated efforts of individuals.
In this framework, factions are provided for within the DSP as a mechanism for facilitating serious debate and political clarification in the party. But for factions to successfully play that role they must also respect the discipline of the DSP constitution and the decisions of its elected leadership bodies because differences in a revolutionary socialist organisation are resolved not simply through debate but also by the test of practice.
However, this democracy also means, not only respect for the rights of a minority, but also the right of the majority to insist that the work of the party not be disrupted. Therefore, the existence of factions strengthens the party only for so long as the faction members respect the democratic decisions of the party and continue to act within the framework decided upon at party congresses and in elected party bodies.
Without such an approach, factions weaken rather than strengthen the party. Since the party is an entirely voluntary union of revolutionaries who are committed to building a stronger party, a faction that is not loyal to the party as a whole will eventually have no purpose or role in the party.
We have now had more than two and a half years of internal struggle in the DSP, during which period we have had a total of seven months of oral and written pre-congress discussion, eight LPF counter-reports to two congresses and numerous LPF counter-reports to four National Committee meetings.
In order to maximise the chances of increasing political clarity in the discussion, the majority in the DSP have bent over backwards to avoid using any organisational measures to deal with the LPF's increasing disregard for democracy and collective action in the DSP. Numerous leadership reports, letters, and individual and collective contributions to the discussions have urged the LPF to work for its stated aims within the framework of loyalty to the party as a whole, and many warnings were given to the LPF of the damaging consequences — for the party and the faction itself — if they chose not to do so.
Furthermore, over the past two years, the DSP leadership has repeatedly encouraged the LPF to dissolve the faction and engage fully in the party's collective discussions and activities, rather than conduct an ongoing, separate and secret discussion via the LPF elist and meetings.
While recognising the right of DSP members to form factions, there is a dangerous dynamic inherent in exclusive/secret discussions among sub-groups of party members, which tend to cement and exacerbate differences, rather than resolve them. The most effective way to resolve differences is through the maximum possible engagement, in discussion and action.
The January 2006 DSP congress rejected the LPF's perspectives by a 75% majority. The majority line was tested over the next two years and at the January 2008 DSP congress support for the majority line was even stronger, securing 80% of the delegate votes.
In particular, the DSP ranks strongly rejected the LPF's growing dismissal of our engagement and initiatives, alongside other working class militants, in the three-year mass struggle against the anti-worker "Work Choices" laws of the former Howard Liberal-National government. The LPF argued that there was no mass campaign against Work Choices, simply a campaign to elect a Labor government. The LPF prescribed a retreat to narrow propagandism, focused on university students, around championing the example of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela — at the expense of engagement in the local struggles — while the majority argued that we should engage in local struggles while building solidarity with the first revolution of the 21st century.
The LPF tried to present their course as a "return" to the heritage of the old DSP but the course they advocated we "return to" was a distortion of the DSP's real political heritage in a sectarian direction, and the DSP ranks overwhelmingly recognized this.
The DSP membership had a right to expect that, whatever the LPF thought of the outcomes of the last two congresses, the minority would respect the overwhelming decision of the majority and allow it to try to implement its perspectives. However, the LPF has proceeded along a different course.
The LPF has repeatedly violated the constitution and organisational principles of the DSP, in particular during the four months since the January 2008 DSP congress and has clearly been operating as a separate organisation, within and outside of the DSP.
(i) the LPF has its own internal organisation and discipline, to which LPF members give their first loyalty even when this unquestionably damages the DSP's ability to achieve its aims;
(ii) the LPF decides and collectively implements its own campaign perspectives and activities separate from and often in contradiction to those democratically decided by the DSP as a whole;
(iii) the LPF collaborates separately and secretly from the DSP with other left organisations, both in Australia and overseas, including with organisations that are politically hostile to the aims and activities of DSP; and
(iv) the LPF has its own separate membership that includes people who have consciously decided not to be members of the DSP but who are given access to internal DSP discussions through the LPF's elist.
With the unveiling of its website (www.lpf.org.au) on May 12, and its posting to several email lists, the LPF has made public their split from the DSP. This confirms that the LPF was already acting effectively as a separate organisation to the DSP, to which it feels no loyalty or sense of common purpose.
On Tuesday May 13, the DSP National Executive recognized that this split had already taken place and therefore expelled all 39 members of the LPF remaining in the DSP in order to protect the security of the DSP. The LPF's split actions left the DSP no other real choice.
The left is already far too fractious and divided. To suffer yet another split in our movement is a tragedy.
If any LPF members wish to dissociate themselves from the LPF split and genuinely wish to help build the DSP, they should make their position clear and the DSP will consider their readmission as full members.
We are confident that in the course of future struggles we will find opportunities to reunite with comrades who have split from the DSP.
The LPF split has been a waste of years of hard work and sacrifice. However, the DSP has already been operating for most of this year with most LPF members boycotting or even sabotaging its work. It has continued to produce and distribute Green Left Weekly, build the Socialist Alliance and strongly engaged in the social movements, including the trade union, anti-war, environment, same-sex rights, Aboriginal rights and Venezuela solidarity movements. In the last few months alone, despite the factional situation, we have organised the successful Climate Change | Social Change conference and led the eighth Australian solidarity brigade to Venezuela. Therefore, we are confident that we can quickly recover from this split and continue our work.
DSP National Executive
May 13, 2008