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John Passant

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January 2014



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

Sick kids and paying upfront


Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

I am not surprised
I think we are being unfair to this Abbott ‘no surprises’ Government. I am not surprised. (0)

Send Barnaby to Indonesia
It is a pity that Barnaby Joyce, a man of tact, diplomacy, nuance and subtlety, isn’t going to Indonesia to fix things up. I know I am disappointed that Barnaby is missing out on this great opportunity, and I am sure the Indonesians feel the same way. [Sarcasm alert.] (0)



Top ten 2013: Why I have resigned from Socialist Alternative

With almost 3000 views since I published it on 17 December, why I have resigned from Socialist Alternative was the most viewed article of 2013.  In one sense this is unfortunate because some of those who will have read it will have done so as enemies of Socialist Alternative and of building a revolutionary party.

In another sense it is heartening that so many people are interested in the ins and outs of a small revolutionary group in Australia.

My hope is that the more reflective members of Socialist Alternative will take note of what I had to say and both acknowledge that there are problems and take action to address them.  While such a current capable of organisational reflection rather than self-congratulatory backslapping does exist, whether it is able or willing to raise its concerns let alone have them addressed is a question for the future. It is to those comrades this article is addressed.

In part I say:

I still regard building a revolutionary party around key principles like the self-emancipation of the working class and deep democracy both within the organisation and within society as essential.

At this juncture that space doesn’t exist for me in Socialist Alternative.



Pingback from Top ten 2013: Why I have resigned from Socialist Alternative | OzHouse
Time January 1, 2014 at 11:11 am

[…] Jan 01 2014 by admin […]

Comment from Mike
Time January 1, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Interesting to read your views on SA as a cult and your reasons for resigning.

A political cult, in my understanding, is an organisation that fosters a distinctive worldview among its members that is grounded in a highly selective interpretation of social reality, and uses a range of formal and informal mechanisms in an attempt to ensure members do not question that worldview.

There are strong and weak versions of such political cults. And sometimes organisations move from weak to strong (although they rarely move in the opposite direction without splintering).

Strong versions of far left cults include Gerry Healy’s WRP. For example, it maintained that Britain in the 1970s faced a stark choice between socialist revolution and fascist takeover.

Tony Cliff’s organisation is an interesting example of a group that moved from arguably not being a cult at all in the 1960s, toward being a strong cult in the 1990s (the ‘1930s in slow motion’ and all that). Many of those who have recently found the SWP’s ‘cultism’ unbearable have now left.

Having been in and around the far left in the UK and Australia for nearly 30 years, I have often wondered why so many Marxist groups become cultish. Here are my (provisional) conclusions:

a) A weak understanding of how to apply, critique and develop Marxist categories by reference to empirical reality, leading to an analytical approach which only grasps that reality in a partial and undialectical manner.

For example, the historic appeal of left reformism can be explained, in part, by its record of securing increased standards of living for working class and lower middle class voters. But the inability, or unwillingness, of contemporary left reformism to secure such increases does not by itself necessarily equate to a weakening of reformist ideologies and loyalties, leading to a significant growth in the constituency for revolutionary politics.

Economistic understandings of reformism have plagued the radical left for decades. They are still much in evidence.

b) In order to recruit, retain and mobilise members, a related tendency to hugely overestimate the short-term prospects for socialist advance. This leads to hyper-activism and ultra-left sloganeering, followed by cycles of demoralisation and exhaustion. The failure of unrealistic expectations to materialise often leads not to an open and honest appraisal of mistaken analysis, but to internal recrimination and disorientation.

c) A tendency to elevate the group’s particular interpretation of Marxism to the status of being ‘the only genuine Marxism’. Disagreement and dissent then become demonised as constituting an attack on the only doctrine capable of saving humanity from barbarism, so deserving of vilification in the most extreme and cultish terms. Hence, internal disagreement tends to snowball quickly into bitter opposition, division and splits. The demonisation of dissent encourages a culture of conformity and compliance. This is further encouraged by making a fetish of particular theories, full agreement with them serving as a proxy for understanding of and commitment to ‘genuine Marxism.’

So what? Well, some of these trends appear to be at work within SA. But, as recent British experience suggests, overcoming them is unlikely within the group. The dynamics of intra-group conformity are strong, meaning that dissenters have little choice but to leave and start afresh.

One day, there may be enough dissenters from the cult tradition to build an organisation capable of transcending cultish behaviours. Let’s hope so.

Comment from Abas
Time January 3, 2014 at 12:44 am

Hey John, Without an objective I simply say I enjoyed discussing leftism etc with you. Regards Abas

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