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Democratic Socialist Perspective

Democratic Socialist Perspective
Leader Peter Boyle
Founded 1972
Dissolved 2010
Merged into Socialist Alliance
Headquarters Sydney
Ideology Socialism,
International affiliation Fourth International
Politics of Australia
Political parties

The Democratic Socialist Perspective (DSP) was an Australian Marxist political group, which operated as the largest component of a broad-left socialist formation, the Socialist Alliance. In 2010, the DSP voted to merge into the Socialist Alliance.

The DSP was a revolutionary Marxist-Democratic Socialism movement. The name arises from the DSP's advocacy of democracy in the socialist movement, in contrast to the practices of Stalinism.


  • History 1
    • Formation 1.1
    • Abandonment of Trotskyism 1.2
    • Orienting to the Green movement 1.3
    • Socialist Alliance 1.4
  • References 2
  • External links 3
  • Further reading 4



The DSP started as the orthodox Socialist Youth Alliance (previously, and also currently, called Resistance) which grew out of the student radicalisation surrounding the Vietnam War. The SWL affiliated to the reunified Fourth International, under the influence of the American section, the Socialist Workers Party. It was also undoubtedly due to this influence that the SWL itself took the name Socialist Workers Party (SWP).

Abandonment of Trotskyism

In 1986 the SWP broke with orthodox Trotskyism and disaffiliated from the Fourth International. While maintaining Leon Trotsky's critique of the USSR, the party replaced Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution with the view that socialist revolution in Third World countries (countries in which, according to Marxist theory, the development of capitalism has been distorted by colonialism and imperialism) will take place in two connected stages. In the early 1990s it was renamed the Democratic Socialist Party. It contested the 1998 federal election as part of the Democratic Socialist Electoral League.

Orienting to the Green movement

The DSP was the first Marxist party in the world to actively align itself to the green movement. From its movement experience and especially its activity supporting the Nuclear Disarmament Party in 1984/5 the DSP read the significance of the rise of Green Party in Germany and reshaped its political orientation towards an Eco-socialism perspective. The main consequence of this was the creation of Green Left Weekly in 1991 which has consistently pursued an environment agenda in its pages. The DSP has also been a consistent participant in environment campaigns.

Socialist Alliance

In 2001, the DSP, along with several other socialist parties including the Socialist Alliance, initially an electoral vehicle. In 2002 the DSP championed the idea of turning Socialist Alliance into more of a party formation, although at first it had to withdraw this proposal as the ISO's opposition threatened to destroy the alliance.[1] In 2003 the DSP became the first (and so far only) Socialist Alliance affiliate to become an internal tendency within the Alliance, changing its name to the Democratic Socialist Perspective, in line with its view that SA should become a "Multi-Tendency Socialist Party", a view that the May 2003 National Conference of the Socialist Alliance subsequently adopted.[2]

Each of these changes of name and tactics has been accompanied, like in many far-left groups, with a turnover of members. While the SWP and DSP recruited many activists from the radical student movement of the 1970s and from various social movements since, it failed to retain most of them for long as the sixties and seventies radicalisation wave has receded. Nonetheless, the DSP has retained a core membership drawn from each upsurge of political struggle, some of whom are founding members of the party back in 1972. The SWP, and then DSP, was led by Jim Percy as National Secretary from 1972 until his death in 1992.

The SWP and the DSP regularly contested Australian federal elections but seldom polled significant votes. From time to time they practised entryism into the Australian Labor Party, but with little success. They also took part in the Nuclear Disarmament Party project during the 1980s, as well as a number of other left regroupment projects, and were part of the political and activist alliance that led to the formation of the Australian Greens.

The Socialist Alliance had been created in alliance with other forces in the hopes of using joint electoral work amongst Australian socialists to increase trust and collaboration between socialists, and in the process making socialist organisation a more attractive option to the left. But although it contested the 2001 federal election and the 2004 federal election, as well as several state elections, it has failed to attract significant support. The Socialist Alliance has had two electoral successes, electing Sam Wainwright to Fremantle City Council in 2009[3][4][5] and Sue Bolton to Moreland City Council in 2012 [6][7]

Several years into the SA project, it has attracted a number of activists, radical indigenous activists and militant unionists. Among those who have joined the SA are leading indigenous activist, Sam Watson; historian and author, Humphrey McQueen; and some leading trade union figures such as Chris Cain of the Maritime Union of Australia and Craig Johnston who led a reform current in the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union.

A debate broke out in the DSP in 2005 about its Socialist Alliance orientation but the minority viewpoint that opposed continuing with the Alliance orientation was soundly defeated at the DSP's January 2008 congress. This caused a split, after the opposition was expelled subsequently forming a new organisation the same year, the Revolutionary Socialist Party.[8]

In October 2009, the DSP National Committee proposed that the organisation merge itself into the Socialist Alliance. At the DSP National Congress in January 2010, the membership voted to go ahead with the merger.


  1. ^ Democratic Socialist Party 20th Congress "Resolution on work in the Socialist Alliance":
  2. ^ Socialist Alliance takes a new step for left unity, Peter Boyle, Green Left Weekly, 14 May 2003
  3. ^ "Victory for Sam by 100 votes", Socialist Alliance: 'Sam for Hilton' blog, 18 October 2009. Accessed: 9 November 2009.
  4. ^ "Fremantle Council Election results", Western Australian Electoral Commission, 17 October 2009. Accessed: 9 November 2009.
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ [3]
  8. ^ Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) launched, Revolutionary Socialist Party, 28 May 2008. Accessed: 10 March 2010.

External links

  • Democratic Socialist Perspective
  • Green Left Weekly
  • Resistance
  • Socialist Alliance
  • Green Left eulogy for Jim Percy
  • Resistance Books, the DSP & Resistance's publishing house
  • Links – international journal of socialist renewal

Further reading

  • Percy, John.(2005) Resistance: A History of the Democratic Socialist Party and Resistance: 1965–72. Resistance Books, Australia.
  • The Program of the DSP
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