Ten years ago, I was obssessed with the theories of Tony Cliff that the USSR was really a capitalist country, which I would later call in conversation with my brother the ESCD for “Empire of State Capitalist Dictatorship”. My brother called Tony Cliff “TSBTOAC”, for Tony Should Be Thrown Off A Cliff. Sometimes he would stutter when saying the five middle words of the name.
Even before I knew who Tony Cliff was, I listened his followers intensely at Melbourne University, and they seemed to offer a very good explanation for the dreadful, pro-freeway transport policies of Australian governments over the past eighty years. These followers, who formed groups called Socialist Alternative and the International Socialist Organisation, argued that a ruling class has a vested interest in maximising profits, and that building a huge number of cars would bring them larger profits than a modest number of more sustainable public transport vehicles. Despite the fact that I have become wary of the cultural character of these radical groups in demographic terms, there is still much to be said in favour of their argument that working class militancy is the key to good environmental policy.
The effective leader of Socialist Alternative was and still is a woman called Sandra Bloodworth. My brother used to say that she was a mother who abandoned her children to join anti-uranium protesters and turned to socialism with Tess Lee Ack, a veteran of early 1970s radicalism. When I tried to meet the insiders of Socialist Alternative, I certainly saw Tess Lee Ack, who seemed rather bland. Later, I met a woman called Sandra, and assumed she was Sandra Bloodworth, but was terribly unimpressed. This Sandra had the appearance of a witch and - unsurprisingly when one reads Arthur Brooks - seemed totally uncaring and very rude. She would not even introduce herself to me and seemed to want me to go away even though I was then really interested in socialism.
For a long time, I though I had seen the real Sandra Bloodworth and frequently described her in this way to people I met. My brother, however, always doubted that the socialist whom I admired as a student really did look like a classic “witch”, but I never thought I would be able to check until today, when coming home, one of the very familiar Socialist Alternative posters I found hada picture of her. I must say that the real Sandra Bloodworth does not look nearly so much like a witch as I had thought! There is still a possibility Sandra has groomed her hair to make it straighter, but when I saw her face again I really cannot see the wrinkled, witch-like face I recall from that one encounter at Melbourne University!