[Marxism] Galloway faction splits from Respect:
lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Nov 3 21:12:29 MDT 2007
Alan Bradley wrote:
> On the Respect thing: removing the SWP cadres from
> Respect is going to seriously damage the organisation.
> On the other hand, I doubt the SWP is going to be able
> to salvage anything on their side either. So this is
> (probably) a complete disaster all round.
Comrades should understand that Alan's group (or the group he cheers
for--I can't remember honestly) had the same kind of controversies in
Australia. It basically captured itself in a new party called Socialist
Alliance that was supposed to bring together socialists and independents
in a regroupment effort. Just as the SWP expected their newspaper to be
the organ of Respect, so did the DSP expect Greenleft Weekly to be the
voice of the Socialist Alliance. These brilliant Leninists remind me of
managers I have run into since 1968 in the business world. They have an
instinctive fear of initiatives from below. Let me amend that. There is
nothing instinctive about it. It comes from reading James P. Cannon or
Tony Cliff's addled study of Lenin.
The culture that develops inside organizations with the
we-have-the-correct-program view, as mentioned, never really allows
differences although in the formal statutes it always claims to accept
the right to minority views.
The [American] SWP never had a culture permitting differences. Every
group that ever raised any questions regarding any of its policies was
eventually driven out.
In this sense it had no resemblance to the party Lenin led, which was
continuously alive with debate and differences. Lenin's party had
various newspapers that would debate each other publicly. In fact, in
the 1908 period when Lenin was arguing against one grouping in his
organization he accused them of hiding their minority views and not
publishing them in their public organ.
I do not think most DSP members would think it Leninist for a minority
to start up its own public organ and publish its differences with the
majority. Well, that was the reality of Lenin's party. In that specific
case Lenin even argued that the minority should not use the excuse that
the party was not in a pre-convention discussion period to not publicly
publish their minority views.
Lenin wrote letters to friends all the time expressing his personal
views. He thought it quite normal for there to be private discussions
and correspondence between members of his organization. He saw that as a
right. In fact, in one letter he began by saying that if anyone read
this letter when it wasn't addressed to them, that person was violating
his right to private correspondence.
Cannon tried to set up norms of functioning. Some are undoubtedly of
great value, while others are completely opposed to the reality of
Lenin's Party, but they were always presented as "Leninism".
Cannon introduced the idea that members of a Leninist party are
violating norms if they express their differences within the
organization to anyone outside the organization or engage in private
correspondence, even within the organization.
At the time I joined the SWP in the late 1950s there was a lose grouping
in the SWP that the Dobbs leadership referred to as "petty bourgeois"
and that was eventually driven out, called the Weissites (named after
Murry Weiss a leader of the SWP). One of their horrendous crimes was
that they had circulated letters to each other about the internal
situation in the SWP.
In saying all of this my point is not to say that responsible people
should not think out how they act and the consequences of their actions
in terms of how best to carry on a discussion within an organization.
Nor do I mean that we should not have rules and norms and try to
function in an organized manner.
I am trying to get people to think through these issues and to realize
that the norms the US SWP taught the Australian DSP were a
misrepresentation of what Lenin's movement had been like, and not
necessarily at all a "proven" organizational method. My point is the
norms Cannon developed had little to do with the reality of Lenin's party.
The underlying difference has its roots in the fact that Lenin's party
was directly leading the masses in a powerful radicalization and the SWP
was an isolated ideological propaganda grouping. Even if the SWP had
really reflected Lenin's organizational forms they might very well not
be at all applicable to its specific circumstances. The idea of a
generalized organizational method is about as correct as the idea of an
abstract "correct political program".
It is for the above reasons that in my opinion the DSP is not, and
should not refer to itself as, a Leninist party. The new preamble of the
DSP's program, in my opinion, is an attempt to codify some of these
incorrect concepts of organization.
Its language is that of an organization that is not dealing with the
reality of mass struggles. When an organization is isolated it can talk
in tough terms about "overthrow" and "revolutionary action" and so on.
Organizations that actually lead the masses, like the FPL in El Salvador
or the Alliance in New Zealand, would pay an immense negative price for
that kind of needless and easily misunderstood language.
What that language does is give those wanting to block our movement a
weapon to attack us and help isolate us. It is posturing that serves no
purpose and miseducates the membership on how to handle themselves. Deep
down it reflects a method that lacks seriousness. It is ultraleft in
Such language is completely unnecessary to maintain our principles. It
is revealing when people believe that they have to use language easily
misunderstood in order to maintain their principles. It shows a great
fear of selling out.
It is true the DSP lives today in a world that has seen so much betrayal
of our ideals for a democratic and just world that it fears the same
shift away from socialist ideals could affect it. While this is
definitely part of our reality, the use of such terms and acting tough
and passing tough-sounding phrases is no real protection.
On the contrary it reveals a developing leftist error. The preamble also
makes a prediction of total demise unless the kind of structure referred
to as Leninist (incorrectly) is adopted and followed. The preamble says
the DSP would degenerate and no longer be a coherent organization.
We should give this some careful thought. Causa R in Venezuela does not
follow any of this. They act precisely in the manner criticized by the
DSP. Yet Causa R has not degenerated or collapsed. Instead they have
gone from 20 members to tens of thousands directly in the leadership of
major industrial unions, have the support of millions, precisely among
the poorest Venezuelans and its industrial working class.
Does that mean Causa R, and what it advocates is right for Australia, or
even Venezuela? That is not necessarily the case. Will they be able to
go beyond their present gains with the organizational methods they have
used up to now? That's a difficult questions to answer, but my point is
we should drop this arrogance about the "proven Leninist principles of
organization", meaning the structure that Cannon developed in the United
We need to maintain an open mind, to learn from not only the Russian
experience but from that of others who have succeeded in winning the
masses to break with bourgeois politics and for the independence of the
The Causa R example is an extreme one, but nevertheless useful. The
original group of 20 members led by Alfredo Maniero decided on this
course some 23 years ago. Maniero was driven by the need to root the
organisaiton once again among the masses. To now look at Causa R and not
recognize its success and potential would be blindness.
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