[Marxism] Galloway faction splits from Respect
lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Nov 4 06:51:00 MST 2007
Fred Feldman wrote:
> The latter volume highlights. among manu other things, the weaknesses of
> Cannon's factional approach to advancing a proletarian orientation for the
> group, weaknesses that may be detectable on all sides of the current
> disputes. (This was in the process of learning the revolutionary-Bolshevik
> tradition that Trotsky offered in this dispute.
Unfortunately, the "revolutionary-Bolshevik tradition" that Trotsky
offered left a lot to be desired. Trotsky never understood these issues
even though on most other issues he was completely correct. The chief
value of Cannon's writings in this period that are available from the
Spartacist League is that they instruct you what not to do. They are
filled with what my Turkish teacher describes as "excellent mistakes"
when he is trying to be tactful when he is reviewing somebody's homework
in front of the class.
American Trotskyism advanced fitfully through the 1930's. Its "entryist"
tactic into the Socialist Party was a defining moment for its
sectarianism. Trotsky had noticed that the Socialist Parties worldwide
were once again becoming a pole of attraction for radicalizing workers
because many of these workers could not stomach the brutal, totalitarian
Stalin regime. He advised his followers to enter the SPs as a bloc,
capture the left-wing and then engineer a split in order to build
Trotskyism and smash Social Democracy. The American Trotskyists were
quite successful. They did wreck American Social Democracy and did
expand their sect. After the success of the "entryist" tactic, American
workers had 2 choices: 1) the CP 2)a Trotskyist party that would feature
articles in its newspaper advising working people to "vote Trotskyist."
The loss of the SP as a left-wing alternative to the CP partially
explains the weakness of American socialism today.
Another key element of Trotskyist sectarianism is its tendency to turn
every serious political fight into a conflict between worker and
petty-bourgeoisie. Every challenge to party orthodoxy, unless the party
leader himself mounts it, represents the influence of alien class
influences into the proletarian vanguard. Every Trotskyist party in
history has suffered from this crude sociological reductionism, but the
American Trotskyists were the unchallenged masters of it.
Soon after the split from the SP and the formation of the Socialist
Workers Party, a fight broke out in the party over the character of the
Soviet Union. Max Shachtman, Martin Abern and James Burnham led one
faction based primarily in New York. It stated that the Soviet Union was
no longer a worker's state and it saw the economic system there as being
in no way superior to capitalism. This opposition also seemed to be less
willing to oppose US entry into WWII than the Cannon group, which stood
on Zimmerwald "defeatist" orthodoxy.
Shachtman and Abern were full-time party workers with backgrounds
similar to Cannon's. Burnham was a horse of a different color. He was an
NYU philosophy professor who was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
He reputedly would show up at party meetings in top hat and tails, since
he was often on the way to the opera.
Burnham became the paradigm of the whole opposition, despite the fact
that Shachtman and Abern's family backgrounds were identical to
Cannon's. Cannon and Trotsky tarred the whole opposition with the petty-
bourgeois brush. They stated that the workers would resist war while the
petty-bourgeois would welcome it. It was the immense pressure of the
petty-bourgeois intelligentsia outside the SWP that served as a source
for these alien class influences. Burnham was the "Typhoid Mary" of
these petty-bourgeois germs.
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