[Marxism] Galloway faction splits from Respect:

Peter Boyle peterb at greenleft.org.au
Sun Nov 4 20:51:41 MST 2007

Louis Proyect wrote:

> I am for organized revolutionaries. I am not, however, for knuckleheaded
> vanguardism.

Down with knuckleheaded vanguardism! I'm happy to shout that slogan too. 
Of course anyone claiming "vanguard" status on the basis of their 
asserted programmatic superiority deserves to be dismissed. There is 
truth in the old joke that most of the self-described "Leninist 
vanguards" on the left are more likely to be found in the "guard van", 
i.e. at the back of real struggles. Leadership has to be won in struggle 
and is only confirmed when it is demonstrated in the real struggle and 
as a result is recognised by real mass forces. We don't need lectures on 
this, thanks.

We also know that the people that comprise the actual political vanguard 
in our time are in significant numbers still outside any of the existing 
socialist organisations. We are realistic about the very early stage of 
organisation that socialists have got to in Australia. We really don't 
need lectures on this either.

In the current situation in - marked as it is by decades of 
working-class retreats and defeats -  it is simply not enough for 
revolutionary socialists to hold up their political program and call for 
support. Rather, the challenge is to unite with the actual leaders of  
working-class resistance, fighting alongside them in a common effort to 
reverse the cycle of defeat and reinvigorate the movements. There is no 
escaping this task, hard and patience-testing as it may be.

That's the approach we in the DSP been trying to follow and our tactics 
are based on this approach. We never claimed not to have made mistakes 
in Socialist Alliance or in any other political intervention. Certainly 
in Socialist Alliance we made every tactical choice (right or wrong) on 
the basis of our estimate of what would best preserve and/or advance the 
linking up of socialists with broader layers in struggle. Far from 
milking or manipulating the broader formation to build our own tendency, 
we took risks, made serious commitments and significant sacrifices. And 
when things got tough in 2004-2005, we did not bail out and abandon the 
broader project.

Since Louis agrees that revolutionaries should get organised the 
argument question becomes how. This of course is a very concrete 
question and we should not create organisational schemas around a 
decontextualised reading of those famous words from the Communist 
Manifesto "The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the 
other working-class parties" . We have had this discussion before and 
comrades have been urged to read on in the manifesto to where the 
qualification of this statement is made when the Manifesto  describes 
what distinguishes the Communists from others in the working class 
movement. That's a better clue as to what sectarianism is. Further, 
wasn't the Manifesto written for a relatively small, underground and 
conspiratorial organisation?

If there was some obvious big breakthrough tactic that would bring 
together real mass forces in an ongoing struggle for radical social 
change today then bob's-your-uncle we should all go for it (even knowing 
that a whole universe of tactical challenges open up in the process). 
But the problem, whether we are talking about the Respect experience, 
the SSP experience or the humbler experience in the Socialist Alliance 
in Australia, is that a clear and sustained big breakthrough has not 
come any of our ways. The going got tough and the politics more 
fractious. And, I think, all parties involved now admit, this is 
primarily the result of objective conditions.

Should we have never embarked on the Socialist Alliance? Is this the 
time to abandon the project altogether and retreat to today's equivalent 
of the British Library to await better times?  I don't think so. In our 
case in the Socialist Alliance in Australia, real if modest ground in 
connecting socialists with broader forces in struggle would be lost. 
Preserving that gain and not all the abstract preaching from at home and 
abroad is the decisive consideration for us in working out how to proceed.

We try our best not to be knuckleheaded or wimps in the face of 
knuckleheadedness (plenty of which comes our way!).

More information about the Marxism mailing list