[Marxism] Replying to a blogger
lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Nov 5 13:35:56 MST 2007
I want to take up some issues that Lenin's Tomb )aka Richard Seymour)
has raised on his blog. Since he has accused me of "fucking around with
non-sequiturs" there (ie., refusing to deal with details of the squabble
between the SWP and Galloway on his terms), I will reply to him here
instead. The last thing I want to be accused of is disrupting his blog,
which I find valuable much of the time.
This was the last exchange between us on his blog:
"George Galloway is a reformist. Salma Yaqoob is a reformist. Much of
the membership of Respect remains reformist. Ralph Nader is a reformist.
They are reformist because they are committed to achieving radical
changes within the capitalist system rather than overthrowing it. This
is an elementary distinction. I doubt any of the above-mentioned people
would claim that they are anything other than reformists."
Okay, let me see if I get this straight. Revolutionaries are committed
to overthrowing the capitalist system, while reformists are not. So, Bob
Avakian, Jack Barnes, the Sparts, the Deleonites, the WSWS website, et
al are revolutionaries and Galloway, Nader et al are reformists. No
offense, but I will throw my lot in with the reformists. Let me just put
it this way, Comrade Seymour really has to stop fetishizing ideas in
this fashion. Being "for" revolution is a pretty worthless distinction
in today's world.
This led to Lenin's Tomb reply immediately below, which consists of a
number of items that I will reply to point by point:
1) There is no reason to throw your 'lot' in with either on the basis of
that distinction. I didn't ask you to do so. I simply pointed out the
basis of a rather elementary distinction, which a five-year-old would
I am afraid that the distinction between "revolutionary" and "reformist"
remains useless, even if it seems elementary to you. I established
Marxmail in order to transcend these sterile categories, even if they
remain the stock in trade of self-declared vanguard groups. For example,
by your ideological definition, I am a reformist even though you are
smart enough not to go around labeling people in this manner on this
mailing list. If being "for" socialist revolution is some kind of litmus
test, you are welcome to it. I am far more interested in *action* than
words. By standing up to the forces of reaction in Britain, George
Galloway demonstrated in *action* that he was on the side of the
oppressed. You have to learn to be less impressed by words.
2) If you think it's appropriate to characterise revolutionaries by some
of their more irritating elements, then it cuts both ways: you could as
well throw your lot in with Gordon Brown or Hilary Clinton who, unlike
Bob Avakian and those other terribly annoying people, are actually
complicit in mass murder.
I don't think it is useful to describe Gordon Brown or Hilary Clinton as
"reformists". For that matter, I think your thinking on reformism is a
bit fuzzy. To use the term with precision, reformism means advocating
piecemeal measures that will eventually lead to socialism. Michael
Harrington was a reformist. So was Salvador Allende. The Democratic
Party in the US has never been "reformist" in this sense. There is some
value in describing British Labour between 1920 and 1960 as reformist,
but it has evolved into a bourgeois party. So invoking Gordon Brown or
Hilary Clinton does not make any sense here at all.
3) To describe a distinction is not to 'fetishize' anything. To pretend
the distinction is 'pretty worthless' is not to comprehend anything
about it. Clearly, it does mean something. It does inform strategy and
analysis. It may not mean as much as it did in 1922, but it is patently
I tried to explain to you why it was dead wrong to invoke the united
front strategy in terms of Lenin and Trotsky using the historical
context. Let me take another shot at it. Trotsky said that united fronts
consisted of nothing but an agreement to march together, usually against
fascists, on a given day. Each party brought its own banners, etc. What
does this have to do with forming Respect? The answer is nothing. Zero.
Zip. Nada. Lenin and Trotsky never favored uniting revolutionaries and
reformists in the same party, unless of course we are talking about the
"French Turn". If Galloway was a "reformist", then a proper "Leninist"
strategy would be to support him as a rope supports the neck of a man on
the gallows--as Lenin put it. The SWP's problem is that it has not
properly theorized these questions and now you are upset because this
has been pointed out to you. Hopefully, you will be alert enough in the
future and sure enough of your own ideas to challenge your leaders when
they come up with bad ideas.
The basis of your intervention here is your own peculiar theoretical
obsessions which prevent you from engaging with the particulars of the
case. The document you purport to review does not raise the
revolutionary-reformist distinction as a barrier in the way that you do.
It simply at one point describes something that in fact took place: a
coalition between those who think that one can change society
fundamentally through parliament and those smaller number of people who
remain convinced that the only strength the working class has ever had
has been its own ability to struggle. We favoured keeping that coalition
in place and in it we would argue, democratically, for strategies
informed by our perspective, while accepting that we would not always
win. George Galloway's problem in this case was his unwillingness to
accept the original coalition because of his fear that we might win the
arguments on strategy and was convinced that this would cost him votes.
I have no "theoretical obsessions". I am trying to explain to you and
anybody who will listen that your party does not function like Lenin's
party, no matter your appropriation of his good name. You will be doing
more of a service to Lenin by reading Neil Harding's book than by naming
your blog after him.
Now, do you want to try and engage with the issues or do you prefer to
fuck around with non-sequiturs?
What a pompous little man you are on your own turf.
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