[Marxism] SWP and Respect -- a central issue is the national question

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Nov 9 08:30:20 MST 2007

Lenin's Tomb wrote:
> The SWP constantly reaches out to other sectors of the Left, builds coalitions with them quite successfully,
> and never insists on revolutionary purism. 

It is one thing to work with other leftists, but coalitions, united 
fronts, etc. can only be strife-free as along as they operate more or 
less on the basis that Lenin and Trotsky conceived them in the early 
1920s. Left or socialist groups caucus at their headquarters, hammer out 
a plan of action and then present them at delegated meetings where they 
will be voted up or down. In effect, the delegated meetings are 
mini-parliaments. Everybody understood that Bolshevik or Menshevik 
deputies were speaking for their party at Duma meetings. This, in fact, 
is really what democratic centralism was about. The party had the right 
to enforce discipline on somebody in this position.

However, Respect was not a "united front" even if the SWP mistakenly 
regarded it as so. It was an embryonic political party where the members 
were expected to vote on proposals based on their merit. Unfortunately, 
for groups that have never thought through the problems of "democratic 
centralism" (even the SWP with all its positive reviews of Lars Lih's 
book on Lenin), it has to be this way. I speak from bitter experience. 
The American SWP operated this way and alienated every non-party trade 
union, Chicano, Black, gay or feminist activist it came in contact with 
over the years. We prided ourselves on our ability to influence the mass 
movement and even enjoyed referring to ourselves as "the big red 
machine" in caucus meetings. This mode of functioning, needless to say, 
is inimical to the future growth of a genuinely revolutionary party but 
I wouldn't expect people who are committed to the idea that their party 
is the embryo of that future party to think otherwise. The sense of 
petty proprietorship runs very deep in bourgeois society.

More information about the Marxism mailing list