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