sectarianism

Paul Martin PAULM at socsci.uct.ac.za
Thu Oct 26 12:04:05 MDT 1995


My understanding of sectarianism is where some Marxists disavow 
workers' struggles. It would be to base your interventions on 
something other than the class struggle. Marx:

    The sect sees the justification for its existence and
    its point of honour not in what it has in COMMON with the 
    class movement but in the PARTICULAR SHIBBOLETH which 
    DISTINGUISHES it from the movement (original emphases) 

So the essence of a sectarian attitude would be to abstain from class 
struggle. Abstract conceptions would replace involvement in the 
concrete struggles; and it is therefore linked to an idea about 
utopian socialists. Because Marxism's point of departure is material 
class struggle, the sectarian would be one who has abstract and ready-
made formulaes; so she/he would be the `negation' of class struggle.  
Reality makes the sectarian try to sharpen those formulae. 

It is nothing less than stupidity to argue that someone who belongs 
to an organisation other than your own is a sectarian. Adam Rose is 
right when he says he will "work with people with ideas different 
from ourselves but argue with them politically". The way to 
successfully intervene in struggles and to reach wider layers of 
workers is to fight side-by-side with other organisations. That does 
not, obviously, mean being forced to keep silent about differences. 
But it does mean actively participating in class struggle; and that 
was where Lenin made good on Marx and Engels, saying,

    By directing socialism towards A FUSION with the 
    working class movement, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels 
    did their greatest service: they created a revolutionary 
    theory that explained the necessity for this fusion and 
    gave socialists the task of organising THE CLASS STRUGGLE 
    of the proletariat. (emphases added)
        
"Fusion" does not mean subsuming yourself inside a reformist 
organisation with the illusion that that is where class 
struggle happens. Fusion means building a revolutionary party that 
can lead class struggle. Lenin unflinchingly broke from and expelled 
those who did not accept commitment to building such a party.
    

"The sectarian looks upon life as a great school with himself as a 
teacher there ... He is like a man who satisfies his thirst with salt 
water; the more he drinks, the thirstier he becomes" (Trotsky)



in solidarity,

paul


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