Rahul Mahajan rahul at hagar.ph.utexas.edu
Mon Feb 19 05:10:51 MST 1996

Jim Miller:

>   In Rahul Mahajan's post, he indicated that there is
>no purpose to be served by the formation of a Leninist-
>type party. He maintained that, "furthermore, the only
>possible justification for being able to place arbitrary
>limits on one's members (to the extent of making them
>go work in the factories) is that it is necessary for
>the revolution. Since the entire left is so thoroughly
>marginalized that there is no prospect, however dim,
>of such a thing, such demands are merely tyrannical
>and pointless, not to mention that they seem informed
>by a cardboard version of Marxism that will certainly
>never have any chance of success anywhere."
>   Marxism projects the necessity of a socialist
>revolution issuing out of the historical conditions
>prepared by capitalist society. This is the Marxism
>of Karl Marx to which I am referring.

The "cardboard version of Marxism" I am referring to is the idea,
basically, of workerism as Louis P defines it. The idea that one must be an
industrial worker to be a good revolutionary is absurd. It certainly would
come as a surprise to Lenin, Trotsky, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, and others. Thus,
for example, I'm sure Lou could have served the revolution just as well as
a computer programmer.

>   If such a thing is going to develop, the workers
>will need a vanguard party, which will have to be
>prepared in advance, not thrown together at the last
>minute by professors hurriedly tearing themselves away
>from their academic duties. It's not as easy as it
>might seem to build a revolutionary workers' party.

I hope you're not accusing me of saying it's easy. In fact, nobody has done
it in the U.S. since the '30's at least. When the revolution comes, how are
the workers going to choose which vanguard they want? There are dozens of
them running around, aren't there?

>   The workers will have to confront and defeat a
>very powerful enemy. They will need tested and
>resourceful leaders, leaders who are experienced in
>leading workers in combat. They will have to be the
>kind of leaders who can be trusted to stick to the
>commitment they have made. This is the kind of party
>that the SWP is trying to build.

Will they really need leaders? And if they do, how will they get rid of
them later? This is the kind of thing we need to debate more on this list.

>   Rahul also argues that, "to subordinate all of their
>life choices, from the greatest to the smallest, to
>the "democratic" decision of the party, is a usurpation
>far greater than all those of the government, GM, and
>Citibank together."
>   Rahul assumes the worst about what it's like to be
>a member of the SWP. But if it's as bad as all that,
>people can quit. Many have, for whatever reason. It's
>a voluntary organization, after all.

I never meant to imply that the crimes of the SWP are worse than those of
the government, etc. I know the difference between the kinds and scales of
coercion these different organizations use. In fact, I don't even think
it's criminal for the SWP to tell its members to cut their hair or change
jobs or whatever. I do think that it is particularly pernicious to get
people to approve of and submit to tyranny by appealing to their better

>   I think it's better to criticize the SWP by pointing
>out where you disagree with it. As far as its members
>are concerned, let's assume that it's their right to
>bear whatever torture they might be suffering by belonging
>to that party. My own experience is that the SWP members
>enjoy their party work, and get along well with one
>another and with their leadership.

I did. I think their version of democratic centralism as you described it
is absurd. It seems to me that this is a subtantive disagreement. I have
serious reservations about the idea as a whole, but that's a subject for a
later post.

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