GB Militant: Jeff's answer to Will

Jeffrey Booth booth2 at husc.harvard.edu
Thu Feb 29 10:29:24 MST 1996


Hugh,
	Re: the questions you ask at the end of your post.
I would argue that the British Labour Party wasn't bourgeois because of
its link to the unions, its social composition and that it got very
little of its operating money from big business.  I would agree however
that all that has been changing in the last few years:  unions beginning
to break away to form the SLP, more lawyers and upper middle class types
in the Party than ever before and more courting of big business for
money.  (I don't know how "successful" this last bit has been).  Also, of
course, the ditching of Clause IV and other socialist ideas has pushed
the Party to the right.  However, I still can't say for certain that it is
now a truly bourgeois party.  I would have to see more up to date detail
on who's still in the Party, where it gets its money from and its latest
program.  (The program looks bourgeois to me; what I've seen of it).
	I can't answer the question on Leninism: someone has to
define what they mean by that.  Lenin wrote and did a lot that's worth
studying and using where applicable.  But he wasn't perfect.
	Democratic centralism?  Militant practices it but with an
emphasis on the democratic.  In other words, democratic centralism means
different things at different times depending on the conditions we're
working in.  I realize this might sound vague but I think a healthy,
flexible marxist organization has to continually re-define the practice of
democratic centralism while actively engaged in organizing.
	I would say "vanguardist" has come to mean, for better or worse,
the idea that the marxist party or organization is engaged in somehow
preaching to the class from above rather than being engaged in dialogue
and struggle with the class.  An organization with a self-described notion
of being vanguardist won't have the right attitude when approaching people
that are fresh to politics.

				-- Jeff Booth

On Thu, 29 Feb 1996, Hugh Rodwell wrote:

> Jeff walked right into it in his reply to Will, didn't he? Will is
> obviously pretty  repelled by what he's seen of Militant's organizational
> behaviour, and not very attracted by its policies, and this makes him want
> to keep his distance. Jeff chooses to see this reluctance not as
> understandable caution, or a hint that perhaps Militant got something wrong
> somewhere, but as the deliberate, thoroughly worked out expression of a
> hostile position (preferably with class roots - '(are you working
> class?)'). Jeff writes: 'No ones saying you have to agree with us or like
> us', but no one who reads the rest of his comments will believe him.
>
> Fortunately, the tasks of the mass movement encourage not just
> 'discipline', as Louis P pointed out yesterday re Barnard College, but also
> cooperation. But *not automatically*. It's going to take serious work to
> break down barriers of suspicion between different tendencies. And I think
> that since Jeff has got more to sell, he's the one with work on his hands.
> Unless of course he's satisfied with just being right.
>
> Now a couple of questions for Jeff.
>
> Why wasn't/isn't Labour a 'bourgeois' party?
>
> What is Militant's position on Leninism and Democratic Centralism?
>
> What do you mean by vanguardist?
>
> Cheers,
>
> Hugh
>
>
>
> >        Unfortunately, Will Brown is that familiar type on the left who
> >claims to be non-sectarian but is in fact extremely sectarian.  Whenever
> >Will gets the chance, he misrepresents what Militant Labour in England is
> >all about.   but at
> >least try to understand and not lie about the thousands of working class
> >marxists in Miliant Labour.
> >        See replies interspersed below:
> >
> >On Tue, 27 Feb 1996 wdrb at siva.bris.ac.uk wrote:
> >
> >>
> >>     Carlos asks:
> >>
> >>     Then, what is your reason to join the SLP, only to have a left
> >>     cover for your usage?
> >>
> >> Will  replies:
> >>
> >> I dont know exactly what youre asking here Carlos....
> >> a left cover for my usage??  Im joining the SLP because
> >> (a) its not planned on the Lenninist vanguard model  (b) the
> >> Labour Party has smashed its left wing  and (c) some of the
> >> best working class socialists in Bristol have joined the SLP
> >>
> >>  Carlos say   Parties are representing classes, or
> >> vanguard of classes, or both.  If you would like to join
> >> something that specifically reject parts of the class, or its vanguard,
> >> then you should join a church, not a political party.
> >>
> >> Will replies: I dont think any party in the UK represents
> >> the working class or even significant fractions of it in any
> >>  way other than that the Labour party is an
> >> electoral party that is not the Tory party. None of
> >> the small groups that ive seen could conceivably be
> >> considered to be the vanguard of the working class
> >> in any real way. The only thing that ive seen in my life that
> >> could have been considered as the vanguard of the
> >> british working class in any way were the striking mining
> >> communities in 1985/86.
> >>
> >>
> >>
> >> Carlos continues:
> >>  Militant was *not* witch-hunted for being a party within a party
> >>  (the labour Party had, have and will have that) but because its
> >>  politics were making an impact in the membership.  The Bevanists,
> >>  the "Tribune" and many others before and during the Militant's
> >>  period in the Labour Party can fit the same description.
> >>
> >>
> >> Will replies:
> >>
> >> Well - perhaps your right up to a point here. Militant were
> >> making local gains in some areas, notably Liverpool.
> >> Certainly their politics was unpopular with the labour
> >> leadership as was the rest of the labour lefts.
> >>
> >> But I think your dead wrong to say they were only one
> >> of many groupings in the LP. Sure, all parties are full
> >> of conspiracy and sub-group. But Militant were different
> >> from the Bevanists, Tribune etc precisely because they
> >> were organised on Leninist lines.
> >
> >        What are "Leninist lines"?  I'll bet if you define what you mean
> >by that; Militant would not fit the bill.  Militant was and is willing to
> >test its ideas in a democratic forum.  Other groups within the Labour
> >Party did not have the same values.
> >
> >It is dishonest to suggest
> >> otherwise....Militant definitely regarded themselves as
> >> different because of the way they were organised. In
> >> practice this form of organisation meant that (i) all their
> >> members repeated exactly the same speeches all the time
> >> (and even grew Militant accents- a sort of bastard
> >> Liverpudlian complete with Peter Taffe hand movements)
> >> - this also made them very boring and (ii) Militant members
> >> never did anything for the labour party branches they were
> >> in unless it was regarded as in Militants interest.
> >
> >        The paragraph above is complete, slanderous crap.  I was in
> >Liverpool in 1985 and Militant had the support of the vast majority of
> >non-militant Labour councillors in Liverpool and many outside Liverpool
> >that were on the Left like the late Eric Heffer.  Militant was very good
> >at building active Labour Party branches (especially youth branches)
> >which is one reason why the right-wing bureacrats hated us so much:  they
> >did not want an active, mass based left within the Labour Party.
> >
> >>
> >> Militant were a trotskyist group following a long term
> >> strategy of entryism into a bourgoies workers party.
> >> They were organised along Lenninist lines. If you
> >> dont think this is the case all I can say is that you
> >> are being unfair to Militant.
> >>
> >
> >        The Labour Party wasn't "bourgeois" and again, what do you mean
> >by "Lenninist"?  Also, Militant never has and does not regard itself as
> >vanguardist.  That concept is alien to the internal life of our
> >organization and we don't approach people that way in organizing.
> >
> >>
> >> Carlos continues:
> >>
> >> Moreover, the "Corresponding Society" around Scargill, the
> >> "committees"of former CPGB members are "parties within the SLP".
> >> Are you in favor expelling them, too?
> >>
> >> Will replies:
> >>
> >> Id be interested in hearing more about the corresponding society around
> >> Scargill. I do not know whether the SLP will get anywhere. But if it
> >> is full of small groups competing to be the new bolsheviks
> >> by following what they conceive as Lenins recipe for a revolutionary
> >> party then im sure the SLP will be dreadful and will die quickly.
> >> Perhaps members of Militant will join and then parade themselves at the
> >> early conferences in order to paralyse the launch with endless arguements
> >> about expelling people.
> >
> >        We've already done more to help build the SLP than you or your
> >little group has done.  And what's your definition of a "small group?"
> >
> >There are a lot of left wing working class people
> >> in the UK who will never join the dogmatic, sectarian neo-lenninist sects.
> >>
> >
> >        You're describing yourself or your group
> >here; not Militant Labour.  "Dogmatic... etc. :  that's you!  That's not
> >a group (Militant Labour) that is building socialist alliances around
> >England and Scotland.  BTW, I just love your use of the term United
> >Kingdom.  Support the royalty do you?  Talk to a lot of Scots as well?
> >
> >In Bristol I know many working class people just as left wing as you
> >> and me who have either been through Militant, SWP,WRP etc and
> >> are bitter about the experience or who would never join such
> >> organisations in the first place.
> >>
> >
> >        We'll see who joins and who doesn't.  Our obituary has been
> >written many times by the likes of you.
> >
> >> Militant have improved tremendously since they split both in terms of their
> >> politics and their conduct. If they have the confidence of their value
> >> they will continue as an independant party.
> >
> >        Yes, we have so much confidance that we're willing to work to
> >build as broad a socialist movement as possible, unlike you.
> >        I don't have time to answer all the slurs you raise on this list
> >about Militant but the above was just too much.  I hope people take the
> >time to check-out Militant Labour and the Committee for a Workers
> >International instead of listening to your misrepresentations of reality.
> >
> >                                -- Jeff Booth
> >
> >
> >>
> >> yours etc
> >>
> >> will brown
> >>
> >> Bristol  england
> >>
> >>
> >>      --- from list marxism at lists.village.virginia.edu ---
> >>
> >
> >
> >     --- from list marxism at lists.village.virginia.edu ---
>
>
>
>
>      --- from list marxism at lists.village.virginia.edu ---
>


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