3rd International

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Sat Jun 15 12:42:18 MDT 1996

On Fri, 14 Jun 1996, Adam Rose wrote:

> This period was one of unrelenting battle against Centrism ie against people
> who SAID they were Marxists, opposed to the Imperialist War, and for the
> dictatorship of the proletariat. As soom as Lenin had the freedom of movement
> to organise a meaningful 3rd international, he embarked on this struggle against
> the centrists. If you choose to advocate organising with centrists or reformists
> today, you should explain why you have rejected the Leninist tradition.

Louis: Adam sidesteps the main point I was trying to make. I was trying to
explain that the "Leninism" of the 3rd International or the 4th
International has nothing in common with the organizational approach of
the Bolshevik party. I am putting forward a critique of a mechanical
understanding of such concepts of "the vanguard", "democratic centralism"
and "party line".

These are just organizational questions, but very important ones
nonetheless. I am dead set opposed to the notion of a "nucleus of a
vanguard" that small groups like the English or the American SWP put

Lenin's fight with Kautsky and the social patriots was over the need to
maintain the interests of the working-class above the need of the
war-mongering bougeois governments. The main reason for a call for a 3rd
International was not to build a new type of party based on "Leninist"

(The Comintern did in fact put forward the Bolshevik Party as a model for
member parties seeking membership, but these norms were developed by
Zinoviev in a most mechanical manner and have never been critically
examined by "Leninists" who swear by them.)

Leaving aside the whole question of the wisdom of organizations of several
hundred members in a country with a population numbering in the hundreds
of millions anointing themselves as "vanguards", there is another issue
that Adam raises that is highly problematic.

It is easy enough today to identify Kautsky and others as "centrists",
"left opportunists", etc., since we have the vantage point of history to
help us look back at who was right or wrong. Those fights, however, were
between *massive* political tendencies which had sunk roots in the

Meanwhile, on this pathetic little mailing list, which in some ways is a
mirror-image of the actual left we find ourselves in today, we find
members of tiny groups or isolated individuals awarding themselves the
same lofty status as leaders of powerful mass organizations from past
eras. They are generals without armies. What usually happens to people who
think they are Napoleon is that society finds a safe place for them to
work out their hallucinatory notions. Unfortunately, the organized left
usually welcomes individuals like this with open arms.

This tendency to draw easy distinctions between Marxist and anti-Marxist
ideas and positions on the basis of broad distinctions has been poison for
the left. If somebody has a quarrel, for example, with my support for the
FSLN, then address that. But when you let loose with "Menshevik",
opportunist, centrist or some other choice epithet, you are not
demonstrating a superior Marxist understanding, merely a readiness to use
cheap insults. Carrol Cox made a correct observation. These loaded words
are a substitute for analysis and serve no useful purpose.

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