Labor Party

Jorn Andersen ccc6639 at
Wed May 15 20:06:10 MDT 1996

The debate about the Labor party in the US is becoming very interesting.
About specific conditions in the US I know very little, but there certain
more general questions raised which also have relevance outside the US.

Mike Dean wrote:
> If the minority of workers who identify with socialism were to all of a
> sudden buy into the Labor Party 100% it would be a step backwards.  But, as
> you say, it is a step forward for the average American worker.  The role of
> the advanced minority of workers is to try and set the conditions up for a
> strong labor party.

The starting point is wrong: The role of the advanced minority is to
try and set up a strong *revolutionary* socialist party.
The "advanced minority" can't set up conditions (exactly because they
are a minority) - but they can start to build a bolshevik type party.

> And we must go where the masses are.

Right - but we must not and should not get dissolved in the bourgeois
and reformist ideas of "the masses", i.e. the workers.
We should *go* where the masses are - but with a *revolutionary*, not a
reformist party.

> They are not
> members of the CPUSA, SWP, ISO, Labor Militant or any other socialist
> organization, they are democrats.

Hard to argue against...

> The labor party may be bureaucratic and
> reformist, but it will still be a step up from the democrats.

I certainly would rather fight reformist ideas among my fellow workers
than outright bourgeois ones. So if the workers somehow set up such a
party - on a mass scale - then it would be a step up.
But you turn upside down if you think that revolutionaries should first
build a mass reformist party and *then* win people to revolutionary
ideas. Why this detour? Oh, yes:

> And, as others
> have said, when this thing gets off the ground it may be more then the
> reformist, labor bureaucrats can handle.  Let's try and make this a real step
> up.  Only by joining up with the LPA can we have influence on it's actions.

So the mere existence of a Labor party will overrun the bureaucrats?
We shall influence the masses via a bureaucratic machine?
In Scandinavia that is certainly not the direction things are going.
And here reformist workers' parties are a reality - not just an idea
in the heads of some socialists.

>  We must demand socialist oriented change untill we either create a strong
> proletarian party, or get tossed out.      We cannot sit back and watch what
> happens.  You must fight every step of the way for socialism.  That is what
> class STRUGGLE is all about.

The confusion continues: Either socialist change or we get tossed out.
If we got kicked out - or left - we would just stand at point zero.
But the real problem is this: If we can't build real forces through a
revolutionary party, how should we be able to put pressure on a mass
reformist party and change it's line?

I understand very well that socialists in the US would prefer the
existence of a reformist mass party. It sure would be a step forward
if the workers had a party which they would identify as the party of
their class - because it's an *expression* that workers have some

I have tried to point to some weaknesses in some of Mike's arguments.
But the debate is important because it's about how revolutionaries
should relate to reformist workers. I think we first have to realize
some basic arguments:

1. Revolutionaries would be in a minority right up to the revolution.
This means that we fight from a minority position to try to win the
majority. Not in a parliamentary sense - but in ideas about how to
fight for change.

2. Revolutionaries have to build their own separate party, fight
for it's politics and perspective from a clear, distinct platform.
(First letter in the communist ABC, Trotsky called it.)

3. But this party would have as it's basic task to win reformist
workers - i.e. it has to relate if it really wants to win the
Those who think we can win reformist workers by just denouncing their
leaders are wrong. We have to fight with them for class issues.
But still we maintain our independence. How else would we be able to
win from the shortcomings of the reformists? How could we show
that our politics is better if it is mixed up with the politics of
the refomists?
Trotsky said (something like): Strike together, but march separately.

These I think are some of the points we have to start from. The
tactics can be argued about. In some circumstances if reformist
parties win mass support on the basis of a rising struggle it
could be argued that the socialist minority should link temporarily
with such a party. Practical experiences from this are not very
convincing, but the argument has some sense.

But that revolutionaries should set up such a party where none
exists? This seems without sense to me. Actually I think it is
rather silly and will solve nothing. People often think of it as
a short cut. But short cuts are often not what they seem - this
one looks rather like a deroute.

There is no way round building a real socialist party. Some of
those who look to a Labor Party do this because they really
want to fight. We should fight with them and at the same time
argue what a real fighting party would look like. Not run
after them and not tail their ideas.

Try to read some of Lenin's arguments in "What must be done".
Not the formal ones only, but the arguments behind about how
the "advanced minoity" should relate to the majority of
And read Trotsky "On the United Front" (February 1922, in
"First Five Years of the Communist International" vol. 2,
p. 91), where some of the basics is outlined.


Jorn Andersen


     --- from list marxism at ---

More information about the Marxism mailing list