Left Unity List resub offer

Hugh Rodwell m-14970 at mailbox.swipnet.se
Sat Oct 5 18:43:36 MDT 1996

JJ sent me the following message:

>On behalf of the moderators of the Left Unity List,I am posting the
>list charter and some additional information. I should be grateful if
>you would let me know whether you regard the charter and additional
>decisions as a basis on which you would be willing to operate if your
>suspension from the list were lifted. I will forward to the
>moderators, unaltered, the text of any response you might wish to
>make. The moderators will consider anything you wish to say and make
>appropriate decisions.

etc. The rules concerned are the ones recently posted to m1.

The rules by which the moderators operate are much more clearly formulated
now. This removes a number of ambiguities. On the basis of how the
moderators have worked, how the rules are formulated and how the unity-list
discussions are developing, I have come to the following conclusions.

There are a number of aspects involved.

First of all, the challenge of creating unity on the left is very, very
important. My main concern has been with the potential of the unity-list in
this respect.

For unity to be achieved, a really open discussion is needed. So far this
has not been the case on unity-list. If the moderators were prepared to
demonstrate their willingness to "descend from their mountain stronghold"
and open up the discussion, they would

a) immediately revoke the exclusions (later commuted to suspensions) of Ben
B, Jose and myself, as being unjust,

b) immediately reconsider the banning of certain individuals (Bob M) and
groups ("Stalinists") before they have had a chance to demonstrate on list
their willingness or otherwise to engage in serious discussion of unity

My reasons for insisting on this involve the *political* imperatives of
unity. It is not an organizational or administrative matter. If you define
the political scope of the forces of unity beforehand, what's the point of

And this is where the question of the rules comes in.

I think the rules as written constitute a hostage trap. The "non-sectarian"
strictures, the "positive" developments, the exclusion of "messianism" and
so on, are all intended to be used against people advocating building a
party and applying a Bolshevik programme, if and when they insist on the
importance of this against anti-party, anti-Bolshevik subscribers.

Now there are two distinct aspects to unifying the left, and *both* have a
central place in discussions on unity-list.

One (and in my opinion the most important) is unifying scattered parties
into a coherent whole united around a clear programme, as Trotsky managed
to do in 1930-31 in China. There were four groups of Left Oppositionists in
China, all very suspicious of the others. The main discussions dealt with
the question of a constituent assembly, the character of the Red Army, the
defeat of the revolution of 1925-27 and the nature of the coming third
Chinese revolution. Pressed by Trotsky, the majority realized that there
were no differences of principle between them, and merged. Some of the
previous leaders refused to give up their "mountain strongholds" and left
the movement rather than submit to a new unified organization. So the
problem of sectarianism can be overcome in the work for unity within a
Bolshevik party.

This example, well told by Wang Fan-Hsi in his book "Chinese Revolutionary"
(OUP 1980, translated by Greg Benton), shows that sectarianism is by no
means synonymous with democratic-centralist party-building projects. But
the elastic rules of unity-list could be easily invoked to exclude someone
for discussing this kind of example (Leninism = failed,  sectarianism =
Leninist party project).

The other main aspect of unification is how to get different programmatic
tendencies to work together for big social objectives. Here the big fight
on the left is between Popular Front policies and United Front policies.
The unity-list rules preempt the discussion by giving Popular Front
organizations as "positive" examples. Insistence on the fact that they are
not much use could quite easily be used as grounds for expulsion.

"Messianism" too, is quite an elastic concept. Using Marx, Lenin and
Trotsky as authorities, as reliable points of reference in a discussion,
could easily be labelled "messianism" and again be used as grounds for

The same goes for the rules against being a spokesman for a group.

Since I don't hide the foundations of my position, and I express myself
fairly drastically, it wouldn't be difficult to get me on an elastic
interpretation of one or other of these catch-all subjectivist rules, if
anyone close to the moderators should take offence at what I write.

There are in fact so many irrelevant ifs and buts in the setup, that I
think the whole project of unity-list with its present composition and
statutes is still-born. Unity on the wishy-washy Broad Left lines
demonstrated so far by unity-list will get the revolution nowhere.

The excellent initiative of discussing the Transitional Programme for its
relevance to contemporary struggles should take place in a more congenial
setting. The reaction by typical Broad Left anti-Trots so far has been "I
haven't got time" by David McR and the usual dismissive unreasoned putdown
by Louis P. The discussion of the advantages of transitional demands as
opposed to a minimum and a maximum programme may get somewhere. We'll see.
As I see it, it depends on the comrades from Militant Labour and the USec
getting their fingers out and going for revolutionary, class-independent
unity. They haven't shown much sign of this so far.



PS The name of the list -- Left-Unity -- is very good. Pity the content is
so contradictory.

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