I want to leave this list.

Louis Proyect lnp3 at SPAMpanix.com
Fri May 12 13:48:57 MDT 2000

Roland Shephard:
>This crisis was not " brought on by sectarianism and dogmatism".  It was
>brought on by the relative prosperity of capitalism and the betrayals by
>Stalinism, the Social Democracy, and the trade union leadership.  These are
>the factors that led to the decline and the degeneration of the SWP in the
>United States. Sectarianism and dogmatism are but a reflection of the
>demoralization of the working class--not the cause.

Roland, I am forwarding your comment to the list, even though you are not
subbed. I will reply publicly and privately because you raise important
questions. I believe that what was bothering you, judging by this, is not
the intellectualism of the list, but the presence on the list of many
people who do not share your Trotskyist views. For people accustomed to
being around like-minded thinkers, it must come as a shock to encounter
radically different ideas.

The degeneration of the SWP was rooted in sectarian habits that were
learned from James P. Cannon, who taught them to Farrell Dobbs, who then
taught them to Jack Barnes. And where do you suppose Cannon learned them
from? As I mentioned in my post on Theodor Bergmann, the early Comintern
was largely responsible for the decline and degeneration of the German
Communist Party. It thought that it had the right to dictate tactics to
member parties. For example, in Trotsky's "First Five Years of the
Comintern", there's a letter to L'Humanite where he instructs them what
should go on the front page. In 1924, Trotsky summoned Brandler, the
General Secretary of the Communist Party of Germany, to the Kremlin and
instructed him to organize an uprising to coincide with the anniversary of
the Russian Revolution. This sort of intrusive behavior was characteristic
of the Comintern from the beginning.

After the 1924 uprising failed, for reasons related to a pattern of outside
interference going on for at least 3 years, the Comintern went into a deep
crisis. Instead of coming to terms with the problem, they circled the wagon
and sought to isolate critics. Zinoviev, mainly responsible for the German
debacle, decided that the answer was to "Bolshevize" the International,
which meant imposing a peculiar notion of "democratic centralism" that had
nothing to do with the way Lenin's party functioned. As Hugo Blanco
observed,  "I agree with democratic centralism inside the CCP, for example
when it s necessary to support a march. But this is democratic centralism
by action, not in terms of ideas." Zinoviev transformed democratic
centralism to include ideas as well as action. That accounts for not only
the intellectual and political conformity that characterizes self-declared
"vanguard" parties, it also explains their tendency to turn into sect-cults
like Barnes's SWP or Healy's outfit.

As it turns out, two of the delegates to the 1924 Comintern gathering were
James P. Cannon and Vincent Ray Dunne. As soon as they returned to the USA,
they helped to "Bolshevize" the CP, which meant expelling Ludwig Lore, an
early supporter of Trotsky. The formula used to get rid of Lore should be
familiar to those of us who have been through the revolving door of
Marxist-Leninist sects:

"...the task of Bolshevization presents itself concretely to our Party as
the task of completely overwhelming the organizational and ideological
remnants of our social-democratic inheritance, of eradicating Loreism, of
making out of the Party a functioning organism of revolutionary proletarian

It's that kind of crap that led to the crisis in American Trotskyism, not
objective conditions.

Louis Proyect

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