On Marxist scholasticism was Re: Nader/U.S. Election

mike pearn mike at SPAMbolshevik.fsnet.co.uk
Mon Nov 6 17:44:38 MST 2000

Gary Maclennan wrote;
> Note: This post came out sounding much more polemical and flame like in
> tone than I intended.

No problem considering the abuse that I have been subjected to this is fine.
I have no problem with criticism but will not be saddled with positions I do
not hold or be slurred as a "keyboard marxist" by individuals at elite

> Mike's post contra Jon and Alan was a classic of what I call Marxist
> scholasticism -so Aristotelian in tone.  <snip>
 Much of what Mike said about Nader was no doubt correct again.  But the
> weakness in the whole approach peeped out when he acknowledged the need
> an orientation towards the phenomenon of Nader's campaign and the American
> Greens.
> How one asks is this orientation to be carried out?  Do we go along to
> meetings and we sit there trying to hide that we know more than the young
> enthusiasts and activists in the room?  Do we identify and attempt to
> recruit what we perceive to be the more militant who in my experience can
> be people with terrible problems.
<snip>We need not a party but a mass movement.  I am absolutely
> convinced that such a movement is on the way. We should engage with such a
> movement, but not as their future leaders or unrecognised superiors.
> Painful as the thought may be to the ISO, the SWP, Spartacist League or
> what ever the truth is that we have as much to learn from them as they
> from us.  Let us for once and all abandon our Zinoviest fantasies tricked
> up with Leninist Trotskyist slogans.  If we need a slogan at all for this
> conjuncture I would suggest that it be Napoleon's "On s'engage et puis on
> voit".

Funnily enough I agree with much of what Gary writes here but the
orientation I call for is not to just Naders campaign, a  bit late if that
were the case I think, but rather to the whole new movement of youth
exemplified by USAS in the states and the various anti-imf demos, etc. On
the basis of always emphasising the centrality of the working class in any
struggle to change society. But Gary also seems to dismiss entirely the need
for an independent workers movement in favor of a "mass movement" which is
what worries me about those 'socialists' who back Nader. None the less he
concedes my arguments only to dismiss them as "Aristotlelean" and
"scholastic" which at risk of annoying Chris Carrick this unemployed
finds quite flattering! Sure we need a mass movement and we should
orient on anything that so much as moves. But it must be on the basis of an
independant working class perspective. Not as mere tails to a millionaire
lawyer and a rag bag of variegated green parties the sainted one will not
even join.

I can only agree that first get stuck in and then see what happens is a good
slogan. Thats why I joined Scargills SLP here in Britain and why I support
the Socialist Alliances now. But clarity of ideas remains a precious
commodity and like it or not only Marxists can offer that. And despite all
the problems our small parties, leagues and groups have only they can offer
young workers an education in Marxism. Which is why I am saddened by the
foolishness of the ISO and CWI in the States. It surely obvious that
academic marxists cannot provide a way forward few being able to explain
even the simplest of ideas in less than an hour.

So what should the orientation I mentioned consist of? Well yes Gary I do
think the ISO, Solidarity, et al should attempt to recruit the best young
activists, indeed they have a duty to do so. But not on the basis of having
some magic program that can be produced like magic after a Nader rally.
Rather they should be in the movement, the movement that predates Naders run
and will continue after this week, as those best able to lead victorious
struggles and best equipped to explain society. No doubt many of the
activists of these groups will do just that but campaigning for Nader will
not have helped them recruit to a socialism that is fundamentally hostile to
the politics of the greens and consumer issues. Such support can only
confuse those looking for answers beyond the warmed over  New Deal
liberalism of Nader and his greens.

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