Small mass party [was: Re: Scottish Socialist Party: ISM leaves CWI]

Einde O'Callaghan einde.ocallaghan at
Sun Jan 21 13:36:03 MST 2001

> Date: Sat, 20 Jan 2001 19:43:51 -0500
> From: Louis Proyect <lnp3 at>
> Subject: Re: Scottish Socialist Party: ISM leaves CWI
> >==========================================
> >Weekly Worker 367 Thursday January 18 2001
> >==========================================
> >   The ISM leadership says that the final parting of the ways "follows a
> >   protracted, three-year debate centring on the future of the SSP and
> >   the role of Marxists in creating new parties of the working class"
> >   (International Socialist Online January 15). The ISM was indeed
> >   opposed to Taaffe's model of a bureaucratic "small mass workers'
> >   party" sect. But in its place it posed a broader organisational form,
> >   wholeheartedly embracing nationalism and overt reformism.
> What is the deal with this "small mass workers' party" thing. Didn't Tony
> Cliff use a formulation similar to this when he threw his sect into a
> do-or-die campaign to turn itself into a "small mass revolutionary" party.
Sorry to contradict you, Louis, but that's not quite how it was. The
reference comes from the title of a pamphlet in the late 1970s called
"The Smallest Mass Party". The pamphlet was a history of the IS and was
written by Ian Birchall - it consisted of two articles from IS Journal
and an additional chapter on the activities of the IS/SWP during the

The title came from Birchall - who well known for his off-beat and often
slightly ironic titles - and referred to the tasks facing the
organisation despite its smallness due to the ideological collapse of
the relatively influential Communist Party. The success of the first
major campaign, the Anti-Nazi League, in halting the growth of the
fascist National Front showed that the organisation wasn't wholly
unsuccessful in fulfilling this role.

This isn't of course to deny the role of "Militant", the core of the
CWI, which has just split, in other major campaigns such as the the
Miners' Support Groups and and the Campaign Against the Poll Tax.

Einde O'Callaghan

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