Louis and Trotskyist tautology

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Apr 30 14:23:48 MDT 2002


Carlos:
>It is ironic that these same comrades raising these false "criticisms"
>of Trotskyists, are repeating the lists of "successful" revolutions some
>Trotskyist used to revise Trotsky's theories.  The SWP today, the
>organization Lou so much (and rightfully so) despises, holds his
>positions on Trotskyism. That should be enough to give everyone a reason
>to pause and re-think whether they are pushing a new strategic thinking
>in the Marxist movement, or just cooking with old recipes.

Carlos, I invite you to read my analysis of the party-building question at:

http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/organization/lenin_in_context.htm

and

http://www.columbia.edu/~lnp3/mydocs/organization/comintern_and_germany.htm

The SWP's opposition to Trotskyism is of little interest to me, since it
revolves around doctrinal issues such as the two-stage theory, etc. I have
no interest in using such questions as a litmus test. The SWP expelled
people for believing in permanent revolution, while the people who were
expelled would certainly expel people who advocated a 2-stage theory. It is
this sort of functioning that I am opposed to, not the particular views
people hold. I believe that we need a revolutionary party in the USA that
is as ideologically diverse as Marxmail. Frankly, I don't care what views
people have on the Spanish Civil War as long as we agree on the class war
in the USA today. You should consider carefully what Phil Ferguson has been
writing about the joint work with the Maoists in New Zealand. If he
retained the "vanguardist" approach, the first thing on the agenda would
have been "clarifying" the Cultural Revolution. We need to move past that
framework. 

Here's what Bert Cochran said in 1954. It still holds true, I believe.

Our purpose is to bring our ideas into the mass movement, and to gradually
raise the consciousness of the ranks to the historic tasks. But the last
thing in the world we should attempt is to inculcate the ranks with the
necessity of adopting our specific tradition, and impressing upon them the
truth of all the evaluations and proposals broached by Trotsky from 1923
on. The thought that in the coming period of our activity we have to go out
of our way to mention the name and work of Leon Trotsky, and the name and
the existence of the Fourth International, shows how far all of us have
become infused with narrow group thinking, and organizational fetishism,
how far we have traveled from the outlook of Frederick Engels, who warned
the Socialists in America not to publish the Communist Manifesto, as it was
based on old-world experiences, and that the American labor movement,
developing under different conditions, would not understand it, and would
not know what Marx and Engels were talking about. Why isn't it possible for
us to take this simple thought of Engels and apply it to ourselves and our
work? If Engels didn't think this was putting a question mark over his
revolutionary integrity, why should we? 

We said before that only by integrating ourselves within the existing
movements could our cadres survive and fulfill their mission. We will now
add to that proposition this corollary: Only by dropping all sectarian
notions of imposing our specific tradition upon the mass movements which
developed in different circumstances and under different influences, can
our approach register successes and guarantee the future of our precious
cadres. What is involved, it is dear, is not any modification of
programmatic essence, but a sharp reversal of organizational concepts and
perspectives on the nature of the development of the mass revolutionary
parties of tomorrow. 

There remains to say a word whether this course does not contain dangers
that the cadre will get lost in the mass movement and therefore become
liquidated as a specific revolutionary current Of course, the danger
exists, just as there is danger every time a revolutionist takes a job as
an official in a union, and begins to live in an opportunist environment
Some succumb to material blandishments. But if the cadre is cohesive, and
firm in its revolutionary convictions and aims, the losses are few and the
gains are many. Events will justify the necessity for a Marxist policy and
prove its effectiveness in action. The dangers will be counteracted by the
struggle Itself. We have an additional guarantee, insofar as there are any
guarantees in these things, in the clarity of our views, the devotion of
our ranks who have been tested over a long period of time, in our
ideological solidarity, and In the unifying element of an international
center. If we try to impose additional guarantees by adopting narrow group
viewpoints, and sporting narrow group ideologies in the mass movement, we
will vitiate the whole concept, and defeat our common purposes. 

Although in the United States the situation is unique as the working class
is still not organized into its own political party, the orientation here
discussed operates with full force. One has to dwell in the never-never
land of a Cannon to seriously promulgate the theory that the American
working class, which has not yet attained labor party consciousness, will
pass, with the next struggle, to the banner of Cannonite revolutionism, or
what amounts to approximately the same thing, will in rapid-fire fashion,
plunge in and out of a labor party to join up with Cannon and his
lieutenants to storm the barricades. We have correctly stated before that
the American workers will move massively through their organizations, and
not jump over the heads of their organizations. That implies that they will
move in deliberate stages, not when the forward columns are ready, but only
when sizable phalanxes of the class are prepared to move. 

Basing ourselves on this analysis, we have oriented towards the organized
labor movement, especially the mass production unions of the CIO, as the
battleground of the big future class developments, and the repository of
the forces that. will advance the working class to Its next political stage
with the formation of a labor party. That does not mean that we are
absolutely certain that a labor party will be formed. What the perspective
does base itself on with certainty is that the inevitable political
regroupment will pass through existing channels of the organized labor
movement and have a political character capable of uniting masses at a
minimum level. The broad character of this movement will provide room for
the various existing political tendencies, Stalinists, Social Democrats,
centrists and Marxists to operate within it That is why, whatever the
vicissitudes of the struggle may bring, whatever forms it may assume,
whatever channels it may take, the strategy of basing ourselves on the
organized labor movement, and particularly its mass production sectors, and
directing our main attention to it, is the correct one and will provide us
with the necessary sustenance to carry on, and in due course, to establish
ourselves in conjunction with allies as the left wing of a growing
political movement. 

Of course, as we tried to explain to the SWP, between the present and the
next developments exists a more or less protracted period of time, and a
political tendency cannot deduce its day-to-day tactics solely, directly
and immediately from the grandiose strategy, but must seek out and find
every possibility for advancement of its program and its influence, be It
on the most limited basis, and from sources that by themselves will not
necessarily be the main forces of the big labor advance. That is why in
many localities, where trade union avenues are not open to us for one
reason or another, we must seek out other milieus, whether of the Stalinist
variety, or student circles, or various liberal or minority groups. 

We approach all these strata, however, in the spirit of Marx's Communist
Manifesto which proclaimed that the revolutionists had no interests
separate and apart from the working class, that we are not a special sect,
cult, or church, which seeks to draw people out of the broad currents into
its backwater, but rather as American Marxists, we seek to join with others
in advancing the existing struggles to a higher stage and on a broader
front. We are convinced that out of these struggles and experiences, even
before big mass forces take to the field, Left currents will arise with
which we shall be able to cooperate and fuse; that the American Marxist
tendency, as a stronger formation than at present, will thus be able to
discharge its role as a left wing in the big movement—as part and parcel of
the struggle to create the mass revolutionary party in the United States.
That is our perspective. 

http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/document/ibt08.htm

Louis Proyect
Marxism mailing list: http://www.marxmail.org



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