World Party of Socialist Revolution

Peter Boyle peterb at dsp.org.au
Tue Jul 2 23:25:39 MDT 2002


Louis Proyect’s excerpt from the Links article about the DSP’s view on
the various attempts by Trotskyists to try and replicate the
organisational form of the Comintern begins to answer Steve Painter’s
attempt to fit the DSP up as a political sect blindly sticking to some
inappropriate organisational form.

The DSP recognised this pocket Cominternism as a serious weakness of the
Trotskyist movement, part of a broader tendency to elevate the defence
of  an abstract “correct” program. We broke with the FI precisely over
these issues. The very existence of the FI and other “internationals” --
all claiming to be the holders of the true revolutionary program – was a
barrier to linking up with, and learning from, real revolutionary
currents in Cuba, Nicaragua and elsewhere. We also recognised that
Trotsky’s theory of Permanent Revolution had become the sort of super
programmatic justification for a sectarian approach to the real (and
successful) revolutionary movements that had developed (in the
semi-colonial countries) in the second half of the 20th century.

Our broad networking with other left parties in the Asia-Pacific region
and in other parts of the world is faithful to this break with sectarian
Cominternism.

But the question may be asked: Is the DSP following a non-sectarian
approach in its international relations while pursuing a sectarian and
dogmatic course in Australia?

Such a combination is possible (especially in countries where capitalism
is relatively stable and revolutionary politics can seem to be something
applicable only in other countries) but Painter will have to do better
to make such a case.

And it is not good enough for them to say – on the basis of this or that
(anti-Zinovievist? “true” Marxist/Leninist) “correct program” on
revolutionary organisational forms – that we can’t organise separately
to the Greens, or that we can’t select our members, apply democratic
centralism, demand that our members actively implement the political
course that the party adopts, caucus, etc because that would
automatically throw us on a sectarian path. Such a line is not
convincing because at various stages all revolutionary movements
including the Bolsheviks, the Cubans, etc have used some if not all
these organisational forms. If they are serious, then Painter should
make a case that the particular organisational forms we adopt today do
not advance the revolutionary movement in this country, or at least he
should indicate the better path for the advance of revolutionary
socialism.

OK. Say that better path is to dissolve the DSP, enter the Greens as
individuals
 and what else? We are not asking Steve Painter for a
perfect plan, just for the vaguest outline of the revolutionary tactics
he thinks non-sectarian revolutionaries should follow in Australia. Just
a few “bold”, non-shopkeeperish ideas that we in the DSP can mull over
while we are out there in the streets selling newspapers, organising
demos, etc.

We are always willing to learn from others trying to find a better way
forward.

We have studied the writings and practice of Marx, Engels, Lenin,
Trotsky in some detail and with a critical mind. I am sure we could go
deeper and broader and all help from our critics is truly appreciated.
We’ve also tried to learn from the Cuban and Nicaraguan revolutions and
from the many revolutionaries in other countries who are still
struggling to bring collect the forces that can someday. And we haven’t
come up with a rigid revolutionary organisational model. We know
organisational form must be subordinated to politics and must change in
the course of struggle. And we have drawn some clues about that process
through detail and critical study of the Bolshevik experience – in all
its stages (Where to Begin to What Is To Be Done to Left-Wing Communism
to the suppressed Testament) and we call that “Leninism” (toss the term
if you don’t like it and we can call it something else).

There is a whole discussion about what new contributions Lenin may have
added to Marxist theory and practice -- let’s leave that aside for now.
But one thing Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky shared is what I have
called (Painter thinks it was a foxy diversion but he is mistaken)
“revolutionary factionalism”. What do you mean by this, he asked, is it
revolutionary propagandism?

Our reading of history and our own modest experience tells us that
revolutionary factionalism/party-ism comes with trying to test out the
revolutionary theory of scientific socialism. It is encapsulated in the
paragraphs that follow the often (mis)quoted line in the Communist
Manifesto that “Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the
other working-class parties
” All who hope to read a Marxian
organisational formula from that particular phrase should read the next
few paragraphs (and more):

“The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties
by this only:

 “(1) In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different
countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of
the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality.

 “(2) In the various stages of development which the struggle of the
working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always
and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.

“The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand practically, the most
advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every
country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other
hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat
the advantage of clearly understanding the lines of march, the
conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian
movement.

“The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all other
proletarian parties: Formation of the proletariat into a class,
overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the
proletariat.”

Trace “Leninism” back to this if you like but obviously it wasn’t just a
few lines in a program written for a small clandestine group that was
not long after dissolved by Marx and Engels. It was the fact that they
applied this approach right through their political life, whatever the
organisational forms they participated in/or not and
advocated/criticised. Same with Lenin and Trotsky’s revolutionary
careers – relentless struggles to find the best road forward for the
revolutionary cause.

They never pretended to have not made mistakes and warned, as Lenin did,
that the revolutionary road was not a straight line and had to be worked
out by those struggling for revolution “in its own way in each country”.
But the political fight for that road, against the pressure to make
opportunist errors on one hand and sectarian errors on the other, is
what I meant by revolutionary factionalism. It is impossible to study
the lives and writings of these revolutionaries and not see this as
their consistent practice.

Peter Boyle
peterb at dsp.org.au



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