World Party of Socialist Revolution

ben benj at
Sun Jul 7 09:05:12 MDT 2002

Jose's extended comments were good to read. It's always insightful to
question what you're doing from a new perspective. The question though
is one one of context--which I'm trying to keep in mind, because I think
the subjective left and the objective situation are quite different on
our respective sides of the Pacific Ocean.

The DSP's friend in the USA, Malik Miah, in the '90s made a case similar
to Jose, perhaps without the historical references, for a looser, more
"all-inclusive" (of revolutionaries) party, in a letter to the DSP. It
could certainly be valid in a number of situations. If I were in
Scotland today I would be almost certainly in the SSP, which I think
functions along lines at least parallel to Jose's. But in Australia here
has been no opportunity to transform into something broader -- Alan sums
it up well, I won't go into that.

Various aspects of the DSP's organisational forms have frustrated me
over the years. We still have plenty to learn. I've certainly come
across egos, cliques, intellectual intimidation, intellectual laziness,
in my case armchair (computer chair) activism perhaps, any other quality
that you could reasonably expect to find in a group of a few hundred
people. Nothing remarkable, that is. Our organisational forms could
maybe be tighter or looser around this or that question. Many of the
most active members are no doubt conservative on organisational
questions--the organisation has served their purposes, why change it?
Lenin's Bolsheviks had their "committee men", invaluable activists, but
not the be-all end-all of the party. It's the same here I'm sure.

I think in new circumstances that are arising in Australia--the
Socialist Alliance, the cracks in the Labor leadership of the unions,
the re-emergence of mass movements--many aspects of our organisation may
have to change. If the Socialist Alliance gets into gear once more (it's
kind of stalled at present, just an electoral front, whereas the DSP
wanted a deeper unity and regroupment) the question of even dissolving
the DSP into it could be posed. But we'll deal with that when it

Jose wrote:
> I sometimes do a thought experiment, and wonder what it would have been like
> if the Cuban Trotskyists of the 1930s (an entirely different breed from
> those of the 60's IMHO) had managed to avoid some key losses and win some
> key revolutionary leaders during the upsurge that unfolded in Cuba
> in the mid-30s.
Do another thought experiment. Imagine that Jack Barnes etc did not
happen to the US SWP. Imagine that like the DSP the SWP pulled back from
(or never implemented) the turn to industry and the madness that
followed. Imagine that, even if Louis' imaginary 1974 perspectives were
never adopted, the party maintained a relatively non-sectarian approach
to working in broad mass movements. Imagine that it was later involved,
for example, in the Committees of Correspondence regroupment and helped
to get "Crossroads" magazine off the ground, and participated in the
Labor Party experience after that. Just all hypothetically.
Isn't it conceivable that if the DSP (and for example the French LCR in
a different way and different circumstances) could learn a lot of the
lessons, it wasn't inevitable that the SWP would fail to? (You were
there, I wasn't, treat that as a sincere question).

But my point is, lessons are learned when mistakes are recognised, no
doubt you've learned many, but finding the cure is a lot harder than
diagnosing the disease.

> I think a more "advanced" oppositional pole could well have disrupted the
> development of the July 26 Movement and the revolution may well not have
> happened.
Is that because of the "advanced" grouping simply existing or simply the
fact that there were sectarian errors in the Trotskyist "formula" (ie
cominternism, a degree of Stalinophobia, "correct line fever", Permanent
Revolution schemas)?

> Because at least the way it is usually presented --as a general principle--
> the bit about there being no revolutionary movement without revolutionary
> theory is WRONG. It is *not* a Marxist, a materialist position. The
> *Marxist* position is that revolutionary theory *arises from* the
> revolutionary movement, not the other way around.
Revolutionary theory arises from the revolutionary movement? Without a
theory--Marxist or otherwise--how does a movement become revolutionary?
I'm quite sure that Marxism doesn't arise from the spontaneous movement
of the working class, if that's what you mean. I agree with Lenin on
that. And Marxism itself arose from the studies of two bourgeois
intellectuals over 150 years ago. Of course Marxists are hardly
deserving of the name if they don't participate in and learn from the
existing movement, and Marx and Engels themselves did do that of course.
It's obviously a dialectical concept. If that's all you meant then I
agree. But the way you've categorically stated it, I disagree.

> especially if you don't gag everyone in the minority and force people to say
> things they don't  believe.
> I would take a look at whether the
> explicit or unstated levels of financial and activity commitments are
> unrealistically high for many working people, like single mothers on
> welfare.
Jose, I think you're implying some of the straw figures that are often
constructed by sectarian anti-Leninists (especially anarchists).
Obviously those are potential problems, especially the latter. Obviously
we try to be flexible and intelligent in these matters. But in my
experience the DSP is quite OK in both regards. Neither problem is
inherent in our organisation.

> I would suggest that comrades consider just re-reading a bunch of Lenin from
> 100 years ago, and think about moving in the direction of what he proposed
> the RSDLP be and how the Bolsheviks actually functioned.
Read all that Lenin--again? Well yes, it's good to re-read it, but
that's not all we need, it's not a recipe for all situations.

> This means, yes, a certain amount of laissez-fiare and free-lancing, and
> what of it? In a *real* upsurge or revolution, there will be tons of that,
> comrades might as well get used to it and train  for it.
Yes and no. If there is time to consult with other comrades in a
democratic fashion why avoid it? I was today talking to another member
of the DSP, an extremely active comrade who organises a lot of our youth
work here in Melbourne. Apart from him organising me to do some stuff we
got on to the issue of letting comrades self-organise. Sometimes our
organisers put a lot of effort into keeping members motivated and
active. While that can potentially go overboard and be intimidating,
it's in general necessary (we should all do it) in a period of political
retreats or demoralisation. In a period of heightened struggle those
organisers could play a different role--rather than motivating members
to do stuff, they could find out what comrades have been doing, and feed
that back into centralised discussion, to then feed that discussion out
to the comrades leading in workplaces, movements, whatever, to help them
orient their activity.

It's all dialectical isn't it (...and other great cliches).

> You have to wonder if it is really true. Were the imperialists who were the
> real masters in Cuba any less ruthless or competent than the ones who ran
> the United States? Weren't they really the very same ones? Isn't the
> difference in effectiveness as a political force really to be found on the
> OTHER side of the class line, i.e., among the working people?
Some states are more unstable than others. The whole world is not
strictly ruled from Washington DC nor carbon-copied from it.

But on the other side--why are workers in [many] imperialist countries
ideologically so far behind workers in [many] third world countries?
Does the (materially based) opportunist consciousness instilled so
deeply in first world workers mean we should be less organised here? Or
does it require a deeper level of _ideological_ organisation, as opposed
to the more palpable organisational forms in the third world movements?
(eg the J26 movement in Cuba had a military organisation, so do the
Zapatistas regardless of post-structuralist rhetoric). I'm not arguing
against democracy and openness, but in favour of political education,
motivation and organisation.

> No amount of previous "Leninist" organization will
> save them if they do not uderstand the political situation and tasks; and no
> lack of previous Leninist orthodoxy will bar the way if they DO understand
> the challenge and organize themselves to meet it.
But I could also say:
No *lack* of previous Leninist organization will save them if they do
not understand the political situation and tasks; and no *amount* of
previous Leninist orthodoxy will bar the way if they DO understand the
challenge and organize themselves to meet it.
In other words, it's a silly point, isn't it? The real question is, does
an appreciation of Lenin (or "Leninism") impede or aid the development
of that understanding?

No doubt the experience of the struggles to come will shed more light on
who's right or wrong. We won't achieve agreement merely by "discussions
and so on", I do not "believe political maturation took [takes] place
that way".

Thanks for your thoughts anyway.

Ben Courtice

"there was a king with a stone for a heart
soldiers stalked a war-torn land
a father kissed a child goodbye
a boat set sail on a dark dark sea
children played in the desert sand
a singer sang songs of a land of hope"

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