Draper, Juriaan, Louis and me

Tom O'Lincoln red_sites at eudoramail.com
Tue Jul 16 21:03:22 MDT 2002

Well, the "me" bit is at the end, for anyone curious about who I am -- since I haven't been subbed for a while.

I wrote something the other day about Hal Draper because I had practical experience with the debate his documents were part of, and my practical experience was that Hal's concrete proposals didn't go anywhere.

Louis's hypothetical Jack Barnes speech is interesting, but most of it contains recommendations that one or another "Zinovievist" group has implemented over the years. There is direct involvement in trade union work and environmental groups, joining pro-NLF committees, etc - all things "Zinovievist" groups have done. There are critical formulations about "democratic centralism" that could come straight from a pamphlet by Socialist Alternative in Australia. There is left regroupment, which is a fad from time to time among far-left groups. The only trouble is that, as one Berkeley comrade remarked to me in the eighties, regroupment is all too often a process where "two groups of 40 merge to form a group of 50". There's nothing especially wrong with what Lou writes, but it's all so familiar and no one has achieved great results with any of it lately.

Juriaan tells us some very sensible things, but at a level of generality such that each group out there will say, "yeah we do that". Lou will say: "no they don't", and sometimes he'll be right, but the issue in my mind is, how is this an original way to go forward? It is all so familiar. Steve will perhaps say: "yes, they do it but they have ulterior motives", which is probably true at least up to a point. But when was it ever different in political life?

I do agree it's better to have a "centrist" organisation of 20,000 than a "Zinovievist" organisation of 200. The only trouble is, there's no sign of anybody in Australia building the former, although there is no shortage of people generously informing us about the rich, complex, creative, revolutionary critiques by Hal Draper, Sheila Rowbotham, the Italian autonomists, or whoever.

If "Zinovievism" hasn't worked, neither has "Draperism". I suspect there might just be objective reasons for this. All the more reason to agree with Lou that there are no "recipes". But in that case there may be something to be said for tolerance: real tolerance, not the selective kind that tolerates everything except "Zinovievist" groups.

Me: I'm an ex-Berkeley radical who later helped found the International Socialists in Australia. I do a lot of stuff around Indonesia, in between irritating the Australian ISO leadership with my critiques. As payment for the latter sin, I was elected to the ISO National Committee last January -- which of course is impossible in a Zinovievist sect, so perhaps there's a leak somewhere in the space-time continuum.

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