The discussion document of the Left Party

Jurriaan Bendien J.Bendien at wolmail.nl
Fri Nov 15 17:20:56 MST 2002


A reasonable document as far as post-Trotskyism goes, I feel it is getting
towards something positive. Just some points that I, in my humble opinion,
am personally critical of (for what it is worth - feel free to debate where
necessary):

"The Leninist theory and method of the revolutionary party consists of
finding the road to the mass of the workers, developing and popularizing
Marxism and its fundamental proposals among them and creating a solid cadre
capable of developing the program and leading working class struggles on a
solid theoretical foundation."

Yeah, Stalin said that too. Leninism has got nothing to do with it here.
What this covers up, is that you have people who aren't working class who
need to learn what it is about. If so, might as well say so, not pretend it
is something different. As indicated previously on this list, I am not keen
on "Leninism", that is my bias. The question is not one of popularising
Marxism, which is one theoretical foundation. You ought to popularise
SOCIALISM. Marxism you talk about with people who are interested in a
scientific, objective, critical discussion, who are interested in scientific
socialism. If you try to popularise Marxism, it becomes crap. Marxism
requires that people are prepared to do some conscientious study, not all
are prepared to do this, not all are prepared to engage in highly abstract
thought and think it through correctly. Marx would turn in his grave yet
again, if he knew that people were trying to build a workingclass movement
just in his own name yet again. This is just religious fanaticism. Millions
of people apart from Marx contribute to a living socialist culture. It would
be like saying Jesus Christ is the end of all wisdom in the spiritual
field - which is simply not true, even if some may take Jesus as their
personal saviour on the ground that one Jesus is enough. Who ever heard of
"Einsteinism" ? Maybe some physicists talk about Einsteinism - they know
what they mean. Most other people do not. Instead, they talk about quantum
physics and so on. Likewise we should talk about socialism, to which Marx
made crucial contributions (but the wisdom does not end there). Engels once
said about how Marx's book had become "the bible of the working class".
Today's working class doesn't need a bible, they need balls and a way of
getting heard, a way of asserting their interests that works and gets things
done. Science is an aid for that, it is not an ideology. Socialism is the
ideology, a set of norms, values, beliefs, principles and so forth. Science
and ideology may influence each other, but they are separate and distinct.
If they are confused, all hell breaks loose.

"The program is the articulation of the most important demands to advance
the mass movement as a whole through a series of approximations to the
conscious understanding of the need for revolutionary change."

No. The programme is the statement of the goals and principles of the
organisation, what in stands for in broad terms. "Demands" are things which
the masses of the people have. The task of the party is to respond to those
demands and show the way, how do some something specific, effective and
positive with those demands (I don't claim to be good at it, but live and
learn). You can make a whole shopping list of demands, but then you confuse
shopping, with the real demands for social change generated by the masses.
The important thing about demands is who is raising them, and how to respond
to that, not who has the best shoppinglist of political demands. Mao's "mass
line" idea is a useful concept, except that the party has no monopoly on
scientific truth. The important aspect here is that we do not say "stop your
struggles, they are stupid stuff - kneel here, we are going to hand down the
true slogan to you", rather we take the real demands people have and do
something with them. If we cannot, we are politically useless. I personally
would rather be politically useless than a Marxist, but what is really awful
is a politically useless Marxist. People like that need help.

"The program not only includes those demands, but the method of intervention
in the class struggle to influence the mass movement with such demands; it
also includes the tactics and strategies of the organization at each
conjuncture of the class struggle and the socialization of the tools and
theory that makes possible the articulation of such demands among all
members of the organization".

This is imo crap, and belied by what it says further on in the document. A
clear distinction must always be made between programme, strategy and
tactics. The programme should be kept as brief as possible and not run ahead
of what the advanced workers can understand and agree with, and be modified
over time as necessary. Strategy concerns objectives and methods of working,
applying to the foreseeable political future, which usually is not more than
5 or so years. Needless to say, it can also be revised by congresses and so
forth. Strategy must be based on solid empirical facts and on the trend of
popular consciousness. Tactics is the everyday "how to" stuff, that is where
real creativity and innovation is important.

 "Trotskyism offers the most advanced theoretical understanding to
comprehend and guide the action of revolutionaries and their work in the
mass movement".

Disagree, for numerous reasons. Trotskyism has some valuable insight, but
the most advanced theoretical understanding is the most advanced theoretical
understanding of real living people today in the socialist area of concern.
The most advanced theoretical understanding can never be a tradition, or
something in the past, unless you claim to be like Jesus Christ and raise
the dead back to life, or a Talmudist carrying the sacred scrolls on your
back. A tradition is a source of support, learning and inspiration, but
nothing more. If you do not agree with that, you fetishize tradition. The
important thing to watch is how an idea from the past actually works in the
brain of the living, what the living actually do with that, which can never
be completely the same as in the past. You can have 10 people reading a book
by Trotsky and they will all reach somewhat different conclusions, obviously
because they filter that through their own experience. So the whole concept
of tradition needs to be looked at carefully (see my previous comments on
this list).

"Recruiting. The organization must set goals - according to the
circumstances and political situation - for how many new contacts and
members each of us should recruit in a period, how many we should strive to
consolidate, etc."

This is never going to work, except in the case of a genuine civil war. The
objective is to win friends and influence people, not to create footsoldiers
in a proletarian army who follow a Marxist boss. Workingclass people are not
interested in being footsoldiers in a proletarian army following a Marxist
boss (except in the case of genuine civil war, or in the case of discipline
freaks). They are human beings with needs, interests, desires, wills,
cultures and capabilities, who want to be respected and taken seriously.
People are won over through healthy, reasonable persuasion using individual
talents that party members have. It is as much an exercise in personal
development, as it is an exercise in winning more members. If it ain't fun
at least somewhere along the line, it ain't worth doing. Scorecards are only
for those who do the job so well, it is like a sport to them.

Principples

If you have a problem spelling "principles" you ought to think again.
Principles should be so clear that nobody would miss them for a mile. It
starts by not misspelling the word.

*****

There are things missing in the text, for example points about about
efficient, effective communication. If you do not have some norms there you
are still a slave to bourgeois norms of what good communication is, and you
may well end up again with a Babylon of splinters. A communication policy is
essential for a modern political party. There are for instance problems of
communicative inclusion and exclusion which should be clearly resolved at
least in principle.

Regards

Jurriaan


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