The USA far left
Jose G. Perez
jgperez at netzero.net
Sat Nov 16 17:02:13 MST 2002
Lou Paulsen writes:
Louis says that we aren't interested in "regroupment", but then he describes
most of our larger potential regroupment partners in ways which would make
wonder why we would want to amalgamate with them, or they with us. Who are
supposed to want to amalgamate with, actually? Take the ISO for example.
you look at their position on the war with Iraq, they are pretty close to
They have a lot of dedicated people, a lot of young people, and a lot of
influence. On the other hand, they believe Fidel should be overthrown. I
think this would be a problem for both sides. I personally would not be in
favor of any move that might leave me in the minority of a party whose
majority treats the government of Cuba as the class enemy. Not just because
they are "wrong on Cuba", but also because I believe there must be something
fundamentally flawed with the political thinking of people that can end up
THAT wrong on Cuba. If this makes me a left sectarian, so be it!
I am quite confident that the ISO would not be at all interested in any
that would leave THEM in the minority on this and other important issues.
why even talk about it?
* * *
I think Lou Paulsen has hit the nail right on the head. The kind of
full-program, a position on every conceivable historical and theoretical
question and struggle around the world, organization he has in mind cannot
be built through a fusion.
The only organization that CAN be built is one "limited" to a revolutionary
perspective and approach to the U.S., and which takes positions on concrete
political questions, not on general characterizations, historical and
theoretical questions, and so on.
So in the case of Cuba, a united party of different currents would have
positions on the blockade, on normalizing relations, on defending people
accused of violating the travel ban, and freeing the Miami Five. It would
not as a matter of course have a discussion and vote on whether Cuba is
really socialist, or a workers state, nor on China, nor Vietnam.
For one thing, I think you would agree that the Cuban working people have
done a pretty good job these past 43 years, and they're not really in need
of kibbitzing and Sunday morning quarterbacking from across the Florida
Moreover, the only united organization that can be built is one which does
not try to impose a monolithic version of democratic centralism, that
returns to REAL Leninism, as Lenin understood it and practiced it. And that
is that party discipline applies to ACTION, not to ideas. People should be
free to think and write whatever they want, including on disputed questions,
with the only limitation that it not be used to sabotage the party's unity
And functioning as a tightly disciplined fraction in the mass movement
should be strcitly LIMITED to those occassions when there is an actual need
for it, for example, an antiwar coalition meeting where there is a fight
with opponents of building a mass antiwar movement over calling a
demonstration. And even then, the party should very carefully consider
whether its fraction should be organizing that fight, or a caucus of all
those who agree with calling a demonstration in the coalition, party and non
What we mostly have on the left right now are NOT parties, but propaganda
leagues and circles. We may not wish to accept it, but in terms of American
politics we are ALREADY a single "party" or trend. Our recruitment is
overwhelmingly based on opposition to various ruling class attacks (an
opposition we ALL share) and a general socialist outlook (which, as far as a
new member can tell, is no different from the next group's variety of
socialism). Which group people join is really determined by who they run
into first, who their friends are and things like that, and NOT IN THE
SLIGHTEST by the issues which ostensibly separate us.
>From the point of view of an average person that begins to take an interest
in radical politics, we are all just different brands of the same basic
product. Our fundamental attractiveness/utility is the same, like so many
brands of laundry detergent. Yes, the packaging is different, this one brags
"industrial strength Leninism" (that would be Worker's World) and that one
"gentler on your clothes with the aroma of a spring morning" (Solidarity, of
course...), and a third one modestly remarks it is formulated to appear so
similar to water normally you don't realize it is even there until you pull
your clothes out of the washer (the comrades from Freedom Road.)
Now in laundry detergent, there may be a justification for branding to
attract a niche market. It's not the same washing a mechanic's oil-soaked
coveralls as a teenage girl's jeans. But there is no need for "niche"
socialist groups. We're all atacking the same problem. It isn't like the
capitalism that Solidarity is against is a different one from the one the
Workers World or ISO comrades have sworn to bury.
So the ISO people all think that Cuba is capitalist. And the WWP (and the US
SWP, and the Australian DSP) all think Fidel is great. You think there's got
to be something very wrong with the ISO comrades for having this position.
The *truth* however, is that *most* comrades in the group have simply
accepted it as revealed truth, and never thought twice about it. I wouldn't
be surprised to discover that there isn't a single person in the American
group's leadership that even knows the first thing about Cuba. What is "very
wrong" with the ISO's position on Cuba is simply the religious-like
acceptance of revealed truth by the party faithful. Even the main anti-Cuba
tracts from the British outfit are just recycled garbage from academic
writers of the 60's and 70's. If you think these people did a deep study and
analysis of Cuba, think again. They lifted their theoretical framework from
the Soviet Union, poured Cuba into it, and went quotation-shopping for
"authorities" to bolster their case in a university library.
On the other hand, it will not have escaped anyone's notice that being
arguably the most pro-Cuba group on the Left hasn't stopped the SWP from
degenerating into such a sterile sect that they could not even bring
themselves to call on people to take part antiwar demo in Washington in
----- Original Message -----
From: <LouPaulsen at attbi.com>
To: <marxism at lists.panix.com>
Sent: Wednesday, November 13, 2002 1:40 PM
Subject: Re: The USA far left
Louis's response is not of course going to be entirely to the liking of
of us in any of the left groups he mentioned, but it's not entirely off the
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