"Zinovievism"

LouPaulsen LouPaulsen at attbi.com
Wed Nov 20 23:59:08 MST 2002


I'm sorry to have to say this, but I find Proyect's whole thesis (to the
effect that numerous socialist parties and tendencies have a 'bad' form of
party organization because they suffer under the legacy of 'Zinovievism') to
be quite unconvincing.

(a) Proyect paints with the 'Zinovievist' brush parties ranging from the
CPUSA through WWP to every "Trotskyist" group in existence, and presumably
all the "Maoist" groups as well.  Yet in fact he does not have any data
about how most of these groups are really organized.  He is suffering from
"post-SWP(US) stress disorder" and has flashbacks all the time and assumes
that all our other varied organizations operate the same way it did.  He
repeatedly makes broad-brush assertions along the lines of "Zinovievist
vanguard parties like the WWP do this and that" which are completely
inapplicable to what we are really doing; in fact he repeatedly accuses us
of doing things that the former SWP-ers in WWP are always warning us against
and making sure that we DON'T do.   I believe that in general there is great
organizational dissimilarity among the groups he wants to lump together as
'Zinovievist'.

(b) The thesis that all our numerous parties are actually organized in a
certain way because we are all following the tenets laid down by Zinoviev in
1923 is implausible on its face.  Just think about this for a minute or two.
I would bet you that not one of fifty of the members of all our parties have
ever read the statutes of the Comintern from 1923, and yet we are all
supposed to be faithful to this cultural organizational inheritance.

Well, is it our common experience that, over the last century, parties of
the left have remained fixed and faithful to their political progenitors
even when those tenets are copiously written down and carefully re-read and
discussed?  Have all the "Trotskyists" rigorously adhered to the tenets of
Trotsky, and are they all alike?  Are all the "Maoists" alike in their
practice today, and all the "Stalinists"?  Quite the contrary.  There is so
much diversity among "Trotskyists" and "Stalinists" and "Maoists", and has
been for decades, that the terms literally have no meaning now other than
telling me what books are likely to be on people's bookshelves; in any case
they convey no information about what positions people are likely to take in
the struggle, whether they are reformist, ultraleftist, are sects, have a
mass orientation, or anything else.  Philip F. made this very point a few
days ago in another context and he was quite correct in making it.

All of our parties and tendencies have taken the original writings of the
revolutionaries of the past and have continually adapted them, added to
them, re-interpreted them, and evolved and changed; some have altered them
or discarded them.  Each of us knows this, and each of us knows that the
debating trick of saying that "You have this rotten position because you are
followers of Trotsky who said in 1912 etc. etc." is silly hogwash.  We have
the positions we have today because we are the parties we are and have the
general orientation we have and represent certain class forces [this is the
MATERIALIST explanation].  Not because Trotsky or Stalin or Mao said
something two or three or four generations ago, even though they wrote books
that many of us study to this day [this would be the IDEALIST explanation].

So how plausible is it then to say that we could all possibly have a certain
type of party organization today just because Zinoviev, whose works hardly
anyone reads, had a certain idea about party organization in 1923, and we
are all obeying his commands 79 years later!

Therefore, even if you disagreed with my point in (a) above, and believed
that the parties which Proyect lumps together really are all similar in
their points of organization, you could not reasonably believe that the
explanation lies in our cultural inheritance of something which he labels
'Zinovievism'.

(c)  IF it is true that many of our our parties share certain organizational
features, and I continue to maintain that we don't all share the features
that Proyect keeps referring to, THEN it must be due to some MATERIAL factor
which forces us to act in a certain way.  Perhaps the parties which do not
do certain things simply do not survive as Marxist parties in the kind of
period of reaction we have been through.  It strikes me that the "low
standards" which Proyect proposes could easily be FATAL to a Marxist party
***in a period of reaction***.  In a period of revolutionary upsurge the
rules are different, but that isn't what we've had for the last several
decades, not in the US anyway.

Lou Paulsen


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