Martin Spellman mspellman at cix.co.uk
Thu Nov 21 05:15:33 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.

	He's, unfortunately, right on the money IMV. 'Zinovievism' is usually
called 'Marxism-Leninism' and according to Roy Medvedev, it was he who
actually coined the term.

> 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;

	But there is likewise diversity among Christians. There are now about 1500
different variants, all based on the same book, which I bet most of them
have not read, let alone appreciated. Irwin Silber, editor of Sing Out! and
writer for the The Guardian (US); Frontline and Crossroads and former member
of the CPUSA wrote 'Socialism: What went wrong: An enquiry into the
Theoretical and Historical Sources of the Socialist Crisis' (Pluto 1994,
0-7453-0716-7). It didn't go far enough but here is what he said about
'Marxist-Leninist Variants' (page 35):

	"Orthodoxy inevitably breeds schisms, and Marxism-Leninism was no
exception. While numerous grouplets and sects have laid claim to the
Marxist-Leninist mantle ever since the ideology was born in the Soviet
political struggles of the mid-20s, only two variants on the Stalinist
orthodoxy merit our attention: Trotskyism and Maoism; Trotskyism because it
has remained the main ideological umbrella for critiques of orthodox
Marxism-Leninism from the left; and Maoism because, for a period, it was the
dominant ideology of the world's largest Communist Party and a  significant
influence in several Third World revolutionary movements. (It also enjoyed a
brief flurry as a non-Trotskyist alternative to Soviet orthodoxy in
communist movements in the developed capitalist countries during the 1970s.)
	In terms of political power, mass following, ideological concert or unified
action, neither variant is compatible to the creed which originated with and
was shaped by Stalin. And each, in turn, has given rise to variants likewise
claiming to be the true faith."

	Of course, that is not to say that the differences between these
groups/schools are uninteresting or immaterial. Silber also analyses key
characteristics of the 'vanguard party' such as 'the new type'; the
'advanced detachment'; the 'monolith' and 'democratic centralism'. Part of
his conclusion reads:

	"Long before the political center of the international communist movement
disintegrated, the revolutionary function of Lenin's 'party of a new
type' -- at least so far as all the main capitalist countries were
concerned -- had receded into the realms of ideological fancy. Not only were
the prospects of the proletarian revolution in those countries remote; the
idea that Communist Parties would be the 'vanguard' of such revolution was
even more far-fetched. But the form remained, testament to the ideological
hold of Marxist-Leninist mythology and the advantages to be gained from the
Soviet Union's world position and largesse. It was this disjuncture which
haunted and undermined those parties even before their world was irrevocably
shattered in 1991."

	Different considerations would have obviously governed the Trotskyist and
Maoist variants. But if it were true that 'Stalinism' was what was
holding/diverting the working class from flocking to the Trotskyist colours
then we would have expected an upsurge in the fortunes of Trotskyist groups
after 1989. Nothing of the sort has occured. In fact many Trotskyist parties
followed their Stalinist antagonists into oblivion.

	It's not that people are wrong because of something Trotsky or Stalin wrote
three or four generations ago -- although for the unreconstucted you might
think so: the raking over of old issues, like the Spanish Civil War and
1968, continues apace in some papers. The Marxist-Leninist model is fatally
flawed. That after the obvious examples the diminishing band of disciples
still adheres to it, whether they are aware of it or not, will not change
the fact.

	Reactions efforts have been constant but it was more the end of the
post-war boom that exposed Marxism-Leninist parties as inadequate. Growing
crisis and open class warfare by Reagan/Thatcher etc. should have provided
the draught for the revolutionary ship to float. There has been a recent
series on British TV about state spies in revolutionary groups. Most of this
activity seems like something out of 'The Good Soldier Schweik' or 'Catch
22' -- the so-called revolutionaries were comical and would not know a
revolutionary situation if they fell over one. It is interesting how many of
them expected some kind of right-wing coup in the 70s. Alan Thornett details
Gerry Healy's misreading of the situation in his book 'Inside Cowley' and
Ted Grant seems to take a similar tack (to Healy) in his 'History of British
Trotskyism'. If I had anything to do with the Special Branch, far from
spying on these toy Bolsheviks I think I would have set up even more of
them. It would have been amusing as much as anything else. Of course there
are those who would say that such and such a group was precisely such an

Martin Spellman

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