On the DSP's initiative
Jose G. Perez
jgperez at netzero.net
Wed Sep 4 19:47:02 MDT 2002
In reaction to the other posts, I wanted to say that I, too, was caught very
much by surprise by the DSP's initiative, but I must stress it was a very
Pleasant, in part, because a few weeks ago I did something not entirely
dissimilar in principle from what the DSP is doing, in my case by joining
Solidarity (if people are curious, this came out of Adam's onlist invite a
couple of months ago for subscribers and like-minded people in the Atlanta
area to get together. We did, and the upshot is that Solidarity now has a
branch here, or really, a branch-in-formation, because in addition to the
formal members, we are trying to function together with, and normally have
present at our "internal" meetings, taking full part in them on the same
basis as everyone else at the table, a few more comrades who aren't members,
at least as often as they care to come.)
It was also a pleasant because I've been surprised also over time by my own
growing political affinity with the "Percyites." I like their political
positions, insofar as one can judge these things from afar, but what I
really like even more is their tone and stance, as reflected in their press,
which is how I know them. Their "attitude" for lack of a better word.
(This partly reflects an evolution in my own thinking, and especially, that
I am no longer as "ungreen" as I was even a couple of years ago. For
example, I think the data NOW available allows one to make fairly strong
statements about global warming and its being caused at least in part by
human activity, an opinion I did not hold in the late 90's.)
But I was pleasantly surprised mostly because it did not make sense to me
that I could have such a similar political approach to things as they seemed
to, and yet they remained wedded to what seemed to me to be a strategic,
very rigid, narrow approach to "party building" that I don't support.
Because the organizational approach flows from the political one, or should.
This was discussed on this list a few months ago, and I remember one of the
DSP comrades participating said, yes, well, okay, we agree with what you're
saying about organizational flexibility and so on in *general* but given
that *right now* we have the party we do in fact have, and aren't really in
a position to go back and do things differently for the last few decades,
what do you suggest? I was at a loss to say anything much on that, of
course, not being there, but I think they've now answered their own question
that they had put to me much better than I could have.
I think it is notable that do not seem to be proposing to do an "entry," a
"French Turn," they don't propose as a matter of principle that they should
function (actually, I assume it would be *continue* to function) as a
tightly-organized group within the alliance. As the ultraleft sectarian
critic who immediately jumped on their case on this list said, they are
Obviously, they're not liquidating their politics. They are a distinct
political current, they can't liquidate THAT by a motion on their executive,
or a vote of their convention, but they have set out on a political course
calculated to go beyond the currently existing currents. I think they're
right, because the *existing* currents are a problem.
They are a problem because they exist for historical reasons, not
necessarily for current ones, but their very existence as different groups
in and of itself is undersirable, and it tends to spontaneously generate
The *traditional* way to approach this is to say, let's discuss, discuss and
discuss, and do a tiny bit of joint work in the specific activities where we
have most agreement, and see if we can become one organization. The track
record on this isn't encouraging. Few fusions actually take place, and of
the few that do, many come apart in a short time. And they rarely involve
getting away from the straightjacket (misnamed "Leninist") organizational
norms that, as history shows, have a marked tendency to generate heated
internal disputes and splits.
It is especially encouraging to see the DSP executive proposing a broad,
open discussion, not the usual "members-only" approach that even left groups
much looser than the DSP routinely carry out without even thinking about it.
The DSP's proposal is, we know we have *enough* agreement to greatly
increase our joint functioning, so we're just going to dump ourselves into
the common organizational framework, however provisional and rudimentary it
may be, and hopefully develop growing political agreement and organizational
coherence with the rest of the alliance comrades from the shared
That, of course, based on the idea that there is sufficient agreement --not
complete, but sufficient-- to function as one group. And by that I mean
sufficient practical agreement, not agreement on Trotsky, Stalin, Mao,
Cannon or Schactman. In the United States, for example, I can't imagine an
initiative like this could work between, say, Solidarity, on the one hand,
and the CP, because of the CP's strategic orientation towards work within
the Democratic Party.
Second, they are, in effect, calling for the socialist alliance to develop
more of a political center, a regular press, etc. THAT, I believe, is
*exactly* right, the need is not for "discipline" and "democratic"
centralism, but rather political centralization, which is distinctly
Third, they are advocating that the alliance become more of an organization
of active members, that people in the alliance function together as a group
in the different arenas where they are active. This is not coupled with
ideas about *formal* rules or norms and so on, but obviously goes in the
direction of greater organizational cohesiveness than at present.
It is very striking to me how closely what the comrades are raising tracks
the ideas Lenin put forth in "What is to be done?" The idea of a political
center, and of party members being active and taking part in party
Unlike some of the comrades who have posted, I do not view the DSP raising
this with the alliance as such, and publicly, rather than entering into
bilateral and multilateral negotations with the other left groups in the
alliance, as suspicious in the slightest, on the contrary.
As I view it, there is in fact a very tight link between the *content* of
the proposal and the form in which they have presented it.
And I'd urge everyone to get away from second-guessing what the comrades in
this leadership are "really" thinking, trying to correlate different
statements and things to uncover their "hidden agenda" and so on. I think
that's just goofy.
The comrades in the DSP executive are experienced enough to understand that,
in revolutionary politics, those kinds of cheap swindles and maneuvers
aren't going to bring any lasting gain. Were they to try it, they would
capture themselves and a handful of others who probably would have joined
the DSP anyways; but the nature of the maneuver is such that they risk
confusing, disorganizing and scattering a lot of their existing forces.
I think the comrades should be taken at face value, at their word.
All in all, it seems to me, it is a wonderful initiative, and one thing I'd
hope to discuss is whether it prods any thinking about what might be done in
the U.S. to promote or jump-start a broader regroupment/reconstitution of
the revolutionary left. Obviously, our *forms* are going to have to be
entirely different. For one thing, before anyone could "liquidate" into a
socialist alliance, we'd need to create one. But I do believe this same
pressure towards getting together and working together in a common
political organization of revolutionary socialists is also being felt here.
This little thing that's been going on in Atlanta is, I think, a symptom of
it, not that I think the specific steps we've taken are necessarily
applicable in some other place.
For example, it may be that, in the US, rather than a socialist alliance
creating a national political center, a national political center could draw
together around itself a socialist alliance. An independent national
newspaper and/or web site, with an orientation towards serving as a hub for
regroupment and reconstitution of the left, could play that role. (This,
BTW, is not in the slightest my idea, but rather something someone else
raised informally with me and some others a couple of months ago. I don't
mention the person's name because that comrade for whatever reasons chose to
keep it private and informal, but I do believe it is appropriate to raise
the general idea in this context, and did not want to make it seem it is
something I came up with, when it is not).
There is a sentiment for unity of revolutionary socialists beyond the same
old wishful "wouldn't it be nice if..." that everyone has been expressing
year after year. There is growing sentiment, I believe, that the time is
*right* for this and a growing sense of urgency that began, really, with
Seattle but has qualitatively escalated after September 11.
So especially to those of us who feel pleased and encouraged by this
initiative of the Australian DSP comrades, let's talk about what they're
doing, but I say let's also talk about whether there isn't some way we can
move in that same direction ourselves here in the states.
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