(fwd from Bob Gould) Australian left

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Sep 27 09:42:17 MDT 2002

>Bob Gould responds to Peter Boyle and Tom O'Lincoln
>Without a looser, more relaxed and sensible political discussion among all
>the participants, that kind of environment is a recipe for very unpleasant
>and unclear collisions of the kind that have taken place in the past between
>the DSP and others.

Although I am still thinking through the issues germane to the Labor Party
of Australia, I vote with both hands for the above proposal by Bob. In
moving past the sectarian subculture that has in the past militated against
experiments like the Socialist Alliance, we have to first of all get rid of
the kind of poker game mentality that is captured by the conventional
understanding of "democratic centralism".

This has served to reinforce a bunker mentality in the left, where after
small groups adopt "line" resolutions at yearly conventions, each member is
under "discipline" to defend the line in public. Supposedly, this is how
the Bolsheviks functions but nothing could be further from the truth, at
least from evidence found in John Reed's "10 Days that Shook the World," a
book I am reading as part of a large-scale project to understand him, the
film "Reds" and the period and events which serve as a backdrop for the film.

Although I knew that the Bolsheviks conducted their debates in public, I
was startled to discover how far this would go in practice. In Chapter 2
("The Coming Storm"), Reed refers to the fight in the Bolshevik party about
whether power should be seized from Kerensky:

"However, the right wing of the Bolsheviki, led by Riazanov, Kameniev and
Zinoviev, continued to campaign against an armed uprising. On the morning
of October 31st appeared in 'Rabotchi Put' the first installment of Lenin's
'Letter to the Comrades,' one of the most audacious pieces of political
propaganda the world has ever seen. In it Lenin seriously presented the
arguments in favour of insurrection, taking as text the objections of
Kameniev and Riazanov."

As it turns out, 'Rabotchi Put' is not an internal discussion bulletin of
the kind that we were warned never to allow "outsiders" to see in the
American Trotskyist movement, but the daily Bolshevik newspaper that was
sold on the streets all over St. Petersburg and elsewhere. Lenin's article
is found in the appendix to Chapter 2 and it is a real eye-opener. Against
Kameniev and Riazanov's argument that "we have not a majority", Lenin
replies that they "simply don't want to look the real situation in the
face" and draws the readers' attention to the peasant uprising sweeping
Russia, which cannot be readily reflected in parliamentary totals.

I would suggest that when such public debates occur between Alex Callinicos
and Chris Harman in public, or Doug Lorimer and John Percy, we will be a
lot closer to classical Bolshevism than we are today. If the Socialist
Alliance can lead to the facilitation of such debates in full view of the
Australian working class, so much the better.

Louis Proyect

PLEASE clip all extraneous text before replying to a message.

More information about the Marxism mailing list