Reply to Tom O'Lincoln

Jurriaan Bendien bendien at tomaatnet.nl
Tue Nov 11 09:20:36 MST 2003


Tom asked:

"Can the LCR, or any other  particular group, "unite the radical left",
"integrate social movements" and the like?  This sounds all too familiar."

This is a good point I think, but I guess the proof is in the pudding.
Nothing is ever simple in these things, by the way. In the pursuit of
political and organisational unity, people often act as though such unity is
good for its own sake, rather than inquire into the basis of that unity and
clearly pose the question of "if we wanted to achieve unity, how could we
actually do it on a principled basis, i.e. what would be the minimum
requirements, what actually motivates people to organisational unity, what
are the real obstacles, which people are best at operating the process of
unification, and what specific transformations in the political situation
have to occur, so that this unity could be arrived at". Probably the biggest
obstacles are theoretical/ideological subtleties that nobody really needs,
at least not for political purposes, the inability to articulate what the
conflicts are in clear language, and the lack of a context in which
political differences can be honestly and openly discussed with the aim of
resolving them. Beneath this, is really the lack of a good analysis of the
real world, misunderstandings about the function of theory, and the lack of
good forms of association/communication.

I had a whiff of this yesterday, because I went to half of this IISH seminar
on Ernest Mandel's critique of political economy (I had done detailed
research on this in the 1980s, and thought I ought to be there) which
featured top scholars, but apart from the fact that there was no time to
discuss and argue things through systematically, so that real conclusions
are reached (typical of leftist organisational styles), it turned out that
these top scholars cannot not even agree about the concept of capitalism,
and were unaware of how Mandel defined it. Now if highly intelligent
scholars cannot even agree about basics like that, and just acknowledge the
viewpoints of other political currents in their academic papers to be
unsectarian, how then can "Marxism" be the basis of political unity anyway ?
I confess I sometimes think I live in a time-warp in this respect, because I
reached those conclusions 18 years ago. People just end up talking past each
other and cutting abstractions into four square parts. In which case, it is
best to leave the "Marxists" behind, and "be on your way, and let people
talk."

Jurriaan

PS - I read your "lap-dog" article with interest.





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