Comments on an Alex Callinicos letter to the Left Turn group

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue Sep 23 14:21:31 MDT 2003

Johannes Schneider wrote:
> Louis, your criticism of the SWP`s Zinovieism sounds good, but what is 
> your alternative?

My alternative is the historic Bolshevik Party.

> How can a movement that takes something like `Empire` as its gospel 
> understand the needs of the class struggle.? I dont want to talk about 
> discipline here.

Last weekend I was up at Ahmet Tonak's. We watched a documentary on the 
Cancun protests on Free Speech TV, a new cable tv outlet that is in the 
spirit of Paper Tiger TV. His son, who just graduated from Bard and who 
is a self-described "anarchist", was part of the documentary crew. It 
was really inspiring, especially when a large contingent of Mexican and 
South Korean farmers tore down a fence that separated the protestors 
from the WTO meeting. When these types of folks, as opposed to black 
block adventurists, take direct action, I tend to be much more lenient. 
At any rate, this was the first breakthrough of the social justice 
movement even though there were only 10,000 or so protestors there 
apparently. With the failure to reach an agreement inspired mainly by 
poor agricultural countries, you are finally beginning to see some 
substantial progress.

I seriously doubt if many of these protestors, least of all the Mexican 
and South Korean farmers, were familiar with Hardt-Negri's book. In 
fact, with its hostility to "rural idiocy", I doubt that many would 
accept it as their bible.

The ideology of this movement is underdeveloped, but there is a powerful 
understanding that imperialism is the enemy of the world's poor and 
working class. I am not sure that Marxist ideology is what's needed so 
much as a better understanding of strategy and tactics. This can come 
from activists who have been involved with the mass movement, but it has 
to be based on trust.

At any rate, as long as this movement continues to stay active and avoid 
boneheaded ultraleftism, I can't see much reason to complain about its 
immaturity. From what I can see, the refusal to break Starbucks windows, 
etc. has pretty much been learned from within the movement without any 
help from the outside.

Sooner or later, Marxism will begin to be accepted within its ranks but 
there is no way to artificially accelerate such a development, least of 
all through the ham-fisted intervention of the likes of the British SWP, 
which adapted shamelessly to the movement's ultraleftism while all the 
while exploring ways to exploit it.

> I have seen a lot of `movements` coming and going, not as a bystander, 
> but as an active particpant. At the end of the day, they had very little 
> influence on the daily barbarism of capitalism and fell apart or lifted 
> cynics like Joschka Fischer to the top.

Sorry to hear that.

> The latest movement we saw at the beginning of this year. In February 
> hundred of thousands marched against the war. But only half a year later 
> (at least here in Germany) that movement has fallen apart and even if 
> there werent groups like the WWP in the US or the SWP in the UK and 
> similiar organisations elsewhere it would not even have come into 
> existence.

I actually think that the WWP and the SWP are doing good work. It is a 
shame that they can't do better work.

> All this leads me to the conclusion that only an organisation of 
> concious Marxists based on the principles democratic centralism will 
> understand the `needs of the class struggle` and have the neccessary 
> discipline to work against the up and downs of movements and bring about 
> real change.

Yeah, that's true but the real problem is how to go about doing it. When 
I was up at Ahmet's, I read his copy of Jean Van Heijenhoort's "With 
Trotsky in exile: from Prinkipo to Coyoacán", a really interesting if 
slightly depressing book. Van Heijenoort points out that for all of 
Trotsky's fervor over the need for building revolutionary parties, he 
had little grasp of how to do it. With hundreds of pages written in 
analysis of the Spanish revolution, his group in Spain never numbered 
more than a dozen people or so. Unless we can transcend the methodology 
that led to such isolation, we will never be able to construct genuine 
revolutionary parties.


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