Party building

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Fri Sep 26 09:16:00 MDT 2003


I want to solidarize with a comment by Tom O'Lincoln in his response
to Jose Perez.

Tom wrote:

Finally Jose writes: "the age of sects is finished."

I wish it was, but I seriously doubt it. The first "age of sects"
preceded
the era opened up by the Manifesto. Marx and Engels wrote this about
it:

“Sects are justified (historically) so long as the working class is
not yet
ripe for an independent historical movement.” (Letter to Bolte).

"Marx and Lenin thought 'age of sects' was finished once there was a
mass
socialist movement. But in the west, at least, that movement is dead.
Unless and until it revives, we are left with tiny fragments,
including
Solidarity, the Barnesite SWP,  the Australian ISO, the Black Bloc,
the
Marxism List... and so on. A new 'age of sects'. In this difficult
terrain,
each of us tries to find something to work with. As I recall, you've
chosen
to try Solidarity. Others of us will try different things. My argument
was
about accepting that 'all' the options are quite difficult, and not
being
too hard on those who choose options different than ours."


Tom captured something I have been trying to express without success
for some time: sectarianism not as bad ideas of weak-minded
individuals like Cannon (for example) but as an actual historical
condition of the class-conscious workers' movement and the left that
could -- and cannot -- be escaped by a mere act of the will. (Cannon
should have done like Castro, whatever that might have been in his
context.  He should have formed a broad Green Party rather than a
communist sect -- not that either of those is what Castro did, etc.,
etc.)

This view of sectarianism tends to reinforce the sectarian tendency to
see sectarianism as the mote in the eyes of others to be firmly
denounced from the standpoint of the beam in one's own. Can anyone who
does, for example, Cuba solidarity work, antiwar work, Venezuela
support work, or even anticapitalist trade union work seriously
imagine that the sects have absolutely no historical justification for
their existence in the United States today? If the ISO, Workers World,
the SWP, the RCP, Solidarity, Socialist Action, etc., etc.,
disappeared tomorrow, how would the solution of the basic problems we
face be advanced? They wouldn't, and other groups expressing the
sectarian condition in one way or another would arise. How can
serious, systematic political work be carried out in these fields or
effective socialist propaganda work or winning people to socialism be
carried out today in fact without the sects.  Is it really Marxist to
think that they exist simply by mistake or because human beings are
bone-headed?

The Green Party in the United States, far from representing the polar
opposite of sectarianism, is a product of the same condition that has
produced the sects -- the absence of  workers' socialist movement or
of independent working-class politics of any kind except on the
primitive scale of the sects.

I believe that there are signs in the world that point the way out of
the sectarian existence: above all, the Cuban revolution and its
leadership-- which has been shaking up the US sects politically from
the day it arrived on the scene -- and now the Venezuelan
revolutionary process which I believe is beginning to do the same.
This is coupled with the disintegration of Stalinism whose dominance
of the workers movement and left tremendously reinforced all the
trends favoring sectarianism.  In this framework, a new rise of the
working class movement in the United States can create surging new
forces that can break through the sectarian structures in a
progressive way -- the rise of a militant July 26-type movement in the
US labor movement being an example of what I believe are real
possibilities.

But, at least as I see the US today (and Australia too), we still have
quite a lot of distance to cover before the sects will lose their
current material basis and, yes, historical justification.
Fred Feldman
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