[Marxism] re: Clueless in Caracas

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Apr 29 17:45:34 MDT 2004

Walter wrote:
>For all my criticisms of Trotskyism and the SWP(USA) I'd like to
>second M. Junaid Alam's comments below. Yes, he does try to push
>the Venezuelan square peg into the Trotskyist round hole, but his
>tendency seems to be doing some genuine solidarity work in support
>of the Bolivarian process

Maybe I should have been more specific. I have been forwarding material 
from Alan Woods' website for a number of years now. I consider it some of 
the very finest Marxist analysis out there. A couple of years ago I took a 
class on mathematics at the Brecht Forum and we used his book on science as 
a text. It should not come as any big surprise that the Venezuelans are as 
impressed as others are.

I was referring mainly to the inability of Woods to think outside the box. 
Rather than trying to figure out ways to build a Marxist current *within* 
the Bolivarist movement, he is building the classic sect as described by 
Hal Draper:

The sect establishes itself on a HIGH level (far above that of the working 
class) and on a thin base which is ideologically selective (usually 
necessarily outside working class). Its working-class character is claimed 
on the basis of its aspiration and orientation, not its composition or its 
life. It then sets out to haul the working class up to its level, or calls 
on the working class to climb up the grade. From behind its organizational 
walls, it sends out scouting parties to contact the working class, and 
missionaries to convert two here and three there. It sees itself becoming, 
one day, a mass revolutionary party by a process of accretion; or by 
eventual unity with two or three other sects; or perhaps by some process of 

Marx, on the other, saw the vanguard elements as avoiding above all the 
creation of organizational walls between themselves and the 
class-in-motion. The task was not to lift up two workers here and three 
there to the level of the Full Program (let alone two students here and 
three intellectuals there!) but to go after the levers that could get the 
class, or sections or the class, moving as a mass onto higher levels of 
action and politics.

The sect mentality sees its sanctification only in its Full Program, that 
is, in what separates it from the working class. If, god forbid, some 
slogan it puts forth bids fair to become to popular, it gets scared. 
“Something must be the matter! We must have capitulated to somebody.” (This 
is not a caricature: it is drawn from life.) Marx’s approach was exactly 
the opposite. The job of the vanguard was to work out slogans that would be 
popular in the given state of the class struggle, in the sense of being 
able to get broadest possible masses of workers moving. That means: moving 
on an issue, in a direction, in a way that would bring them into conflict 
with the capitalist class and its state, and the agents of capitalists and 
state, including the “labor lieutenants of capitalism” (its own leaders).

The sect is a miniaturized version of the revolutionary party-to-be, a 
“small mass party,” a microscopic edition or model of the mass party that 
does not yet exist. Rather, it thinks of itself this way, or tries to be 
such a miniature.

Its organizational method is the method of “as if”: let us act as if we 
were a mass party already (to a miniscular degree, naturally, in accordance 
with our resources), and this is the road to becoming a mass party. Let us 
publish a “workers’ newspaper,” just as if we were a workers’ party; and if 
we cannot publish a daily like a real mass party, at least we can publish a 
weekly or bi-weekly by draining all our resources – this makes us a small 
(unreal) mass party. (But such a facade is only self-deluding, since if it 
ever succeeds in deluding a single worker, he finds out soon enough that 
there is little behind it.) Let us build a “Bolshevik” party be being 
“disciplined” like good Bolsheviks. (So, on the basis of a false notion of 
“Bolshevik” discipline absorbed from the enemies of Leninism, the sect is 
“Bolshevized” into a contracting, petrifying coterie, which replaces the 
bonds of a political cohesion by iron hoops such as are needed to hold 
together the staves of a crumbling barrel.

There is a fundamental fallacy in the notion that the road of 
miniaturization (aping a mass party in miniature) is the road to a mass 
revolutionary party. Science proves that the scale on which a living 
organism exists cannot be arbitrarily changed: human beings cannot exist 
either on the scale of the Lilliputians or of the Brobdingagians; their 
life mechanisms could not function on either scale. Ants can life 200 times 
their own weight, but a six foot ant could not lift 20 tons even if it 
could exist in some monstrous fashion. In organizational life too, this is 
true: If you try to miniaturize a mass party, you do not get a mass party 
in miniature, but only a monster.

full: http://www.marxists.org/archive/draper/works/1971/alt/alt.htm#CHAPTER3

Louis Proyect
Marxism list: www.marxmail.org 

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