[Marxism] Jim Higgins archive

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Jul 2 07:56:53 MDT 2004

Much to my delight, I have discovered that there is a Jim Higgins 
archive on marxists.org. It includes his book "More Years for the 
Locusts", a memoir of his years in the Trotskyist movement. I tried 
unsuccessfully to get my hands on this a few years ago and am ecstatic 
that it is now available.


Jim Higgins
More Years for the Locust
Chapter 14

Speak one more time
About the joy of hoping for joy
So that at least some will ask:
What was that?
When will it come again?

--Erich Fried

In the early Christian church there was a continuing problem of Bishops 
who were surplus to requirement. They might be removed from office or 
even excommunicated by the Pope: nevertheless, through the mysterious 
ways of the apostolic succession dating back to St Peter, who laid on 
hands to create the first Bishop, they remained bishops with the power 
to lay on hands and create more bishops themselves. This caused a deal 
of anguish to various Popes who took the view that if they could make 
’em, they could break ’em. However, no less an authority than St 
Augustine proclaimed the continuing validity of orders once conferred. 
The result was an embarrassing surplus of redundant, incompetent or 
malfeasant Bishops, who wandered about behaving like princes of the 
church despite the fact that they had no See. They were known in the 
trade as Episcopi Vagantes (Vagrant Bishops). This obscure historical 
fact was little remarked on in church circles, but was noted by a 19th 
century Church of England parson, AH Mathew, who cunningly managed to 
get the Church of Utrecht to adopt him as their Bishop for Britain.

No sooner had the apostolic hands graced Mathew’s head than he was off 
forming his own church. There is nothing like a Bishop’s mitre and 
crozier to make a chap look posh and become the object of envious 
glances from other would-be Bishops. Where one man has ventured others 
will surely follow, if not always by the same route. JR Vilatte and 
Vernon Herford were made Bishops by the Nestorian Church of the Malabar 
Coast. Thus it was that the good work continued: the new bishops built 
their churches and, in time, felt the need for additional bishops. Need 
being father to the deed, they laid their hands on suitable candidates, 
who oftentimes, in their turn, developed doctrinal differences which 
necessitated them breaking away to form their own church. With each 
split there was a new accretion of theological exotica. One vagrant 
bishop blended Catholicism with theosophy and built his cathedral around 
a massive brass funnel through which God sent down beneficent rays to 
the faithful, who stood underneath the blessed metal conduit to receive 
them. Another, perhaps unsure of the effectiveness of one ceremony, was 
consecrated on numerous occasions in various vagrant churches and when 
last heard of was styled Mar Georgius, Patriarch of Glastonbury, the 
Episcopate of the West, and his subsidiary titles covered ten full lines 
of 12 point type. Among this small but sparky firmament, one with real 
star quality was the French “Bishop” who combined catholicism with 
druidism. He conducted baptism, weather permitting, in the sea off the 
Normandy coast. This splendid chap styled himself, “His Whiteness the 
Humble Tugdual the Second”. May his God preserve him from pneumonia. The 
most recent count, in 1961, of the number of such “Bishops” was over 200 
and I sincerely hope that Tugdual II, who was one of them, is still with 
us. [1]

It does not require a particularly profound knowledge of the Trotskyist 
tradition to notice certain similarities between Marxist obscurantism 
and an addiction to Christian arcana, together with shared fissiparous 
tendencies. There is Trotsky, like Peter, the first and the best of the 
disciples and then there is the ever-growing proliferation of sects, 
sectlets and insects claiming direct descent from the master. Each one 
of them has a cast iron reason for standing against the rest. If the 
class nature of Stalinist Russia seemed of vital import to Trotsky in 
1940, then it must be at the centre of our thoughts in 1996. Never mind 
that country no longer exists; the maintenance of the argument is the 
maintenance of the tradition, it has become an end in itself. So 
powerful is this yearning for the certainties of the past that even the 
way some of us talk and write is redolent of Comintern jargon of the 
1920s, freshly translated from the Russian by an incompetent. Quite a 
few years ago there was a member of the Revolutionary Socialist League 
whose fluency with the jargon exercised an awful fascination. A typical 
example went something like this: “In the coming period, the various 
amalgams will concretize into programatic agreement on limited and 
partial plans for statification and so on and so forth.” The last five 
words of this quote are, although not mandatory, usually there because 
they give the quite spurious impression that you have a great deal more 
of importance to say. The uncritical, not to say idolatrous, veneration 
for everything Bolshevik, until 1924, and the obsessive desire to see 
everything through the prism of Russian precedent, has resulted in far 
too many people suffering a self induced inability to communicate with 
workers in a language they can understand without an A level in Russian 

In 1938, the Fourth International was formed. If generous, or gullible, 
you can believe the Founding Congress’s claim of approximately 6,000 
members world-wide. Little enough you might think for a “World Party of 
Revolution” – and that was probably its high point. It was an 
aggregation of tiny groups drawn together by the attraction of Trotsky’s 
historic role and his powerful intellect. Here was the force that was to 
lead the working class to power when capitalism and Stalinism succumbed 
to the irresistible force of the coming war. In fact, came the war and 
the FI, along with Gracie Fields and WH Auden, went to the US for the 
duration. When all is said and done, the likelihood of the FI actually 
taking power would ensure that William Hill gave you odds against of 
such length that if the bet came good you would, as a multi-billionaire, 
be opposed to the result.

full: http://marxists.org/archive/higgins/index.htm


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