[Marxism] RE: The Militant and Who Cares?

Ben C minnows at connexus.net.au
Sat Mar 27 19:22:22 MST 2004

Mark L. wrote:
<<Another invisible weakness in the SWP/YSA was that a lot of the people
"recruited out of the mass movements" weren't.  They were recruited
independently, then assigned to work with antiwar or women's groups, and
identified with those movements in a kind of after-the-fact self-hyping
that we were winning more out of the movements than we actually were. >>

<<Indeed, one of the most disturbing trends while I was in the party was a
kind of social recruitment of people who weren't and never had been
active about anything--much less "leaders" of any mass movement.  Being
a woman didn't make you necessarily a woman's liberation activist, any
more than being gay made you a gay activist or being black made you an
activist for black liberation or being a young white guy made you an
antiwar activist.  At best, these recruits were radicals by abstract
sentiment of some sort. >>

(end quote)

While I have no knowledge of how the SWP bungled this process or misled 
itself about the significance of it, it is very real and actually quite 
interesting phenomenon in my experience as a member of the DSP and now 
the Socialist Alliance.

While recruiting activists from working class movements is essential for 
revolutionaries, the people who do not directly join through movement 
activism are not necessarily just "social recruitment". Most activist 
movements, especially the "social movement" coalitions of forces that 
organise anti-war marches, womens liberation struggles etc, are not very 
friendly to people new to politics. Activist skills and a certain amount 
of jargon are frequently assumed. Even meeting participation can be 
difficult depending on procedure. Combine this with the tendency to 
bureaucracy in many independent movement activists and especially social 
democratic opportunists, for someone new to politics, and perhaps a 
little underconfident, often joining a revolutionary organisation 
(whatever its problems) is often much more accessible than becoming 
involved in a movement campaign directly. Even the more sectarian 
Marxist groups generally provide a collective framework of discussion, 
education and support.

Ideally, the broad workers' movement should provide these facilities for 
workers and others to become involved in struggles easily, but of course 
while the "broad workers movement" remains an abstract concept, or 
perhaps just comatose, whatever alternative routes to activism shouldn't 
be denigrated as radicalisation "by abstract sentiment of some sort" 
(although there are obviously those recruits too).

Ben C

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