[Marxism] RE: The Militant and Who Cares?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sun Mar 28 10:22:37 MST 2004

Marvin Gandall wrote:
> Have former SWP'ers considered that the problems they (correctly) identify
> weren't unique to themselves, but applicable for the most part to the
> hundreds, perhaps thousands, of small revolutionary organizations - Maoist,
> anarchist, Trotskyist - which sputtered and died throughout Western Europe
> and the Americas over the past three generations? And, if so, what
> conclusions can be drawn from this? That each of these organizations failed
> because of a "crisis of leadership" - the rationale most commonly offered in
> one form or another by veterans of these organizations on departure?

That is not the prevailing analysis found on Marxmail, although there 
are some party members (especially the Morenoites who have not been 
heard from here in a while) who subscribe to that theory. The "crisis of 
leadership" is a hallmark of the Trotskyist methodology although it can 
be found in other vanguard formations as well.

> If so, the theory by (I forget who, Bleibtrau?) that the working class is
> congenitally unable to produce a revolutionary leadership might need
> revisiting, although I don't share it. My own view, which I've expressed
> before, is that the origin of the problem is not to be sought at the
> subjective level, but has to do with the nature of the period, which is the
> way I look at my own experience in the Canadian LSA and RMG. I think, in
> retrospect, it was inevitable that these organizations would develop the
> organizational and political characteristics they did, given the changed
> objective circumstances in which they operated.

These organizations were thrown into a crisis not because of the 
"period" but because of sectarian and ultraleft conceptions that are at 
the heart of such formations. Again, it was not unique to the 
Trotskyists. Max Elbaum describes a similar process in the Maoist milieu 
in his excellent "Revolution in the Air". Generally speaking, 
self-declared Leninist vanguards are ill-equipped to handle periods of 
retreat. They tend to implode. We need a revolutionary movement that can 
operate on the basis of objective conditions rather than wishes. There 
were important movements that the revolutionary movement could have 
related to in the post-1960s period but "workerism" would get in the way 
of relating to environmentalism, the gay movement et al.

> No leadership, Lenin and
> Trotsky included, could have overcome this decisive limitation. Perhaps for
> this reason I'm able to look back with a little more equanimity on my
> relatively brief involvement in these organizations.

It seems to me that you are much more shaped by your 25 years as a trade 
union functionary than this "brief" involvement.


The Marxism list: www.marxmail.org

More information about the Marxism mailing list