[Marxism] RE:The Militant and Who Cares?

Tony Abdo gojack10 at hotmail.com
Mon Mar 29 18:50:23 MST 2004

Jose Perez wrote..
<<I think Marvin Gandall's explanation that the reason so many radical
groups exploded, imploded or became hopeless sects is that objective
conditions were just too unfavorable undoubtedly has a grain of truth to
it -- but only a grain.>>

Actually, I find that 'victory' was the disorientating element for the SWP, 
as I believe it ultimately was for the USSR. To say that conditions are just 
too oppressive for a revolutionary movement to hold together is kind of 
remarkable actually. It is usually precisely those conditions of repression 
that are most favorable to revolutionary organizing. The naked face of 
Rightist brutality is never very appealing for much length of time, and 
people rebel against that.

What revolutionaries have trouble with is power... having it.  Then people 
can begin to resent the socialiists with power... and usually do.  Or, the 
socialists with power can begin to think that that getting more power will 
just naturally flow in their direction, when that is not really the case.  
In both the Sandanistas and the SWP, post US withdrawal from Vietnam, one 
could easily notice a certain arrogance and belief that their successes were 
just natural to have happened, and that the next step would be just as 
successful no matter what action might be taken!

<<The fact is that despite the differences between them, all these groups
suffered from a series of vices that were considered to be the essence
of "Leninism" at the time (and still are, by some). Chief among these is
the idea that "the" party is defined by a sacred doctrine which it must
preserve pure and unadulterated, and of course, at the center of the
doctrine was the dogma of the all knowing party, the cult of the

What we speak of here, is the cult of the 'combat organization'. This is 
most especially a bad model in peace time conditions, but is necessary for 
survival in times of illegality.  It's not the 'patria' being defended as 
with an army, but that sacred political doctrine that Jose mentions..

<<This led, among other things, to these "cadre" formations viewing social
movements and the organizations they gave rise to as "arenas" for
"intervention," groups to be used as manipulated for achieving narrow
party-defined objectives. It is a patriarchal, hierarchical, religious
view of politics and the world revolving around the Leninist Vanguard
that you were so proudly a member of.>>

It is also a tailending, opportunistic view of the world, too. The mindset 
becomes that the party can never do anything on its own, but must only take 
advantage of the work done by others.  So the party leadership is always 
trying to tailend where they think the mass movement will spontaneiously 
begin to form on its own. In the US, the atttitude can become that the 
military can not be opposed, simply because there is no mass movement at the 
given moment to attach the party to. Let's go look at the trade unions 
instead, or even the NAACP, LULAC, etc.

<<It led to horrendous amounts of time and effort devoted to staffing and
distributing party "organs," to narrow "party building" (competing for
market share) being placed ahead of all other considerations, etc. In
the hierarchy of political being, the party was top dog, God the Father
of the political universe.>>

Funny, several have complained about the time spent of 'sales drives'.     
Today, there is no real product to even attempt a sales drive for.     There 
is no Left paper in the US to distribute, so we have lost the learning 
experience of interactiing with the possible, would-be buyer of the 
communist paper.    In my view, this is a real setback.

It was the sale drive that forced comrades to maiintain some touch with 
reality in the old SWP.   Those who sold the paper, had to think about the 
product they had in their hands.  Was it a stinker, or was it a valuable 
tool to make contact with others with?

Jack Barnes turned the Militant into a stinker, and that's why it's now 
hardly worth any discussion about.  This was a real victory for the Barnsian 
bureaucracy!    They turned a paper that had its glaringly noticeable 
deficits, into a rag that was so hopeless as to just devalue entirely the 
effort to even pick it up in one's hands!   One was automatically a mindless 
zombie to even try to read the thing, let alone sell it to others.

But at one time, the paper represented a real potential for the entire 
socialist Left. It could have become a non-sectarian forum for more than 
just the Trot people.  How I remember the sad argumentation about how that 
would supposedly have been a bad thing to attempt! And sadly, nobody really 
attempts this nationally to this day. Though there are some web sites that 
partially attempt a form of minimal nonsectarian dialog, it is not the same 
as trying to build circulation with a newspaper, that can be used to 
approach non-socialists with. Trying to sell the paper gave instant 
feedback, something that CounterPunch, CommonDreams, WSWS, antiwar.com, 
ZNET, etc. will never really have for anybody involved in those projects.

<<The reason it is important to discuss these things is because, if it is
true that working people cannot conceivably achieve political power
through such instruments, it is clear to me, at least, that without
*some sort* of political instrument, without political organization, a
revolution is equally impossible.

I don't think there is any other place to find lessons on what to do and
not do in this arena other than the actual practice of revolutionaries
and the results of that practice.

True. And thanks for pointing out to us, Marta Harnecker's writings in this 
discussion, Jose. There is a lot that is very relevent to us in the US.  
Still, there is much here that is entirely different from conditions in 
Latin America, and blueprints from LA can be just as impossible to use here 
as blueprints from other areas of the world also can be.

While we should reject our ruling class's idea of US exeptionalism, we 
should see clearly that socialists do really confront an exceptional and 
unique political situation here in America. What we do when we organize 
against the US military can be of concrete help to the socialist movement 
world wide. When we organize here in the other social movements, the effect 
is not so explosive if and when we have our little successes in those 
arenas. It pays big dividends to have a good strategic focus to where we 
spend the majority of our efforts. And to focus in the wrong areas can be 
very detrimental to building a revolutionary organization.

Tony Abdo

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