[Marxism] Reactions to Murray Smith

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon May 16 08:20:32 MDT 2005


I had a chance to read Murray Smith's article in Links #26 
(http://www.dsp.org.au/links/). Basically he takes my side against 
Lorimer's on the question of public debate in the Bolshevik party. Smith 
seems to be all over the map politically. He is a member of the Mandelista 
group in France and the post-Healyite International Committee for the 
Fourth International at the same time! Can this be possible? He was also a 
member of the Scottish Socialist Party.

His article is very useful, but really does not focus so much on what I 
consider to be a deeper problem of "Marxist-Leninist" groups, namely the 
tendency to *suppress oneself* as a reaction to peer pressure. In groups 
like the American SWP, even during the "good old days" when Barry Sheppard 
was a leader, people had all sorts of freedom to write whatever they wanted 
in a internal discussion bulletin (but not, of course, in the Guardian 
newspaper, etc. pace Murray Smith.) However, you were always careful not to 
write something that went against the grain of party wisdom.

For example, in my own instance, I regarded the political assessment of the 
American working class as wildly overprojected in 1977, but would not dare 
criticize it during preconvention discussion since that would mark me as 
"petty bourgeois." I was particularly vulnerable to such a charge because I 
worked as a computer programmer, which in the party at this time was 
tantamount to coming to a branch meeting in a top hat and tails.

Ironically, the question of democracy must be resolved on a higher level if 
a revolutionary party is constructed out of the mass movement, just as 
Lenin's party was. Lenin's party brought together the Marxist leadership 
and rank and file of Russian society. People were not "recruited" to this 
party, but joined it as a giant step forward in challenging Czarist 
repression and the bastardized feudal-capitalist system it defended. In 
such a party, the problem of self-censorship would never present itself 
since the leadership and most of the ranks had come to Marxism on their own 
terms. Somebody like Bukharin was a product of the mass movement, not a 
hand-picked and groomed lieutenant to Lenin. The idea that somebody like 
him (or Trotsky, Preobrezhensky et al) would tailor their remarks in a 
party discussion for "acceptability" was unheard of. That's the kind of 
party we need since challenging the modern-day bourgeoisie requires a party 
of immense internal resources, not hand-raisers.

Links also has an article by the ISO which demonstrates that they are 
grappling with the problem. They state:

"A revolutionary party in the US will not be created solely by the addition 
of members to the ISO until we are of a sufficient size and influence to 
declare ourselves a party. It will likely be built through a process of 
splits, fusions and regroupment of forces as the struggle thrusts up new 
forces and new configurations. The current radicalisation which has begun 
to take shape requires therefore that the ISO now pay much more attention 
to our role in building a broader left and our relationship to other 
organisations and forces on the left."

A highly commendable statement.

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