[Marxism] A sectarian approach

Josh Saxe joshsaxe at gmail.com
Wed Nov 9 16:30:39 MST 2005

When I hear people dismiss offhand this or that group of far-left
activists I think of "The Making of the English Working Class" by E.P.
Thompson and other books on class or even race formation (think "Roll,
Jordan, Roll") in the social history tradition.  These historians all
discuss the ways in which working class consciousness and working
class movements in modern history have been built by militants with
off-the-wall, half-crazy, sectarian, messianic, totalitarian or
religious ideologies, ideologies Louis would disagree with much more
than he disagrees with the JSR.  Rarely are grassroots movements of
the bottom rungs built by people without serious ideological hangups
or fuzzy ways of viewing the way society operates - and groups are
usually sectarian and they usually attack each other, even during
times of upheaval and capitalist retreat.  Oftentimes the militants
who have built the most important movements have had at least some
beliefs that might seem crazy and totally counterproductive to us,
think Nation of Islam creation myths about race or understandings of
gender - but just because they did certain counterproductive things
does not mean they didn't have a role to play.

What's important to recognize is that the official ideology of a
group, organization or party never corresponds with the actual social
practice and social role of that organization.  If one were to take
the rhetoric of the CP-USA in its heyday in the 1930's and 1940's at
face value and as the main criteria for judging its importance or
ideological coherence, one could quickly write them off as sectarians
or whatever else, the "one true vanguard party," etc.  But then there
are the facts of the objective role the CP played in building the
unions in this country, building the early contemporary black and
latino movements, etc.  Ultimately we have to look at the work of an
organization to determine its value and potential.  In that light,
_every_ group in, say, the U.S., including the RCP, ANSWER, CP-USA,
PSL, is making a contribution,as is the JSR in Venezuela - not in a
chemically perfect way, maybe in way that includes counterproductive
practices, and not in a way that places them beyond critique but in a
way that reflects the decrepit place in which the far left has found
itself, in which the working class has found itself - we have a
reigning internal disarray, bitterness, division, confusion, lack of
confidence and self-hatred - as the working class does in this period.
 But look at the very least what the JSR is doing in Venezuela:
spreading and popularizing Marxism - isn't that enough to deserve
sympathy and at least critical support?

Until we see another revolutionary breakthrough or serious social
movement we are going to be living with groups that are living in the
world of Cuba, 1959, or Russia, 1917, or China 1949, or whatever else,
but that doesn't mean groups living with outmoded and possibly
discredited theoretical models should be written off, they have a huge
contribution to make.

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