[Marxism] Yes, forming a Trotskyist group is sectarian

Joaquín Bustelo jbustelo at bellsouth.net
Wed Nov 9 22:07:40 MST 2005

Wayne Rossi says, "Unless it is *inherently* sectarian to be Trotskyist,
there is no indication that this is really a 'sectarian approach.'"

I think it is inherently sectarian, not to be a "Trotskyist" --whatever
that means in this day and age, and the evidence is overwhelming that it
can mean just about anything-- but to make that the dividing line in
defining who is in and out of the organization. Just why would it make
sense to organize a *specifically* Trotskyist youth group in Venezuela?
What does that mean? If you view organization as flowing from political
tasks, just what political tasks are there that obligate this structure?

Is there a broad revolutionary youth movement of the revolution as a
whole in Venezuela? If there is, why would one choose to set up a very
narrow specifically Trotskyist Church of St. Leon instead of going
through these experiences with the rest of this generation? If there
*isn't* such a broad group, isn't that what is really called for? 

What setting up a specifically Trotskyist group suggests is that there
is something that only a specifically Trotskyist group can bring to the
revolution, and that this something is the ideology of Trotskyism, or
rather, of this particular denomination of Trotskyanity. This placing of
ideas abstracted from concrete time and place and circumstance at the
center of a political project is not a materialist but an idealist

Moreover, it is in violation of the only precept Marx and Engels ever
formulated on organization, namely that Communists do not form parties
opposed to other working class parties and the political approach behind
that precept, which is laid out at the beginning of the section of the
Communist Manifesto on the relationship between Communists and

"In what relation do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a

"The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other
working-class parties. 

"They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat
as a whole. 

"They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to
shape and mould the proletarian movement."

Nor is there any mystery to exactly what Marx and Engels understood by
this approach, it is clear from the political line that they followed in
their practical activity. Up to the beginning of 1848, they were in an
underground propaganda group called the Communist League. In 1848, with
the ink barely dry on the first printing of the Communist Manifesto, a
revolution broke out in Germany, and Marx, Engels and their friends
dissolved their *specifically communist* organization, the Communist

In his article on the History of the Communist League, Engels explained
that this group of only a few hundred members was too narrow a form
through which to work; an open legal newspaper was a much better
political instrument. And in another piece on Marx and the Neue
Rheinische Zeitung, he has the following very instructive passage: 

"[W]hen we founded a large newspaper in Germany, our banner was
determined as a matter of course. It could only be that of democracy,
but that of a democracy which everywhere emphasized in every point the
specific proletarian character which it could not yet inscribe once for
all on its banner If we did not want to do that, if we did not want to
take up the movement, adhere to its already existing, most advanced,
actually proletarian side and to push it further then there was nothing
left for us to do but to preach communism in a little provincial sheet
and to found a tiny sect instead of a great party of action. But we had
already been spoilt for the role of preachers in the wilderness; we had
studied the Utopians too well for that, nor was it for that we had
drafted our programme."

Note well what Engels says, that they had to become part of the actual
*movement* in order to *push it further* and the alternative was to put
out a sheet preaching communism instead of founding a great party of

This is especially applicable to Venezuela because, as Engels explains
in that article, their tactics in Germany were guided by the concept of
"revolution in permanence" i.e., a process through which the revolution
which began as a national revolution would grow over into a socialist
revolution. (While usually attributed to Trotsky, this concept of
"permanent revolution" --as well as the phrase-- was adapted by Marx and
Engels from the experience of the French Revolution.)

The actual movement in Venezuela is the Chavista movement, its most
advanced wing those who have taken up the discussion launched by Chavez
of creating a socialism for the XXIst Century. But the epoch when what
Trotsky said was the last word in socialist theory and practice is long
gone. In this discussion the input of various revolutionaries since
Trotsky will prove invaluable, and especially those whose circumstances
parallel those of Venezuela more closely than the Russia and Europe of
the first half of the XXth Century do. There is, simply, no
justification TODAY for taking Trotsky and making him the defining
figure of reference in determining who is a revolutionary and who is
not, even if this was valid 70 years ago.

Creating a new party is fundamentally a class question. We have become
so accustomed to this madhouse Left of multiple sects that the reaction
to the news that some other group of 10 or 20 or 50 people is launching
their very own Truly Revolutionary Party in Venezuela is ... the more
the merrier. And of course, what distinguishes this group from all the
others is its interpretation of the specific way some guy who has been
dead 65 years was right about issues that were posed in the decades
before he died. That the slogan "workers of the world, unite!" might
actually have some organizational implications seems to be a thought
that has escaped many comrades.

I ask all the plain Trots, ex-trots, post-trots, neo-trots, orthodox
trots and even the foxtrots on this list to forgive me, but it seems to
me the comrades have learned their Trotskyism from some Stalinist
polemic, where "Trotskyites" are accused of being incorrigible
factionalists and splitters, and they have taken this for good coin. 

Division in the face of the enemy was never an intelligent or
revolutionary strategy. The task in Venezuela is to forge the greatest
possible unity among all revolutionaries and creating one more sect does
not seem to me to make much of a contribution -- at any rate, not a
positive one.

For good or ill, the vanguard of the Venezuelan revolution, the leading
cadres, have already emerged, by and large. If the revolution is going
to continue advancing, a key task is to bring the actual leading
fighters into a common organization of some sort. Anyone who thinks that
organization is going to be one that projects itself as being defined by
its adherence to the figure and ideas of someone who died before even
one member of this layer of advanced fighters began their political
activity is living in a fantasy world. That is a group condemned to
appeal only to a narrow layer of the intelligentsia, the much broader
layer of advanced militants do not approach politics this way, but
rather on the basis of their own lived experience. That is why it is
important to group together the leading fighters, so the lessons of
their own experience can be more fully discussed out and generalized.
And in such a framework, reference to past experiences will be useful,
but by their very nature will play at most a secondary role.


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