[Marxism] marxmail and the 'crisis'

Amaral1871 at aol.com Amaral1871 at aol.com
Sat Nov 19 19:48:08 MST 2005

Louis explains that the 'crisis' to which Marxmail is better suited to 
provide an answer is centered on “the discussion about what Lenin meant”; a 
discussion that will help

 “the scattered independent Marxists in the USA and
the saner of the party members…find a way to launch a new party that has 
absorbed the lessons of the past, which basically involve overcoming sectarian 
errors. These errors can be understood as idealist flaws in the application of 
Marxism, which usually revolve around fetishizing the"correct program". They 
also involve schematic understandings of the Bolshevik party.”

I am, in general, very much in agreement with what Louis characterizes as 
'idealist flaws in the application of Marxism',   the fetishisation of the 
program, and 'schematic understandings' of Party that plague much of the 
revolutionary left. I put the epistemological problem - i.e. where does our knowledge of 
the strategic path forward derive from; how does the revolutionary 
organization facilitate this understanding; how does it (this knowledge) condition our 
relationship to the movements; how is it conditioned by the movements? - at the 
center of the 'crisis' we are discussing. A crisis that became all the more 
obvious at a moment of defeat, retreat and confusion ( the period from the late 

The idea that a small and generally isolated (from the movements) 
'leadership' might consistently have (exclusive) access to the 'truth' about the way 
forward is a travesty of Marxism. This isn't just a function of idealist 
programmatic constructions ( the typical ortho-Trot deviation) but also one of vulgar 
materialism (idealism's dialectical partner) i.e. the 'scienticism' of 
Marxism-Leninism ( typical Stalinist-Maoist deviation). 

We all agree on the need for organization. I believe ultimately that an 
understanding of the crisis provides a number of 'principles' for reconstructing a 
critical Marxism to anchor that organsation: For one, the absolute centrality 
of internal organisational democracy and the fight for democratic functioning 
within united front/ grassroots structures; second, taking seriously the idea 
that building the left and building 'the party' can't be counter-posed; third, 
ensuring to as great a degree as possible, an organic relationship between 
the revolutionary organisation and the workers' and popular movements. 

I realize that there is much (very much) to be unpacked here. However, my 
point goes to whether a list serve   - a place to share ideas outside of and 
apart from a shared experience of struggle (within the movements and especially 
within an organization) - is the best to help resolve the crisis under 
discussion. This is not a crisis that can just be thought through. I know this is an 
obvious point. But Louis characterized the Marxmail enterprise as one that is “
much more important” in resolving that crisis than the enterprise engaged in by 
those of us building explicitly revolutionary socialist, Leninist 
organizations. I disagree. 

For full disclosure I am a member of the ISO. And I don't think the ISO is 
unique in regard to taking very seriously, and trying to resolve the 'crisis' 
while not giving up the centrality of organization building/ left building/ 
movement building. (Nor, BTW, do I think the revolutionary party will simply be 
the ISO with more members.) Perhaps Louis meant that Marxmail was better suited 
than the SWP, as presently constituted, to address the crisis. (If that is 
all, I have a membership card for him to sign.) But I think he was making a 
broader point. And here is the irony: that somehow a cyberspace forum of ideas, 
qualitatively at a remove from the materiality of the class struggle and the 
movements, has a “much more important” role to play in resolving a 'crisis' -   
characterised by an idealist Marxist revisionism about 'what Lenin [and Marx, 
Trotsky etc.] meant' - than the Leninist organizations he seems to be 

in struggle,
aaron a.

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