[Marxism] Re: In defence of Jack Barnes

Tom O'Lincoln suarsos at alphalink.com.au
Sat Nov 19 20:06:53 MST 2005

Louis wrote  in reply to me:

>>Actually, the discussion is much wider than Marxmail. Max Elbaum's
book "Revolution in the Air," Freedom Road, DSP rebuttals to me,
exchanges between the SWP in Great Britain and the LCR, etc., etc., have
all been grappling with the problem of how to build revolutionary
parties. While being determines consciousness, there is still the issue
of whether or not the movement should continue to hold on to
counter-productive ideas about party-building. I think that it must
abandon them, whether or not the mass movement picks up steam. In the
1960s, there was a powerful mass movement but it was squandered by
Maoist and Trotskyist sectarianism. We must not repeat the past.<<

Um, as I recall the starting point for this thread was the supposed
power of the internet as opposed to “dead wood”, and whether Marxmail
was more important than the (US) SWP. But isn’t Max Elbaum’s book
printed on paper? Similarly, your appeal to some mildly interesting
debates involving the (British) SWP, LCR and DSP doesn’t exactly prove
the irrelevancy of Leninist cadre groups with their newspapers and

I don’t suppose anyone is for holding onto counter-productive ideas. But
which ideas are productive, and which are counter-productive? This has
to be demonstrated in practice, by what works and what doesn’t, which is
very hard to test right now.

As for the mass movement of the sixties, which I do recall despite the
effect of booze on the old brain cells, I don’t agree that it was
“squandered by Maoist and Trotskyist sectarianism”. The organised,
ideological left currents were too small to be the main cause of the
movement’s decline. Try the end of the Vietnam War, the barriers between
student movements, black communities and rank and file  labour groups;
the recessions of the seventies and consequent labour defeats, the
incorporation of feminism; and the absence of a real mass revolutionary
party to hold things together.  I could document it more precisely for

To the extent that sectarianism was a factor, I hardly think this was
confined to “Leninist” groups. There was lots of cranky behaviour out
there, as my fading clippings from the Berkeley Barb remind me.

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