[Marxism] Re: for Marxists, quitting is not an option

Ben Courtice benj2006 at optusnet.com.au
Wed Dec 6 13:41:29 MST 2006

Joaquin wrote:
"And I know this isn't a Soli-only phenomenon, in today's left, people do
talk "out of school" even if just in a "shop talk" kind of way. Local units
of other groups have experienced a similar downturn. I can't speak to how
generalized (perhaps others on this list will want to contribute), but I
suspect that the sort of questioning of perspectives, or the challenging of
a lack of real perspectives rooted in U.S. realities, that Stan represents
in relation to his former group is more generalized."


"In at least the couple of decades that Soli has existed, if not the longer 
period where the "rank and file strategy" work has been going on, not a 
single worker has been recruited to Solidarity directly out of a union or 
workplace through their collaboration with our comrades in this work."

I think a lot of this thread revolves around the difficulty of having 
something to say to the "average worker" or whatever when there are no 
struggles occurring for them to relate to and us to base our propaganda 
on. Unless we try to generate our own struggles -- which, given the 
current size of the left, will be either very perfunctory and small, or 
very localised. In Australia currently things are clearly different from 
Bustelo's description: the unions are organising a mass campaign (albeit 
badly, and mainly to support the Labor Party fakirs). The Socialist 
Alliance has recruited a number of rank-and-file militants out of the 
ongoing struggle here, and several have also joined the DSP (and no 
doubt the other Marxist tendencies are having similar experience).

Bustelo notes (in relation to anti-racist work) a "downturn" in party 
units' organising. This is an ongoing phenomenon for us. I think it's a 
function of the relationship between optimism of the will and pessimism 
of the intellect -- and a weakening of the former perhaps -- in the wake 
of the War on Terror and its associated assault on liberal thought and 
workers rights. After the Iraq invasion everyone knows a lot of the left 
contracted drastically and many became demoralised. Many are still set 
on the trajectory established then -- towards more inward looking 
groups, towards less activity, towards searching for allies on the right 
of the movement, towards more abstracted propaganda, and so on. (some, 
notably Socialist Alternative, have always had the latter approach, 
never having identified any upturn in struggle -- they believe that the 
struggle has been at a very low point for years, and base their 
organisation on a very propaganda-oriented routine; wrongly in my view).

However, for me in the Socialist Alliance and DSP, our perspective is 
being vindicated as the mass struggles (which are at a relatively low 
level, but not plummeting downward anymore) are providing a positive 
environment in which to build the broadly class-struggle based politics 
of the SA, and to recruit individually to a Marxist cadre training 
organisation, i.e. the DSP. This has been the case since at least the 
Lebanon war sparked mass protests by the middle eastern immigrant 
community. The mass union protests have been ongoing for 18 months 
(although declining slowly); there was recently a mass "walk against 
warming" street protest called by environment NGOs; and in some areas 
union picket lines are a regular occurrence.

It's not all rosy, but for those trying to build a class-struggle 
organisation, it's not relegated to the sort of abstract 
vanguardism/loose networking dichotomy, that Bustelo (rightly or 
wrongly) categorises the US left in.

There is however a lag between events and consciousness. Hence the 
continuing currents toward abstention and opportunism that I mention 
above; hence the weakness in the "party units" and mass oriented 
organising among the revolutionary left. But we've passed the nadir we 
experienced after the invasion of Iraq.

Ben Courtice

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