[Marxism] A debate with Links over the revolutionary party

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Fri Oct 26 13:21:29 MDT 2007

Since early 2003 there has been an ongoing debate between Links, the 
theoretical magazine of the Australian DSP, and some Marxmail 
subscribers about how to build a revolutionary party.

The debate began in issue 23 with John Percy’s article “Looking 
backward, looking forward: Pointers to building a revolutionary party“. 
Percy, a founder of the DSP along with his brother the late Jim Percy, 
used the American SWP as a model for their group. The Australians broke 
with the American party after it veered off in a sectarian workerist 
direction, but they never renounced the organizational guidelines found 
in James P. Cannon’s writings. Percy’s article is a defense of Cannonism 
against criticisms that I and others on Marxmail–Joaquin Bustelo in 
particular–have made. Percy basically represented us as burnt-out cases:

     The idea of a revolutionary socialist party, or one taking any cues 
from the Bolshevik experience, is also hotly contested in the milieu, 
the “party” of former members of parties, reformed Leninists who’ve seen 
the error of their ways. Many people pass through revolutionary parties, 
here and around the world. The revolution is a great devourer of people, 
that’s a fact, and this can be intense in difficult objective situations 
in which we are pushing uphill. Some comrades tire out, some have bad 
experiences, and some get other priorities in their lives. Most move on, 
some adapt to the prevailing political orthodoxy, but some still haven’t 
settled with their past in the revolutionary party and for a while can 
spend a good part of their political activity attacking their own past 
by attacking those still actively building a party.

     The Marxism List based in the US has many people with this sort of 
background and outlook, who have espoused or developed a description of 
their perspective as “anti-Zinovievist”, although I haven’t seen any 
attempt by them to clearly distinguish themselves from anti-Leninism. 
Really, that’s what they are, even if they feel better hiding behind 

I should add that John Percy is no longer the central leader of the DSP. 
After a prolonged faction fight over perspectives for the Socialist 
Alliance in Australia, Percy was replaced by Peter Boyle. Both Boyle and 
Percy remain convinced, however, that James P. Cannon’s ideas are correct.

When I replied to Percy on Marxmail on June 13, 2003, I reminded him 
that among other things Morris Stein, James P. Cannon’s top lieutenant, 
made a statement at the 1946 SWP convention that is a formula for 

     We are monopolists in the field of politics. We can’t stand any 
competition. We can tolerate no rivals. The working class, to make the 
revolution can do it only through one party and one program. This is the 
lesson of the Russian Revolution. That is the lesson of all history 
since the October Revolution. Isn’t that a fact? This is why we are out 
to destroy every single party in the field that makes any pretense of 
being a working-class revolutionary party. Ours is the only correct 
program that can lead to revolution. Everything else is deception, 
treachery. We are monopolists in politics and we operate like monopolists.

Until the DSP or any other self-declared “vanguard” formation can come 
to terms with this kind of small proprietor mentality that affects all 
such groups, they will never become a true vanguard. A genuinely 
revolutionary party has nothing in common with car rental agencies, fast 
food chains or any other such outfits vying for market share. Fidel 
Castro did not approach Cuban politics this way in 1953 and neither 
should we today. I should add that my ideas on such matters are strongly 
influenced by Peter Camejo, who admitted to me early on that he in turn 
borrowed them from Fidel Castro and V.I. Lenin. Camejo has endeavored 
mostly in vain to persuade the DSP of his approach. You can read his 
appeal to them to break with the American SWP model here.


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