[Marxism] A debate with Links over the revolutionary party
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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