[Marxism] further on sects and sectarianism
new.wave.nw at gmail.com
Sat Apr 11 23:41:37 MDT 2009
> The letter you forwarded to me, was signed by Radical Notes and not Comrade
> Pratyush. However, it hardly makes a difference. I am not able to understand
> that on the one side you are dissociating yourself from the letter, saying
> that it is not by Radical Notes as you are also part of RN, while at the
> same time you endorse the content of content and position of the letter.
> From revolutionary point of view it is ridiculous to import the statements
> made in particular contexts, segregate them from their context and then
> generalise them, that too without quoting the author, writing or even its
> context. One cannot sing a wedding song at the death ceremony.
> The letter of Karl Marx written to Friedrich Bolte in November 1871, which
> you have referred in your mail, is written in an entirely different
> political context and says something else than what you have concieved. The
> year end of 1871, was the period when the International was just on the
> brink of disintegration. Rather it would be more correct to say that it was
> already disintegrated from inside, as none of the Proudhonists, Lasalleans
> or Bakuninists were anymore interested in the organisation of the
> International. They were striving for its disintegration and instead
> remained interested in development of their own small organisations. They
> were sectarian in view of Marx, and rightly so, as all of them depicted
> the tendency to put their sectarian interests over and above that of the
> International, upto the extent of even torpedoing the same. As Marx had
> pointed this out, specifically in relation to Lasalleans and Bakuninists in
> his letter, that they wanted to have feathers for their own nests, instead
> of serving the interests of International in general. However, there is no
> doubt that Marx himself represented a definite current of thought in his
> times, which as a current was totally opposed to anrchists, populists,
> Mutualists etc. etc. Can we accuse Marx of being sectarian, because he
> represented a specific stream of thought, based upon analyses of historic
> development of the movement? The difference between Karl Marx and his
> contemporaries, i.e. the Proudhonists, Lasalleans and Bakuninists was that
> while Karl Marx was for a broadest possible alliance of working class, an
> International, his contemporaries did not understand the importance of such
> an organisation and put their own sects in opposition to the International.
> As you must see from the letter itself, Karl Marx is not against existence
> of definite currents of thought inside the revolutionary movement. He
> opposes their tendency to split the fighting organisations ofr the sake of
> their limited interests. This is no doubt true. Sects becoming obsolete, is
> a theoretical conjecture and is true in its dynamic sense. Lenin and
> Trotsky, both have written so much on this issue, of unity of working class.
> Trotsky has pointed out that 'the political unity of working class is the
> first ocndition of its upheaval'. Once this political unity is achieved, of
> course sects would be irrelevant and obsolete. The question is as to how
> this political unity can be achieved. Can it be achieved by ignoring all
> historical disputes or by sharpening the debate on those disputes? Those who
> suggest the former have forgotten the revolutionary idea. The point is that
> these disputes must not become a device to divide the struggles of working
> class. The issue against the pernicious working of sects inside the
> International was correct, as was raised by Karl Marx, but the same argument
> which Narodniks raised against Plekhanov in 1880's was meaningless and
> harmful. It is the sharp ideological struggle among the sects and currents,
> which would lead to broader agreement among them and consequently a real and
> not artificial unity among the working class and its movement. To stand on
> firm legs in politics and ideology is not sectarianism, to refuse to march
> on them, definitely is. Merely because one holds a definite position in the
> disputes of political and historical importance, he cannot be termed as
> 'sectarian'. On the contrary, only those, who do not have any ideas at all,
> take position over and above the historic and political disputes on the
> questions of crucial importance.
> As for ourselves we must say that for the sake of struggles of working
> class, we are ever ready to join hands even with the devil, not to mention
> Stalinists and Maoists, whom we deem the worst enemies of socialism. We
> openly declare ourselves in favour of any an all attempts of uniting the
> forces of working class for the sake of advancing the struggle. In that we
> do not deem anyone to be un-touchable. The broadest the platform, the more
> advantageous to the cause of working class. Tell us where are the people
> ready to join hands with us? The real 'sectarians' declare us
> 'Trotskyites-the renegades' and thus untouchables. You would not be able to
> point out a single instance where we have refused to work with other
> political trends, whether it was issue of re-location of industries from
> Delhi, local struggles in and around Delhi, the Graziano, the Rudrapur
> Struggle etc. etc. In these struggles we do not ask political affiliations
> or even identity of fighters. For us the most important thing is the zeal to
> But this all does not mean that in our political-ideological struggle we
> should not adhere to definite political ideas and shpuld not represent a
> definite trend, based upon the achivements of modern science and lessons of
> history. In that we are not ready to give even an iota of concession. Are we
> really sectarian? if that is your view we are hapless!
> So far as the issue of comrade Pratyush and other comrades in Radical Notes
> is concerned, in our opinion they are honest and sincere comrades, who have
> dared to seek a more innovative path, by detaching themselves from the old
> perspectives. We have all comradely regard for them. However, in setting the
> tone of debate on ideological issues we would not like to artificially mild
> it down, and this is what we expect from our comrades at Radical Notes also.
> Debate on ideology must go sharp, wihtout concessions, even if it apprently
> appears to be ruthless and merciless. This is the only way we know of
> debates among the revolutionaries and in our opinion this is the only
> comradely way. We repeat, we have all love and comradely regard for our
> colleagues associated to revolutionary movement, who have given their lives
> and energies for the cause of working class.
> On Sat, Apr 11, 2009 at 7:40 PM, satyabrata <satyabrata at radicalnotes.com>wrote:
>> The comment that you had received was not from radical notes as a whole.
>> It was from com. Pratyush Chandra. Any alleggation, hence, should be
>> directed to com. Pratyush in particular and not Radical Notes, of which I am
>> equally a part, in general. I would like to write a few words for com.
>> Pratyush and then Radical Notes.
>> I met com. Pratyush for the first time in Orissa when he had come to
>> organise rural labourers who were disintegrating being fearful of State
>> MacArthyzation and were about to join the reactionary parties like BJP, etc.
>> It is because of his sincere attempts that they, till today, are not with
>> them and now understand things from a working class perspective. So, com.
>> Pratyush is neither an outside viewer, as you would call him, to the
>> revolutionary struggle, though he never has claimed any brand name within
>> the working class movement nor is he non-comittal as is evident from his
>> risking his own security for the working class movement.But, you are welcome
>> to critique him, but only him, because of his letter.
>> Radical Notes doesnt claim to be a homogenised party and has constantly
>> been critical of appearing as another among a hundred sects that have
>> emerged within the working class movement. Radical Notes' approach to every
>> sincere sect is revolutionary and critical and it is internal to every sect.
>> Its ambition is to facilitate the debates on burning issues within the sects
>> so that the "supreme mission" of class struggle is facilitated rather it
>> being taken aback due to the tendences of the sects to remain as sects(and
>> hence "reactionary"). The portion by com. Pratyush that you have quoted and
>> criticised is actually an abstract of Marx's letter to Fredrich Bolte which
>> gives an understanding of sectism inside the working class. I'm sending the
>> full letter to you. Personally, I defend com. Pratyush's stand on sectism. I
>> would rather take the side of the working class that side with any sect that
>> imposes itself on the workers.
>> Marx-Engels Correspondence 1871
>> Marx to Friedrich Bolte
>> In New York Abstract
>> Written: November 23, 1871;
>> Source: *Marx and Engels Correspondence*;
>> Publisher: International Publishers (1968);
>> First Published: *Gestamtausgabe*;
>> Translated: Donna Torr;
>> Transcribed: Sally Ryan<http://www.marxists.org/admin/volunteers/biographies/sryan.htm>in 1999;
>> HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.
>> [London,] November 23, 1871
>> The International<http://www.marxists.org/glossary/orgs/f/i.htm#first-international>was founded in order to replace the Socialist or semi-Socialist sects by a
>> real organisation of the working class for struggle. The original Statutes
>> and the Inaugural Address show this at the first glance. On the other hand
>> the Internationalists could not have maintained themselves if the course of
>> history had not already smashed up the sectarian system. The development of
>> the system of Socialist sects and that of the real workers' movement always
>> stand in inverse ratio to each other. So long as the sects are
>> (historically) justified, the working class is not yet ripe for an
>> independent historic movement. As soon as it has attained this maturity ail
>> sects are essentially reactionary. Nevertheless what history has shown
>> everywhere was repeated within the International. The antiquated makes an
>> attempt to re-establish and maintain itself within the newly achieved form.
>> And the history of the International was a continual struggle on the part
>> of the General Council against the sects and amateur experiments which
>> attempted to assert themselves within the International itself against the
>> genuine movement of the working class. This struggle was conducted at the
>> Congresses, but far more in the private dealings of the General Council with
>> the individual sections.
>> In Paris, as the Proudhonists<http://www.marxists.org/glossary/terms/p/r.htm#proudhonism>(Mutualists) were co-founders of the Association, they naturally had the
>> reins in their hands there for the first years. Later, of course,
>> collectivist, positivist, etc., groups were formed in opposition to them.
>> In Germany--the Lassalle<http://www.marxists.org/glossary/people/l/a.htm#lassalle>clique. I myself went on corresponding for two years with the notorious
>> Schweitzer and proved irrefutably to him that Lassalle's organisation is
>> nothing but a sectarian organisation and as such hostile to the organisation
>> of the *genuine* workers' movement striven for by the International. He
>> had his "reasons" for not understanding this.
>> At the end of 1868 the Russian, Bakunin<http://www.marxists.org/glossary/people/b/a.htm#bakunin>,
>> entered the *International* with the aim of forming inside it a *second
>> International* called the *"Alliance of Social-Democracy," with himself
>> as leader.* He--a man devoid of theoretical knowledge--put forward the
>> pretension that this separate body was to represent the scientific
>> propaganda of the International, which was to be made the special function
>> of this second *International within the International.*
>> His programme was a superficially scraped together hash of Right and
>> Left--EQUALITY Of CLASSES (!), *abolition of the right of inheritance as
>> the starting point* of the social movement (St. Simonistic nonsense), *atheism
>> as a dogma* to be dictated to the members, etc., and as the main dogma *(Proudhonist),
>> abstention from the political movement.*
>> This infant's spelling-book found favour (and still has a certain hold) in
>> Italy and Spain, where the real conditions of the workers' movement are as
>> yet little developed, and among a few vain, ambitious and empty doctrinaires
>> in French Switzerland and Belgium.
>> For Mr. Bakunin <http://www.marxists.org/glossary/people/b/a.htm#bakunin>the theory (the assembled rubbish he has scraped together from
>> Proudhon <http://www.marxists.org/glossary/people/p/r.htm#proudhon>, St.
>> Simon, etc.) is a secondary affair--merely a means to his personal
>> self-assertion. If he is a nonentity as a theoretician he is in his element
>> as an intriguer.
>> For years the General Council had to fight against this conspiracy (which
>> was supported up to a certain point by the French Proudhonists, especially
>> in the *south of France).* At last, by means of Conference resolutions I
>> (2) and (3), IX, XVI, and XVII, it delivered its long prepared blow.
>> Obviously the General Council does not support in America what it combats
>> in Europe. Resolutions I (2) and (3) and IX now give the New York committee
>> legal weapons with which to put an end to all sectarian formations and
>> amateur groups and if necessary to expel them.
>> The New York Committee will do well to express its full agreement with the
>> decisions of the Conference in an *official communication to the General
>> Bakunin, personally threatened in addition by Resolution XIV (publication
>> in *Égalité* of the Netchaev trial) which will bring to light his
>> infamous doings in Russia, is making every possible effort to get a protest
>> started against the Conference among the remnants of his followers.
>> For this purpose he has got into contact with the demoralised section of
>> the French political refugees in Geneva and London (a numerically weak
>> section, anyway). The slogan given out is that the Geneva Council is
>> dominated by *Pan-Germanism* (especially Bismarckism). This refers to the
>> * unpardonable* fact that I am by birth a German and do actually exercise
>> a decisive intellectual influence on the German Council. (N.B. The *
>> German* element on the Council is two-thirds weaker *numerically *than
>> either the *English* or the *French.* The crime therefore consists in the
>> fact that the English and French elements are dominated by the German
>> element where *theory* is concerned (!) and find this domination, i.e.,
>> German science, very useful and indeed indispensable.)
>> In Geneva, under the patronage of the bourgeois Madame Andrée Léo (who at
>> the Lausanne Congress was shameless enough to denounce Ferré to his
>> executioners in Versailles), they have published a paper,* La Révolution
>> Sociale,* which conducts arguments against us in almost literally the
>> same words as the *Journal de Genève,* the most reactionary paper in
>> In London they attempted to establish a French section, of whose
>> activities you will find an example in No. 42 of *Qui Vive?* which I
>> enclose. (Also the number which contains the letter from our French
>> Secretary, Seraillier). This section, consisting of twenty people (including
>> a lot of spies), has not been recognised by the General Council, but another
>> much more numerous section has been.
>> Actually, despite the intrigues of this bunch of scoundrels, we are
>> carrying on great propaganda in France--and in Russia, where they know what
>> value to place on Bakunin and where my book on capital is just being
>> published in Russian....
>> *N.B. as to political movement:* The political movement of the working
>> class has as its object, of course, the conquest of political power for the
>> working class, and for this it is naturally necessary that a previous
>> organisation of the working class, itself arising from their economic
>> struggles, should have been developed up to a certain point.
>> On the other hand, however, every movement in which the working class
>> comes out as a class against the ruling classes and attempts to force them
>> by pressure from without is a political movement. For instance, the attempt
>> in a particular factory or even a particular industry to force a shorter
>> working day out of the capitalists by strikes, etc., is a purely economic
>> movement. On the other hand the movement to force an eight-hour day, etc.,
>> *law* is a *political* movement. And in this way, out of the separate
>> economic movements of the workers there grows up everywhere a *political*movement, that is to say a movement of the
>> *class,* with the object of achieving its interests in a general form, in
>> a form possessing a general social force of compulsion. If these movements
>> presuppose a certain degree of previous organisation, they are themselves
>> equally a means of the development of this organisation.
>> Where the working class is not yet far enough advanced in its organisation
>> to undertake a decisive campaign against the collective power, i.e., the
>> political power of the ruling classes, it must at any rate be trained for
>> this by continual agitation against and a hostile attitude towards the
>> policy of the ruling classes. Otherwise it will remain a plaything in their
>> hands, as the September revolution in France showed, and as is also proved
>> up to a certain point by the game Messrs. Gladstone<http://www.marxists.org/glossary/people/g/l.htm#gladstone>& Co. are bringing off in England even up to the present time.
>> 1871 Letters<http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/letters/index.htm>| Letters
>> Archive <http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/letters/index.htm> | Marx
>> Engels Internet Archive <http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/index.htm>
>> On 4/9/09, new wave <new.wave.nw at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> Comrade Satyabrata,
>>> In our comment to Dipankar's article, we had only made a humble attempt
>>> to set right the incorrect projection of the perspectives and trends which
>>> had come to clash with each other in Russian revolution. We are unable to
>>> appreciate 'sectarianism' in that, as is pointed out by Radical Notes, in
>>> their mail to you, which you redirected to us for our comments.
>>> let me reproduce the relevant portion here, for conveneinece of
>>> there can be no (re)concilliation between these sectists - whether
>>> "genuine-s" (who
>>> specialise in finding the "bogus"-es) or otherwise. However, the
>>> beauty of Marx(ist) praxis lies in its foundation and refoundation in
>>> the day/night struggles of the working class - in learning in and with
>>> it - in its successes and failures, in all its contradictions, not in
>>> one-sided purities.
>>> "The development of the system of Socialist sects and that of the real workers'
>>> movement always stand in inverse ratio to each other. So long
>>> as the sects are (historically) justified, the working class is not
>>> yet ripe for an independent historic movement. As soon as it has
>>> attained this maturity all sects are essentially reactionary.
>>> Nevertheless what history has shown everywhere [is time-and-again]
>>> repeated. The antiquated makes an attempt to re-establish and maintain
>>> itself within the newly achieved form."
>>> Whether 'genuine' or 'bogus', bombard all headquarters
>>> However, the short comment by Radical Notes, brings to the forth a
>>> question in ideology for those who are not only spectators, but active
>>> participants in the revolutionary movement of their times. Radical Notes
>>> says that the presence of 'sects' is the beauty of the movement and their
>>> existence is the sign of immaturity of the working class movement
>>> - So radical notes has presented the issue in a manner which not only
>>> segregates the 'political sects' from working class movement in general, but
>>> puts them as anethema to working class movement. It says that the very
>>> presence of 'sects' is demonstrative of immaturity of the working class
>>> movement. How this has to be understood? With the march of history, the
>>> 'sects' ripe and contradictions among them get deepened and sharpened and
>>> finally attain their maturity in their endorsement, in positive or negative,
>>> by the historic events itself. For example, the Leninist-Trotskyist
>>> 'sect' found endorsement for its perspectives in positive in success of the
>>> Russian Revolution, and in the negative in failure of the Chinese
>>> Revolution. But 'sects' were after all sects, and the development of Russian
>>> Revolution is inseparable from the disputes and clashes of these 'sects'.
>>> Contrary to understanding of 'radical notes', the conflicts between
>>> these 'sects' only become more and more sharp with maturity of the working
>>> class movement, and the 'sects' do not subside with advance of revolution,
>>> rather they get more mature and perfected. They present the real ledger
>>> of development of working class movement. In any case they are not anethema
>>> to the movement of working class, as 'radical notes' thinks.
>>> Radical Notes says that the "*beauty of Marx(ist) praxis lies in its
>>> foundation and refoundation in the day/night struggles of the working class
>>> - in learning in and with it - in its successes and failures, in all its
>>> contradictions, not in one-sided purities".*
>>> The difficulty is that Radical Notes cites this 'beauty in
>>> contradictions' to propose to put the eggs in all baskets at a time. Beauty
>>> lies in all contradictions, thus don't take sides, don't make or join the
>>> sects. Bolshevism and Menshevism, both represent that beauty, Leninism,
>>> Trotskyism and Stalinism all are embodiments of that great beauty, thus it
>>> is owrthless to take sides. This is what 'radical notes' suggests. Damn with
>>> history, damn with historical disputes, bombard all headquarters- shouts the
>>> Laughs the revolutionary activist, saying, the whole matter is of these
>>> 'sects', which represent the tangible 'beauty in contradiction' and in which
>>> all real and practical activists take their sides, get to trenches, to
>>> bombard the headquarters of others, 'not all headquarters'.
>>> From the post-modernist standpoint of radical notes, one must enjoy the
>>> beauty of contradictions of the movement, 'without taking sides', because
>>> sects are after all 'sectarian' while the workers movement is non-sectarian.
>>> The call is not only to dissociate oneself from the historical disputes, but
>>> to segregate oneself from the debates of his own times. 'let the hundred
>>> flowers bloom' and let us only wander on the flower bed.
>>> Radical Notes must understand that the entire battle between different
>>> trends and shades, manifested through the 'sects', is impelled by the notion
>>> of 'one sided purity' and could not be otherwise. The dififculty with
>>> post-modernists, in contrast to the revolutionary marxists is that
>>> they intermingle the 'objective' with 'subjective'. The corollary of their
>>> arguments comes this way: 'Why to take sides in the debate if the earth
>>> is round or square, it is sectarian, boambard all sects. After all the
>>> growth of science itself would resolve this debate'.
>>> Confused 'radical notes' wants to sell its confusion to revolutionary
>>> activists, especially the new ones, the youth and students, which it thinks
>>> may be the takers for its 'ideas'.
>>> The contradictions inside the revolutionary movement, reflect themselves
>>> first and foremost in the embodiment of 'sects' in which the advanced and
>>> conscious layers of working class stand divided and clash with each other
>>> more and more sharply with advance of the revolution.
>>> Those who keep themselves at bay from these disputes, which
>>> provide life-blood to the revolutionary movement, in fact want to keep their
>>> hands free, and remain non-committal, in the name of
>>> 'non-sectarian'. This cannot be the path for those who really want to
>>> 'participate' in the revolution, instead of enjoying its beauty, while
>>> sitting on the shores.
>>> -- New Wave
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