[Marxism] John Molyneux on party democracy

Rosa Lichtenstein rosa.lichtenstein at googlemail.com
Tue Oct 27 16:49:45 MDT 2009

More like not 'understanding' dialectics, Louis!



On Tue, Oct 27, 2009 at 5:20 PM, Louis Proyect <lnp3 at panix.com> wrote:

> In the latest issue of International Socialism, a quarterly put
> out by the British SWP, John Molyneux has an 8600 word article “On
> Party Democracy”  that raises some interesting questions but fails
> to get to the heart of the real problem in self-declared Leninist
> vanguards like the SWP. The real threat to democracy in such
> formations is not ham-fisted bureaucratic interventions, such as
> the kind that typified the American SWP during its sad decline or
> the CPUSA throughout most of its life. It is instead
> self-censorship by the rank and file all the way up to key leaders
> who are very wary of challenging adopted party positions out of
> fear of being tarnished as “petty bourgeois”, not “understanding
> Marxism” and all the other insults that have found their way into
> this political subculture over ninety-plus years. As painful as it
> is to hear yourself addressed in such terms at a party meeting, it
> is even worse to become ostracized as is the fate of most
> dissidents who have the temerity to challenge the wisdom of
> whoever is at the very top of the party hierarchy. In the case of
> groups like the American SWP, this tends to be a single person who
> functions like a virtual pope. In healthier groups, such as the
> British SWP, it tends to be a core of people whose ranks change
> over the years.
> For reasons that are not totally clear to me, Molyneux frames his
> discussion in terms of a response to a German sociologist of the
> early 20th century named Robert Michels who eventually became a
> fascist. Michels, who believed that the abuse of power is a
> function of “the cult of veneration among the masses”, wrote:
> "As the chiefs become detached from the mass they show themselves
> more and more inclined, when gaps in their own ranks appear, to
> effect this not by popular election, but by co-optation, and also
> to increase their own effectiveness wherever possible by creating
> new posts upon their own initiative. There arises in leaders a
> tendency to isolate themselves, to form a sort of cartel, and to
> surround themselves, as it were, with a wall, within which they
> will admit those only who are of their own way of thinking."
> Hmmm, sort of rings a bell, doesn’t it?
> read full article:
> http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2009/10/27/john-molyneux-on-party-democracy/
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