[Marxism] Paul LeBlanc: Why I Am Joining the ISO

Carrol Cox cbcox at ilstu.edu
Thu Oct 29 11:58:34 MDT 2009

Mark Lause wrote:
> It has never been clear to me why
> an organization formed around the idea of a regroupment on the far left
> would not do so.  In practical terms, members are looking to accomplish many
> of the same goals, and the historic differences on how one characterizes the
> former USSR or the present Cuba are not an obstacles to being in a common
> organization in the US.
> But I would certainly be interested in hearing thoughts on this....

I would like to focus on this concept of _regroupment on the far left_.

I think it highly fortunate that those aiming at this have so wholly
failed, and it is my hope that they continue to fail. Efforts at
regroupment make sense only on the assumption that a left movement
rquires a hegemonic party at its center. Fortunately that was not the
case in the 1960s, and I believe its absence was an essential
precondition for the great achievements of that period. Whether one
thinks in terms of a mass movement for reforms or revolution (and the
two are not as separate as is someimes thought), it is impossible to
maintain democracy with a single large party dominating all aspects of
the movement.

For one thing, it is necessary to get rid of what might be called
"World-View Marxism," which has hampered Marxist activity thrughout the
200th century. I submitted a brief undeveloped post a couple years ago
suggesting that the heart of Marxism proper should be Marx's critique of
political economy, as developed in the Grundrisse, Capital, and Theories
of Surplus Value. (I also noted that diffrent historical trends in
Marsixm differed rather harply in their interpretation of that Critque.
For example, several posters on this list still hold grimly to FROP as
an economic law, building huge fantasies on that that are little better
than extablishment econ in understanding current conditions.) That
Critique (and I agree with Moishe Postone that  what Marx provided was a
Critque of Political Economy, not a Critical Political Economy or
"Economic System") allows us to see capitalism as history, not as some
evil conspiracy of bad capitalists. It leads to recognition of the
_necessity_ of socialist revolution, though it does not establish the
possibility/probability of such revolution or even of success, following
a successful revoluton, of building a socialist future. Only the future
can answer those questions, and the task of the present is to smash
capitalism. (Note that the assumption that all history leads to an
inevitable socialist future (a version of the bourgeois myth of
Progress) norishes the lulling belief that we can move step by step to
communism: that if we get a "public opition" today, then we will get
"single payer" tomorrow, and all these steps will lead us to the
overthrow of capitalism. I saw a pretty little daydream somewhere in
print or on the web recetnly in which someone thought socialists should
fight for a "public opption" just because it would be nice to "defeat
the Right" on some issue.

Marx's Critique was and remains absolutely solid. But outside that
critique we have the endlessly suggestive and powerful observations of a
great thinker, but we do NOT have any internally consistent World View
which we can either sdwallo whole or build on to provide an answer to
all possible questions of histoyr, of political organization, of the
details of socialism, of epistemology, anthropology, and so forth. I
know of no more powerful thinker on these subjects, but  still we can
assume that he (and we) are wrong on many of the topics covered. A great
deal of thinking remains necessary for us and for our descendants.

(In what follows I assume that a revolution, or more properly, an
insurrection, must be seen as a suddent expansion or bubble of a large
mass socvial movement or collection of social movements such as we saw
in the '60s. More on that below.)

The revolution will not be led by a single hegemonic party but by a
(probably extensive and varied) collection parties, special-interest
grouips, local and regional coalitions, etc. There will not even be a
central coalition, though larger and more inclusive coalitions will at
leasst temporarily emerge for various special purposes. Most left
organizations will do better with a leavening of Marxists in the
membership, but there is no recipe for that which can be established ina
advance. Our movment is a SOCIALIST, not a Marist, movment, in which
Marxism , in any of its score of variatios, is only one element, even in
the leadership. (Marxists, but not only Marxists, should be able
constantly in the midst of specific or local struggles see the interest
of the whole -- a good idea in the Communist Manifesto still good today
-- but it does not imply, at any level, a leadership made up only of

Contingency remains of overwhelming importance in human affairs. After
all it was a stray asteroid destroyng the world of the diosaurs that
made possible the emergence of mammals and hence ultimately of humans,
and contingency remains as important in social history as in biological
history, which is why I am deliberately vague in references to the
future. Crystal-ball gazing does not become revolutionaries. And that is
one more reason we do not want a single hegemonic Party in which single
trends, regardless of efforts at democracy) will become dominant, and
thus infect the whole mass movement, cutting off richly rewarding
possibilities of issues, tactcis, and organzational forms. Despite the
SWP's attempt to stifle political development not under its control,
through its single-issue sstrategy in the Anti-War Movement, political
growth occurred in local groups not linked to any center, in SDS, in the
Panthers, in DRUM, in SCLC, in SNCC, and (yes) among the hated
'Stalinists' and their laundry list of issues. And a great deal of
"non-political" or even "anti-political" activity in fact contributed
greatly to an atmosphere which gave thrust and context to the political
formations of the period. The '60s will never occur again (history never
repeats itself), but until something better comes along that huge bundle
of trenes and organizations represents our best temporary image of what
a future revolutionary period will look like. And for the present, ISO &
Solidarity will, I thik, contribute far more to future politics than
they would combined in a single organization. Separate groups can always
cooperate in temporary coalitions on particular goals.


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