[Marxism] Paul Le Blanc on the SWP crisis

Jim Moody jim at redunity.org.uk
Fri Feb 1 04:33:56 MST 2013

[reply inline / bottom-posted]

on Fri, 1 Feb 2013 07:52:34 +0000, james pitman wrote:
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> ule #1: YOU MUST clip all extraneous text when replying to a message.
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> http://socialistworker.org/2013/02/01/leninism-is-unfinished

Comrade Le Blanc puts forward this encapsulation: 'Freedom of discussion, unity of action remains 
the shorthand definition of Lenin's understanding of democratic centralism.'

What is unclear in his piece, however, are how this freedom of discussion is understood within and 
by the leaderships of revolutionary organisations. As far as I can see, many SWP UK members appear 
to misunderstand this basic question.

Freedom of discussion means very little if it is carried on behind closed doors. In other words, if 
only members of the putative revolutionary body are privy to the discussion, which has to be kept 
from the mass of the working class, poor dears. This is sect behaviour; on this measure, most 
revolutionary organisations easily fall within such a definition.

In fact, behind closed doors discussion has a distinctly negative impact on the development of the 
working class as a class for itself. It stands in the way of the class developing the means to raise 
itself into a position where it has the confidence to challenge the capitalist system. No supposed 
'vanguard' - by definition a minority - has a hope in hell of challenging capitalist rule. Only 
through the overwhelming majority of the working class - which is already the overwhelming majority 
of the population in all advanced capitalist countries - gaining understanding and confidence in its 
own ability and power will we have a hope of advancing the revolution toward socialism.

It is impossible to delineate a line of advance that is as undemocratic as that of most 
revolutionary ('vanguardist') organisations without falling into some variant of putchism. How could 
it be otherwise? These comrades, whether heading the SWP or whatever revolutionary sect on whichever 
continent, are spectacularly uninterested in democracy - in the sense of Marx's 'revolutionary 
democrat' - and are thus doomed to failure. For what militant worker not already ensnared in one of 
their sects would submit to such a diktat that s/he must always parrot the party line? Experience in 
trade unions or, for example, in Britain even the Labour Party would knock that crazy idea on the 
head in short order.

Of course those representing the revolutionary organisation in parliament are there to express what 
the party wants and vote the way the party instructs them. This is one major reason why the party's 
representatives are there. But that is an action, following party discussion in public of what it 
wants to achieve and how.

But to imagine that every time a revolutionary speaks and discusses s/he has to spout the ideas of 
the majority goes against all that is best in the traditions of Marx, Engels, and Lenin. Full and 
frank discussion must include in public, so that the working class can inform itself of the issues 
and arguments fully, not as filtered through some majority organ of the revolutionary 'party'. And 
the idea that factions cannot operate freely within a revolutionary organisations is also anathema 
to revolution - at least one that might succeed. It is a basic tenet of internal democracy - and an 
essential component of democratic centralism - that minorities have the right to exist and fully 
debate, including in public, within a revolutionary organisation. Essential, too, is the right for 
such minorities to be able to work openly within a revolutionary organisation with the aim of 
becoming the majority - without let or hindrance, to adopt a legalistic phrase.

Without such an approach, revolutionary organisations are on a hiding to nothing. And, frankly, they 
deserve to be.

Jim Moody (jim at redunity.org.uk) on 01/02/2013

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