[Marxism] Paul Le Blanc on the SWP crisis

Omar Hassan sherrife at gmail.com
Fri Feb 1 16:20:08 MST 2013

I'm gonna throw into this mix an article made by Corey Oakley of Socialist
Alternative in the most recent Marxist Left Review, which makes a positive
case for a revolutionary socialist organisation of a new (old?) type - an
agreement and articulation of clear Marxist principles without the various
Trotskyist shibboleths (which fits with Le Blanc's call for a party based
on the Communist Manifesto), an organisation with plenty of room for
disagreement about tactics and strategy within that, an organisation that
holds democracy up as an absolute central component of its functioning, an
organisation that can look reality in the face and act accordingly.

I would also encourage comrades to check the appendix, which contains the
new statement of principles for the organisation which was voted up at our
last conference.  Finally, the edition also contains an article about
so-called 'Leninism' written by Sandra Bloodworth (hint: like Le Blanc, she
concludes that most of what is taken for Leninism is utter garbage).

>From his introduction:

"The move towards a fusion of Socialist Alternative and the Revolutionary
Socialist Party (RSP) has opened up an extensive discussion on the
Australian left about questions of left unity, socialist regroupment, and
what kind of organisation the left needs.

This discussion is of no small importance. The global capitalist crisis has
confirmed in spades the Marxist analysis of the system, and the argument
for its overthrow. The bitter and heroic struggles against austerity waged
by workers in many countries, and the Arab revolutions which continue to
unfold, demonstrate that it is possible to resist, that in spite of decades
of ideological and organisational retreat the social forces that Marxists
look to as agents of revolution are far from exhausted. But the last few
years have also highlighted one other point: the socialist left is a long
way from equal to the challenge set for us by the objective situation. Two
decades after the fall of Stalinism, and almost four decades since the
beginning of the long decline of social democracy, the radical left has not
been able to fill the gap.

There are of course, partial exceptions. In Greece, the rise of Syriza has
opened major opportunities for the far left, although there are still many
tests before it and the outcome is anything but certain. In Venezuela, the
development of the revolutionary process has given cause for enormous hope.
But the hard truth is that in most countries, particularly in the West,
socialist forces, let alone *revolutionary* socialist forces, remain
extremely weak.

In Australia, the global economic crisis has not yet impacted with anything
like the ferocity that has been seen elsewhere. But we still face an
ongoing ruling class assault on workers’ security and living standards, on
union rights, on the health, education and welfare systems, all in the name
of a neoliberalism that is embraced by both major parties. Refugees,
Aborigines, and other oppressed groups continue to be subject to savage
assaults on their rights. The union leadership remains timid and
accommodating, and shows no interest in organising a working class
fightback. The Greens – who many put up as a possible alternative to the
failures of Labourism – have shifted sharply to the right since they
entered a de facto coalition government with Labor in 2010. Here, as around
the world, the challenge for the left is to build a new socialist movement
that can lead a real fightback and provide an alternative to the failures
and betrayals of other political currents.

But the urgency of the situation facing us – the self-evident need for a
party with mass influence – can easily lead to disastrous errors. There is
a strong pressure on socialists to try to find shortcuts to a bigger and
more powerful organisation – shortcuts that end up only weakening the
revolutionary forces.

For many decades during the last century, revolutionary Marxists were an
embattled minority, overshadowed by strong Communist, Maoist and
left-reformist currents in the labour movement. Since the decline of these
forces in the 1980s, and then their collapse with the fall of the USSR, the
revolutionary left has been faced with the difficult situation of
simultaneously being the only real socialist voice in Australian politics,
but still being far too weak to fill the vacuum left by the disintegration
of Stalinism and the Labor left.

Attempts to overcome this situation – driven by entirely understandable
motives – led to various get-rich-quick schemes, all of which ended in
disaster. The International Socialist Organisation (ISO), from which
Socialist Alternative originated, was wracked by a bitter split in the
1990s over debates about how to build in this new
long term result was the collapse of the ISO and the loss of hundreds of
committed socialists to the revolutionary movement. The other main far left
organisation, the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP), which was in fact
considerably bigger than the ISO, was wracked by a split a decade later
when the Socialist Alliance project failed to live up to the expectations
set for it. Again, a considerable number of people (including a number who
had been regalvanised in the initial phase of the Alliance) were lost to
socialist politics.

Socialist Alternative has no intention of repeating the mistakes of the
past in our current proposals about left regroupment. The last thing the
Australian left needs is another over-inflated, unrealistic scheme that
blows up in a year or two. On the other hand, we feel it is incumbent on us
to do what we can to unite what forces there are on the Australian left
that are serious about building a fighting socialist organisation. That
process entails a reassessment of the divisions of the past and present: an
examination of which points of disagreement are barriers to unity and which
are not. The process of moving towards unity with the RSP, and of welcoming
into our ranks comrades who were former leaders of the DSP and have a
different history and tradition from ours, has given us confidence that
such a project is not only realistic, but an exciting opportunity to try to
unite the key currents of revolutionary Marxism in Australia into a single

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