[Marxism] Australian IST group uncritically backs the SWP CC

Joaquín Bustelo jbustelo at gmail.com
Tue Feb 19 21:35:31 MST 2013


On 2/18/2013 6:09 PM, Omar Hassan wrote:
> The Australian IST grouplet Solidarity has come out slavishly supporting
> the SWP CC.
I am flabbergasted that halfway across the world, and in the opposite 
hemisphere from Britain, an Aussie group feels moved to issue an 
official political line statement backing the British SWP CC majority in 
their handling of this situation.

But I was also distressed by some of the comments, such as:

"Perhaps you're correct here Stuart, but the point in relation to the 
subject
line is that Solidarity, until they rethink their basis of organising, are
completely constrained to act and speak as loyal colonial-settler subjects
of the mother country in terms of major perspectives and anything to do with
the mother party."

The use of terms like "loyal colonial-settler subjects of the mother 
country" confuse more than clarify and --at least on a superficial 
level-- adapt to Australian nationalism, covering up the real source of 
the problem.

The key problem here is NOT colonial-settlerism, but LENINISM, as that 
term has come to be used and applied on the left, or what might be more 
precisely "personalized" as "Zinovievism," referring to the member of 
the Russian Communist Party leadership that was centrally responsible 
for the efforts to build a third, Communist International in the years 
immediately following the Russian Revolution.

I specify the leader most associated with the Comintern because it was 
there that the whole idea of "The Party" being the magic wand that 
allowed you to cast the spell of socialist revolution was codified, 
based on a simplistic reading of the Russian Revolution, reducing a 
multi-dimensional, dynamic process over time into a static, 
two-dimensional cartoon drawing. [Our moderator Louis, among others, has 
written a lot about this over the years, and also has been kind enough 
to keep available on this list's website an article I wrote for a 
discussion within Solidarity (the U.S. organization, unrelated to the 
Australian group that also chose that name): 
http://www.marxmail.org/DemocraticCentralism.pdf.]

Something very similar to the fetishization of the party happened after 
the Cuban Revolution in Latin America. Rural guerrilla warfare was 
elevated into a sure to win strategy, and hundreds --nay, thousands-- of 
revolutionaries sacrificed their lives in demonstrating that this sort 
of mechanistic template-making does not work, even though these fallen 
comrades were inspired by the idea that at last, with guerrilla warfare, 
the road to revolution had been found.

Among them was the most inspiring revolutionary figure of the post-WWII 
epoch, Che. For the revolutionary left to avoid studying and analyzing 
what these comrades did, and drawing  the lessons, is to betray their 
legacy and render their sacrifice meaningless. We stand on THEIR 
shoulders. If we are unwilling to look back and look forward from that 
higher perspective, then we are unworthy to claim we are fighting for 
the same great world-historical objectives that inspired them.

Ironically, one of the reasons Latin American revolutionaries eagerly 
took up foquismo and other guerrilla warfare variants was because of the 
quite evident failure of a strategy that relied on creating "a  party of 
a new type."

OK, I'll grant you, the Australian solidarity statement is almost a 
caricature of "loyal colonial settlers of the mother country." But it is 
not British or English patriotism that inspires the sycophantic 
outburst, but *party* patriotism, the *cult of the organization* 
inherent in the idea that "the Leninist Party" is the one and only way 
to organize to achieve a revolutionary victory.

That party patriotism, that cultism, then leads to all sorts of other 
issues from broader society find expression in relation to the group, as 
has been argued --quite convincingly, it seems to me-- in the current 
controversy.

Although particularly egregious, there and many other examples of 
hypocritical bourgeois morality and bourgeois oppression finding 
expression through the idea that "the party" is the most important thing 
in the universe and therefore other things, even very important things, 
have to be subordinated to it. Thus the American SWP banned gays from 
membership --as best as I understood it at the time (around 1970)-- as a 
"security risk." You see, "The Party" could be victimized by the 
government using the fact --or accusation-- that so-and-so was a 
homosexual. I'm not trying to put an equal signs between the two 
situations, but to illustrate how the fetishization of "The Party," the 
cult of the organization, throws the doors wide open to all sorts of 
bourgeois pressures and prejudices.

One last thing. I am extremely uncomfortable with institutions like 
"control commissions" and party "trials." I was complicit in using 
"discipline" and so on to suppress dissent and expel miscreants in the 
American SWP. Having those sorts of mechanisms is quite like having 
loaded guns lying around in a house. Yes, there might be cases where 
they are used appropriately and effectively for self-defense. But 
experience shows they increase --rather than decrease--  dangers to the 
occupants of the house, and lead to bad outcomes more often than good ones.

However, I understand that especially in a very tightly knit 
organization (not just parties but campaigns and coalitions around 
issues, because these can also become major or dominant parts of a 
person's life), sexual hostility, abuse, rape, intimidation, violence, 
bullying, openly hostile displays in relation to races, ethnic groups, 
immigrants, women, gays and others who don't conform to socially-imposed 
gender roles, young people, etc.  cannot be tolerated for they destroy 
the trust necessary for working together on the joint project.

Obviously, excluding people who do those things has to be done through 
some group process, but I don't think a party/group process should be 
modeled on, compared with or substituted for criminal or civil court 
proceedings.

I wish I could say I have this great magic formula or series of formulas 
for dealing with these situations in a political organization or social 
movement, but I don't. Yet I'm very leery of the sorts of 
institutions/procedures used in this case, even if they had acted 
differently.

Joaquín










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