[Marxism] Richard Seymour on the SWP crisis

Manuel Barrera mtomas3 at hotmail.com
Sat Jan 12 11:55:34 MST 2013

DCQ: "Most of all, I think we realized that we didn't have any organizational silver bullet. It was precisely our isolation and weakness that allowed us to reach out to other existing or new groups, which turns out to be a strength." 

Except, of course, when it counts in promoting a true left alliance and shunning even the rather tepid opportunity to mount a united electoral campaign against lesser-evil Democrats in 2012.

Make no mistake, this is NOT a "snarky response" but a pointed charge. One can only hope that words and deeds may someday meet.

As to the "crisis in the [UK] SWP". It's a small inconsequential group in the mass movement! Just because it represents the largest "on the left" only illustrates the "historic crisis of leadership" in the working class. 

However, I agree with several points that have been made here how this organizational crisis is predictive of the limits of "vanguardism".  I found Seymour's statement actually illustrative of a principled approach and must give him his due; He did not simply "up and walk away", but calls for cadres to stay and fight for democratic principles. Doing so may be untenable if the leadership is hellbent on its path, but it is the best way to demonstrate the best of "leninism" and the actual principles engaged by revolutionaries in the RSDLP. I believe that people like Simon Hardy, fighting to create a united left, and Laurie Penny, creating the essential dialogue around feminism and the revolutionary struggle, are also to be commended for their efforts in promoting the veritable lessons of this crisis (I'm sure there are many more comrades besides them, however). 

This crisis seems almost formulaic in its development, as we have seen in the U.S.SWP and, by DCQ's own admission in the ISO (and the IST before it), as well as the histories of virtually all of the IV International parties in past decades. It is why the efforts like Syriza, the ACI in the UK, and, of course, the organic ferment among the left in the Middle East and in Latin America are all so much more urgent that "we" learn from. There may, of course, still be a "vindication" of the "one vanguard party" as a monopoly strategy; anything is always possible. But this crisis only shows that the real questions are no longer "which program" or which party, but will we choose democracy and openness, unity in action, democracy rather than (false) centralism, hubris or humility. Do we want to be the saviors of the working class or do we want the working class to help us create a united voice and power against the rulers? Are we going to remain under the conceit that we are the "best and brightest" or whether we are in search of the best and brightest for our class?

The crisis of the UK SWP is the crisis where the entire left has not only lost its focus but hasn't found it for too long a time. "Talking about it" as opposed to discussion for purposes of actually DOING something different is as illustrative of this crisis as the machinations of an entrenched "revolutionary" bureaucracy inside a small grouplet--a "big fish" among the minnows that are the revolutionary left. 

Finally, I appreciate the opportunity to discuss such questions in venues such as this list. I know that most comrades here truly do understand some of these questions. But if all our role is to discuss, then we should not pretend that we have a better solution than the bureaucratic centralists  of the UK SWP. There are clear calls--at least in the UK and Ireland, Spain, and Greece--for a united revolutionary left. There are clear examples of the effectiveness of such unity in places like Venezuela, Ecuador, and, for that matter, in Cuba. And, there are clear examples of the ultimate failure of a"vanguardist" approach from the tragic deterioration of the Bolsheviks and the rise of Stalinism in the Soviet Union and China (with evident threats that arose and continue to be fought in Cuba as well), never mind the failures of the 2nd and 3rd Internationals and their parties. A united world revolutionary movement with all its disparate elements is the only way to mount a united world revolutionary solution to the crisis of capitalism from which our "crisis of working class leadership" emanates. That requires not dismissing the need for a united revolutionary party but the recognition that such a party must be built far more broadly than some "recruit cadres and build" effort among the "best and brightest". It just has not worked; unless, of course, one is only interested in gaining affinity among a chosen few, which, of course, is fairly simple to destabilize from the viewpoint of the united world capitalist class. 

And, I realize that these points are not solutions or extensively researched "analyses" of party histories--I think we've had quite a bit of that sort of wheel-spinning, don't you? Rather, it's a reiteration that we continue to lose our way, not by the "big events" of crisis in one party, but our unwillingness to do more than the equivalent of "well, did ya hear about the UK SWP? Yeah, it's a damn shame, I could've told 'em so, hope somebody does something"

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