[Marxism] Mangling the Issues: Callinicos, “Leninism,” and Austerity

Gary MacLennan gary.maclennan1 at gmail.com
Wed Jan 30 18:09:10 MST 2013

Pham wrote: “Leninist” organizations like the SWP spend most of their time,
money, and energy converting individuals (non-members, new members, and
cadre) to ever-greater and more elaborate doctrines, positions, and
perspectives; eventually there is a “limit beyond which the Party is unable
to grow” as SWP member Neil Davidson
Proyect calls
this <http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=5299> “the glass ceiling problem”).
I have often thought about this problem. Pham attributes the class ceiling
to the burden of work etc imposed on the members.  Lou talks about the
vanguardist role that is imposed on the membership.  But I think there is
also a logistics problem at the heart of the infinite tendency to split.

In the 79-81 period International Socialists in Brisbane had between 40 and
50 members out of a national membership of around 150.  I now believe that
a split was inevitable because our membership had grown beyond what the
leadership could control.  Democratic centralism as practised in IS meant
that the leadership of full time revolutionaries had a separate
communication system designed to keep a careful eye on the membership.

We were told that the membership had to be kept isolated from the tendency
towards reformism that was everywhere.  But that meant that this isolation
served the interests of those who could never ever have played a leading
role in mass movements.  For example in 1980 we lamely followed the British
example and banned the women's caucus inside IS.  Out leadership rehearsed
the lines taken from Tony Cliff.  The result was we became ever more
isolated but that was fine with the full time organisers. It was never in
the interest of the leadership that we become a mass party, even if that
were possible.  They could not have played a leadership role in the real

If you want to see what I mean go watch the Charlie Kimber videos on
youtube.    (Painful I know!)  Zero Charisma and Nigel-No-Mates is there
for all to see. Then think of the charismatic Richard Seymour and try and
gauge the depth of hatred that the leadership of the SWP have for him.
Finally go figure who is likely to win, when the rules are set by the

BTW as a final comment, I think Callinicos' reputation as a political
philosopher will never recover from this.




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