[Marxism] Leninism, Socialist Alternative etc

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Nov 25 18:38:54 MST 2013

On 11/25/13 7:58 PM, Philip Ferguson wrote:
> Yes, but this was how the RSDLP *began*.  Eventually the differences led to
> a rupture.

Exactly. But only after 1917--and that is the problem. The assumption, 
however, is that Lenin had his own party called "the Bolsheviks" well 
before 1917nbut that is simply not true. I refer comrades to Lars Lih on 
this matter:


> The problem I have with the 'broad party', as it is conceived in 2013, is
> that it's like the inverse of the old sect.  The old sects have certainly
> failed but so has the 'broad party' approach.  In fact, the broad party has
> chewed up revolutionaries on, if anything, an even greater scale than the
> old sects and cults.

In fact most of these experiments were torpedoed by groups like the SWP 
or Taaffe's sectarian outfit. The most egregious example is what took 
place with the United Left Alliance in Ireland, with RESPECT in Britain 
coming in a close second. It is difficult for such experiments to 
succeed when sectarians view them as a place to "intervene".

> It strikes me that Socialist Alternative (SA) are trying to steer a middle
> course which avoids the pitfalls of both the old sects, based on
> shibboleths like state capitalism (or the degenerated and deformed workers'
> state analysis), and the 'broad parties' where the revolutionaries end up
> moderating their politics and doing leg-work for political figures who have
> no desire at all to challenge capitalism in any serious way.

Phil, do you think that the debate between the two groups revolved 
around "revolution" versus "reform"? John Passant, the only member of 
Socialist Alternative who is visible here, thinks so--at least choosing 
Facebook to make that point. The idea that the Socialist Alliance is 
"reformist" is, not to put too fine a point on it, bullshit.

> It also strikes me that none of the parties that have led revolutions have
> operated in the way some folks here are urging.  Castro didn't set up a
> broad civil liberties committee after the Batista coup.  He launched a
> court case if I remember right and then attacked the Moncada Barracks.

But the July 26th Movement would have never gotten off the ground 
without Fidel Castro's fairly long and highly visible career as an 
Ortodoxo politician. Furthermore, the July 26th Movement was exactly the 
kind of "broad party" that I have in mind. Most people associate it with 
guerrilla warfare but in the city it was all about accepting people into 
a broad struggle around the need to end the dictatorship and create a 
democracy that prioritized human needs and opposed colonialism. The 
words "socialism" or "communism" were never uttered.

> When that failed, and after he got out of jail, he went off to Mexico and
> organised guerrilla training.  And when almost all of the guerrillas were
> wiped out as they landed form the 'Granma' the 12 survivors headed off to
> the mountains.  And yet these crazy, sectarian, ultralefts, who only build
> wider formations *after* they had established their primacy as a
> leadership, led a revolution.

Let me blunt about this. Groups organized on the same basis as Mick 
Armstrong's existed in Cuba. They were a side show.

> Similar with the FSLN, the NJM, similar with
> the big Maoist movements in Asia.  In Nepal, a handful of Maoists went off
> to the villages to organise rural guerrilla warfare - in about 10 or 15
> years they'd destroyed the monarchy and were the largest party in a new
> constituent assembly their struggle had brought about.

The FSLN was a party that included Marxists as well as liberals, just 
like the July 26th Movement. I got to know some of them quite well from 
my work in Nicaragua.

At any rate I am not sure what these examples have to do with Australia 
where the class struggle is at a very low intensity and armed struggle 
is something that is as far away as workers councils, seizing power, and 
all the rest. The goal is not breaking into armories to seize machine 
guns but challenging the Labor Party's political grip on the working class.

> The SA comrades reject the old bureaucratic centralism.  People can hold
> minority views and express them publicly.

The problem with such organizations is not that they have constitutions 
that restrict minority views from being expressed. It is instead that 
there is peer pressure to defend the party line. There are allowances 
made for John Percy and his comrades who would likely resign if a short 
leash was placed on them. But if you are a 22 year old who joins SAlt 
with very little prior experience in organized Marxism, you will be 
"trained" in their politics. That is the purpose of new members classes, 
forums, conferences, and all the rest--not to speak of being "educated" 
informally over beers as was my experience in the SWP. We need a mass 
party where people come together based on their own SELF-EDUCATION in 
Marxism. That is what made the Russian social democracy so powerful. 
Could you imagine Bukharin sitting in a new members class learning how 
brilliant Plekhanov was and then figuring out how to imitate him, so as 
to facilitate climbing up the ladder? I can't.

> As a keen observer, I think it's unfortunate the merger was not able to go
> ahead, but sometimes it's better to wait and see if there isn't a
> sufficient degree of convergence further down the track.  And, in the
> meantime, try to keep comradely cooperation going where possible.

I would have liked to have seen a merger myself. All this came up here 
because I innocently thought that things were moving ahead nicely.

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