[Marxism] thoughts on Blum and Corbyn and party building
gary.maclennan1 at gmail.com
Fri Sep 30 18:46:28 MDT 2016
I have been reading Trotsky on France and also Deutscher's account of
Trotsky in France and his reaction to the comrades there. The specific
question I was seeking an answer for was Andrew's comment that Corbyn was
the UK's Leon Blum.
To be frank my first reaction to Andrew was "I wish". I was taking a break
from the reading and mulling over the dilemma posed for Leftists by people
like Blum, Allende and Corbyn. Blum and Allende got into office and were in
a position to struggle for power. But both failed. Allende was overthrown
and assassinated by the brutes and Blum ended up in Buchenwald. In both
cases the price of failure was the rise of Fascist reaction. Trotsky is
very clear and correct on Blum and the disastrous outcomes of compromise.
But as Lou points out he did not have a good record of building an
It seems to me that the dialectic is that those with a correct line on Blum
and Allende and also Corbyn are never going to be in the situation where
they can do something about it. Richard Seymour is objectively correct,
for example, on the problems facing Corbyn. Even if he were to win an
election, and I increasingly think that is a possibility, he is unlikely to
be able to face down the tide of reaction that will greet his arrival in No
10 Downing Street. The banks, the Army, the media and his own party not
least of all would move against him if he tried socialist solutions to
Britain's problems. The reason is that he would be threatening the
interests of the ruling class and they would strike viciously.
Corbyn has no intention, I think, of threatening the rule of the capitalist
class. In all likelihood he belongs to the same Socialist tradition as
Blum. It is a tradition that goes back to Jean Jaurès
and probably Lasalle. It is far superior in decency to the types that now
call themselves social democrats or members of the Labour Movement. Yet at
the decisive moment, they cannot strike the decisive blow against the
ruling class. They seek instead mutual forgiveness from the master class
and not an end to master slave relationships. Instead of achieving mutual
forgiveness it all ends in blood and tears.
To speak in such a way is to condemn oneself to total marginality. One can
respond to that by doing what ISO under Cliff's direct influence did in the
1980s and ever since. That is to expel anyone who would not adhere rigidly
to the party line and do imitations of the Bolsheviks. Cliff sought to
isolate and insulate his followers from the great move to the Right in the
late 70s and early 80s. the result was they became a caricature of a
socialist, turning up at huge spontaneous demonstrations with hundreds of
placards and pretend that one is a more important political force than one
is. The insulation and isolation means that one slips all too easily into
the role of the prophet who stands out side the city gates and denounces
the traitors and reformists.
It reminds me of the lines from Burns great poem Tam O' Chanter and his
wife Kate. While Tam was drinking and enjoying life she was sat at home -
sulky sullen dame.
Gathering her brows like gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.
While Kate nursed her wrath, the radical Left nurses its objective
analysis. In both cases life passes by.
It is worth recalling that Trotsky's approach to France was to urge his
followers to join the Socialist Party. For me any socialist in the UK
worthy of the name should now be in Momentum. Not as a sneaky entryist who
walks around feeling that he knows more than anyone else and tries to pinch
a few members for one's little sect. The more productive role is to be
someone who is genuinely committed to pushing Corbynism as far as it will
go and then trying to go further.
Corbynism is now the only game in town in the UK. Its defeat would be a
terrible blow to the working class of Europe and the world. That I feel is
what is at stake and why we should continue to discuss it all.
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