Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

December 24, 2010

Des Derwin on the United Left Alliance in Ireland

Filed under: Ireland,revolutionary organizing,sectarianism,socialism — louisproyect @ 7:49 pm

Des Derwin

I want to call your attention to an article that appeared in the Irish Left Review by Des Derwin, a long-time labor and left activist. Titled ULA! “No one would have believed….”, it takes a close and detailed look at a new electoral formation that has arisen in the wake of the devastating financial crisis. Derwin has apparently been following the debate about party-building methodologies internationally since he supplies a very informed appendix of links to various articles on the topic, including a couple that I have written.

It might be useful to summarize three approaches on the far left to building socialist or anti-capitalist parties:

1. “Old School” Marxism-Leninist: This is the type of party that considers itself to be based on Lenin’s Bolsheviks. It believes in “revolutionary continuity”, a kind of ideological bloodline that can be traced back to Karl Marx. It sees its duty as defending the revolutionary kernel of Marxism against petty-bourgeois germs in much the same manner that General Jack D. Ripper fought against the presence of fluoride in water supplies in Stanley Kubrick’s “Doctor Strangelove”. By waging an ideological war on behalf of a pure Marxist program and by participating in “united fronts” under their tight control, such groups have deep faith that they can lead proletarian revolutions.

2. Socialist Alliances: These formations have been tried exclusively in English-speaking countries over the past decade or so. They came into existence largely because groups in the first category found it useful to work within a broader framework that addressed the concerns of working people, thus facing the reality that the average left-minded citizen is not ready to accept the direct leadership of some group calling itself the Communist Workers Party that festoons its newspaper with hammer-and-sickles and lengthy articles about “the lessons of October”. Within the Socialist Alliances, they operate under their own discipline and no matter how persuasive the arguments of independent members of the alliance about one or another tactical question, the Leninists vote on the basis of what their own central committee considers correct. In some ways, the Leninist groups that operate in such electoral coalitions see unity as a temporary arrangement or even a maneuver in the classic United Front manner of the 1920s that was captured by the motto “March separately, strike together”. Unfortunately, this approach applied to party building does not foster a transparent and mutually respectful internal culture. Speaking of respectful, one might say that it led to the undoing of RESPECT, a socialist alliance led by George Galloway that came a cropper with the British SWP, one of the more intelligent groups operating in the first category that has never really come to terms with what Lenin was really about.

3. Broad left parties: Although these types of formations (NPA in France, Die Linke in Germany, etc.) appear brand new in a European context, this has been the modus operandi in much of Latin America for decades now. Whether in conditions of civil war (FSLN, FMLN) or in the new left electoral framework of Venezuela or Bolivia, Marxists have tended to supersede the sectarian small proprietor mentality of the self-styled Leninist left. Venezuela, in particular, has been most instructive. Marxists have always seen their formations as temporary, serving mainly as stepping-stones toward the larger goal of transforming society. You can find the history of this process in Richard Gott’s book on Hugo Chavez that I wrote about in 2007. Here’s a relevant excerpt from my article:

After an unsuccessful coup attempt in February 1992, Chavez was sent to Yare Prison. Just like Fidel Castro’s imprisonment after the unsuccessful raid on Moncada, Chavez began making new plans for the seizure of power from behind bars. For the next two years, the political mood began to change radically in Venezuela. The ruling party began to fall apart at the seams, while leftist coalitions like Convergencia (which included Movimiento al Socialismo) and parties like Causa R began to grow rapidly. From within his prison cell, Chavez began to reach out to them. He did draw the line, however, when it came to ultraleftists like Bandera Roja that claimed to be the inheritor of the mantle of the guerrillas of the earlier period. Chavez never had much time for such ultraleftists:

Groups like them appear to have given themselves the holy mission of proclaiming themselves to be the only revolutionaries on the planet, or at any rate in this territory. And those who don’t follow their dogmas are not considered genuine revolutionaries. I have never talked for more than five minutes with a single leader of Bandera Roja.

So, to make myself crystal clear, I advocate that the left in the developed countries adopt a mindset much closer to Convergencia or Causa R. Rather than trying to build parties that are the kernel of modern era Bolsheviks, it should think much more in transitional terms. Even though he was a paradigm of category one, James P. Cannon, the father of American Trotskyism, had it right when he said, “The art of politics is knowing what to do next.”

Although I am not at all familiar with Des Derwin, I have great confidence that he understands all this, even though he is much more tactful than me. Frankly, everybody is.

Derwin refers his readers to an announcement of the United Left Alliance that appeared on the People Before Profits website:

At a meeting held in Dublin last Sunday, 24th October, involving the People Before Profit Alliance, the Socialist Party, the Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Group, and Cllr Declan Bree and his local group in Sligo, a historic decision was taken to establish a left alliance to contest the next general election and to take the first steps towards a new, left, anti capitalist formation to represent working people.

It is to be called the United Left Alliance. A strong, left wing, anti capitalist and anti coalition with right wing parties, programme has been agreed. This will be circulated as soon as a few small agreed amendments are made. The alliance will be open to anyone who accepts its basic programme and aims, but the aim is to attract as many workers and young people as possible.

We learn from Derwin that the Irish section of the international movement founded by Tony Cliff is behind People Before Profits:

Since the turn of the millennium some of the world wave of left liaison has lapped these shores. There have been several political alliances of varying life spans: The Socialist Alliance briefly brought together the SWP [the Socialist Workers Party, the Cliffite group named after its mother ship in England], Socialist Democracy and independents. Some of these independents (recently described on the blogosphere as “the usual left unity suspects”) are a common denominator along this many-leagued road of leagues. The Socialist Environmental Alliance comprised the SWP, environmentalists and some others in Derry. The People Before Profit Alliance consists of the SWP plus various and varying activists, groupings and independents. The Campaign for an Independent Left enfolded at one time the Dublin South Central based Community and Workers Action Group, now in the PBPA, the South Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group, the Irish Socialist Network, and some independents. The rump of CIL [Campaign for an Independent Left] is now in the PBPA and still meets occasionally. Last year the SEA [Socialist Environmental Alliance] in Derry joined the PBPA.

In addition to the SWP, the Socialist Party of Ireland is playing a major role, which was reflected in an article that appeared on its website:

The newly established United Left Alliance, which will be publicly launched at a rally in the Ashling Hotel , Dublin on Friday 26 November, involves the Socialist Party, the People Before Profit Alliance, the South Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Action Group and the Independent Socialist group of Declan Bree in Sligo.

The ULA is a joint slate or alliance of candidates that will put forward a real left alternative in the general election and challenge the austerity and capitalist consensus amongst all the parties in the Dail, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, the Greens but also clearly including Labour and Sinn Fein.

The ULA flows from a process of discussions initiated some time ago by the Socialist Party. It is a necessary and principled attempt at serious co-operation between left groups and while we will have to see how it goes over the next months, the Socialist Party hopes that the ULA will be an important first step in the formation of a new mass party for working class people, based on socialist policies.

The Socialist Party is the Irish section of the Committee for a Workers International led by Peter Taaffe. This is the Trotskyist group that is best known for its deep entryist tactic in the Labour Party. Formed by Ted Grant shortly after the death of Leon Trotsky, it came on the scene just around the time that Tony Cliff became convinced of the theory of state capitalism and decided to launch his own international movement. With figures like Grant and Cliff, as close to Trotsky as the apostles were to Jesus, it is not surprising that Trotskyist concepts of party-building pervade their respective movements.

It should be mentioned that Grant and Alan Woods broke with Taaffe in the early 1990s and started their own international movement. I would be hard pressed to distinguish the two formations politically, except for Woods’s well-known affinity for Hugo Chavez’s movement, despite his failure to grasp its non-sectarian essence. By the same token, the British SWP has endured the same kind of splintering. Around the same time that Grant and Woods got the heave-ho, the American Cliffites—the ISO—were expelled from their world movement. More recently, the British SWP split over issues raised by the RESPECT fiasco, with John Rees and Lindsey German starting their own new group. As was the case with the Taaffe-Woods split, I would be hard pressed to find any major theoretical differences between Rees/German and Alex Callinicos, the chief of the SWP. Needless to say, all this does not bode well for any electoral formation they get involved with.

Derwin has a good grasp of the need for something like the ULA and the possible pitfalls given the history of the prime players:

It is by no means just in the electoral field that cooperation must replace competition on the left. In the trade unions the scattered forces of the left  – as well of course as the general weakness of organised labour – have allowed a pathetic and pampered peerage to prostrate the unions and propose in perpetuity, as the only ‘alternative’ they perceive, a depreciated partnership that has been passed over by patrons and politicians. In the face of impending catastrophe – not my words – the trade union leadership, or sections of it, has begun to stir into life. It could be only another false beginning like February, March, November and December 2009. Yet the preparatory machine, authoritative call and turn out for Saturday 27th November contrasted clearly with the meagre mobilisations wrought by the left throughout the year. So clearly that we surely must be open to some lessons in intra-left pooling and modesty and extra-left orientation to union and community structures however professionalised they are at present.

And during the very birth of a new alliance the same old crap repeats itself even among the allies, reminding us how far we have yet to travel.  One organisation, a ULA participant, through a closely associated campaign, organises a march for Budget Day. Another organisation in the ULA, along with almost all the rest of the radical left, wishes to organise a joint left march for the same time. This might have been sorted out in the spirit of the new departure. But after some diplomatic efforts the original organisers refused to convert the march to a joint one and ‘the rest of the left’, in those circumstances, declined to row in behind the original march. The march therefore proceeded with the weight of just one section of the left, while the ‘rest of the left’, rather than gritting their teeth, raising their eyes to heaven and joining the march anyway, held a separate rally at the Dáil before the march arrived there. ULA? Ooh alors! The ULA will either merge the train sets or derail.

Despite my skepticism about the long-term prospects for the ULA, I think it is a good thing that socialists are getting together to fight against the disastrous cuts being forced on Irish working people. Perhaps in the crucible of struggle people will begin to figure out that it is high time to dump the “Russian questions” as a litmus test and begin to make the Irish question for the people of Ireland paramount just as it is necessary to make American questions primary for my own countrymen.

As Des Derwin said most eloquently, “The ULA will either merge the train sets or derail.” This is the question facing the revolutionary left in one form or another everywhere in the world today. Let’s fight against derailment, comrades.

23 Comments »

  1. A timely call, Louis. I also appreciate the historical and organizational description of currents on the “left” (albeit in Ireland and to some extent the UK with a brief nod to the USA). A call to our “countrymen” and women in the USA for a similar effort remains, as you know, urgent. I would also say that such a call, to be meaningful, will have to include a wholesale call to socialist, revolutionary (anti-capitalist even if not calling themselves socialist or communist), radical trade unionist/working class activists, and left activists (those independents of a “usual” nature) from Every community and nationality. This latter point is immensely crucial if we are to resonate with the potentially resurgent layers of Black, Brown, Asian, and indigenous peoples whom we cannot afford to ignore at the outset. I also appreciated Derwin’s comment about the error, in his view, of the “rest of the left” who chose not to march in a united action even if it meant ” gritting their teeth, raising their eyes to heaven and joining the march anyway”. This experience is a significant obstacle for many “established” radical leftists in the USA, especially as they (correctly) rail against the “establishment left”. We will need to find a way (that is, if we are serious) to overcome our inability to connect with the emerging currents of radicalizing youth, working people, and, even people from our generations by balancing our opposition to the Lesser-Evil Democrats and their ilk with a united movement of opposition that has a better chance than we have at present to make a difference.
    I, like you, hope for the best and look forward to what happens this coming year.
    comradely,
    Manuel Barrera, PhD (formerly known as Tank)

    Comment by mtomas3 — December 24, 2010 @ 8:44 pm

  2. Lou, frankly speaking, I think that your three-fold categorization is overly restrictive and perhaps outdated.

    Comment by epoliticus — December 24, 2010 @ 10:23 pm

  3. Well, I am open to other ways of categorizing the left. Go ahead and tell me what you are thinking.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 24, 2010 @ 11:06 pm

  4. The problem with Lou’s classification is, alas, its accuracy.

    Still I like to think that the rising tide of class struggle will lift all the sects onto a different level.

    comradely

    Gary

    Comment by Gary MacLennan — December 25, 2010 @ 12:05 am

  5. #4 `Still I like to think that the rising tide of class struggle will lift all the sects onto a different level.’

    It won’t, it will merely exaggerate and bring out and hopefully expose their inappropriateness for pursuing the class struggle hopefully before they are swept to power by a wave of revolutionary indignation. This United Left Alliance will be broken on to bits on the beureaucratic centrist self-interest of the SWP and SP sects. The experiences of the SSP in Scotland and Respect in England not to mention hundreds of previous examples would tell anybody with eyes to see that fact. And of course it won’t just fail but it will leave a legacy of confusion, anger and bitterness that will prevent the emergence of anything politically worthy on the revolutionary left in Ireland for decades just as the Irish working class are entering a life and death confrontation with their own and the imperialist bourgeoisie. The first thing to notice is that the Alliance has no program and no politics and is an unprincipled lash up. Chartists without a charter or indeed any chartists.

    Comment by David Ellis — December 25, 2010 @ 8:40 am

  6. Who does the label ” the left” include? What would a minimum program be for such group? How would you determine what an unacceptably sectarian attitude be in such heterogeneous group? How effective have these types of parties, alliances been? What, in your opinion, can be learned from the past of the Socialist movement, aside from the fact that sectarianism is bad? At what point would it be legitimate to destroy such alliance. After all nothing last forever not even unity.

    Comment by lextheimpaler — December 25, 2010 @ 5:43 pm

  7. Lex, such parties have been quite effective in the past, most notably the Bolshevik party in Czarist Russia and the July 26th Movement in Cuba. My main goal has been to defend the historical Lenin against the misrepresentations of the self-declared vanguard parties of today. This is a task similar to those facing art restorationists who need to remove 12 coats of patina to return to the original.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 25, 2010 @ 5:48 pm

  8. Louis observed: “such [left alliances] have been quite effective in the past, most notably the Bolshevik party in Czarist Russia and the July 26th Movement in Cuba.”

    Or, as L. Vygotsky observed on quite another issue, the answer to the crisis is in the crisis itself (yes, I know others said it, too, LV just comes to mind). Overcoming sectarianism about Leninism (or rather the historical canvas of bolshevism) begins with overcoming the “correctness” about how left alliances will potentially fail.

    After all, part of such failure is the “left’s” propensity to observe how and where alliances can fail without much tolerance or willingness to engage in correctness of action despite the correctness or incorrectness of (i.e., ideal or less than ideal) context. In other words, “we” correct observers of situations can either contribute to the problem by continuing to oppose or blunt veritable developments of alliance because not everyone has the same program or views about program or we can engage in order to help everyone develop the best possible program and course of action through our combined experience and mutual agreement to engage in a democratic process of deliberation toward correcting ourselves as events unfold.

    At first, our program might solely consist of essential principles. For example, we might start with an electoral campaign for an independent working class political alternative to the parties of class-collaboration and that clearly looks to mobilizing mass sentiment in defense of workers and the oppressed. Essential components of such a program might include opposition to the wars, opposition to bailouts for the rich, and transitional demands that promote social and economic gains for the working class, political freedom, and support for democratic demands that would have the effect of uniting the oppressed sectors of the working class. In the USA, that might include legalization of undocumented workers, women’s, Black (& Brown & Asian), and indigenous rights.

    There seem to be a number of issues that most if not all would have little difficulty in principle even if there would differences in how we might all arrive at those principles (e.g., one does not have to agree with the nature of the Cuban state to support and defend the Cuban Five or oppose the imperialist embargo against Cuba; some may be “all over the map” with regard to the Israeli regime, the Palestinians, or their organizations and still not have any difficulty in standing against the Zionist occupation and defending the Palestinian people’s democratic rights and an end to their genocide).

    Does anyone here really abhor the possibility that we could unite under one clearly discernible banner (i.e., base program) while at the same time being willing to hammer out a program that is tested in the realities of our engagement in the struggles and movements of the day?

    Comment by mtomas3 — December 25, 2010 @ 9:20 pm

  9. #5 I think you’re being way too pessimistic about the ULA. This is possibly due, I could be wrong on this, to a distance from the current social and political reality in Ireland.

    Several of the groups and parties who are part of the Alliance – People Before Profit, Socialist Party, Tipperary Workers and Unemployed Group – have a real presence in communities, interacting politically with tens and, sometimes, hundreds of thousands of working people on an ongoing basis. Joe Higgins, Socialist Party Member of the European Parliament, was elected from a constituency of over a million and half people, for instance. In the context of Ireland it really is an achievement to have an unapologetic Marxist and Trotskyist in such a prominent position – the mainstream media, for instance, have to cover his activities, much as they would rather not.

    I think it needs to be kept in mind that the Alliance could be plausibly interpreted as an attempt to overcome the failures of sectarianism and of the organising principles behind Louis’ first and second summaries above. That doesn’t mean that sectarian behaviour won’t continue. And efforts have been made to stir sectarian shit. For instance, the failure to include the Workers Party (closely aligned with Moscow pre-1989), the Communist Party of Ireland and the Independent Social Network has been adduced as evidence of sectarianism on the part of the ULA, but it appears that these parties are not precluded on principle and will be welcome if and when they want to join.

    There’s a danger, among the socialist left, of believing that the sectarian practices of the past rigidly determine what’s possible in the future. That because efforts like RESPECT have fallen to pieces, the ULA will do likewise. Sadly, the Tommy Sheridan saga in Scotland does show that the left retains its ability to self-destruct precisely at a point where it might progress. Despite that I think seeing sectarianism as a defining characteristic of groups like the SWP or the SP risks minimising the degree to which many members in these parties are capable of learning from, and overcoming, past failures in this area.

    As ‘Lex’ at #6 above argues nothing lasts forever, and demanding a guarantee of permanence in advance does not seem to be politically sensible, to me at least. In an Irish context the ULA is up against a well funded Right which has near total media support. Connolly’s ‘Carnival of Reaction’ will soon become more frenzied than usual, when the right wing Fine Gael party leads the next government in coalition with the thoroughly Blairite ‘Labour’ Party. The ULA will be the only entity capable of articulating an alternative if not actually effectively resisting it. For that reason alone, the Alliance, its huge flaws and sectarian booby traps notwithstanding, is a positive development.

    Comment by CMK — December 25, 2010 @ 9:45 pm

  10. http://leninology.blogspot.com/2010/12/tommy-sheridan-ssp-and-future-of-left.html#disqus_thread

    Louis, what’s your take on the Tommy Sheridan,SSP scandal? The SSP seems to be one of those “new nonsectarian parties” you seem to advocate where everyone should feel free to run to the mass media to air dirty laundry. The link above, if it works, should take you to R. Seymour’s blog. How would you avoid such poisonous inner party culture?

    Comment by lextheimpaler — December 26, 2010 @ 12:13 am

  11. There’s no guarantee that a scandal won’t happen in such parties. After all, both the FSLN and the July 26th movement suffered betrayals like Eden Pastora and Frank Pais. On the other hand, no sect has ever become as influential as such formations.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 26, 2010 @ 1:40 am

  12. Louis writes: “Although these types of formations (NPA in France, Die Linke in Germany, etc.) appear brand new in a European context, this has been the modus operandi in much of Latin America for decades now.”

    While the Latin American experiences from the 60s is rightly seen as exemplars, relevant European efforts are hardly brand new: the United Left in Spain dates from 1986, The Red Green Alliance in Denmark from 1989 as does the Dutch Green Left, the Left Alliance in Finland from 1990, Communist Refoundation in Italy from 1991, the Left Bloc in Portugal from 1999. Despite differences all of these are well to the left of social democracy, had far groups groups or parties involved in their founding and all have thousands of members and MPs. They all operate as parties although there’s alliance aspects to many as well, with constituent organisations still operating (sometimes in a looser way, e.g the FI affiliated Portuguese Revolutionary Workers Party has become an “association” within the Bloc).

    #2: I agree the “alliance” and “broad party” dichotomy doesn’t really fit what’s happened: In terms of categorising such efforts as those I mentioned (and the NPA and Die Linke and smaller efforts like the Socialist Alliance in Australia) it’s probably relevant to look at the different combination of forces involved: the CPs, groups springing from the 60s-70s far left (Trot and in a couple of cases Maoist), the newer anti-capitalist left, elements of left social democracy. The particular combination probably relates to what the constituent groups have gone on to do, and also how particular issues such as the perennial difficulty of relating to social democracy has been handled. In all these organisations I’m sure there’s different lessons, good and bad, about other tricky questions such as of how to stick to anti-capitalist principles and how to train and educate new militants in parties broader than the “cadre” model (I’ve hardly followed things beyond the sketchy summary here).

    We tend to look at the Anglophone countries and France and Germany most (and the tribulations of the particularly large Italian PRC), but looking at the broader Euro efforts is very relevant too.

    Comment by Nick Fredman — December 26, 2010 @ 2:03 am

  13. I agree that these are three approaches on the far left to building socialist or anti-capitalist parties. But I claim that they are not the only three, although I don’t claim to know which approach is suitable to U.S. circumstances. For example, some appear to adhere to the idea that “cadre development” ought to be the main focus of building socialist parties. This might take the form of building institutions for politicization of the working class. There is also the Kasama approach, which I am not able to classify. In addition to actually existing party-building strategies, however, I suspect that there is a range of strategies that have perhaps not been attempted but might be effective. For example, one might consider a synthesis of approach (3) & a cultural offensive.

    Comment by epoliticus — December 26, 2010 @ 2:18 pm

  14. Mike Ely of the Kasama Project is very much attuned to #3 even if much of his approach involves Maoist conceptions and language. In fact, Kasama is a perfect example of knowing what to do next in politics.

    Comment by louisproyect — December 26, 2010 @ 2:33 pm

  15. i’ll second the motion on kasama. no vacillation on commitment, but willingness to look at everything.

    Comment by jp — December 26, 2010 @ 4:46 pm

  16. Louis

    once again you should stay with writing movie reviews rather than trying to write the revisionist history of the Left, you have the history of the Taffe grouping all wrong ( they wrongly threw out Ted Grant and Alan Woods) and they have made many a wrong move since then ( http://www.marxist.com/sectarianism-british-left220507.htm ) and comrade Cliff abandon Marxism by 1948 just as your beloved SWP did in 1938.

    Try to do a little more research before you take on history.

    Cort

    Comment by Cort Greene — December 26, 2010 @ 7:26 pm

  17. Interesting deflection, Cort. Do you have any objection to the primary point of this article; the development of a unified Left that has a better chance of politicizing the emerging radicalization into a veritable organized force for challenging Capital? If a “better” history is required to produce this glaringly needed realignment, I am sure we are all interested. Otherwise, your point seems pointless.

    Really interested in the key thesis of this discussion,

    Manuel

    Comment by mtomas3 — December 26, 2010 @ 7:59 pm

  18. You have forgotten the most substantial point: All three of these approaches are dead. The sectarians fail to realize that they no longer have a left to interveen in, and continue to engage in the ritual combat of the slogan in front of an empty theater. The socialist alliances merely pospone the hard reckoning of what is to be done. At best they fight a valiant rearguard action in defense of society. At worst they abolish it with gusto, and claim the leftist banner as cover. The Broad Left is even worse from this respect. Look at Chavez, the dictator. He is a simple nationalist, and nothing of the left remains upon him. In short, the defeat of the left is either internalized or ignored, leading to bad theory and worse praxis.

    Comment by Watson Ladd — December 26, 2010 @ 11:24 pm

  19. @#18: If all three approaches are dead, then what do you propose? I can’t imagine coming on and simply declaring X, Y and Z are “dead”, and then leaving it at that. Left at that, this is a completely demoralized perspective.

    Morality plays aside, the three approaches above are to be seen as different tactics, and the question of which are “dead” or “alive” will depend on the tactical situation. It’s no accident that the tactic of the revolutionary vanguard party emerged in a situation where the state power was in question; it’s no accident that the United Front tactic appeared in the 1930’s in the face of fascist counterrevolution.

    I think that the tactic of the “broad left party” is designed to crystallize a radical left public presence within which the socialists and (for me, Marxian) socialism will gain hegemony. Thus a variant of #2, a united “front” of socialists, will emerge within the broad tactic, without this appearing as an actual “front”. since the tactic within which it is embedded is essentially offensive, designed to radically alter the political terrain in our favor.

    Venezuela is a good example. The movement behind Chavez did succeed in radically altering the political terrain. That looks like a success within the limits of the tactic, not “dead”. Its limits are defined by its very success, for once the terrain has been transformed, its time for, especially, the socialists, to transition beyond this tactic. That is why it is called a tactic. The failure to do so will crystallize in time a massive petit bourgeois-socialist “swamp”, and out of that swamp will emerge characters like Chavez. But this does not mean, ipso facto, that the “broad” tactic is “dead’ from the get go. If you think this so, you might as well agree with the Right when they claim that every “Leninist” revolutionary seizure of state power will “always” produce a Stalin. This is all nonsense, pure ideological cant.

    Rather, these (different) tactical situations are to be seen as posing unresolved problems for revolutionary Marxists. They can ultimately only be answered from practical experience, from for example an examination of Venezuelan events.

    But for countries like the U.S., and even Ireland, both of which political environments, despite obvious differences, are profoundly steeped in the petit bourgeois mass utopia of the independent rural commodity producer – DeValeras’ traditional self-sufficient Irish farmer, the Democratic-Republican individualistic settler-farmer – within which much of the working class is also soaked, especially in the U.S., there really is no alternative to the “broad left” tactic as the point of departure from this utopia, whose material basis is crumbling away under the impact of the present series of capitalist crises – more dramatically in Ireland, more glacially but just as inexorably, now going on 30 years straight.

    We swim in this putrefying petit bourgeois swamp in every day life, so why the aversion to trying to rise out of it by working to squeeze it out of a broad left party? Hard work fraught with “dangers of infection”, no doubt. But is there really any other alternative? I say, No.

    Comment by Matt — December 28, 2010 @ 7:39 pm

  20. good luck ireland

    Comment by jp — December 30, 2010 @ 3:43 pm

  21. An article complementing Des Derwin’s analysis is here – the author is Brendan Young :

    http://tomasoflatharta.com/

    Comment by tomasoflatharta — January 7, 2011 @ 8:53 pm

  22. “2. Socialist Alliances: These formations have been tried exclusively in English-speaking countries over the past decade or so.”

    That is hardly the case. It’s probably at least as common in non-English-speaking countries, and they have often been around for about two decades, not one. The Unity List in Denmark is one of the largest examples of this, while Red (formerly Red Electoral Alliance) in Norway is another example.

    Comment by Norwegian Guy — February 8, 2011 @ 12:18 pm


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