Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

September 24, 2004

“Left in form, right in essence”

Filed under: Uncategorized — louisproyect @ 1:30 pm

posted to www.marxmail.org on September 24, 2004

Although Ted Glick has wrapped his attacks on the Nader campaign in the kind of bland obsequiousness Charles Dickens immortalized in the character Pecksniff, his latest reveals the snarling Commissar beneath.

Using the title of Carl Davidson’s 1973 pamphlet “Left in form, right in essence” as a club to bash Peter Camejo over the head with, Glick neglects to include Davidson’s subtitle: “A Critique of Contemporary Trotskyism.” It is no accident that Glick would find inspiration in this dreary screed written during the period when dozens of Maoist sects were hoping to breathe new life into the discredited party-building model of William Z. Foster and his subsequent replacements.

Davidson wrote his attack in the pages of the Guardian newspaper back then in an attempt to create a pole of attraction for the thousands of ex-SDS’ers who were lurching from new left impressionism to the kind of ultra-Stalinism that actually helped to destroy SDS through the agency of the Progressive Labor Party.

Davidson’s pamphlet contains jewels such as the following:

“The Trotskyists believe they are the only authentic practitioners of the policy of the united front. Yet in practice, they have opposed full implementation, either from rightist or ‘leftist’ positions. The most apparent example of this role was the Trotskyist attitude toward World War 2, in which they took a ‘defeatist’ position towards the capitalist governments fighting the fascists, called for the ‘revolutionary’ overthrow of the Soviet government and opposed the united front with the national bourgeoisie in the colonial countries invaded by the fascists. The fact that the Trotskyist line led them inevitably to these positions substantiated the charge that they objectively served the interests of the fascists.”

full: http://www.marxists.org/history/etol/critiques/guardian/index.htm

This disgusting smear is drawn from the same cesspool as Glick’s assertion that “that Camejo hopes that Bush/Cheney will win re-election.” The logic behind this kind of character assassination, which actually drove the CPUSA to back Smith Act convictions of Trotskyist leaders during WWII, is based on the assumption that WWII was a “people’s war”. To refute such a claim, it is not necessary to read Trotskyist literature. You can find essentially the same arguments from Howard Zinn and a host of new left historians–including Gar Alperovitz.

In 1967, after New Dealer LBJ escalated the war in Vietnam, new leftists were forced to come to terms with the legacy of US wars and whether they ever had a progressive purpose. One of the saddest things about ardent ABB’ers like Davidson and Glick is their failure to remember the lessons that new left historians taught us about the Democratic Party and its Wilsonian crusades for “democracy” and Wall Street profits.

In arguing for a Kerry vote (or the next best thing–a vote for David Cobb), Glick puts forward a really addled argument drawn from a misreading of American history:

“Since World War II the strongest, national, progressive third party movements have developed when Democrats were in power. The first example was the Henry Wallace/Progressive Party effort in 1948 when Harry Truman was President. Then there was the 1968 national Peace and Freedom Party effort when Johnson was President. The decade of the ’90s, when Bill Clinton was in office, was a decade which saw the emergence of three major efforts, the Green Party, the Labor Party and the New Party.”

To begin with, it is very striking that Glick has nothing to say about the 1930s when the objective possibility for a 3rd party based on the working class was greater than at any time since Eugene V. Debs. We know why such a party was not launched. The CPUSA, which enjoyed hegemony, attacked every initiative to build one using the same class-collaborationist arguments as Carl Davidson and Ted Glick. It was necessary to back FDR because he was not as bad as–you fill in the blanks.

Although historian Harvey Klehr has endeavored to portray the CPUSA as a dangerous subversive organization, his own research militates against his thesis. In “The Secret World of American Communism,” he discusses an NKVD report on communications between Earl Browder, the head of the CPUSA, and Franklin Roosevelt. FDR congratulates Browder and the CPUSA for conducting its political line skillfully and helping US military efforts. Roosevelt is “particularly pleased” with the battle of New Jersey Communists against a left-wing Labor Party formation there. He was happy that the CPUSA had been able to unite various factions of the Democratic Party against the left-wing electoral opposition and render it ineffectual.

This is exactly the role that Glick is playing today, our latter-day but inferior version of Earl Browder.

1 Comment »

  1. Thank You

    Comment by Alex — April 25, 2007 @ 4:32 pm

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