Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

May 10, 2010

Why are there so many socialist groups?

Filed under: Australia,revolutionary organizing,sectarianism — louisproyect @ 5:46 pm

Two years ago there was a split in the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) in Australia. Without getting into the questions of who was at fault, I would say that the minority that went on to form the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP) was true to the traditions of James P. Cannon, the founder of American Trotskyism, while the majority was moving away from those traditions whether they would admit it or not.  Cannon’s ideas on party-building have achieved a kind of cult status in the English-speaking Trotskyist world that is lost on me.

The other day an article by RSP member Allen Myers caught my eye. Titled Why are there so many socialist groups?, it encapsulates many of the ideas associated with Cannonite (Canonite?) orthodoxy. It is a polemic against the former members of the DSP who have thrown such orthodoxy overboard and are emulating the bold new initiative of the French Trotskyists of the LCR reconstituted as the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA), a group shorn of vanguardist pretensions. In Australia this meant building the Socialist Alliance (SA) rather than the DSP. While the SA might not be guaranteed of success in the long run, this much can be said: the old model is guaranteed to fail. Over 70 years of the Fourth International and its various fissures is proof of that.

For those of us reared in American Trotskyism, the French were always seen as anti-Leninist liquidationists. In my view, the French were a lot closer to the Bolsheviks on at least one basis. The Bolsheviks were constituted on the basis of a revolutionary socialism that had little in common with the rather encyclopedic “program” advanced by the typical English-speaking Trotskyist group. Such a program amounted to a kind of catechism that pivoted around a correct understanding of the “Russian questions”. To my knowledge, Lenin never asked people to become Bolsheviks on the basis of how they understood the Jacobins.

In some ways, Myers has exactly the right credentials to defend a Cannonite perspective since he was a member of the American Socialist Workers Party around the same time as me. Myers earned some fame as an antiwar GI who was court-martialed for distributing leaflets at Fort Dix in New Jersey. Eventually he relocated to Australia for personal reasons where he worked to build the Australian party along the same lines as the SWP. Jim Percy (who died in 1992) and his brother John founded the group that would eventually become known as the DSP.

One can understand why the Percy’s would want to build a party along Cannonite lines since the SWP was growing rapidly around the time that they visited the United States to learn about the group first-hand. Eventually, to their credit, they broke with the SWP when it began to dispense Comintern-like advice about what they should and not be doing. It would seem that they did not make the connection between that kind of interference and the SWP’s adherence to the Comintern model. As I have explained elsewhere, the resolutions of the 1924 “Bolshivization” conference of the Comintern that set the pattern for this kind of hyper-centralism was supported by James P. Cannon who always considered himself as a disciple of Zinoviev, the fountainhead of these bad organizational methods.

Myers’s article was prompted by a leaflet put out by the SA in Victoria promoting left unity. Myers says this is a mistake because:

The fundamental reason that there are many socialist organisations is that there are many different ideas about how to achieve socialism. At first glance, it might seem a reasonable idea that everyone who shares the goal of socialism should unite in a single organisation. But what could such an organisation do in a united way? Some members would think that socialism only requires electing a majority of socialists to parliament while others might think that socialists should run in parliamentary elections only to propagandise their ideas of the need for socialist revolution. Some members would consider the ACTU and other union chiefs potential allies; other members would regard them as part of the problem. Such an organisation would contain all sorts of ideas even about what the organisation itself should try to be — does it seek to build a leadership for the working class, or is its aim only to unite various existing struggles as much as it can?

This is a much less offensive way of putting things than did Morris Stein, one of James P. Cannon’s top lieutenants,  at the 1944 SWP convention:

We are monopolists in the field of politics. We can’t stand any competition. We can tolerate no rivals. The working class, to make the revolution can do it only through one party and one program. This is the lesson of the Russian Revolution. That is the lesson of all history since the October Revolution. Isn’t that a fact? This is why we are out to destroy every single party in the field that makes any pretense of being a working-class revolutionary party. Ours is the only correct program that can lead to revolution. Everything else is deception, treachery. We are monopolists in politics and we operate like monopolists.

When I joined the SWP in 1967, I was puzzled by all the groups representing themselves as Trotskyist to one degree or another. What was up with that, I asked a more experienced member—probably Les Evans, the ex-member turned Zionist/Eustonite. He recounted an anecdote that impressed a new member since it originated with someone like Lenin or Trotsky (I can’t remember who.) He said that the experience of observing the left from afar is a little bit like looking a man in the distance whose image is cloaked by fire and sparks and the violent strokes he is applying to an unseen object that result in harsh clanging sounds. From afar, he looks like a madman engaged in some bizarre activity. But when you come close, you can see that he is the village blacksmith simply doing productive work. That is exactly what polemical struggle on the left looks like to the neophyte. Frankly, I am at the point in life where the neophyte seems to have gotten it right.

In contrast to the SA, the RSP will stick to tried-and-true Leninist principles:

The task for socialists today is not to pursue imagined short cuts to mass influence, but to gather the cadres and political resources that will be needed when objective circumstances push masses of working people into struggle. As history has shown repeatedly, such upsurges can occur very quickly.

This is what I would call the “nucleus” theory of party-building. You develop a case-hardened “cadre” that is like the nucleus of some element, like carbon or uranium. When a catalyst is applied, like heat or the class struggle, the masses will accumulate around the nucleus just like electrons. That’s the theory anyhow.

It has been tested time and time again and revealed to be false. Genuine mass revolutionary parties have never been built this way. Instead, they grow out of a mass movement that is rooted in the experience of the given country. The Bolsheviks, for example, emerged out the Russian social democracy—a current that was a reflection of widespread support for the Second International throughout Europe and that was primarily fueled by a desire to rid the country of Czarist absolutism. It followed very few of the “principles” of Zinoviev or James P. Cannon who thought that Bolshevism could be turned into a template for parties everywhere. The chief goal of Australians, or Americans for that matter, would be to look to the real history of Lenin’s party rather than latter-day versions of that history that superimpose schemas of small groups trying to vindicate themselves as truly “Leninist”.

To start with, the Bolsheviks were not at all ideologically homogeneous as is the case of most “Leninist” groups today. To cite just one example, Bukharin had a totally different analysis of imperialism and the national question than Lenin and was not shy about defending it in a newspaper he edited. This did not prevent the two leaders from collaborating closely. In the “Leninist” world of today, such analyses constitute a kind of intellectual property that the party jealously protects against all rivals, like the formula for coca-cola.

As might be expected, the RSP is just as determined to stake out its turf on international questions as it is on the historical questions of the 1920s and 30s such as when the Soviet Union became (you fill in the blanks). Myers views Cuba as a kind of acid test for the left:

According to the Victorian leaflet, the SA believes that “the differences which do exist [among socialist groups] can be contained within a single organisation”. This ignores reality. For example, the Socialist Alternative (SAlt) group while formally opposed to US threats against Cuba, considers Cuba to be a capitalist state and advocates a mass armed uprising to overthrow the Cuban government. The SA has policy of solidarity with Cuba against US threats, but it hasn’t adopted a position on supporting Cuba’s socialist revolution. Perhaps, therefore, the SA could co-exist with SAlt in a united organisation in regard to its policy toward Cuba. But how could the Revolutionary Socialist Party (RSP), which regards the Cuban Revolution as an inspiring example to the working people of the world of socialist politics in action, get along in the same party with socialists who advocate the overthrow of the Cuban government?

This debating point seems utterly academic considering the fact that the Socialist Alternative (SAlt) has about as much interest in left unity as the RSP itself. In fact, despite its origins in Tony Cliff’s state capitalist dogma, the SAlt has the very same “nucleus” theory as the RSP. Sometime back, I wrote a critique of SAlt leader Mick Armstrong’s party-building ideas that are virtually the same as Allen Myers’s. Here’s an excerpt:

The key to success is building “cadre”, a term that Bruce Landau (now known as the Civil War historian and tenured professor Bruce Levine) once told a gathering of the SWP in the 1970s comes out of the military. A cadre is like an officer who can lead the masses when the time is ripe. SWP leader Tom Kerry used to pronounce this word as “codder” which only enhanced its in-group mystique for a rank-and-filer like me. Here’s Armstrong describing the cadre-building process:

This cadre, this “solid core”, is just as important in times of retreat, when workers suffer setbacks. In order to hold a revolutionary organisation together in times of defeat theory is even more paramount. When the going is tough a much higher level of theoretical agreement is necessary to hold a propaganda group together because a small group without roots in the working class is inherently more unstable than a mass party. You can’t survive on the basis of a few slogans, you need a more sophisticated analysis. The cadre has to be steeled.

I just love the way that Armstrong uses the term “steeled”. It is just so evocative, like one of those New Yorker cartoons of a bunch of Bolsheviks or anarchists gathered around a candle in the sewers. Only those who are truly “steeled” have the ability to lead the masses to socialism unlike the flaccid, unsteeled elements who will turn into Karl Kautsky the first chance they get.

As I said before, the Socialist Alliance is not guaranteed of success. In revolutionary politics, you have to take a somewhat pragmatic approach even though the science underlying the party-building effort is Marxism. I genuinely hope that the comrades stay on the current course since it is truly in the spirit of Lenin and the Bolsheviks, no matter what their detractors say. These are the same detractors who tend to look at “What is to be Done” as a holy writ when Lenin himself said only five years after it was written that it was obsolete.

24 Comments »

  1. “While the SA might not be guaranteed of success in the long run”…

    Is this a sign that Louis is at least grasping towards the recognition that the Aust Socialist Alliance, as it has played out for nearly a decade now, is probably the clearest single example internationally of the utterly destructive impact that cynical unity mongering can have on the left?

    Forget the long run. The Socialist Alliance today is a sorry rump. Socialist Alternative is much bigger and more implanted in real struggles – that has been obvious to anyone looking seriously at the situation for years. Today, even the tiny CWI aligned Socialist Party has a bigger presence than the Socialist Alliance, at least in Melbourne.

    There may be all kinds of arguments for or against left regroupment, but anyone who puts up the Aust Socialist Alliance as a model, even with qualifications, is either deluded, ignorant, or taking the proverbial piss.

    Comment by Tom — May 10, 2010 @ 6:19 pm

  2. Socialist Alternative is much bigger and more implanted in real struggles – that has been obvious to anyone looking seriously at the situation for years.

    That’s like saying that a flea is much bigger than a mite.

    At any rate, if people want to form a sect like the Socialist Alternative, don’t let me get in the way. I think that such groups can perform a useful service by introducing people to socialist ideas for the first time. In 1959 I first learned about socialism from letters written in the summertime in my hometown newspaper by Nathan Pressman, a member of the Socialist Labor Party who used to vacation in the Borscht Belt. Groups like the SLP and SAlt perform yeoman service in this fashion, even if they are incapable of making a revoluton.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 10, 2010 @ 6:24 pm

  3. I’m not actually sure about the relative sizes of fleas and mites. But yes – everyone on the far left (in Aust at least) is totally marginal to mass politics. Part of the prob with the broad party/regroupment fad is that people think this can be overcome by some kind of lefty love-in (with associated semi-religious denunciations of zinoviev and cannon, as if that absolves you from all sins).

    As for the casual references to sects and the “you are doing a service by polemicising for socialism” crap, sorry, but this is just patronising bs.

    The reality is that in terms of doing real work in the class struggle, or the student movement, or the social movements, the so-called “propagandist” groups do much more than those who attack them as sectarian.

    If you wanted serious discussion about the Aust left, maybe a good place to start would be to ask whether it is the “spotless banner sects” or the so called broad alliance that is most involved in serious work around refugees, gay rights, Palestine, union activism, the student movement etc.

    The answer might not fit with your schema.

    Comment by Tom — May 10, 2010 @ 6:46 pm

  4. If you wanted serious discussion about the Aust left, maybe a good place to start would be to ask whether it is the “spotless banner sects” or the so called broad alliance that is most involved in serious work around refugees, gay rights, Palestine, union activism, the student movement etc.

    Sorry if I left the impression that sects like the SAlt are only good at introducing people to socialist ideas. They also of course get involved with social struggles of one sort or another. But what I wrote still stands. SAlt has nothing in common with the way that the Bolsheviks were organized. I am dealing with the problem of how to form a vanguard, not how to build a group with a glass ceiling of 3 or 400 members even though that group does good work.

    Comment by louisproyect — May 10, 2010 @ 6:52 pm

  5. Tom’s contributions are precisely representative of the point Proyect is making. In order to blow the trumpet of his own sect, he has to lie, ignore and dodge about the size, activity, weight, and importance of other organisations – particularly it’s main competitor, the Socialist Alliance.

    If we can’t even begin to tell the truth, or at least look at the world immediately outside our own party meetings, then we really are in trouble…

    Comment by Wombo — May 11, 2010 @ 5:42 am

  6. Proyect gives no examples of how the ex-DSP; Socialist Alliance is actually building left unity beyond proclaiming it. In reality the “non caucusing *Marxist* tendency” that is the ex majority DSP leadership operated as a gang and expelled the minority on block after they had driven out all the other socialist groups and a significant number of independents.
    For all the wishy-washy muddle of left-unity; that is the basic truth. Socialist Alliance in Brisbane has virtually zero implantation in any campaigns beyond elections; they are rarely present at any movement meetings, while Resistance (the DSP’s socialist youth organisation)has virtually collapsed.
    Proyect’s whole polemic is flawed from the outset. He starts by saying “without laying the blame on any one”… and then proceeds to do just that in what is an attack on the idea of building a Marxist-Leninist cadre party that selects its membership- it is an exercise in subterfuge from someone who know’s nothing of the concrete reality of actually building left unity in Australia at the present time- of course it’s very easy and sanctimonious to proclaim left unity from afar.

    Comment by Andrew Martin — May 11, 2010 @ 8:17 am

  7. It is interesting that Allen Myers disputes the idea that “the differences which do exist [among socialist groups] can be contained within a single organisation”. He cites the example of Cuba as an example. In reality, it is wildly sectarian for any Australian socialist to make divergent analyses of the Cuban revolution obstacles to real unity in the struggle against the Australian bourgeoisie, as important and useful as it is to have a correct (supportive) analysis of that inspiring revolution.

    In an earlier period, when he was editor of Green Left Weekly, Allen responed to a similar criticism of Green Left (how can the one paper contain contradictory assessments of Barry Commoner and Paul Erhlich) thus:

    “All I can do is promise that Green Left will do its best to ensure that varied views on any controversial topic in the progressive movements are presented as fairly as possible. If Paul Ehrlich writes a new book containing the ideas he has published elsewhere, I will print a critical review if it’s submitted, or maybe write it myself. But we’ll also run your, presumably favourable, review — if possible, we’ll run them both side by side and encourage readers to read the book with both reviews in mind.” (http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/1862)

    The earlier Allen Myers represents a healthier approach for socialists. Right now, it is not helpful for the socialist movement to make (false) excuses about why left unity cannot be achieved.

    Comment by Alex Bainbridge — May 11, 2010 @ 9:32 am

  8. @5 “If we can’t even begin to tell the truth, or at least look at the world immediately outside our own party meetings, then we really are in trouble…”

    Look into the mirror Wombo, look into the mirror…

    Comment by Chav — May 11, 2010 @ 11:57 am

  9. “While the SA might not be guaranteed of success in the long run, this much can be said: the old model is guaranteed to fail. Over 70 years of the Fourth International and its various fissures is proof of that.”

    One would think Stalinism and the social peace of the ‘long boom’ had never existed. Socialist Alliance in Australia is going the same way as its namesake in the UK, along with that other stunning success, the Respect coalition.

    Comment by Chav — May 11, 2010 @ 12:05 pm

  10. Because there are so many “unity” conferences.
    State capitalism might be more neutrally described as a theory rather than a dogma, but it may often be a good reason for organisational separation

    Comment by skidmarx — May 11, 2010 @ 4:39 pm

  11. Isn’t the goal more important than the theory or am I missing something. I would expect splits based on a rejection of anarchism but not over the theory of State capitalism.

    Comment by Steve — May 11, 2010 @ 5:17 pm

  12. It never ceases to amaze me that the various socialist groups in Australia,all of whom are tiny and rather irrelevant,can not sit down,agree on a minimum programme and get to work representing the interests of working people in this country,both in elections and on day to day issues.We have a war on,the economy is stuffed,unemployment never moves and the endless drive towards privatization never ceases.

    I find the constant harking back to James Cannon a bit bizarre.The fractious nature of the Australian left would seem to have very little to do with what Cannon said or did.I wonder how many people here nowadays actually bother to read any of his writings.And honestly,I have forgotten the number of times that Morris Stein quote has been trotted out to suggest that the the American SWP was ‘Zinovievist’.Does anybody really believe that the practice of the American SWP has any relationship to how political organizations work in this country?

    Comment by damien — May 11, 2010 @ 10:32 pm

  13. The sad thing is that the fate of the Socialist Alliance hinges entirely and solely on the success or otherwise of Resistance – just as was the case with the DSP.

    This is primarily a reflection of the importance of (mainly university) student recruitment to the health of Australian left groups.

    This importance is also reflected in the relative strength of the rather narrowly campus oriented Socialist Alternative.

    I have a sneaking suspicion, in fact, that the version of the glass ceiling effect experienced in Australia may have more to do with the narrow, essentially student, social base of the existing left than anything else. While we can not reach out beyond that base, we will never be able to build significant organisations. And, of course, without significant organisations, we will never be able to reach out beyond that base.

    So the general concept of the Socialist Alliance, as a campaigning body that seeks to reach beyond the inner city, student left milieu, is, in my opinion, quite sound.

    Unfortunately, to sustain it and make it work, we still need a steady flow of student recruits.

    But without the latter, we’re doomed anyway, no matter what we do.

    Some of these points may also apply to the US left as well.

    Comment by Alan B — May 12, 2010 @ 12:49 am

  14. The we-have-the-right-line-and-all-the-rest-of-the-left-are-renegades mindset seems to prevent some comrades from recognising the obvious: that members of various left groups in Australia are involved working together in numerous campaigns, committees and in some trade unions with barely a sliver of consequential political difference. This is the case in the three biggest cities in Australia (Brisbane, Sydney & Melbourne). In Sydney Socialist Alliance, Socialist Alternative and Solidarity members work together in the Stop The War Coalition, the Refugee Action Coalition, the Stop The Intervention Coalition, Community Action Against Homophobia, The Gaza Defence Committee, and so on. Activists from the same groups work together (and with others) in the the NSW Teachers Federation, the NTEU,etc. RSP, some CP and Socialist Alliance members work together in the Australia Venezuela Solidarity Network (which has been organising two solidarity brigades a year to Venezuela since 2006). Solidarity and Socialist Alliance members are active in the climate change acton movement. In Melbourne Steve Jolly (Socialist Party) and comrades from the Socialist Alliance work in the construction union, in Queensland, RSP member Kathy Newnam plays a leading role in tha campaign for abortion rights which revived when a young woman was charged for using an abortion pill. Socialist Alliance member Carla Gorton was a central initiator of the action in Cairns where the prosecution took place. Solidarity and Socialist Alliance members helped put together the successful trade union brigade to Central Australia in solidarity with the Indigenous Alyawarr people’s historic walk off. Socialist Alliance’s Sam Wainwright became the second elected city councillor (in Fremantle) in recent times and learns from the rich example and experience of Steve Jolly, the Socialist Party’s councillor in Yarra (in Melbourne)… I could go on and probably even give you names and pictures for every city. The left already works together (albeit with some ridiculous jostling for recruits and over-territoriality).

    The various groups have strengths and weaknesses. Socialist Alternative is the strongest group on campuses (though concentrated in the biggest cities) but Socialist Alliance has by far the most trade union active members, including some in leadership positions. Socialist Alliance is also the only group to be found outside the big cities and the only group organising outside the inner-city in Sydney. Green Left Weekly has also the biggest readership of the left publications.

    Furthermore, between 2001 and 2005 we experienced that it was possible for several of the fractious fractions of the left to agree on a substantial common fighting socialist platform (of course while consciously putting aside adopting positions on certain historical issues that divided the groups – but creating space to continue to discuss them).

    So it can be done and I am sure it will be done one day. However that day will remain further away as long as too many socialists looking for every drop of blood (or tomato sauce!) that might be conjured/tortured into a river of blood that divides us.

    Recruiting youth is key to our movement’s future but you cannot really win youth to a life-long commitment to socialism by coralling them off from reasonable discussion and interaction with the rest of the left. That sort of sect behaviour puts many more people off the socialist movement.

    The left in Australia is small and weak. But united, it would be stronger and definitely grow much bigger.

    Comment by Peter Boyle — May 12, 2010 @ 6:08 am

  15. @8 “Look into the mirror Wombo, look into the mirror…”

    I do, Chav, every day. But I don’t *just* look in the mirror – which seems to be SAlt’s approach to measuring the activity and size of the left in Australia – I also take a good long hard look at reality too.

    Comment by Wombo — May 14, 2010 @ 6:25 am

  16. Proyect writes (#4): “But what I wrote still stands. SAlt has nothing in common with the way that the Bolsheviks were organized.”

    True enough. Little in common, at any rate. But this is also true of all the groups or individuals arguing for variants of the “broad left” idea.

    If you can find in Lenin a recipe for what a rev left should do that has been for the most part cut off (in the West at least) from the mass workers movement for nearly a century, then i would be interested to hear about it.

    Until then, let’s honestly look at what is working to build the left and on what basis today. If Peter Boyle and Wombo’s comments above are any test, that is no simple task. As is so often the case on the left, wishful thinking trumps reality at least 4 times out of 5.

    Comment by Tom — May 18, 2010 @ 4:20 pm

  17. “As is so often the case on the left, wishful thinking trumps reality at least 4 times out of 5.”

    The real problem with the socialist left in my opinion is that there are way too many old cynics who don’t believe in anything anymore. Rather than retire they get their claws stuck into some socialist group or other and vacuum up all the fresh meat on campus, fill them up with sectarian dogma, suck them dry and leave them just as burnt out and cynical as themselves. There are also way too many ego-maniacs with no ambition other than to become big fish in tiny puddles. These ones dominate the movement groups and insure that they will never become mass movements (because that runs the risk of becoming less important as an individual) and the sectarians encourage it because it takes up space that other sects might be able to fill if it’s not taken up by something that is less of a threat to them. Personally I’ve come to believe that the best thing that the Australian left could do is not to unify but to retire with dignity and make space for something healthier.

    Comment by fed up — May 24, 2010 @ 4:57 am

  18. Tom: I liked the term “cynical unity mongering” so much I wrote a whole blog post of my own about it…
    http://bccwords.blogspot.com/2010/05/cynical-unity-mongering.html

    Comment by Ben Courtice — May 26, 2010 @ 1:15 pm

  19. Tom writes: “As is so often the case on the left, wishful thinking trumps reality at least 4 times out of 5.”

    A good example of this is his own group’s politics regarding Bolivia….

    Bolivia: When fantasy trumps reality
    Saturday, May 22, 2010
    By Federico Fuentes

    Ironically, while the left is one of the fiercest critics of biased media coverage, it can also fall in the trap of corporate media distortions, particularly if its coverage dovetails with its own fantasies.

    A May 14 article by Daniel Lopez published on the website of Australian group Socialist Alternative is proof of this……http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/44208

    Comment by Fred — May 26, 2010 @ 4:53 pm

  20. The Socialist Alliance in Newcastle has an interesting relationship with the autonomist left, in particular with the group rising tide.

    By having a non sectarian and respectful approach members of SA have been able to collaborate with rising tide on projects and, I would argue, explain to RT why we think a mass action approach is important, and why we think it is important to distinguish between workers and unions versus CEOs.

    I think that these have been fruitful discussions and Rising Tide, whilst it is most definitely a direct-action environmentalist group which particularly enjoys locking onto trains and conveyor belts and such, nonetheless makes a point of organising mass protests like climate camp and the ‘peoples blockade of the worlds biggest coal port’ and RT members are engaged with climate activist union coal miners up in the valley.

    If Socialist Alliance/ DSP members had taken a hardline stance on ‘autonomists’ and not patiently entered into discussion with the group and supported it as best as we could, then perhaps RT may not have quite as much focus on organising mass direct action as well as more clandestine actions; perhaps you would not see half a dozen RT members at a Maritime Union rally at the new coal loader calling for workers at the loader to be taken off contract wages and allowed to join the union (and get a pay increase) as happened a month ago.

    On the surface of it, supporting coal workers who want a pay rise is obscene and ridiculous and entrenches their dependence on their fossil fuel derived income. From a more ‘worker’ perspective though, supporting organised workers in the coal industry in taking a combative stance against the corporate interests that own their workplace is wholly consistent with forming a relationship with those workers aimed at shutting the coal industry down and providing a transition for those workers into well paid renewable/ alternative jobs. Far from being brainless cave people, I have found rising tide people to be quite thoughtful and quite receptive of that sort of logic.

    Former CPA member Geoff Evans has done fantastic work on this ‘just transition’ topic; SA members including myself have publicised this work in Green Left despite there being lingering tensions perhaps stemming back to the old ‘trot vs stalinist’ rivalries of the 70’s when Geoff was first getting into socialist activism.

    I used to think splits were to be avoided at all costs; however having been through it I think the DSP split was a healthy thing because the former ‘leninist party faction’ were clearly extremely unhappy with the direction of the party and were exerting an increasingly destructive influence within the DSP and SA. The RSP can now pursue its line and see how it goes- and as peter points out, RSP members, just like Socialist Alternative, Socialist Party, Solidarity and other groups can and do work together in the movement. I don’t read the RSP newspaper Direct Action much but I did read a good article about the Cuban electoral/political system a while back by Marce cameron.

    Yes there is tension and parochialism betweeen left groups and that is extremely unfortunate and pretty destructive. But there is also collaboration. They say that ‘if the left could unite, there would be no right’. Maybe all the socialist (and autonomist and climate action and …) groups are kind of like factions of this one larger entity – which is not really a party per se… but when we can work together we can sure kick goals. I think what is happening in Greece is a bit like that- a coming together of many chunks to form a powerful movement.

    Unity for unity’s sake is mindless but so too is this quest to destroy all other parties which are merely chiameras designed to undermine your hallowed vanguard party. This is arrogant and disrespectful. It is important that one part of the movement is able to criticise another- note Freds article above- but if you look back through the Green Left archives you will note that openly criticising another group on the left is the exception in this publication, not the rule. You can debate issues out in a more constructive manner which does not make the left look like such an unwelcoming snake pit for new recruits, which I think is a serious problem and hampers our growth.

    Anyway cheers for the article Louis…

    Comment by Zane Alcorn — May 31, 2010 @ 8:31 am

  21. Gosh: Socialist Alliance is the culmination of two decades of unity campaigning by the DSP! I suppose that means the answer all along was to settle with unity with… yourselves!

    Tom Bramble knows you’re full of shit and no amount of faux earnestness is going to change this. The fact is Salt has overtaken the DSP as the largest left group. SAlt has not and given that it is especially not now going to join a fake unity organisation like SA.

    This is what is really sticking in your craw.

    There are other things to criticise SAlt for. It’s sensible decision to not go near SA is not one of them.

    Comment by Salty dog — May 31, 2010 @ 12:51 pm

  22. […] Proyect, moderator of the Marxmail list and a former member of the Socialist Workers’ Party, explains how he was initially impressed with the explanations given to him (back in the late ‘60s) by a […]

    Pingback by How Can We Build the Socialist Movement in the 21st Century? — January 12, 2013 @ 6:12 pm

  23. Name a “mass party” in the last 70 years that has achieved victory (assuming the goal is socialism). You can’t, which by the logic displayed here would mean that mass parties are also hopeless.

    Comment by Gordan — October 1, 2016 @ 3:20 am

  24. I don’t advocate a mass party except as a transition to one that is capable of making a revolution. If you think that sectarian groups after the fashion of the American SWP are capable of becoming such a party, I would advise you to go easy on the LSD.

    Comment by louisproyect — October 1, 2016 @ 12:21 pm


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