Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

August 5, 2010

I’ll stick with the swamp

Filed under: sectarianism,Trotskyism — louisproyect @ 4:19 pm

With an article titled France: Where is the NPA going? you have to assume that you have entered the rarefied circles of Trotskyism. Of course, if you wanted to establish your orthodoxy at the outset, it would have been better to title the article “Whither the NPA?”

It appears that the French anti-capitalist party launched by the LCR has a lot of Trotskyists upset, in this instance the French co-thinkers of Alan Woods whose website In Defense of Marxism (IDOM) shares the title of the American SWP’s collection of letters and articles written by Trotsky in the Shachtman-Burnham fight. It is there where Trotsky coined the famous phrase “from a scratch to gangrene” that perhaps better than any other words epitomizes the Talmudic sensibilities of this movement. In just about every faction fight that took place in the SWP since Trotsky uttered these words, there is always a dichotomy between the “proletarian” and “petty bourgeois” wing of the party that can implicitly only be resolved through a split, which nips the gangrene in the bud. This purification process kept being repeated over and over in the Trotskyist movement until you ended up with a myriad of rival Fourth Internationals. Fortunately, history has moved forward to the point when most sensible Marxist activists appear ready to drop this self-defeating ritualistic methodology.

The attack on the NPA appeared in La Riposte which describes itself as “the left wing of the French Communist Party”. As you might be aware, the current led by Alan Woods has long been associated with deep entryism in the British Labour Party. I suppose that the group around La Riposte has adapted that strategy to French conditions.

For La Riposte, the NPA amounts to what orthodox Trotskyists tend to call a “swamp”, even though they don’t use this hoary epithet. But the characterization is quite familiar to those of us who have traveled in such circles:

The NPA [New Anti-Capitalist Party] counts in its ranks a certain number of revolutionary activists who seriously struggle against the capitalist class and want to finish with Capitalism. But these elements are increasingly isolated inside their own party. The NPA differs from the LCR [Revolutionary Communist League which later became the NPA together with other forces] by the fact that it is much more heterogeneous, politically speaking.

Heterogeneity! Ah, the danger lurks! The omnipresent scratch! As it turns out, an “ill-defined” environmentalism and feminism could be what leads to gangrene:

Now, those members for whom the electoral results of the NPA are the most important thing will draw the conclusion that the break with “radicalism” and the “Communist” profile of the LCR has not gone far enough. They will apply pressure to put “anti-capitalism” in the background, to the advantage of more moderate ideas – vaguely environmentalist, feminist, etc. – which they consider to be more advantageous on the electoral front.

Now it should be understood that IDOM leader Alan Woods has the kind of suspicion of feminism that was prevalent on the Marxist left in the early 1960s, but unfortunately he carried those kinds of suspicions well into the 21st century as exemplified in his workerist article Marxism versus feminism – The class struggle and the emancipation of women. This sort of thing is an embarrassment and not worth the time and energy to refute.

IDOM also has a very mixed record on environmental issues, embarrassing itself two years ago by publishing a long denialist article on climate change of the sort one might find on Spiked Online, but without the Marxist rhetoric of course.

Curiously enough, La Riposte has nothing to say about the broader context for the NPA initiative, namely the recognition that groups based on the organizational principles—such as they are—of the various Fourth Internationals have led to one split after another. Indeed Woods’s Fourth International is the product of a split with Peter Taaffe’s Committee for a Workers International over entryism, with Taaffe favoring a break with the tactic. Not surprisingly, Taaffe described the Woods group in drearily familiar terms:

The split between the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks began, as is well known, over the famous “Paragraph One” of the constitution of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party, defining the character, rights and duties of the members. The dispute was between the ‘hards’ and the ‘softs’. Subsequent events demonstrated that this divergence between the Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks was an anticipation of the future political gulf that would open up between them in the course of the three Russian revolutions that followed.

Let us recall here that when the dispute broke in May, 1991, the minority claimed that there were no political differences. The majority on the other hand argued that the roots of the differences lay in the complex objective situation nationally and internationally and in the subjective weaknesses and incapacity of the minority leaders to face up to this.

Sigh. That’s always the way it turns out, one more reenactment of the Bolshevik-Menshevik split, a proletarian wing of the party versus a petty bourgeois wing. I think I’ll stick with the swamp.

68 Comments

  1. Some people think that all problems were solved in 1938 with the adoption of the Transitional Program for Socialist Revolution. Written by Trotsky himself, adopted and presented at the Founding Congress of the Fourth International, it remains a magical formula, a sort of mantra, for those who continue to believe that the analysis put forward by Leon Trotsky, who died in 1940, SEVENTY YEARS AGO, in Tlatelolco, Mexico.

    All they need is the name of the betrayer and the location, an they can simply place these two items in a computer program to know where and when and by whom the betrayal has been committed.

    But politics aren’t that simple. If they could have been done by computers, socialists would be discussing other problems than these, since socialism would long since have been brought about.

    The Russian Revolution was a great historical event, but it was not and couldn’t possibly be a model for socialist revolutions in the rest of the world through the rest of human history. This is where Alan Woods and other Trotskyist tendencies go wrong.

    Such elements often write interesting and detailed commentaries on every country on earth, but the bottom line is the same in every case: All problems were solved in 1938 with the Transitional Program for Socialist Revolution.

    Comment by Walter Lippmann — August 5, 2010 @ 4:31 pm

  2. maligning femimism, instead of seizing upon it to facilitate Marxist and radical left perspectives on society, as people like Maria Mies, Nina Power and others have done, strikes me as a really effective strategy for permanent political marginalization

    Comment by Richard Estes — August 5, 2010 @ 5:46 pm

  3. The problem is that feminism, like gay rights, is no longer a socialist issue. It’s not even a vaguely leftish issue. Rightwing women like Sarah Palin have no plan to give up what women have gained, and Log Cabin Republicans are working for gay marriage. Capitalism is becoming very pure in the 21st century: it’s just about wealth.

    Comment by will shetterly — August 5, 2010 @ 7:54 pm

  4. There is no such thing as a socialist issue.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 5, 2010 @ 8:01 pm

  5. yes, but it is important to note that there is no such thing as a homogenous feminism, there are many manifestations of it, some of them quite radical

    Nina Power’s pamphlet length book, “One Dimensional Woman”, engages the problem of the aridity of contemporary mainstream feminism, the reduction of it to gratification through consumption, and suggests alternatives based upon a Marxist perspective

    and, it is also important to recognize that some of the early Marxist resistance to feminism, as reflected in Marxist political groupings in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, was not based upon this problem, the appropriation of feminism by capitalists, but, rather, had doctrinal grounds, specifically, the refusal of newly emerging generations of feminists to accept that sexism was a secondary contradiction that would be resolved upon the creation of a socialist society

    but, a close reading of this post indicates that the NPA statement talked about “vaguely feminist” ideas as being corrupting, and that, may, in fact, actually be true, if one accepts the prospect of a more credible left feminism as lacking such vagueness, and hence, constituting a viable socialist perspective

    Comment by Richard Estes — August 5, 2010 @ 8:09 pm

  6. Will raises a good point. Trotsky rightly remarked that capitalism will readily make all sorts of concessions on the cultural front: civil rights, long hairs, feminism, gay rights, & even tatooed youth with shit stuck in their faces — so long as not a hair on capitalism’s head is touched.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — August 5, 2010 @ 8:12 pm

  7. Louis, I could agree that’s true now, or I could say that all issues are socialist issues. I’ll content myself with stating what you know, that in the 20th century, socialists were extremely important in the struggle for equal rights for women and people of color.

    Regarding feminism, here’s a paragraph I quite like from Tristan Hunt’s biography of Engels: …he was highly dismisive of the campaign for female suffrage—’these little madams, who clamour for women’s rights’—and regarded their cause as a distraction behind which class rule would flourish. ‘These Englishwomen who championed a women’s formal right to allow themselves to be as thoroughly exploited by capitalists as men are, have, for the most part, a direct or indirect interest in the capitalist exploitation of both sexes,’ he wrote to ‘Mother Schack’, explaining how he was more focused on the coming generation than on formal equality amongst the existing one. Yet when, in 1876, a female candidate bounced up the steps of No. 122 Regent’s Park Road seeking Engels’s vote for the London School Board elections (for which women were eligible to stand following the 1870 Education Act), he couldn’t help but give her all his seven votes—as a result, ‘she had more votes than any of the other seven candidates for election. Incidentally, the ladies who sit on school boards here are notable for the fact that they do very little talking and a great deal of working—as much on average as three men.’

    Comment by will shetterly — August 5, 2010 @ 8:13 pm

  8. Now it should be understood that IDOM leader Alan Woods has the kind of suspicion of feminism that was prevalent on the Marxist left in the early 1960s

    And not only in the 60s.. according to Alexandra Kollontai’s biographer Barbara Evans Clements, the bolsheviks were deeply suspicious of “feminist separatism”, and refused to support Kollontai’s attempts to organize women of the working class as women even within the party.

    “After some argument with the party leaders [in 1906] she got permission to hold a meeting to discuss the formation of a women’s bureau, but when she and her friends arrived at the room assigned to them, they found it locked. On the door was a sign that read, ‘The meeting for women only has been called off. Tomorrow a meeting for men only.” (The Bolshevik Feminist, p. 46.)

    Only after the start of the civil war did the party leadership agree to establish commissions for work among women in all party committees, which probably had more to do with trying to involve as many people as possible in the war than with any change as to views on women’s liberation. The party leadership “were not going to exert any special effort to help the Woman’s Bureau, but they were willing to let it do its work with their blessing”. (p. 170)

    Comment by jjonas — August 5, 2010 @ 8:59 pm

  9. Yeah, the IMT has a lot of growing to do, I agree. We’ll get there. By the same token, I don’t think the concerns Alan raises in this article are entirely wrong, given the history of anti capitalist formationsb which attempt to transcend marxism

    Nice Pogo cover that you used as a graphic. Looks like a collection of Kelly’s work from the late 40s early 50s, just glancing at the style. Beautiful strips.

    Comment by Michael Hureaux — August 5, 2010 @ 9:03 pm

  10. Isn’t interesting how the focus of the discussion went from the French IMT’s criticisms of the NPA to Ted Grant’s and/or Alan Woods’ positions on feminism? Don’t we have a name for this kind of thing when it’s done by spokesmen for the ruling class?

    As for class critiques of feminism, take a look at what the “Mandelite” Internationalist Tendency (or Ernest Mandel, for that matter) said about Jack Barnes and Co. tailing after middle-class feminism (not to mention nationalism) in the SWP during the 1960s and 70s. The official line was that “consistent nationalism/feminism (or whatever other “mass movement” the SWP was tailing after at the time) leads to socialism.” Now, how is this any different than the Workers World types tailing after various Third World despotisms in the name of “anti-imperialism?” It should also be noted that almost none of the many critics of Jack Barnes’ organizational atrocities ever criticize his pre-1979 politics (especially sectoralism) since they all sided with him against oppositional tendencies like the IT and saw nothing wrong with any of the stuff until they themselves got thrown out.

    Therefore, I think Michael is being a little too kind (or too diplomatic) here; the concerns Alan raises are not only NOT wrong, let alone, entirely, wrong, but quite correct… “given the history of anti capitalist formations which attempt to transcend marxism.” It’s not the IMT that has the growing to do, but the ex-SWPers who still think that the SWP in the 60s and 70s was the defining experience of the modern socialist and workers movement and judge any and every development within the left from that perspective, which far “transcends” the IMT’s or CWI’s seeing the Bolshevik experience as such. As far as I know, the latter influenced a hell of a lot more people than the former did.

    Comment by Roy Rollin — August 5, 2010 @ 10:37 pm

  11. Don’t we have a name for this kind of thing when it’s done by spokesmen for the ruling class?

    Dear me. I have developed a case of gangrene.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 5, 2010 @ 10:41 pm

  12. Har har hardy har har.

    Comment by Ralph Kramden — August 5, 2010 @ 11:29 pm

  13. Socialism and Feminism are in retreat. As is usual defeated factions start to blame one another rather than the common enemy.
    Better to form a UF to defend everyones’ gains, and debate the differences while we tackle the enemy together and lets see who comes to the leadership.
    If, as I think, women workers are more oppressed by capitalism than male workers in general, then we would expect women to be the majority in the leadership.
    Of course this would mean overcoming resistance from male revolutionaries in the same way as women struggled to win major gains under the Bolsheviks.
    We understand the reasons the Bolsheviks only got so far, we have to get a lot further today.
    Unfortunately for Louis this process will always involve the nasty business of splits between proletarian and petty bourgeois factions as there has never been any revolution based on isolated individuals linked together only by personal communications such as comics or the internet arising out of voluntaristic acts of supreme will.

    Comment by dave brown — August 5, 2010 @ 11:48 pm

  14. Dave, could it be possible that you have evolved past your Spartacist politics?

    Comment by louisproyect — August 5, 2010 @ 11:57 pm

  15. Feminism is in retreat? Where? The gap between rich and poor is greater than it’s been in decades, but women’s rights seem to be as strong or stronger than they’ve ever been in the USA.

    Comment by will shetterly — August 6, 2010 @ 12:03 am

  16. Oh heavens it’s a conversation only a bunch of straight men could have.

    I can’t believe it’s going to fall to a lapsed Leninist like me to suggest that if you reexamine the issue of women’s and gay issues through a class lens, through a feminist theoretical lens, or through an internationalist lens, and not the arcane abstractions being put forward here and I think the perspective changes.

    Take the whole discussion of Afghan women. Could there be a better case for unity of class and “sectoral” (what Trot invented that horrible word) organizing? Afghan women, organize and arm yourselves. Afghan men, defend your class sisters. What a perfect opportunity for the raising of revolutionary consciousness better than the false choices of American military protection or begging to be included in the puppet’s cabinet.

    In the U.S. no amount of Elena Kagans nor Sarah Palins nor Prop 8 rulings mean the struggle is somehow over, the struggles of women and gays no longer relevant to revolutionary change. What about the statistics about continued violence against women; what about the revelance of greater male unemployment–a unionized male workforce replaced by a nonunionized underpaid female one. What about immigrant women. What about the gays who will discover that marriage equality is not the same thing as liberation. It seems so reformist to suggest these struggles are no longer relevant because it’s like you’re looking at the wrong prize, no longer being able to focus on actual transformational change.

    Americans lack not only working class consciousness but they’re hypnotized into lacking virtually any sense of solidarity with each other at all. That whole politics of selfish entitlement spawning the racist teabag movement is icing on that hideous cake. Feminist and gay liberation consciousness are inroads into rebuilding some sense of solidarity. Some inkling of solidarity is how Obama got elected, regardless of what happened the day after that. But please, feel free to organize around whether to reforge, rebuild or refound the Fourth International.

    Louis is right about the swamp. It’s the way the real world is.

    Comment by ish — August 6, 2010 @ 12:59 am

  17. As someone who actually was in one of these “multi-tendency” groups led by professional anti-“Leninist” and anti-“Trotskyist” ex-SWPers (and ex-ISers) , that is, Solidarity in the early 1990s, I think that “I’ll sink in the swamp” would be a far better title.

    Comment by Roy Rollin — August 6, 2010 @ 1:07 am

  18. Karl,

    Hi hope you are well.

    Regarding comment #6.

    No capitalism will make concessions. Look at the ‘progress’ made in the United States. 40 hour work week, child labor laws, minimum wage, social security, etc…

    No capitalism is willing to give in, for a time. What they do is share a fraction of the wealth. They do this because the people put the pressure on. If I have learned anything by my studies of revolution is that the ruling class never concedes anything without a struggle. There will be a fight and when there is a strong fight the capitalists will back down. Evil by nature is cowardly. They give up a little to save a lot.

    Then time passes by. The revolutionary ferver has passed away and people are ‘living better’ then there fathers were. The masses become complacent and the ruling class starts to rob the hard earned gains of the warriors of the past.

    That is why liberalism will never succeed. What is needed is a fundamental change and the transformation of all imperialistic powers. Capitalism is by nature oppressive especially when we consider human greed.

    No you are wrong. Capitalism will shave their heads bald if that allows them to save the system. And then over time, maybe generations later they take back what they gave up.

    There is only one answer. World wide revolution. I believe as a Christian that revolution must be a spiritual one. A Love Revolution if you will. From the Christian point of view capitalism is really serving the god of mammon and the Bible clearly calls greed idolism. Capitalism and it’s evil manifestation imperialism is as far as way from Christianity as you can get.

    Whatever way you want to slice it we must create a system which places the value of human life over material goods.

    Love,

    John Kaniecki

    Comment by John Kaniecki — August 6, 2010 @ 1:24 am

  19. Oh heavens it’s a conversation only a bunch of straight men could have.

    I can’t believe it’s going to fall to a lapsed Leninist like me to suggest that if you reexamine the issue of women’s and gay issues through a class lens, through a feminist theoretical lens, or through an internationalist lens, and not the arcane abstractions being put forward here and I think the perspective changes.

    Take the whole discussion of Afghan women. Could there be a better case for unity of class and “sectoral” (what Trot invented that horrible word) organizing? Afghan women, organize and arm yourselves. Afghan men, defend your class sisters. What a perfect opportunity for the raising of revolutionary consciousness better than the false choices of American military protection or begging to be included in the puppet’s cabinet.

    In the U.S. no amount of Elena Kagans nor Sarah Palins nor Prop 8 rulings mean the struggle is somehow over, the struggles of women and gays no longer relevant to revolutionary change. What about the statistics about continued violence against women; what about the revelance of greater male unemployment–a unionized male workforce replaced by a nonunionized underpaid female one. What about immigrant women. What about the gays who will discover that marriage equality is not the same thing as liberation. It seems so reformist to suggest these struggles are no longer relevant because it’s like you’re looking at the wrong prize, no longer being able to focus on actual transformational change.

    Americans lack not only working class consciousness but they’re hypnotized into lacking virtually any sense of solidarity with each other at all. That whole politics of selfish entitlement spawning the racist teabag movement is icing on that hideous cake. Feminist and gay liberation consciousness are inroads into rebuilding some sense of solidarity. Some inkling of solidarity is how Obama got elected, regardless of what happened the day after that. But please, feel free to organize around whether to reforge, rebuild or refound the Fourth International.

    Louis is right about the swamp. It’s the way the real world is.

    (apologies if this posts twice…being buggy for me)

    Comment by ish — August 6, 2010 @ 1:26 am

  20. Ish, the problem with US identity politics is they’re only about the identity. They’re not an inroad to anything else. Gay, black, and female Republicans/Tea Partiers are not going anywhere near the issue of class. The liberal members of those groups prefer to talk about the middle class, not the working class. Identity Politicians will use socialists for their issues, but they will not turn from those issues to help the working class. We’ve got record levels of debt and unemployment and foreclosures in the US now. If class is not enough of an issue for socialists, socialism is doomed.

    Comment by will shetterly — August 6, 2010 @ 1:53 am

  21. The only “solidarity” connected with electing Obama was solidarity with the majority of America’s ruling rich who backed him over Clinton and then McCain. And those decisions were made long before the day after he got elected…or he wouldn’t have been elected to begin with. Such “solidarity” shows the utter dead-end of identity politics; identity with the politics of the ruling class as No. 19 correctly points out.

    Anyone really wanting to show “feminist consciousness” as an “inroad into rebuilding some sense of solidarity” could have voted for Cynthia McKinney, a Black woman, who, unlike Obama, ran as independent an anti-war, candidate, if Ralph Nader, an Arab-American, was too white for them.

    Say what you will about the forgeries of the Fourth International, and I would probably agree with the funnier comments about it, but it’s the politics of the swamp that leads to supporting the likes of an Obama (or in the case of France, Jacques Chirac), usually because “t’s the way the real world is.” As for me, I still agree with the guy who said, “the point is to change it.”

    Comment by Roy Rollin — August 6, 2010 @ 2:19 am

  22. Re 19, “Identity Politics,” how 1963 of you. Are you watching Mad Men? Your problem is that you believe the working class is white straight men with only economic issues on their minds. My point is that people have different experiences that develop their consciousness. How that consciousness is turned into conclusions that lead to action–and hopefully radicalized–is the point of revolutionary leadership.

    Re 20, I’m not actually saying a thing about Obama. That’s another discussion. I’m talking about how he got elected. And again revolutionary leadership finds a way to intersect existing consciousness and move it forward.

    Comment by ish — August 6, 2010 @ 2:45 am

  23. Ish, you’re projecting, ’cause I haven’t been saying what you’re hearing. Even if I had been saying that, you’re wrong about the timeline, ’cause identity politics come out of the ’70s and ’80s. It’s precisely “economic issues on their mind” that explains Clarence Thomas, Michael Steele, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, and any Log Cabin Republican you care to name. The vision of the capitalists whose identity makes you think they should be on your side is remarkably clear: it’s about keeping the working class in their place.

    I do agree that identity politics can sometimes be a baby step toward class consciousness, but identity politics can’t explain your “straight white men” who become socialists, beginning with the obvious examples, Marx and Engels. Class consciousness comes from noticing that people of all hues and genders are shafted by capitalism and that the problem is greater than identity politics can explain.

    Comment by will shetterly — August 6, 2010 @ 3:47 am

  24. R.R. said: “how is this any different than the Workers World types tailing after various Third World despotisms in the name of “anti-imperialism?”

    He makes a vaguely valid point or two regarding identity politics however in fairness to those who aren’t just arm-chair or wannabe socialists it should be noted that the WWP, for whatever it’s real or imagined faults, or all its support of so-called “Third World despotisms in the name of “anti-imperialism” (do you mean like Cuba?) has been the only consistently revolutionary Marxist org to get significant coalitions, & more importantly, masses of bodies in American Streets since the end of the Vietnam War. Even Louis concedes that much.

    Ex-SWPers from the 60’s loathe the WWP for one main reason: the WWP and its youth group YAWF (Youth Against War & Fascism) rightly hijacked the mass SWP demos during the 60’s and took the amorphous “OUT NOW” slogan to its logical, socialist conclusion: “HO, HO, HO CHI MINH, THE N.L.F. IS GONNA WIN!” — a line which proved to resonate much more resolutely with the angry draft-age youth masses than the SWP’s attempt at blunting revolutionary defeatism, that is, honing down revolutionary politics for the broadest coalition that didn’t offend certain sensibilities.

    You see, unlike the WWP, the SWP’s view was that HO was just another Stalinist but how exactly he was objectively different than Fidel which the SWP supported — class conscious workers & students wanted to know?

    In the ranks of the SWP during Vietnam some cadre bastardized Trotsky’s line that the Stalinists leading Vietnam were “counterrevolutionary through and through” while others in the SWP rightly argued that “nobody ever claimed that Stalinists couldn’t fight, and right now those actually fighting & defeating US imperialism should get our support.” Needless to say the failure of the SWP to resolve that question is one of the reasons for its monumental failure today.

    Moreover, re: the WWP, where & who is the somebody that can point to a single incident wherein the WWP objected to somebody’s politics based on their departure from Trotsky’s so-called “1938 magic formula” that leads to this notion of the “swamp”?

    Futhermore, name more than 3 or 4 instances where you can even find Trotsy’s name mentioned in WWP literature archived over the last freaking half century? And yet they’re called sectarians!

    Their roots are clearly Trotskyist, having split from the SWP in 1956 over Hungary, yet they get virtually zero credit from most leftists in general, and humiliated SWPers in particular, for having absolutely nothing to do with that Cannonite nonsense in their party deliberations or functions.

    Look, as far as the majority of workers in America know, the Cuban Revolution & Fidel Castro are one of those “various Third Word despotisms” Roy Rollin speaks of so self-righteously, as if Serbs or Bulgarians or Romanians are living large today, or as if North Koreans are so miserable compared to those who defecate in public on the sides of roads in Calcutta, or if the women & old people in Iraq are better off today than under Saddam, or even, as if Panamanians are better off than under Noriega, who for whatever his faults, was clearly railroaded for committing only one crime in the eyes of Uncle Sam — defying the directives of US Imperialism, particularly vis a vis his refusal to obey direct orders to supply sanctuary to the Contras against the Sandinistas.

    Is the WWP’s support of Milosevic back in the late 90’s, or Chavez today, just one more of those “various Third Word despotisms” that R.R. speaks of?

    Was it evidence of supporting 3rd World despots when the WWP single handedly motivated somebody like former US Atttorney General Ramsey Clark to document the unprecedented War Crimes in Iraq after Desert Storm, with millions of elderly & children maimed & murdered by imperialist sanctions in an age when most leftists like Noam Chomsky, Leslie Cagan, Ralph Nader, and yes, even Peter Camejo, were urging: “Just Give Sanctions a Chance!”

    No, not likely, because in the age of post-soviet unbridled US imperialism such talk about third world despotisms ultimately rings hollow & shrill, insignificantly different than your average NY Times OP ED.

    The WWP is the only Marxist org in the USA that has maintained weekly correspondence with the leaders of the Cuban revolution for the last 20 years, that is, since the collapse of the Soviets. Fidel may have read the Militant 40 years ago, but for the last 20 years he’s only read one revolutionary socialist weekly from the USA, and that’s the Workers World newspaper. That’s just a stubborn fact.

    Same goes with North Korea, albeit the passing of the original Kim & the events thereafter being obviously out of the WWP’s control. But just because his sons or whoever may be a megolmaniac fuckwad tyrant like Stalin doesn’t mean the progressive significance of the Korean Revolution is the same as some typical third world despot. Atheist education, state subsidized food & housing, free medicine including abortion, socialized property, to say nothing of the inability & unwillingness to be over-run in a fortnight by the jackboots of US militarism, does not make a typical Bannana Republic.

    Sam Marcy wasn’t running around like the pathetic & impotent Jack Barnes after the reunification of capitalist Germany and the Czarist flag waving over the Kremlin imagining that they were still workers’ states just because state property wasn’t immediately liquidated.

    Nor was Marcy pontificating in the early 80’s about the progressive significance of the 1979 Iranian revolution, nor was he railing against the alleged petty-bourgeois character of the Sandinistas.

    No, instead, they organized a 100,000 to march in support of Hatians beleaugered under Aristide’s mandate (another 3rd world despot I suppose?), and then another hundred fifty thousand amassed more than once against Desert Storm, despite a boycott from the left in general and liberals plus Democratic Party tail-enders like the CPUSA & their spinoff, the Committees of Correspondence (including the late Peter Camejo just recently affiliated with Ralph Nader) in particular — not to mention lesser actions of 10,000 or more bodies in the streets on behalf of virtually every historically oppressed group or nation over the last quarter century.

    Or was it the WWP’s support of Hezbollah in driving the Israeli Army into their only defeat that warrants such anti-despotic criticism? That’s one of the complaints of the West Coast splitters of the WWP, that the WWP supposedly had some article during that most recent Zionist marauding of Lebanon that started with the caption: “Hezbollah is all of us!” — a corny slogan perhaps but followed by an illuminating article wherein it was documented how that poor peoples’ organization acted like unofficial soviets, distributing the only food & arms & shelter to the hungry massses under seige, much like the Black Panthers would have been proud of had their number been up.

    That’s typically the real critique of the WWP, that they too strongly support historically oppressed yet politically doomed organizations like the Black Panthers!

    Politically insignificant bloggers like Roy Rollin cannot claim even a fraction of the political impact an admittedly tiny org like the WWP has had over the last 40 years.

    My WWP button collection that I started as a teenager spells it all out as if Uncle Sam was the biggest rapist since Chester the Molester, and some have the cajones & audacity to talk about 3rd World despots:

    US hands Off Vietnam

    US Hands Off Korea

    US Hands Off Cuba

    US Hands Off the Phillipines

    US Hands Off Angola

    US Hands Off Nicaragua

    US Hands Off El Salvador

    US Hands Off Grenada

    US Hands Off Pananma

    US Hands Off Palestein

    US Hands Off Iraq

    Bottom line is if Roy Rollin wants to critique those “Workers World types” so superficially without counterposing an iota of American Marxist organizational political significance in the last 30 years then he ought keep shilling for the NY Times editorial page as they just might hire him.

    Reminds me of progressives I’ve spoke with that say, yea, I kind of like Workers World line but why do they keep rallying for that convicted cop killer Jamal!

    Those who live in glass houses best beware of throwing stones lest shards of shit bury them in their own insignificance.

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — August 6, 2010 @ 5:07 am

  25. I should add that perhaps another primary fact that bothers many old-school leftists, particularly straight white men, who accuse the WWP of not only support of so-called 3rd World despots in the name of anti-imperislism but also of so-called “identity politics” — is the fact that today the WWP’s leadership is made up predominantly of non-white, non-straight, women.

    Hell hath no fury like a scorned straight white male progressive who misses the sound of his own voice.

    See for yourself:
    http://www.workers.org/

    Comment by Karl Friedrich — August 6, 2010 @ 5:29 am

  26. “3.The problem is that feminism, like gay rights, is no longer a socialist issue.”

    Every Socialist should be in favour of equality & solidarity, & against oppression. That is not “identity politics.” It is fundamental to Socialism.

    Comment by JN — August 6, 2010 @ 8:49 am

  27. Moreover, do you not think that what affects women workers, or black workers, or Muslim workers, or gay workers affects the working class as a whole (in addition to being wrong in it’s own right, obviously)?

    Comment by JN — August 6, 2010 @ 8:54 am

  28. Louis, on the general issue, is there a Marxist method and is it worth defending in your opinion?

    As far as I am concerned the problem with the bureaucratised centrist sects of today is not that they defend `Marxism’ but that they are incapable of exemplary work, are thoroughly self-serving and propound their own dogmatic, revisionist versions of `Marxism’ which often owe more to the Stalinist Gramsci than anything Trotsky ever said or wrote about.

    Let’s face it, if you are not a scientific socialist you are some other kind of socialist. I think it is quite ironic that you would use the `scratch to gangrene’ analogy in a derogatory manner when we have the heirs of Shachtman still insisting that imperialism remains historically progressive and anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism and so on and so forth. You should also note that it was they that did all the splitting not Trotsky.

    Comment by David Ellis — August 6, 2010 @ 2:49 pm

  29. David, I am all for sharp debate on the left. I am generally sympathetic to Solidarity but that does not preclude me from hammering Sam Farber who has written pure garbage about Cuba in their magazine. Indeed, the Bolshevik party was marked by such debates. What I am opposed to is the reductionism of the Trotskyist movement that immediately turns every sharp debate into a pop sociological treatise on the working class versus the petty bourgeoisie.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 6, 2010 @ 2:56 pm

  30. JN, of course socialists should be egalitarians who support everyone’s rights. The problem with identity politics is its practitioners are not necessarily socialists. In many cases, they are opposed to socialism. At best, the relationship between identity politics and socialism is a Venn diagram with considerable overlap. At worst, identity politics distract socialists and support capitalists who promote diversity. As the civil rights folks used to say, keep your eyes on the prize. The prize is not diverse capitalism. It’s the end of capitalism.

    Comment by will shetterly — August 6, 2010 @ 3:44 pm

  31. 29 Just ugggh. You really need to stop using that phrase identity politics. Of course there are right-wing pro-capitalist and bourgeois women, gays and blacks. So what?

    Comment by ish — August 6, 2010 @ 4:09 pm

  32. Ish, if you’ve got a more accurate term for people whose vision of justice does not go beyond race, gender, religion, or ethnicity, share it. I’m glad they’re willing to target some of the branches of oppression, but shouldn’t socialists go after the root?

    Comment by will shetterly — August 6, 2010 @ 4:24 pm

  33. With all due respect, Ish, it seems a lack of clarity on class issues is what has tainted the labor movement as we know it for the most part today. You continue to cite the Obama phenomenon, and I can’t think of anything that’s been worse for the black working class in the recent period than Obamaism. Some rigorous class analysis would be really helpful right now. I can certainly understand your distrust of the term “identity politics”, because black working class politics is about the self direction of the black worker, our willingness to trust a working class leadership that comes from us. But in the Obama era, the skin game is played so adroitly by the black professional classes, that the best and most diverse teachings of black cultural struggle are being breezily forgotten by the black professional classes. The reductionism of the “black like me” school is creating a generation of black leadership that knows nothing of earlier black cultural revolutionaries who worked for-, well, struggles in gay rights like Joe Beam, Marlon Riggs, Audre Lorde, Labi Siffre, even fucking James Baldwin. As is the case with any other contingency that has gotten waylaid by the “democratic” party’s version of the skin game,cultural voices who attempt to raise a more penetrating critique of the capitalist system are dismissed as “hangers on from the sixties”. The work of thinkers like Bessie Head, Aime Cesaire and Franz Fanon is rejected or ignored by these idiots who function along such lines! This is the growing legacy of the Obama cult.

    A few days ago, Louis had some strong footage of Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report calling this mess out. So this is why the concern over the weaknesses of “identity politics”, they are very real. I came to class politics myself as an artist concerned about the narrowing realm of artistic expression and diminishing housing and public space. I embraced class analysis further as a teacher, trying to support urban students in a late capitalist culture which is exemplary at putting black faces out in front of reactionary education policy. And while I agree with Louis that the growth of the anti-capitalist mass movement should not be retarded by the panegyrics of trotskyists pontificating with abstract arguments about the petty boojwazee versus the working class, I don’t believe the article from Alan that he was citing fits into that schema. I believe Alan was simply talking about a tendency that emerges whenever “leftists” try to supercede (I said “transcend”) marx or indeed, the whole experience of the effort to build socialism, without delving into the science of why the living experience of socialism has been such a protracted and contradictory process.

    By the way, I don’t remember who it was who said that comic strips or comic books don’t contribute to the international socialist struggle a few posts back, but like, big whoops. Let art find itself. Comics are important just because they are fun and beautiful in their own right, as the late Harvey Pekar demonstrated all his days. I posted my an obit for Harvey on the WIL/IMT site a few days ago, if anyone knows of areas I am in error or that could be developed further, please email me at the address above.

    Comment by Michael Hureaux — August 6, 2010 @ 4:53 pm

  34. I happen to think that the IMT is correct in its worldview and many other subjects.

    If Louis stayed with movie reviews he might be better off, hes been wrong on so many political subjects he should give it up completely and Walter is for the restoration of capitalism in Cuba and supports the Stalinist bureaucracy, he trying to get into the condo market in Cuba…Just a bunch a crumpy old ex SWPers and got burned by them and that group who been wrong since 1938!

    Rojo Rojito

    Cort

    Comment by Cort Greene — August 7, 2010 @ 6:51 pm

  35. “The problem is that feminism, like gay rights, is no longer a socialist issue. It’s not even a vaguely leftish issue. Rightwing women like Sarah Palin have no plan to give up what women have gained, and Log Cabin Republicans are working for gay marriage. Capitalism is becoming very pure in the 21st century: it’s just about wealth.”

    Pat Buchanan couldn’t have said it better himself. This is complete non-sense. Even the Democrats are pleased to throw women under the bus and further erode a woman’s right to choose… would Sarah Palin challenge this consensus? Would she do anything about the pay gap between men and women? Would she challenge the sexual division of labor? Would she or the marginal Log Cabin Republicans attempt to smash compulsory heterosexuality which is reproduced by almost all social institutions and defended with violence (see the rates of violent attacks on LGBT people, for example).

    Frankly, no one on the LEFT should have to be reminded of the facts above. They are obvious and well-known by any socialist or Marxist worthy of the name. The fact that Will Shetterly can be so woefully ignorant of the concrete material conditions of contemporary capitalism speaks to how easy it might be to ignore modes of oppression (and superexploitation) that don’t affect him. To blame neoliberalism on feminists and environmentalists is to blame the victims, and to deeply misunderstand what socialism is all about.

    I remind everyone that the BNP in the UK is happy to take soft-core populist positions on income inequality (like Walter-Benn Michaels, Shetterly above, etc.), all the while blaming immigrants, women and so on for problems caused by capitalism.

    Comment by T — August 7, 2010 @ 10:38 pm

  36. T, it’s amusing that you mention Pat Buchanan. His running mate for the presidency in 2000 was someone any fan of identity politics should love, a black woman, Ezola Foster.

    Log Cabin Republicans do want to “smash compulsory heterosexuality.” Their mission is here:

    http://online.logcabin.org/about/mission.html

    As for the notion that feminism is antithetical to capitalism, Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton, and Sarah Palin are all content to promote their version of neoliberal capitalism. Do you expect Janet Kagan to do anything that will weaken capitalism in the US?

    Every major capitalist today supports diversity. George Soros and Bill Gates know that if they’re going to continue to take with one hand, they have to give a little with the other, and so they give to support diversity that creates a sham protection for the economic system they love. Slavoj Žižek calls that “cultural capitalism,” but it’s just 21st century capitalism, or as I’m beginning to think of it, diversity capitalism.

    Last, I’ll try to clarify this: I was a feminist and an environmentalist when I was a liberal, and that hasn’t changed since I’ve become a socialist. I do not “blame neoliberalism on feminists and environmentalists.” Neoliberalism has embraced feminism and environmentalism, because neoliberals realize thar’s gold in them thar hills.

    Comment by will shetterly — August 7, 2010 @ 11:12 pm

  37. Louis, I left two versions of a reply to T and both disappeared. If they’re in the spam filter, feel free to flip a coin to delete one.

    Comment by will shetterly — August 7, 2010 @ 11:46 pm

  38. Okay, commenting seems to be working for me now, so I’ll try a third response to T:

    If you check the mission statement of the Log Cabin Republicans, you’ll see they wish to “smash compulsory heterosexuality.” They support gay marriage and oppose “don’t ask, don’t tell.” Like most major capitalists today, they realize that diversity does not threaten capitalism.

    “To blame neoliberalism on feminists and environmentalists is to blame the victims, and to deeply misunderstand what socialism is all about.”

    Who does that? The truth is the opposite, of course: Neoliberalism has embraced feminism and environmentalism in order to survive. When I was a liberal, I was a feminist and an environmentalist. When I became a socialist, I stayed a feminist and an environmentalist. Feminism and environmentalism are fine goals, and they’re goals that socialists have supported, but they’ve never been the exclusive concern of socialists. Capitalists and kings are trying to promote green development and expand the roles of women in the 21st century. This doesn’t mean they’re about to become socialists.

    Comment by will shetterly — August 7, 2010 @ 11:58 pm

  39. Louis, since my latest attempt succeeded, feel free to nuke both of my comments that disappeared. I think a link to the Log Cabin Republicans must’ve triggered your spam filter.

    Comment by will shetterly — August 8, 2010 @ 12:00 am

  40. T, in my third version of a comment to you, I left out one point: I was amused that you mentioned Pat Buchanan. Fans of identity politics should love him; his running mate in 2000 was a black woman, Ezola Foster.

    Comment by will shetterly — August 8, 2010 @ 12:02 am

  41. > I was amused that you mentioned Pat Buchanan. Fans of identity politics should love him; his running mate in 2000 was a black woman, Ezola Foster.

    Good point. Let’s add a few more to that list:

    a) Ronald Reagan appointed Alan Keyes in 1983 as Ambassador to the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

    b) Reagan also signed into law Martin Luther King Day in 1983.

    c) George Bush I nominated Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court in 1991.

    It’s probably unnecessary to mention Colin Powell or Condoleeza Rice as examples Bush II’s actions.

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — August 8, 2010 @ 2:06 am

  42. Patrick, heck, let’s add ’em this way:

    d) Bush II’s White House was more diverse than Clinton’s or any that preceded it.

    Comment by will shetterly — August 8, 2010 @ 2:37 am

  43. Woo-hoo! Racism is over! So is sexism! So is anti-gay bigotry!
    Thank goodness you’ve cleared that up.

    Comment by ish — August 8, 2010 @ 3:38 am

  44. Ish, you’re still projecting. Ain’t nobody here that’s said that. The only person I’ve been able to find who ever said racism was over was Bill Bennett.

    However, what stays true is that in the last fifty years in the US, the ruling class has grown more diverse, while the gap between rich and poor has grown greater. If you want to work against racism, sexism, and gay bigotry, you’ll find plenty of capitalist allies.

    Comment by will shetterly — August 8, 2010 @ 5:13 am

  45. > 43.Woo-hoo! Racism is over! So is sexism! So is anti-gay bigotry!
    > Thank goodness you’ve cleared that up.

    Monarchy still exists in England and a few other places. But the days when one could be characterized as “Left-wing” for supporting the bourgeois revolution against feudalism passed a long time ago. If a true proletarian revolution should one day occur in England then it will undoubtedly sweep away the last vestiges of the English monarchy. But what characterizes the “Left-wing” is the proletarian revolution, not the abolition of monarchy per se.

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — August 8, 2010 @ 1:36 pm

  46. “I happen to think that the IMT is correct in its worldview and many other subjects.”

    Its view of other worlds? Aren’t you mixing them up with the Posadists?

    Swamps are easier to get into than out.

    Comment by skidmarx — August 8, 2010 @ 3:23 pm

  47. I wonder, Louis, if by “the swamp” you meant the putrid mess that this post seems to have generated? In most cases (with the you and the obvious exceptions), we have backward sexists and racists masquerading as marxists decrying actual radicalizing elements such as women fighting for liberation and Black & Latino nationalists fighting for civil rights using time-honored right wing epithets such as denouncing “identity politics” as “distractions” to the working class (which seems to mean those backward workers who may use union affiliation as a source of relative privilege over their unorganized brothers and who are for the most part tied hand and foot to bourgeois politics at present). The capitalist class will stop at nothing to preserve its power including trying to incorporate radical ideas and “inclusive” methods such as appealing to women and people of color, all for the purpose of dividing and ruling. They will even do so with “proletarians” (or do some of you really believe that that “working class issues” are above ruling class adoption?). None of this is anything new and to dichotomize between working class organization and civil rights, feminism, as well as the nationalism of the oppressed is simply bourgeois thinking. You do not deserve to call yourselves marxists, but you are definitely not revolutionists. Revolutionists know how to work with the mass movements where they are and to bring them to revolutionary consciousness. This silly “swamp thinking” is beneath any revolutionists of serious intents.

    Comment by Manuel Barrera, PhD — August 9, 2010 @ 12:55 am

  48. Manuel Barrera, PhD, you’re quite right when you say, “The capitalist class will stop at nothing to preserve its power including trying to incorporate radical ideas and “inclusive” methods such as appealing to women and people of color, all for the purpose of dividing and ruling.” Who has said otherwise?

    Comment by will shetterly — August 9, 2010 @ 1:14 am

  49. > They will even do so with “proletarians” (or do some of you really believe that that “working class issues” are above ruling class adoption?).

    There definitely was fair bit of that during the Roosevelt administration and for a generation or so after that. One of the reasons why so many traditionally “Marxist” groups in the 1960s began turning to things like black revolution and women’s liberation in the 1960s was because so much of the ordinary labor force had been coopted into supporting the Democratic Party. At the same time the cultural influence of an older heritage from feudalism made it easy for one to formulate arguments along the lines of “capitalism is inherently racist,” “capitalism is fundamentally sexist,” and so on. There probably wasn’t much else that could have been done at that time, since the post-WWII boom had created conditions where most workers didn’t really see themselves as having any chains to lose.

    But in the 1970s it became clear that capital had decisively moved away from any kind of stress upon working class issues as a form of cooptation and had instead adopted the ideology of the free market as form of panacea. At the same time, the issues of racism and sexism were very eagerly adopted. This was not just a random accidental process that one may look at and reasonably suggest “Oh, they could also adopt working class issues if they wanted to.” The eruption of stagflation meant that capitalist profits had reached a crisis which could only be resolved through an attack on working class living standards. The specific encouragement of “identity politics” which was adopted at the same time went hand-in-hand with this turn away from promises of a “Great Society.”

    > None of this is anything new and to dichotomize between working class organization and civil rights, feminism, as well as the nationalism of the oppressed is simply bourgeois thinking.

    The choice of “dichotomizing” here is entirely your own. One doesn’t “dichotomize” between the tasks of the bourgeois revolution in ending monarchical feudalism and the goals of a hypothetical future proletarian revolution. They simply represent the tasks of different eras. The older issues of racism, sexism and the like have been clearly shown to have been compatible with the tasks of the bourgeois revolution. Marxists can continue to express their approval of these bourgeois revolutionary achievements, but they can’t be used to define a proletarian revolution anymore.

    > Revolutionists know how to work with the mass movements where they are and to bring them to revolutionary consciousness.

    Well if anyone sounds a bit confused about where they are it’s yourself. Not that one can deduce too much from a short forum message, but your tone made me think back to some of those Leftists from the 1960s who became turned off by the way that trade unions supported the Johnson administration and started building revolutionary fantasies around “black liberation,” “women’s liberation” and the like. Even before Jack Barnes took over, the SWP had been really well-launched in the direction of trying to construct a form of substition for the bought-off trade unions out of feminism, black nationalism, and the like. What was really bad was not that the SWP chose to become active around such issues, but that they gave the whole thing a theoretical gloss which tried to substitute such activism for a proletarian revolution.

    If the SWP (and other Leftists of that era) had really been honest with themselves they would simply have acknowledged that campaigning in the context of the 1950s and 1960s for black civil rights and other related issues was bourgeois reformist. They could then have defended the choice of doing so on the grounds that the surge of economic prosperity which occurred after WWII had (for the immediate historical period) rendered any serious talk of proletarian revolution (as Marx conceived it) meaningless. In a context where well-paid workers felt happy supporting LBJ, it was totally justifiable for the SWP to concern itself with women’s liberation alongside of antiwar demonstrations. But most Leftists from that time created a lot of confusion for themselves by talking about these things as if they were fighting the same battle which Mao fought to end foot-binding in China.

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — August 9, 2010 @ 4:09 pm

  50. If the SWP (and other Leftists of that era) had really been honest with themselves they would simply have acknowledged that campaigning in the context of the 1950s and 1960s for black civil rights and other related issues was bourgeois reformist.

    I take it you have never read “What is to be Done” where Lenin wrote:

    “Why is there not a single political event in Germany that does not add to the authority and prestige of the Social-Democracy? Because Social-Democracy is always found to be in advance of all the others in furnishing the most revolutionary appraisal of every given event and in championing every protest against tyranny…It intervenes in every sphere and in every question of social and political life; in the matter of Wilhelm’s refusal to endorse a bourgeois progressive as city mayor (our Economists have not managed to educate the Germans to the understanding that such an act is, in fact, a compromise with liberalism!); in the matter of the law against ‘obscene’ publications and pictures; in the matter of governmental influence on the election of professors, etc., etc.”

    Comment by louisproyect — August 9, 2010 @ 4:16 pm

  51. > I take it you have never read “What is to be Done” where Lenin wrote

    Of course I have. I take it that you don’t comprehend what a monumental difference existed between pre-WWI Czarist Russia and post-WWII USA? It was an objective fact from the 1950s onward that the USA had achieved a rising level of prosperity which made US-workers see the talk about overthrowing capitalism as completely redundant. Unfortunately many of the people on the Left in that era had had their views colored by the Great Depression when it really did seem as if capitalism was on the rocks. Because of this they didn’t just recognize that a proletarian uprising was not in the near-term and center their attention upon issues which were more immediately tractable. Instead they began rewriting the actual meaning of old phrases to try to construct an image of something occurring which wasn’t really there.

    If one actually takes the time to examine what Lenin wrote in the above passage, it’s clearly that his meaning was quite different from what was later implied by many. A phrase like “Social-Democracy is always found to be in advance of all the others in furnishing the most revolutionary appraisal of every given event and in championing every protest against tyranny” has a circumstantial ring to it. Yes, under the Hohenzollern monarchy there were many issues which can logically be identified with the task of a bourgeois revolution but which had remained unfulfilled under Bismarck. In such circumstances the Social Democrats could “find” themselves in the position of leading a general progressive march on such bourgeois issues. Where circumstances offer the opportunity for Social Democrats to place themselves at the head of such issues it’s only logical that they should do so.

    But nowhere here does Lenin really address the issue of to what extent might a continuing bourgeoisie a century later still be stuck in the Hohenzollern framework. What became common from the 1950s onward was for multiple Left-wing groups to reference such an isolated passage from Lenin and thereby imply that by throwing their weight behind feminism, black civil rights and the like they were actually surreptitiously working for the proletarian revolution at a time when ordinary workers weren’t interested. That type of self-deception was only destructive for the Left. A more coherent line of argument in defense of what was actually done should have simply been that “the more complete the bourgeois revolution is, the better for the proletarian revolution when it comes.” That line of reasoning could have easily been used to justify much activism of the 1960s, but instead people felt a need to actually fool themselves into seeing a proletarian revolution happening all around them.

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — August 9, 2010 @ 4:53 pm

  52. To be “in advance of all the others,” you have to stay ahead of the others. On identity politics, capitalism is catching up. See, for example, Prop 8 attorneys Theodore Olson and David Boies say judge’s ruling is ‘constitutionally sound’. When the guy who got W. into the White House in 2000 thinks same-sex marriage and civil rights are compatible with conservative capitalism, I have to conclude they’re compatible with conservative capitalism.

    Comment by will shetterly — August 9, 2010 @ 5:08 pm

  53. McNally, you are a pedantic fool. “What is to be Done” is a clarion call for the workers movement to embrace social struggles across the board. In 1903 this meant opposing censorship of the arts. It means the same thing today. If Lenin was alive today, he’d advocate fighting for democratic rights, including the right of gay people to enjoy the same rights as straight people. What sect do you belong to? Or did you just dream up this workerist crap all on your own?

    Comment by louisproyect — August 9, 2010 @ 5:26 pm

  54. Shetterly, what difference does it make if a rightwinger supports gay marriage? Marxists don’t adopt positions based on putting a minus where the bourgeoisie, or an element of it, places a minus. Learn to think. The America First Committee, as I pointed out in a previous post, opposed entry into WWII. So what? Learn to think.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 9, 2010 @ 5:31 pm

  55. > a clarion call for the workers movement to embrace social struggles across the board

    Well no one on this thread has said anything against “embracing” one or another “struggle.” The fact that a “struggle” may be embraced by Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin does not automatically mean that it is a bad struggle. But for pseudo-Leftists to endlessly go on yapping as if they were still living in the days when feminism was something very controversial can only be damaging. There’s no point in complaining about the way so many alleged progressives responded to the election of Obama if one is going to reason that way.

    > If Lenin was alive today, he’d advocate fighting for democratic rights, including the right of gay people to enjoy the same rights as straight people.

    Of course he would, in the sense that the topic would be the subject for an occasional editorial and some demands would be written into a party program somewhere or other which mentioned it. But Lenin would certainly not fool himself into ignoring the fact that the most committed fighters for gay marriage are bourgeoisie with deep pockets. He would realize that today the liberal bourgeoisie is “in advance of all the others” on such issues. What’s gained by obfuscating this?

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — August 9, 2010 @ 6:21 pm

  56. > Marxists don’t adopt positions based on putting a minus where the bourgeoisie, or an element of it, places a minus.

    No one has said anything of the kind. What is true is that in an earlier day to simply call for the end of monarchy and a proclamation of republican government placed you on the far Left. That era ended a long time ago. No one has ever suggested that one should begin campaigning for a monarchical restoration just because it turns against the liberal bourgeoisie. In the 1960s campaigning around an end to racial discrimination had a distinctly Left-wing form to it simply because the classic liberal bourgeoisie had dropped the ball on this issue. That ended a few decades ago however.

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — August 9, 2010 @ 6:27 pm

  57. Louis, this what I think: Socialists should promote socialism. When conservative capitalists are promoting diversity, it’s time to accept that diversity is no longer a leading issue. There was a time when socialists were forerunners on social issues. Now diversity socialists are effectively hangers-on of diversity capitalists, clinging to a tactic that may have been useful in the ’70s and ’80s, but is not today. Where are the rollbacks in diversity? The ruling class is more diverse than ever.

    But I can tell you where the rollbacks are in the class struggle. If you listen to champions of diversity talk about poverty, you would think it was primarily a problem of race and gender because poverty is racially and sexually disproportionate. But if you simply look at the numbers, there are twice as many white Americans living in poverty as black Americans or non-white Hispanic Americans–“white male privilege” has left a lot of white males in poverty. If there’s ever to be socialism in the US, it will come by uniting everyone who suffers under capitalism, regardless of race or gender or any of the ways that capitalists have divided us.

    Comment by will shetterly — August 9, 2010 @ 6:34 pm

  58. Feminism, anti-racism, and so forth are not about “Diversity”. Nor are they about individual “prejudice”. Nor are they about ruling-class token political appointments.

    Do you think Fred Hampton or Malcolm X would have been satisfied with the fact that Condi Rice was overseeing US imperialism for 8 yrs?

    All this talk about token appointments is bullshit. Does anyone in the rank and file of the labor movement think that it would matter if some schmuck like Andy Stern were given a token post in the Obama administration? Would such an appointment therefore mean that the labor movement is no longer part of socialist struggle?!

    Everyone and their brother knows that such appointments are window-dressing to stave off struggle from below.

    Any Marxist worth her salt is aware that the ruling class divides us in order to better conquer resistance from below. But many commentators above appear to have bought into the logic of the ruling class, insisting on maintaining existing divisions all while remaining blind to on-going oppression and super-exploitation. As long as the Right can stoke racism in times of economic crisis to divide exploited and oppressed people from one another, there is no hope of challenging the system. Can any self-respecting person on the Left really not understand this obvious fact?

    Comment by T — August 9, 2010 @ 6:44 pm

  59. Thank you T, Manuel & Louis.

    Comment by ish — August 9, 2010 @ 7:01 pm

  60. T, no one has mentioned token appointments. Take a look at black billionaires:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_billionaires

    Or female billionaires:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_female_billionaires

    Do you really think there was that much diversity among the world’s owners a century ago?

    And who is insisting on maintaining existing divisions? I’ve supported diversity all my life. I’ve marched for civil rights. I’ve been beaten and called a nigger-lover by racists. But I don’t pretend that makes me more socialist than, say, Bill Gates. Hmm… I just went to the Microsoft site and clicked “careers.” There’s a web page that any fan of diversity should admire. Can you name a corporation that isn’t promoting diversity today? Modern capitalists dream of creating a fair hierarchy, with an upper class that “looks like America.” But socialists should want to end hierarchy, no matter how “fair” that hierarchy might appear to be.

    Comment by will shetterly — August 9, 2010 @ 7:03 pm

  61. > Do you think Fred Hampton or Malcolm X would have been satisfied with the fact that Condi Rice was overseeing US imperialism for 8 yrs?

    No, but Malcolm X was moving away from black nationalism. A more pertinent question to ask is do think that either Hampton or Malcolm would have been able to seriously formulate an objection to Ms. Rice within the framework of black identity politics? Or would they rather be forced to abandon the latter? That’s the nub of the matter.

    > Any Marxist worth her salt is aware that the ruling class divides us in order to better conquer resistance from below. But many commentators above appear to have bought into the logic of the ruling class

    Actually, it’s the upholders of identity politics who buy into it.

    > As long as the Right can stoke racism in times of economic crisis to divide exploited and oppressed people from one another,

    You appear to be lost a few decades in the past. The leading organizations on the Right are major promoters of diversity. Keep in mind, the days when George Wallace and Strom Thurmond could be honestly said to respresent a notable “Right” ended long ago. Today we have diversity-promoters like George W. Bush and John McCain in the leading roles. You’re just opening yourself up for a classic charge maintained by David Horowitz according to whom it is the Left which stokes racism because they have nothing else to offer to people.

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — August 9, 2010 @ 7:04 pm

  62. Patrick, I get to disagree slightly with you now: Malcolm X would’ve said Ms. Rice was a house nigger. However, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz was moving beyond black identity politics, and I would love to know what he would’ve said about her.

    Comment by will shetterly — August 9, 2010 @ 7:08 pm

  63. McNally, you still haven’t answered my question. Did you cook up this Spartacist/DeLeonist crapola on your own or did you learn it in a sect? Also, don’t put words in my mouth. I never use words like “diversity”. I happen to believe that the army should not have treated Blacks any different than whites in the Jim Crow era. A Black GI had the right not to be forced into segregated units. A gay has the same kind of right today not to suffer discrimination because he or she is gay. Also, fighting Jim Crow laws that prevented a white from marrying a Black was not about “diversity”. It was about ending a discriminatory practice. The same thing is true of Gay marriage. Now if you want to go peddle your bullshit about “diversity”, you should find some liberal blog to do it on. Just not here. Frankly, you are getting on my nerves.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 9, 2010 @ 7:11 pm

  64. There are fucking Kurdish millionaires in Turkey. What the fuck does this have to do with the right of Kurds to speak their own language? God, what idiocy. Where do people learn this horseshit? From reading the Socialist Labor Party press?

    Comment by louisproyect — August 9, 2010 @ 7:13 pm

  65. > Patrick, I get to disagree slightly with you now: Malcolm X would’ve said Ms. Rice was a house nigger.

    Certainly in the year 1965 he would have. That gets back to the whole issue of how far would Malcolm have moved away from the original black nationalist position? He showed some signs of it in his last year, but anything beyond that is speculation. But I don’t think he would have been able to make the “house nigger” charge with the same dynamic flair which he did in his lifetime. These days even most blacks who maintain an admiration for Malcolm X would nonetheless accept the idea that having some blacks move up the ladder was all part of a road forward. It would be kind of a dud of an accusation if he was alive and had made it.

    Comment by PatrickSMcNally — August 9, 2010 @ 7:18 pm

  66. Louis, since you don’t like “diversity,” fine. Let’s talk about ending discrimination instead. Do you think working to end discrimination against women, people of color, and GLBTQ folks is a revolutionary action today?

    Comment by will shetterly — August 9, 2010 @ 7:22 pm

  67. Do you think working to end discrimination against women, people of color, and GLBTQ folks is a revolutionary action today?

    Didn’t you mean to write rrrrrevolutionary?

    Comment by louisproyect — August 9, 2010 @ 7:23 pm

  68. Jesus fucking Christ. All this blather about Malcolm. I used to hear him speak in 1965. Malcolm was a Black Nationalist, not an advocate of “Black identity” politics. You make him sound like Skip Gates or some diversity officer at an Ivy League college.

    Enough idiocy. I am shutting down the comments on this post now. The idiocy is driving me up a wall.

    Comment by louisproyect — August 9, 2010 @ 7:26 pm


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