Socialist left distinguishes itself by continued irrelevance and purges

This time it was SWP in Britain who purged Clare Solomon, apparently for thought crimes that led to traitorous behavior. As one who was purged from a far left US Marxist grouplet a few years back, I can sympathize. The process is jolting. But then you realize those comrades weren’t really ever friends or even comrades. Extremist ideologues put politics before friendship, before most anything really. So the alleged comradeship is basically bogus as it is based on you following the party line. Solomon will probably find she is much better off having left them all behind.

She may also find that such groups have been play-acting at revolution. Their leaders have no real interest in genuine class struggle because that would mean loss of control over their micro-fiefdoms. How does one explain the almost universal failure by such parties to do anything coherent about the current crisis of capitalism, a crisis they’ve waited for decades to occur?

But now that the crisis is here, they are doing virtually nothing about it and instead are studiously ignoring it, often focusing on other issues. Such groups did huge organizing for Iraq War protests. But now that we have a genuine crisis, their response has been crickets. Like I said, they play-act at revolution. When the opportunity for real mass struggle finally happens, they are AWOL. Maybe some have been corrupted by the government and their own ideological blinders and thus serve to take genuine protest and defuse it, rendering it useless. Or maybe a righteous purge is such jolly good fun they forget all about the revolution they fantasize about leading.

When I was in that party they used to talk about when the capitalist crisis came, as surely it must, that by God (well, they would have said ‘by God’ if they weren’t all atheists) they would be ready to lead the people to overthrow capitalism. All two hundred of them. A chihuahua has deluded itself into thinking it is a wolf.

I know, I’ve pounded on this before. But it’s not just one party. This failure of will and action is happening in multiple far left parties in multiple countries. Why? I really want to know. Because the left needs real organizers now. And they aren’t there.


  1. Boiled down to ones and zeros, history shows us again and again* that revolution always falls to the marginalized, not the mainstream.

    *”how nature proves out the folly of man”, GODZILLA! – I couldn’t resist.

    • Yet leaders of revolutions usually are middle-class and above. Marx, Lenin, Castro, Che, etc. were not from impoverished backgrounds. This quite probably is because if you are in danger of starving, you don’t have time to do anything but survive.

  2. There are various reason why it is so difficult to get a mass movement in today’s conditions. Our society is so fragmented, people rarely work where they live, the people they work with are seldom their neighbours. They commute to work and work with people from different districts and backgrounds. They go home to a district where they their neighbours probably know nothing of their working conditions. The mass consumer society makes us all competitors, eager to not only keep up with all the latest trends but to stay ahead of the field, This tends to turn neighbourhoods into dormitories not communities. In the Glasgow that I grew up in you went to work and you were working with your neighbours. Probably 80% of the people worked locally, in my case the shipyards. You went to work on the bus with your neighbours, you chatted on the bus and probably got off at the same bus stop and clocked in together. Under these conditions it was easier to get a mass movement going on all sorts of economic problems. It is so different now, the anti-war movement was able to give so many people a common denominator, people are somewhat confused and are looking for some sort of change but don’t know how to identify the enemy. all those grassroots activists will have to work their butts off constantly informing, getting involved and helping to organise, even then the outcome is not gauranteed. We have allowed a fragmented society to form to our detriment and we don’t know how to get out. I speak from a UK perspective.

    • All true, but how hard would it be to organize a protest at a local bank in an area devastated by foreclosures? The far left isn’t even trying on this. ISO just said they will focus on LGBT issues, PSL is running candidates for public office in races they have no chance in. UK SWP is riven by the usual circular firing squads. There have been few calls for mass organizing / protests on the financial crisis.

      Meanwhile the teabaggers are trying to focus the anger while the left does diddly.

      You’re right. people are confused. Alinsky says, pick a target and freeze it, focus all the protests and attacks against that target. Maybe a nationwide campaign against Goldman Sachs would be a good place to start.

  3. Here in the UK the left is as fragmented as the rest of society and the SWP is a newspaper selling organisation as well as a recruiting club. They do tend to hi-jack every protest and turn it into a recruiting and paper selling event. It’s not even a good newspaper. They probably do more harm to the activist groups than the mainstream media.

    • That’s the real problem with the far left and Marxist grouplets. Their front groups primarily are for recruiting for the party. Thus, the front group can never have moderates in positions of power nor can it ever really be a mass organization – because the party won’t allow anyone but their ideologues to control it.

      When I organized with ANSWER, moderate friends told me they came to antiwar rallies because they opposed the war but were totally turned off by the endless, humorless ultra-leftist speakers from the podium. Unless you were a major celebrity or politician, you couldn’t speak unless you were socialist or communist. And that’s no way to build a mass organization or end the war. But then ending the war wasn’t the primary goal, recruiting for PSL. the party behind ANSWER, was. It took me a long time to understand this. By then, I was apparently guilty of thought crimes and on my way out.

      When I was getting interested in Workers World (who at that time controlled ANSWER. later, there were mass resignations from WW, they started PSL and took ANSWER with them) a prominent member of the Left, Peter Camejo, who had been purged from SWP in the 70’s tried to warn me away telling me WW told him ANSWER specifically was created as a recruiting tool for the party. I didn’t understand what he meant. I do now. Ending the war was never really a major goal.

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