I’d figured Richard Seymour of Lenin’s Tomb would be a hard-line SWP member and defend the current diseased regime. I was wrong. Good. Not only is he refusing to knuckle under to the SWP don’t discuss it order, he’s telling SWP members to fight and overturn their current, corrupt leadership
This is the thing that all party members need to understand. Even on cynical grounds, the Central Committee has no strategy for how to deal with this. A scandal has been concealed, lied about, then dumped on the members in the most arrogant and stupid manner possible. The leadership is expecting you to cope with this. This isn’t the first time that such unaccountable practices have left you in the lurch. You will recall your pleasure on waking up to find out that Respect was collapsing and that it was over fights that had been going on for ages which no one informed you about. But this is much worse. They expect you to go to your activist circles, your union, your workplaces, and argue something that is indefensible. Not only this, but in acting in this way, they have – for their own bureaucratic reasons – broken with a crucial component of the politics of the International Socialist tradition that undergirds the SWP. The future of the party is at stake, and they are on the wrong side of that fight. You, as members, have to fight for your political existence. Don’t simply drift away, don’t simply bury your face in your palms, and don’t simply cling to the delusional belief that the argument was settled at conference. You must fight now.
Oh gosh, the Socialist Workers Party UK is undergoing yet another of its regular blood-lettings. Their Stalinist central committee demands thought control and departing from their directives is not permitted, even if rape allegations have been made against one of them. After all, they’ve Â investigated themselves and declared themselves pure as the driven snow and are just gobsmacked that some people believe them to be duplicitous, hypocriticalÂ weaseldicks.
The Party is demanding loyalty oaths from members. Walker notes that Party workers are being told that they must guarantee not to mention the case again at the pain of losing their job.
I was a member of a similar far left group here in the US until I was purged (I was walking away from them anyway.) In retrospect, it all seems a bit comical. A central committee of humorless zealots imposes their views on members and deludes themselves into thinking they are the vanguard of the revolution. In reality, the working class they fancy themselves leading generally thinks Marxist ideologues are idiots, when they think about them at all.
This is why the far left is basically dead. They have no support among the general population and mostly just engage in fratricidal infighting. I’m beginning to suspect most of their leaders don’t really want to lead a revolution when they can be tin pot dictators over their itty bitty empires instead.
In the world of the lunatic Marxist left (apologies to non-deranged Marxists out there), anything that capitalists and imperialists do must automatically be opposed, regardless of fact or even reality.
We have a fine new example of this. The British Socialist Workers Party has proclaimed that Hitler was not planning to invade Britain and that Churchill’s air war resistance was just a devious ploy to get the US involved. Ouch, that makes my brain hurt. They also darkly hint that Churchill was not a serious anti-fascist. So, does that mean he was a secret fascist? Who knew??? I’m certainly relieved that SWP has beamed in with their alternate view of history from the planet Arcturus informing us that Churchill was in fact not an implacable opponent of Hitler. Goodness, he certainly fooled a bunch of people, didn’t he?
A few years ago a senior member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation in the US told me in apparent complete seriousness that Mugabe of Zimbabwe must be supported because he stands against imperialism. No, really, he actually said that, apparently forgetting Mugabe is a thug who has ordered the imprisonment, torture, and murder of thousands while looting a country for himself and his cronies.
For members of such Marxist cults, shades of gray never enter into their calculations. Anyone the US or Britain doesn’t like must immediately be supported and anything those countries do must always be opposed.
And such extremists wonder why they have a miniscule amount of followers.
Your mind is so narrow
And it’s no surprise
If you fell on a pin
You’d be blind in both eyes
Quite regularly when I read something, I learn something new. On occasion I suspect that the author is mistaken in facts or in interpretation of facts. But there are those special times when I wonder what kind of drugs the author took to write such mumbo-jumbo.
Such deranged fanaticism is one of the worst enemies the left has, especially since it’s internal. Their deep and abiding belief in their inerrancy makes them quite similar to extremist Christianists on the right. It’s the same mindset. One says they and only they have the correct interpretation of the Bible, the other says only their interpretation of Marx and Lenin is valid. They aren’t interested in compromise or in listening to what you say. They preach, you listen. Then they tell you what to believe and how to act. Questioning is not an option.
And that’s not how to build a genuine people’s movement, not at all. Real mass movements are built by organizers who listen to what people’s concerns are, then help them find solutions. Power to the people means letting the people be in charge. It also means not having a preconceived notion of what the answers are.
Sectarianism, left cadre organizations, and ultra-leftism too often create a squabbling, ineffective, sometimes fanatical left, filled with schisms and splinter groups. Chip Berlet explores this in an article written in 1999 but just as true now.
Ultra-leftism is an egocentric form of mythopoetic martyrdom whereby practitioners anoint themselves as the beleaguered guardians of the one true political line. They read long impenetrable manifestos at public meetings. They show up at mass demonstrations with helmets and hockey sticks for a game of self-fulfilling prophecy that often results in violence as they hurl themselves at police. They inevitably urge a course of action that is hopelessly out of touch with reality. Even Lenin called this an “infantile disorder.”
They also see themselves as the true leaders of the coming revolution, the vanguard whom the working class will unquestionably recognize one day. Then they (the self-appointed anointed) will lead the masses in smashing capitalism. That dozens of other left grouplets also view themselves as the true leaders does indeed lead to sometimes vicious factional fights.
I was purged from such a group, PSL, two years ago (but was walking away anyway. PSL was formed a few years ago when several dozen members of Workers World split off, the result of a internal struggle. At that time WW controlled the ANSWER Coalition. The members who left took ANSWER with them and started PSL.
I was in ANSWER prior to the split and was thinking of joining WW. I asked Peter Camejo, who I knew from the Green Party, about them. He said he’d talked with WW and that they were upfront with him about starting ANSWER as a way to recruit for the party. He was trying to warn me off. The split happened, and I joined PSL mostly out of curiosity but increasingly got disillusioned with their ever-hardening myopic party line and tactics. It took me three years to understand Camejo’s warning. He was right and had been there himself. He ran for US president for Socialist Workers Party in 1976 and got expelled a few years for refusing to back the SWP policy of forcing members to work in factories, often by making them move too, so they could be proper proles.
The problem with groups like this, and their front organizations, is you can’t have it both ways. Either you build a genuine mass organization, which means moderates and those not affiliated with your group have a real say or you use the front group primarily as a recruiting tool, which means the stated purpose for the group is secondary, and you will never become a mass organization because you deliberately exclude all but the true believers.
ANSWER organized massive anti-war protests that sometimes drew hundreds of thousands. This was important. But it never translated into a genuine mass movement because WW and PSL would not allow moderates to have any genuine influence or power. So, the whole process ends up being self-defeating and self-limiting.
One thing I genuinely do not understand is the almost complete failure by the left to organize on the financial crisis the way they did on the Iraq War. We have a humongous crisis of capitalism and the response from the left has mostly been crickets. I don’t get it.
It might be because there’s a tendency for lefties to say ‘capitalism is bad’ and leave it at that, perhaps because they don’t really understand economics and financial matters that well.
Contrast that with blogs written by financial insiders like Zero Hedge, Naked Capitalism, and The Big Picture. They tend to be more libertarian but are seriously pissed. ZH broke stories about high frequency trading and dark pools, and on at least one occasion, forced Congress to take action. Their articles are in-depth, knowledgeable, and scathing.
The left can do this too, and in the process will attract interest and followers, and that can lead to the building of a genuinely an mass organization to fight against the current financial excesses and predation.
Recently there was a split, purges, and resignations, with much resultant gnashing of teeth in the Socialist Workers Party in Britain. SWP is a Leninist formation that fancies itself a vanguard party, ready to lead the workers to the inevitable proletarian victory. However, this can only happen after the masses have realized the correctness of the ideology of SWP. Of course, they must never question the revealed truths of the SWP leaders or take independent action.
I was in a group like that in the States for a while. PSL was also convinced of its inerrancy. I was in ANSWER at the time, watched as a several dozen Worker’s World members resigned one Sunday, took ANSWER with them, and then started PSL. I joined PSL out of curiosity and got purged a few years later. Apparently my inability to accept doctrinaire groupthink was judged a liability. Dang.
The purge was done in such a way that instantly vaporized existing friendships. For such ideologues, the political and personal are inseparable. American Leftist has a long thoughtful post about why this badly damages the far left.
Despite over 100 years of trying to figure it out, Marxist-Leninists have not found a way round this intersection of the personal and the political and the destructive consequences that often ensue.
Because, you see, it’s all very very serious – deeply grim in fact – with frivolity and giggling frowned upon as counter-productive and boojie.
One anarchist novelist recently said, I distrust any activists who don’t read fiction. The remark struck a nerve with me, because I have had a similar experience with political activists generally, that the ones who were disinterested in various forms of cultural expression, like theatre, film and literature, were the most rigid and intolerant. There is a relativism in such creations that enhances one’s perception of the world and one’s place in it. Such relativism is not incompatible with radical left beliefs.
Indeed. “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.” Seriously. And neither does hardly anyone else, for that matter. That’s one reason such groups inevitably remain tiny and on the fringe of the fringe.