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A dialogue on the characteristics of revolutionary groups

August 24, 2011

An exchange of nine recent comments by Pham Binh and John Riddell on this website explores how the example of the early Communist International can assist – or mislead – Marxist organizations in North America today. Totaling 5,000 words, this dialogue encompasses relationships to social movements, leadership selection, international centralization, and the example of the Communist Party of Cuba.

Pham Binh is a New York-based socialist and writer who maintains the website http://planetanarchy.net/. The exchange references the writings of Paul Le Blanc on building a revolutionary party, including an exchange between Paul and John Riddell.

Summary:

  1. Binh: ‘How was the Comintern Executive Committee elected?’
  2. Riddell: ‘A nominations committee and the delegations worked up a slate’
  3. Binh: ‘I understand that the Bolsheviks used a secret ballot’
  4. Riddell: ‘Comintern president Zinoviev was an enabler, not an originator of ultra-leftism’
  5. Binh: ‘The Comintern’s actions did a lot of damage to young communist parties’
  6. Riddell: ‘Current far-left groups diverge from the model of the Comintern’
  7. Binh: ‘Groups imitating the early Comintern are not vanguards’
  8. Riddell: ‘To achieve revolutionary unity, the early Comintern tolerated diversity’
  9. Binh: ‘Leninist groups since the 1930s have been led astray by methodological flaws’

1. How was the Comintern Executive Committee elected?
Pham Binh, August 4, 2011

Do these proceedings include vote counts and the minutes of various sessions? I am looking for information as to how the ECCI was elected (by slate, secret ballot [as the Bolsheviks did])? Any information would be greatly appreciated.

2. A nominations committee and the delegations worked up a slate
John Riddell, August 4, 2011

The proceedings contain minutes regarding decisions on all motions. Votes are recorded, although sometimes in cursory fashion. (“Anyone opposed? No. The motion is adopted.”)

As for the election of the ECCI (Executive Committee): A slate was worked up through discussions of a congress sub-commission in consultation with the national delegations. The slate was presented to the congress, and amendments were proposed. There was a discussion, followed by a vote on each amendment and, finally, a vote on the slate as a whole. The Comintern had a procedure for roll-call vote by delegations, in which the voting strength of delegations was weighted — the small U.S. party had as many votes as the party of Soviet Russia. That was intended for cases of major disagreements. The election of the ECCI in the Fourth Congress was not marked by major differences and was held by simple delegate-card vote.

3. I understand that the Bolsheviks used a secret ballot
Pham Binh, August 5, 2011

Thanks for the reply. I’ve been trying to research how the Bolsheviks and the RSDLP elected their leadership. The slate system is what most “Leninist” groups use today but from what I understand they used a secret ballot with the top vote-getters being elected. (The question for me now is: how did they determine how many slots were open?) I’ve written something in reply to Paul LeBlanc about the issue, I would appreciate your opinion on it:

http://louisproyect.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/a-response-to-paul-leblancs-marxism-and-organization/

Thanks again.

4. Comintern president Zinoviev was an enabler, not an originator of ultra-leftism
John Riddell, August 9, 2011

Dear Binh,

I read your interesting and thoughtful comments on the Proyect blog. On a few topics you raise…

1. Slates for leadership bodies: Sometimes the argument for a slate is very strong, as in the Comintern, for example, where it was important to have balanced representation from different parts of the world. If this method is chosen, two questions arise. (a) Who compiles the slate? (b) How is it ratified?

(a) In the Fourth Comintern Congress, the slate was compiled by a sub-commission, in negotiations with the party delegations. That seems a fair method, under the circumstances. In a national party, the slate can be compiled by a panel of rank-and-file delegates (non-members of the previous leadership) chosen by the local delegations. That method was employed in the old U.S. SWP, as both Paul Le Blanc and Louis Proyect will recall. This works well, provided that the leadership does not try to influence the commission behind the scenes.

(b) In the Fourth Congress, the slate was submitted to discussion, amendments, a vote on amendments, and then a hand vote on the list as a whole. In the Bolshevik party’s slate procedure, the vote was secret, a much better procedure (but not so necessary in the Comintern). The U.S. SWP followed that procedure. The secret vote can be used to register a protest against an untrustworthy leader. There is a spectacular example: the nearly 300 votes against Stalin in the CPSU’s 17th congress in 1934. See Roy Medvedev, Let History Judge, p. 331ff.

I once witnessed a convention of an organization attempting to follow the Bolshevik model in which election of the leadership took the form of an unmotivated motion to reelect the previous leadership without change followed by an immediate hand vote. I agree with your criticisms of such a procedure, which arises not from the Bolshevik tradition but from the pressures of small-group politics.

Briefly on a few other points:

2. In describing the Bolsheviks’ pre-1917 strategy, you should include the fact that they proposed a worker-peasant alliance, representing the vast majority of the population. That seems to me to be the key point. Furthermore, they proposed that this alliance establish a worker-peasant government — the revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry — to carry through the democratic revolution to the limit, in other words, very far indeed. This is not a proposal to win power and then surrender it to the capitalists. Lars Lih writes powerfully on this; you might start with his Lenin Rediscovered.

3. With regard to the early Comintern, you lean toward the notion that the Moscow leadership was running the affairs of the German party. That is certainly the concept of the Cliff tendency, but Broue’s account does not sustain it, and neither do the facts of KPD history. My article on the origins of united front policy, first printed in the SWP-UK’s International Socialism, will give you a feel for the story. See https://johnriddell.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/the-origins-of-the-united-front-policy-3/

Both the united-front and ultra-left currents arose organically out of the experiences of revolutionary workers in Germany and neighboring countries. Recent German historians of the KPD, from their many points of view, are mostly agreed on this point. The ouster of Levi and the 1921 March Action flowed from a coming together of ultra-left forces inside and outside Germany (the Hungarian émigrés were prominent in this). Zinoviev was more an enabler than an originator. As Francois Fayet, the brilliant recent biographer of Radek, writes, the Comintern Executive Committee at this time was notable for its irresoluteness and ambiguity.

4. You raise important questions regarding the problem of conservatism in the policy of today’s revolutionary groups. I will write on that shortly at http://www.johnriddell.wordpress.com, responding to a question by Barry Sheppard.

5. ‘The Comintern’s actions did a lot of damage to young communist parties’
Pham Binh, August 10, 2011

Thanks for the informative reply John. I plan on picking up volume one of the “Resolutions and Decisions of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union” edited by R.C. Elwood to look for more information about the organizational aspects of the early RSDLP. Quite a lot has been written about the politics espoused by Lenin and the Bolsheviks, but I have found it much harder to get information about the organizational decisions and structures that were put into place in order to further their political aims.

On slates: I am not opposed to slates in all times and all places. The early Comintern is probably a good example of how the system can be set up and used fruitfully. My source for the claim about the Bolshevik party and slates is this article: http://tendancecoatesy.wordpress.com/2010/04/03/democratic-centralism-origins-of-the-slate-system/ which, in turn, is based on “The Evolution of Leadership Selection In The Central Committee 1917-1927,” an article by Robert V. Daniels. I am working on tracking down the original article (I prefer to read source material so I can make my own judgments.) This piece claimed that the slate system as we know it was really introduced in 1921 at the 10th party congress.

The 300 votes against Stalin episode you cite, if I’m not mistaken, occurred when delegates crossed out Stalin’s name on their ballots. Although it was a protest vote, by that time the slate system had ceased to be democratic (along with the rest of the CPSU), and I’m sure the 300 votes were not counted as minus votes to decrease Stalin’s vote total. By 1934, the methods by which the Bolsheviks/CP elected leaders had changed quite drastically, no?

Proyect told me that the way the U.S. SWP did things in his day was the following: a 100-member National Committee was elected by the SWP’s convention. Convention delegates were elected by branches using a slate system. It was the 10-member Political Committee that led/ran the SWP and he told me he had no idea how they were selected. I don’t think this is how the Bolsheviks did things, at least prior to the 1920s.

On the worker-peasant alliance: I dealt with the Bolsheviks position in a very cursory way and did not want my main point — that the Bolsheviks were not organized around a program of socialist revolution prior to 1917, contrary to what the Leninists today would have us believe — to get lost. Quite the contrary: the Bolsheviks stood for the most consistent, thorough bourgeois revolution, as you indicate.

When I said “surrender power to the capitalists,” I didn’t mean it in the immediate sense. I do believe (correct me if I’m wrong) that the Bolsheviks thought that after feudalism and the autocracy had been totally uprooted and a full-blown bourgeois-democratic republic with a Constituent Assembly established (by a revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and peasantry) that bourgeois and petty bourgeois parties would predominate and the RSDLP would be a minority in the new legislature, since the Russian working class was a small minority of the population. The eventual ascension to power of a capitalist class after a period of democratic dictatorship is what I meant by “hand power to the enemy.” It was a sloppy formulation at best. Undoubtedly this is a reflection of my training as a Trotskyist. When Trotsky wrote, “the political domination of the proletariat is incompatible with its economic enslavement” after 1905, the differences between his, the Menshevik, and the Bolshevik positions on the class nature of the Russian revolution really clicked for me.

On the Comintern: I don’t think the Comintern “ran” the KPD. (I broke with Cliff and much of the accepted wisdom of his co-thinkers even before I left the ISO in 2006.)

My point was that the Comintern’s actions, intentionally or otherwise, did a lot of damage to the young communist parties of the West. Paul Levi caught hell for disagreeing with a Comintern agent about the timing of a split in the Italian Socialist Party. Why a German communist leader should be held to account for disagreeing with what a Russian emissary on something that was going on in Italy is absurd. This led to quite a lot of unnecessary factionalism and intrigue. Generally speaking, the Comintern executive tended to come down on the side of the emissaries it sent abroad in disputes with national leaderships, regardless of the rights/wrongs of the situation. This created a culture of unaccountability and subordination of national leaderships to Comintern agents, many of whom were not accomplished, experienced leaders like Karl Radek.

Creating a centralized party of world revolution, in line with Lenin’s conception (and Rosa Luxemburg’s too; she supported the idea of a centralized international in the hopes of avoiding the Second International’s betrayal with regards to WWI), was a great idea. It proved to be largely unworkable in practice. Events on the ground often moved to quickly for the Comintern’s executive to provide practical, political leadership in the head of the moment. The aftermath of the Kapp putsch and the debate around the “workers’ government” slogan are one example of this.

Another major mistake was to “Bolshevize” parties from above, to make them as similar to the structures and trappings of the Russian RSDLP as possible, regardless of local circumstances and traditions. Lenin realized this mistake when he made his famous remark about the 1921 resolution governing the organization and function of communist parties as being “too Russian.” The Comintern experience/model helped give rise to the tendency of Leninist groups around the world to split with one another over strategy/tactics used by their comrades in other countries as well as to wage wars over “principles” and “the program” since these were held to be primary and the basis of all future organizing.

I look forward to reading what you have to say.

6. Current far-left groups diverge from the model of the Comintern
John Riddell, August 14, 2011

Dear Binh–

You say that probably the 300 votes against Stalin in 1934 were not announced. You are absolutely right. The vote totals were faked. We still do not know the exact total of negative ballots, although Medvedev says they were spirited away for forensic analysis. Stalin responded by unleashing the terror against his own faction. He murdered half of the delegates to the party congress and thousands more faction supporters, destroying his as a force in Soviet politics. All that was left was Stalin, his hand-picked apparatus, and the secret police.

I’ll skip over some other points you make and focus on your final sentence:

“The Comintern experience/model helped give rise to the tendency of Leninist groups around the world to split with one another over strategy/tactics used by their comrades in other countries as well as to wage wars over “principles” and “the program” since these were held to be primary and the basis of all future organizing.”

That’s a very open-ended statement. Which Comintern experience? Which model?

And how do we account for the ways in which most current far-left groups diverge from the model of the Comintern in Lenin’s time? You have pointed to differences in leadership election. Also:

  • Comintern parties conducted their “internal” debates in public. Current groups (mostly) discuss in a closed circle.
  • The discipline of Comintern parties was directed mostly against the ruling class. The discipline of current groups is directed (mostly) against each other.
  • Comintern parties strove with considerable success to encompass the full spectrum of revolutionary socialist forces. Current groups are (mostly) limited to a single ideological viewpoint.

These questions direct our attention to the important ways in which current revolutionary Marxist groups differ from the parties of the early Comintern. Size, roots in the working class, objective situation, etc. Paul Le Blanc has stressed that today’s groups (mostly) lack a living relationship with a working-class vanguard, an important point. In addition, today’s groups are (mostly) not parties, but rather factions of a notional future party, and factions have different laws of motion than parties.

For more on this, see my exchange with Paul Le Blanc.

John

7. Groups imitating the early Comintern are not vanguards
Pham Binh, August 15, 2011

Again John, thanks for the reply. You raise important points that I have to digest and incorporate in any future discussions of this topic.

Here my answers to your pointed questions:

“Which Comintern experience? Which model?”

Latter day Leninists usually claim that they stand in the tradition of the first four Comintern congresses. The model I referred to in my comment about Leninists splitting over strategy/tactics used by their comrades in other countries is to a certain extent based on the early practice of the Comintern, the leadership of which engineered splits (and unifications) among national parties all over Europe. National party leaders were expected to take a stand on the internal affairs of parties in other countries; the most famous case is probably Levi and the split of the Italian Socialist Party in Italy.

My feeling is that the further someone is from the scene of the action, the more difficult it is to work out what the right strategy/tactics are. As Radek put it in your piece on the united front, “If I had been in Moscow, the idea would not even have crossed my mind.”

How do we account for the ways in which most current far-left groups diverge from the model of the Comintern in Lenin’s time?”

In my view, the differences between the practices of the early Comintern/pre-October Bolsheviks with those of their would-be imitators lies in the fact the latter are not vanguards, and by vanguard I mean the most class conscious, militant elements of the working class and/or oppressed people. The Black Panther Party, the Communist Parties in post-WWII France, Italy, and Greece, the pre-WWI U.S. Industrial Workers of the World, and U.S. Vietnam Veterans Against the War in my opinion are all good examples of vanguard organizations. Whatever their political flaws and shortcomings (and they were many, to be sure), these groups had tremendous prestige, credibility, and authority among non-members in their respective constituencies because they led tremendous fights against racism, fascism, capitalism, and imperialism. And in the end, those fights and concrete gains are what count in the real material world.

By contrast, Leninists treat programmatic clarity and rigor as primary; inevitably, this means the actually existing struggle becomes secondary. Although Leninists deny this vehemently, we have decades of fruitless splits and expulsions as proof, as well as the long-term irrelevance of the Leninist left to the class struggle in just about every country on the face of the planet.

I think this explains the three pertinent observations you make about today’s Leninist groups — the predominance of a single ideological view point, the discipline directed against “competing” left forces rather than the real enemy, and keeping what little debate there is within these groups hidden and limited those who are worthy, the “true believers.” This is what happens when doctrine becomes more important than movement, ideas take precedence over action, program counts more than results, and perfection is more important than progress. It’s a recipe for sterility.

“These questions direct our attention to the important ways in which current revolutionary Marxist groups differ from the parties of the early Comintern…. “For more on this, see my exchange with Paul Le Blanc.

I read your exchange with LeBlanc before I finished my piece and I agree with you. The hard and fast political divisions that arose in the 1914-1920 period in the workers’ movement no longer exist. They will probably arise in the future as the level of working-class consciousness and militancy begins to approach that high point again, but not in the same way; and yes, many of those same fights have to be waged all over again. Just because we had the Paris Commune and Soviets doesn’t mean the lessons of that experience is forever burned into the memory of the global proletariat. Far from it, unfortunately.

Furthermore, your observations about the “subculture” and Leninist groups today are dead on. One of the things that led me to reject Leninism wholesale was an incident back in 2005 when members of the U.S. ISO destroyed (not intentionally or by design) an anti-war committee at a university through a series of easily remedied and avoidable blunders. At the time, I accepted what the leadership’s analysis of what happened, that it was a case of “red baiting”. I was shocked when I recently read the full original email exchanges that precipitated the crisis/split in the anti-war group, not only because I was misled by leaders whose political judgments I trusted but because my comrades were truly unable to grasp what their “opponents” objected to with regards to their political practice and reacted with the hostility and virulence that ought to be reserved for the fascists and Ann Coulters of the world. The inability to perceive how one’s own activity would look and feel to a non-group member is another feature I would add to your handy list.

The key problem with the groups who want to emulate the Bolsheviks is two-fold: they don’t imitate their thoroughly democratic, anti-dogmatic practices, and more importantly, they don’t seem to understand that the RSDLP emerged as a party of the working class from the beginning. The party’s program developed in this context, not apart from or outside of it. We cannot start with the program and build a movement around that or hope to win enough workers to it, thereby building a “vanguard” from without.

Again, this is where the “primacy of the program” leads away from the class and into the self-enclosed world of the sect or the faction, which, as you say, operates with radically different laws than that of a party. The single most important thing for any workers’ organization is for it to be controlled and shaped from below by working people to fit their needs and be responsive to their interests. For Leninist groups, whether or not to have a newspaper modeled on Iskra and an all-powerful central committee made up primarily of paid full-time organizers (to say nothing of “the program”) is non-negotiable, and thus workers will never feel that said organization is “ours.” All questions have been settled prior to their membership, leaving them with little to do except recruit, sell papers, and push the organization’s line in whatever area of work they’ve been assigned to. This, I believe, explains the high turnover rate among the memberships of these groups, especially among those who come from working-class backgrounds and people of color in particular. The activities and routines of a sect offer little in the way of concrete gains and battles won that are essential to winning their loyalty and commitment long term. Those who remain in said organizations for years and decades end up being conditioned to think within limited horizons and an inability to think outside the box.

One final note: a veteran of the U.S. Young People’s Socialist League (a merger of Hal Draper’s Independent Socialist League and the Socialist Party’s youth group) told me that they did indeed use slates to elect their leadership body of 7 in the following way: any number of candidates would be nominated, some on slates, some not; every delegate to a national congress got 7 weighted votes, meaning the first choice got 7 votes, the second choice 6 votes, etc. This set up meant that it was very rare for a single tendency or slate to sweep an election and did a lot to guarantee that differences of opinion emanated from the top and filtered downward to all members. It was a system that Draper was instrumental in creating. Personally I think a weighted vote system would make it more complicated to count votes, especially if a national congress has hundreds or thousands of delegates, but I have to say it would be much better than the slates-only systems that most latter day Leninist groups use.

I hope to elaborate on these themes in an upcoming article and I look forward to your response to Sheppard’s comment re: the conservative practice of “revolutionaries.”

8. To achieve revolutionary unity, the early Comintern tolerated diversity
John Riddell, August 16, 2011

Dear Binh,

1. You make many penetrating comments. When you write however, that the Comintern leadership engineered splits among national parties all over Europe, it is important to be more precise. The Comintern saw its mission as (1) splitting revolutionary forces away from the reformists, including left reformists, (2) unifying revolutionary socialist forces, and (3) forging unity in action with all working-class forces in a united front. So “splitting,” of a certain sort, was part of its purpose.

During Lenin’s lifetime, the Comintern was broadly successful with regard to the first two of these goals. I am hard put to think of any substantial revolutionary socialist current that stood outside the International at the time of Lenin’s death. The Serrati current was outside, but rejoined the International a few months later. The Levi forces had by then integrated themselves into the SPD Left. Much of the anarcho-syndicalist movement stood aside, but there the ideological barriers were clearly insuperable.

The Comintern leadership’s dealings with divided national sections were almost always aimed at forging unity. To carry out this course of revolutionary unity, they tolerated a great deal of diversity in political culture and outlook.

There are two major exceptions to this pattern: France and Norway, where the Comintern broke with centrist currents in late 1922 and 1923. What is most notable about these experiences is how long the Comintern attempted to resolve these intractable problems through persuasion and compromise.

Binh, you mention the Comintern’s missteps with regard to the forces led by Serrati and Levi in 1921. It is important to bear in mind the strength of ultra-left moods in the International’s ranks at this time — arguably, they represented the majority in the world movement at the outset of the Third Congress in 1921. In Italy, for example, the Communist faction had mostly consummated its split in life before the fateful Livorno congress, where actions of Comintern leaders came in for criticism from Levi. Some Bolshevik leaders, like Zinoviev, adapted to this ultra-left current, but they did not originate it.

All in all, the failure of “Leninist” currents today to achieve revolutionary unity can’t be laid at the door of the early Comintern. The causes of this failure rather relate to the way these currents, and the class-struggle context within which they operate, differ from that of the Communist movement of Lenin’s time.

2. When you condemn the “Leninist” groupings, Binh, I take it you are referring to the U.S. There is certainly a party inspired by Leninism very close to the U.S. that is free of the weaknesses you identify — the Communist Party of Cuba. It has led a revolutionary state for fifty years, has never known a split, has remained true to its founding principles, and has continued to play a creative and influential role with regard to revolutionary developments in its region into the 21st century. The Cuban Communists are staunch promoters of revolutionary unity internationally. This record is unique in revolutionary history.

Now I know that most revolutionary socialists in the U.S. disagree with me on this point. Many U.S. “Leninist” groups reject the Cuban Communists as bourgeois counterrevolutionaries. Certainly the Cuban leadership has weaknesses, has made errors, and today faces grave problems. But even so, isn’t the failure of so many U.S. “Leninist” groups to engage with Cuban Marxism a cause of intellectual sterility? Failure to recognize a living revolution is a disastrous mistake for a Marxist current.

3. Binh, you write of your negative experience with the U.S. ISO. I have never worked with the ISO in the United States and cannot speak to the issues that concern you. However, in my experience, the ISO has handled itself well in recent dealings with socialists in Canada. They have resisted the temptation to establish a captive branch-plant operation north of the border. They have worked even-handedly and loyally with a range of different socialist currents in Canada. They have encouraged our local experiment in socialist unity — the Greater Toronto Workers’ Assembly. They have invited socialists from Canada who hold a variety of political views differing from those of the ISO to address their educational conferences.

This limited but positive experience illustrates a more fundamental point. Far-left groups differ enormously. It’s necessary to find ways to link up with groups that can make a positive contribution in different arenas of activity or can contribute to the goal of revolutionary socialist unity.

9. Leninist groups since the 1930s have been led astray by methodological flaws
Pham Binh, August 17, 2011

Again, I appreciate the thoughtful reply. If you feel that I am abusing the comments section, please say so. A lot of what I’ve written is me re-exploring issues and questions that in my mind were settled long ago in light of very recent break with Leninism.

1) I agree the Comintern can’t be held responsible for the choices other people made down the road. Yes, the Comintern was largely successful in its short-term aim of effecting (mass) splits from reformist currents and uniting the revolutionary forces, but it also has to be said that it was unsuccessful in its long-term aim of creating parties ready, willing, and able to lead revolutions in their own countries. I think the way the Comintern was constituted and functioned in practice played a role in that failure and in its rapid, international degeneration after Lenin’s death.

2) In general, I was referring to all of the self-styled Leninist groups internationally from roughly the 1930s onward. Their underlying mythological flaws lead to large discrepancies with the practice of the early RSDLP in almost every case that I know of, although the concrete specifics vary from group to group, country to country, era to era.

On Cuba: I will have to explore your blog more to understand your view of the Cuban revolution. In general, I agree with the “state capitalist” analysis, but I’m not going to sit here and attack the Cuban CP for being “bourgeois counterrevolutionaries” or you for the “crime” of supporting them because what practical purpose does that serve? Are the Cuban workers going to rise up and form soviets because I exposed the evils of the Cuban CP in caps lock on a Marxist blog?

My impression of the 1959 revolution is that it was led by nationalist guerrillas who embraced “communism” only after the U.S. took hostile action against the new government, meaning, the revolution wasn’t led by a communist party or a Leninist organization. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, either; plenty of revolutions are led by non-communists/non-Leninists (Egypt, etc.). If anything, these “non” forces have a much better record of actually winning big, progressive gains than Leninists do.

The reason I raise this is because I’m not sure how the Cuban CP’s experience applies to this discussion (from what I remember reading from years ago, the pre-1959 [non-Castro] Cuban CP’s politics were very, very, awful [Popular Front applied to Batista’s Cuba]) given that Castro didn’t embrace Leninism/communism until after the revolution?

Whatever our differences on Cuba, I think we can agree that the main dangers facing Cuba’s workers are 1) international imperialism and 2) creeping neoliberalism from within Cuba (privatization, re-opening the private real estate market, austerity, layoffs, and so on).

Since we don’t live there, the best and most we can do is organize to resist #1 as much as we can (ending the blockade would be a tremendous victory), and that is where I think the overall thrust of any discussion of Cuba should focus on, lest the dialogue degenerate into recriminations, accusations, and armchair revolutionism. Failure to engage Cuban Marxism is not a cause of Leninist sterility, Leninist sterility is the cause of its repeated failures to engage with living struggles, with all their faults and weaknesses, where ever they occur.

3) On the whole, my experiences with the ISO were more positive than negative, and I am glad to hear that you too are having positive experiences with them. My problem is that the entire methodology on which Leninist practice is based is fundamentally flawed and won’t lead to where its proponents want it to go: towards the creation of a revolutionary workers vanguard party of some sort. Failure to address or even acknowledge avoidable, unnecessary mistakes when they occur and when the stakes are comparatively low does not bode well for the future.

From → Marxism, Organization

3 Comments
  1. Wanted to drop a remark and let you know your Feed is not functioning today. I tried adding it to my Google reader account and got nothing.

    • Dear Cherisa,

      Thank you for drawing this to my attention. Could you please tell me a bit more?

      You say the “Feed is not functioning” and mention your “Google reader account.” I take it you want to subscribe to the blog and receive notices of new articles. Is that correct?

      There is a “subscribe” function on each page of my website, but I take it that this is different from what you wish to do.

      Sorry to trouble you about this, but I want very much to figure out the problem, and I’m hampered by my limited knowledge of these things.

      Best regards,

      John Riddell, Toronto

  2. Revolutionary socialists from the leninist tradition should indeed stand open for difference op opinion. Unity in action does not mean that you must agree with the party’s line. I think that freedom of discussion is indeed very much needed for a healthy workers party to work. I hear many stories about bureaucratic centralism in the British Socialist Workers Party, it makes me sad that even the anti-stalinists Marxists can be so dogmatic and centralized. Revolutionary socialists must always be able to criticize the party leadership, yet there is difference between healthy criticism and refusing to carry out the party’s politics. Unity is action is also needed!

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