Chris Harman: the turn to a Leninist organisation in 1968.

1 02 2013

Barry Biddulph critically reviews Chris Harmans , Party and Class, published in 1968, as part of the turn to Leninism by the leadership of the International Socialist Group, later to become the Socialist Workers Party.

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 In 1968 the SWP’s predecessor the International Socialists decided to adopt a Leninist model of organisation. Harman argued that the Bolshevik Revolution was the only successful revolution, and other revolutions, such as the Paris Commune, were defeated. Yet the Paris Commune was an inspiring defeat, with mass creativity and an open fight to the end. In contrast, outside the year of the masses in 1917, the Russian revolution was an unclear defeat. The counter Revolution took a Leninist  form, originating in the Bolshevik party. “The most horrible thing about the way the revolution died in Russia is that the counter-revolution won and called itself Socialism” (1).

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Tony Cliff on substitutionism

26 01 2013

Barry Biddulph re-examines Tony Cliff’s organisational views,  before Cliff’s turn to Leninism in 1968. This insight of Cliff from 1960 could almost have been written with recent events in the SWP in mind: “all discussions on the basic issues of policy should be discussed in the light of day, in the open press. Let the mass of the workers take part in the discussion, put pressure on the party, its apparatus and leadership”.  (1)

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Tony Cliff’s interpretation of Trotsky’s views on substitutionism written in 1960 (2) does not appear to be fully grounded in Trotsky’s response to the second congress and the discussion of the excessive centralism of Lenin’s organisational suggestions following the congress. Nor does he draw on the important criticism of Rosa Luxemburg. He roots substitutionism in the uneven consciousness among the working class and ultimately in the backward circumstances of Russia at the time.

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the crisis in the swp

21 01 2013

Members of Britain’s Socialist Workers Party are resigning from the party in droves, says duvinrouge. The impetus comes from a sexual assault allegation against a senior member of the party, & allegations that it wasn’t investigated properly. But unpinning this is the discontent due to the lack of party democracy.

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The SWP is a Leninist party & therefore internally organises in a way that is termed democratic-centralism. The basic idea being that the majority decision is decided upon & then there is unity of action led by a central committee. It actual fact it’s a fig-leaf ideology to allow a few to justify their life as professional revolutionaries, dreaming of their place in history, whilst the rank & file members sell the paper to fund this lifestyle. It’s much like parliamentary democracy’s claim to represent the wishes of the people & gives us the illusion of having a say.

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