Leninism on Way Out as ISO Crisis Deepens.
Still Flogging a Dead Horse.
” To defend press freedom the 19th century French liberal Benjamin Constant used analogy. * He imagined a society before the invention of language. Suddenly people could speak. When it undermined order figures in authority began to regret this state of affairs. Gradually the innovation was accepted. Nobody any longer had the idea of forbidding talking on the grounds that it could be used to spread rumours, lies or fantasies.
Perhaps the Socialist Workers Party will consider Constant’s argument when they next stick on their internal documents, “Under No Circumstances Should This Text be Posted on the Internet, For SWP members Only.”
* Cited Page 227. Les Gauches Françaises. Jacques Julliard. 2012.
Tendance Coatesy, The Crisis of the SWP, Leninism and the Left. February 2013.
Louis Proyect writes today (extracts),
One wonders if the ISO leaders might have anticipated the “security breach” that allowed the documents to become public. After all, in the electronic age, what’s to prevent a Marxist version of Edward Snowden from cropping up? This is especially true given the leaks that took place in the British SWP, the group that spawned the ISO. Those leaks were focused primarily on the British SWP’s refusal to punish a top leader who had allegedly raped a young female member. As is the case with bureaucratic institutions in general such as the Catholic Church and the military, there is a tendency to defend those in power, no matter what they do. If you’ve reached the point where you’ve become tired of bureaucratic abuse from the ISO leadership, why not let the rest of the left know what’s going on behind closed doors?
Proyect’s objects are many but this sticks out,
I want to address the question of the “right” of a Leninist organization to keep its discussions shielded from public view at the end of this article, but will start with an evaluation of the ISO’s current woes, which according to both sides in the dispute is very real.
The real issue is not security, but the right of a sect to keep its deliberations a secret. When you stop and think about it, all of these “Leninist” groups operate on a mercantile basis that is concerned with maximizing market share. Their internal bulletins are analogous to reports discussed by the board of directors leading up to a sales campaign. What business is it of Pepsi to know what Coca-Cola is up to? How can we let Socialist Alternative know what we have planned for 2014? Hush now, comrades. Mum’s the word.
While I will not be around fifty years from now, I am convinced that “Leninism” will be long dead. If we are fortunate enough to be capable of rallying the forces needed to transform American society, it will be on a basis that has little to do with the imagery associated with the Smolny Institute and the Winter Palace. We will write our own future based on the living struggle that we surely have in front of us. Every effort has to be bent toward uniting the greatest number of people on a principled class basis. In a way it is too bad that ISO cannot understand the role it can play in helping to catalyze such a movement. One hopes that they can figure out a way to emerge out of the existing stagnation and rise to the occasion.
The background to this crisis is given on the External Bulletin site,
The organizational crisis and its political roots
The International Socialist Organization (ISO) has been in a general crisis since 2009. This has not been experienced or understood as a general crisis, but rather a series of disconnected and personalistic branch crises. But if we merely list the crises that we know about, the general nature of the problem becomes clear: (see links for more)
Perhaps the conclusion is not as radical – certainly not about the Leninist roots of their problems – as it could be,
To sum up, the political roots of the ISO’s organizational crisis lie in the group’s failure to adequately theorize the neoliberal phase of capitalism. Its past practices are increasingly ineffective in a new conjuncture, but it lacks the “theoretical capital” to invest in the ideation of strategy. Itself impoverished in ideas, the leadership has adopted a defensive posture, concerned–in many ways legitimately–that a politically weak organization cannot handle the internal struggles that will be required to generate and test new ideas. But there is no alternative to this internal struggle if the organization is to progress.
Update: Opposition expelled from ISO, here.
More details and comments on this split on Howie’s Corner.
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