49903Re: A balance sheet on the crisis in the DSP
- Jan 2, 2008Luke Skywalker lets the cat out of the bag
By Bob Gould
First of all, to Luke himself. I've got nothing at all against you,
Luke. Years ago at a demonstration you grumbled to me in a humorous
way that I had kept you up half the night reading stuff that was on
Ozleft. To anyone who writes, even for a small audience, the notion
that anyone reacts is always flattering, so thanks for your interest.
I also found your personal apologia on the Green Left site, in which
you described your own human itinerary involving experimentation with
different religions, of some interest.
But I'd submit to you that Marxist politics is something quite
different to religious inquiry and enthusiasm. I respect people who've
experimented with religion, because it's a fairly common phenomenon
among vast numbers of people, including many workers and peasants. But
religious enthusiasms applied to socialist, Marxist and working class
politics is a thoroughgoing pain in the neck.
Marxism has a sociological, tactical and strategic aspect that's
central to it. Appeals to conversion can have a certain value when
there's an upward movement in the working class. Lenin was at some
pains to insist that Marxist parties shouldn't include religious
people, and the Bolsheviks recruited very widely among the Old
Believers, the most persecuted sect in Russia.
For that kind of reason I'm completely out of sympathy with the
attitude of flamboyant, reactionary bourgeois atheists such as Richard
Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. The latter, in particular, uses his
flamboyant atheism to attack Muslims and anti-imperialists of all
sorts and advance the cause of US imperialism. I belong to the Tariq
Ali-Terry Eagleton faction in matters of religion.
I do insist, however, that Marxism is a product of the Enlightenment
and that Marxist politics and strategies that are based on simple
religious enthusiasm, without a realistic balance sheet of the
possibilities and social factors bearing on socialist tasks is
pernicious. I don't particularly like picking on you personally as
representative of a trend among supporters of the DSP leaders, but in
fact you are.
On the matters in train as we speak in the DSP, you've well and truly
let the cat out of the bag in a rather naive way (I find one aspect of
how you've done this deeply offensive. You refer to the minority as a
tiny group of splitters who you hope will be converted back to the
true path. In fact, the leaders of this group have been fighting for
socialism, and involved in socialist political activity for more than
30 years. I've had deep-rooted conflicts with them, which are unlikely
to go away unless we reach some clarity, but I have respect for their
ongoing political activity and understanding. You would do better to
try to learn something from them, rather than dismissing them as an
absurd minority standing in the way of the progress of the DSP.)
The story that you tell lets the cat out of the bag in the following way.
It's quite clear what you've repeated on the Green Left list is the
story the Boyle leadership is telling the ranks of its faction.
I don't doubt that they're telling the ranks this story with the
advantages they have from being in charge of a small apparatus, and I
don't doubt that they're telling the ranks about the minority with the
extravagant vindictiveness that is often present in disputes in small
groups, and which bursts out from time to time on the Green Left site
The story that you repeat is obviously the bill of goods for the
forthcoming expulsions. If you're repeating the story the way you do,
it's clear the exclusion of the minority is immediately pending. The
way these things work in small groups is that the Boyle leadership has
obviously telling everyone among the majority's relatively small rank
and file that a split is likely and probably unavoidable and the onus
is on the minority.
This all has a bit of a flavour of the exclusion of the
Cochrane-Braverman minority in the US SWP in 1953, which was justified
by Jim Cannon and others on the grounds of the minority's boycott of
the big anniversary celebration of the SWP.
Another aspect of your blurting it all out is also significant. You
refer to the opposition as a tiny minority. In a very small
organisation, the probably 40 or so members of the minority are in
fact a fair chunk of the membership, and they include a large number
of the seasoned, historic leaders of the DSP. If you think they're a
small, irrelevant minority who can just be shrugged off unless they
respond to the majority's calls for conversion, your view of practical
politics is even more eccentric than I thought.
It's pretty clear from your blurting it out that the expulsions won't
happen at the congress, but afterwards, and some the minority will be
presented with some sort of ultimatum to buckle under or they're out
in the interests of the homogeneity of the organisation and the great
possibilities that face it. Of course, that's all nonsense, and
The ranks of the Boyle faction should be a bit cautious in these
matters, and even now restrain their leaders from forcing a split the
outcome of which will be the opposite of what you desire.
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