Re: Referring Australian "Labor" Party
- By Bob Gould
Vic Savoulien's several posts about the Labor Party are a kind of
reductio ad absurdum of the views in and around the DSP and the
Socialist Alliance on that party.
Savoulien treats Laborism, from its moment of development, as a super
entity embodying an initial, and then continuing, conspiracy against
the working class.
This approach is totally un-Marxist and un-Leninist in the sense in
which both those terms are useful.
While polemecising against right-wing forces in the labour movement,
Marx and Lenin treated these forces sociologically and constantly
analysed contradictory elements in all working-class mass movements as
A conspiracy theory in which a pure entity, described as the Labor
Party, perpetrating crimes from the moment that it appears on the
scene, is a bit like the holy ghost or Satan in Christian theology. It
is alien to Marxism.
This primitive approach allows for no strategy and tactics involving
contradictory working-class formations, and the life works of Marx and
Lenin consisted of working out strategy and tactics involving these
contradictory mass movements.
This kind of approach has its parallel in the method we all fall into
from time to time, and should stamp out of our thinking, when we talk
about the ruling class as a super-historical entity. What we should do
is constantly try to comprehend and make reference to contradictory
forces, factions and fractions within national ruling classes and the
ruling class of the world.
Vic Savoulien's diatribe may satisfy him as an expression of anger and
rage, but it has absolutely nothing to do with the method of Marx,
Engels, Lenin and Trotsky.
- For a clinical dissection of Social Democratic formations, including
developments since the Second World War, and responses to
neoliberalism, Ernest Mandel's 1993 article, The Nature of Social
Democratic Reformism is hard to beat.
It is a devastating survey of the failure of Social Democracy to
defend working people, but it avoids infantile moralising and abuse,
and empty scolding of scoundrels.
Mandel's conclusion is interesting, if expressed a bit academically in
>>In these conditions, revolutionary Marxists must combine in relationto social democracy, to use fashionable terms, a "culture of radical
contestation" and a "culture of dialogue'.
"Culture of radical contestation" means on the practical level to
refuse to make any concessions to the logic of the electoral and
governmental "lesser evil", which would imply an even limited
acceptance of austerity measures, restrictions on democratic
liberties, any concessions to xenophobia and racism. That means giving
priority, under all circumstances, to the defence of the immediate
interests and aspirations of the masses, to the unhindered development
of their initiatives, their mobilisations, their struggles, their
self-organisation, without subordinating them to any "superior
objective", chosen and imposed in an authoritarian and verticalist
"Culture of radical contestation" means also on the level of
propaganda to present as concrete and structured a global
socio-political objective as possible. That means refuting all the
"theoretical innovations" of social democracy and the new reformists,
"innovations" which are ninety-nine times out of a hundred regressions
to pre-Marxist positions that are 150 years old, if not more.
That means vigorously defending the capital of Marxism, but of a
Marxism that is open, critical and self-critical, that is ready to
re-examine everything in the light of the facts, but not lightly, not
in an unscientific way, not without looking at reality as a whole.
Revolutionary Marxists have neither the arrogance to have an answer to
everything nor the claim to have never been wrong about anything. But
they are not ready to throw out the baby with the bath water. The
theoretical and moral capital remains considerable. It deserves to be
"Culture of dialogue" means engaging with social democracy, with every
wing of it that is ready to, including parties as a whole, debates and
confrontation whose aim is to facilitate common actions in the
interests of the working class and the oppressed.
These operations are certainly facilitated by a modification of the
relationship of forces which would render too costly a peremptory
refusal by the reformists. They can facilitate differentiation within
social democracy. But independently of this logic, we have to fight
resolutely for the dialogue to be engaged and pursued, so that a
"third component" of the organized workers movement, to the left of
social democracy and the new reformist parties, is de facto recognised.
This objective is neither tactical nor conjunctural. It is strategic
and long lasting. It is directly linked to a fundamental conception of
the self-organization of the working class, which leads on to our
conception of the taking of power (...)
To combine these two "cultures", that is the task of revolutionary
Marxists today in relation to social democracy.>>