Chris Harman from beyond the grave

There’s a specter haunting Lindsey German and John Rees: the specter of Chris Harman. I’m a massive fan of Harman. One of his books, ‘The Lost Revolution’, is recommended in a footnote in a Counterfire article: Elaine Graham Leigh on Lenin’s left-wing communism. What a pity Lindsey and John seem not to have got round to reading it yet. Guess they’ve been kinda busy these last three decades.

The intervention of Counterfire’s dynamic duo into the state-orchestrated crisis unfolding around the Socialist Workers Party is disappointing. Opportunistic and dishonest doesn’t really cover it. For those interested, here it is: The crisis in the socialist workers party, and the future of the left

John and Lindsey should be standing by their ex-comrades against this witch hunt. But that’s not what we find. They have not issued one word of criticism of those who deny due process, natural justice and the presumption of innocence. What a gift Richard Seymour’s discredited fan-club is to the corrupt and brutal cops who frame socialists, black youths, Irish Catholics, Muslims, and anyone else they don’t like the look of.

John and Lindsey have climbed aboard the sectarian bandwagon, exploiting a resignation letter penned by someone they describe as a ‘leading’ SWP member. There is no way of verifying whether he ever was a ‘leading’ SWP member since he cowers behind a pen-name: Donny Mayo. I think we should be told who this Donny Mayo is because whoever wrote this bizarre letter clearly never learnt the first thing about democratic centralism.

‘Donny’ explicitly rubbishes the foundations of Leninist organisation, insisting that the best ideas these days don’t come from the followers of Lenin, Trotsky, Marx or Harman, dismissing his ex-comrades support for all these great revolutionaries as indoctrination and their organizational methods as akin to that of the mafia. Charming.

Whoever this ‘Donny Mayo’ is, his contribution to forging a democratic centralist vanguard fist out of Counterfire is going to be less than negligible.

Signing ‘Donny Mayo’ up to Lindsey and John’s group weakens, rather than strengthens, their prospects of building the kind of party that Chris Harman demanded we must build – if, that is, we want socialism, rather than the type of barbarism knocking at the door of the people of Greece today.

Chris Harman’s conclusions are not in the least bit contentious, by the way. They are not contentious if you stand (as Lindsey German and John Rees insist they do stand) in the tradition of Lenin, of Trotsky and of Gramsci. They are not contentious if you stand in the same tradition as Rosa Luxemburg, albeit only in the last few months of her life, a life cut tragically short as her skull was smashed in by the forces of law and order, acting under the orders of the reformists that Andy Newman and Richard Seymour insist socialists must vote for today, the same reformists that, alas, Lindsey German and John Rees are telling us to vote for today.

Sorry to have to be the one to break it to you comrades, but Tony Cliff and Chris Harman stand in the tradition of Lenin, Trotsky, Gramsci and Luxemburg, a tradition you have broke from. You want proof? Examine the last two paragraphs from the second last chapter of Harman’s book:

  •    “1923 was the summation of all the problems that had plagued the German revolution from the beginning — or, more accurately, of the repeated impact of the one major problem: the lack of the nucleus of a party in November 1918. Without such a nucleus the experience of 1918-19 could not produce a layer of militants capable of responding in a coordinated, national manner to the possibilities of 1920. And that in turn ensured a combination of foolhardiness and hesitation in 1921 and 1923.
  •    “German society produced hundreds of thousands, indeed millions of men and women who wanted revolutionary change between 1918 and 1923. The tragedy of the German revolution was that a party capable of harnessing and coordinating their energy did not come into existence until it was too late. History has often been compared to a locomotive — but it does not wait for revolutionaries to board it. Those who miss their time are forced, like the wandering Jew of mythology, to suffer for the rest of eternity.” (pg 302, The Lost Revolution, Germany 1918 to 1923, Bookmarks, October 1982)

Immediately following these passages, Harman moves to his final chapter. That chapter constitutes an epilogue. In it we find Harman explaining that, having blown the final opportunity to lead the German proletariat into a successful socialist revolution, the KPD atrophied, became a shell. The vibrant revolutionaries of Luxemburg’s day drifted away disillusioned, the apparatus falling into the hands of those who acted as the proxies for a variety of factions within the bureaucratized Comintern. The German party, like all the other parties affiliated to the Third International, abandoned the politics of Lenin and Trotsky. Eventually, towards the end of the twenties, Stalin himself took over the reins of power across all sections of the Comintern. The omni-shambolic incompetence of his personal placemen gave us sectarianism in spades, screwing things up so badly that state power fell into the hands of Hitler’s Nazis.

All of this, as far as Chris Harman was concerned, could be traced back to Rosa Luxemburg’s original sin. Rosa Luxemburg’s tragedy, a tragedy from which humanity is still paying a heavy price, was her failure to do within the German working class movement what Lenin did within the Russian working class movement: build a democratic centralist vanguard party.

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One Response to Chris Harman from beyond the grave

  1. Pingback: Over de zogenaamde noodzaak van een revolutionaire partij (1): Hongarije 1956 | Ravotr

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