Here is the conclusion to the Preface to the 2013 Korean reprinting of John Molyeux’s wonderful Marxism and the Party which has just been added to his blog:
“The necessity of an independent organization of revolutionaries – the hallmark of Bolshevism and much discussed in this book – to secure the victory of the revolution was hard won. Great revolutionaries such as Luxemburg and Trotsky fully grasped it only on the basis of the experience of both the First World War and the Russian Revolution. In the case of Luxemburg it is arguable that she paid with her life for not realizing it earlier; for Trotsky it was the main lesson of the success in October 1917 and the failure of the revolution in Germany in 1923. He wrote in The Lessons of October in 1924.:
“Clearly I subscribed to this view when I wrote this book. The question is have any of the numerous changes and developments of the intervening years served to invalidate this conclusion today. In my view absolutely not and, regardless of the prevailing ‘mood’ or sentiment, I believe that it will be confirmed in the struggles that lie ahead. Therefore, given the immense crisis facing humanity, it is essential that the difficult task of building mass revolutionary workers parties be persisted with.”
Unsurprisingly, this blog post has provoked faux outrage from Richard Seymour’s fan club. They had hoped to enlist John Molyneux in their reactionary battle to destroy the SWP. Desperation and stupidity are two Achilles heels of these people; absence of a backbone, grovelling before the capitalist state and being utterly inept incorrigible liars are three more such heels.
Richard Seymour’s lame pantomime centipede fails to appreciate the nature of John Molyneux’s criticisms of the SWP leadership. There is all the difference in the world between fighting to make a Marxist party more effective (which is what John has always fought for, courageously and correctly in my opinion, just as Gramsci did within the PCI to win a majority by democratic methods) and wanting to destroy the only kind of Marxist party that has made any sense since the defeats of the workers’ revolutions at the end of WWI. These revolutions (which were sparked by the collapse of one reactionary state after another) all failed with a single and significant exception: Russia. I’d like to offer a quote from Antonio Gramsci to back up John’s conclusions.
The Leon Theses is an extraordinary work. From start to finish it backs up the democratic centralism that Richard Seymour wants to destroy. They make the case for Lenin’s vanguardist methods of organisation as the very last word in Marxist orthodoxy, as the only way of ensuring capitalism gives birth to socialism, not barbarism.
Gramsci wrote The Leon Theses on the eve of his being tossed in jail by Mussolini to have his final years spent writing in a semi-impenetrable code, something he was forced into to befuddle his politically illiterate fascist censors. He had hoped to offer fascinating insights for Marxists capable of penetrating his code.
De-cyphering the Prison Notebooks isn’t easy, but it is possible to those of us who hold the key. And that key is visible only to those who embrace the perspective of a partisan of the democratic centralist vanguard party and international working class revolution as a prerequisite to a global classless society.
The Leon Theses provide Marxists with our Rosetta Stone. Academic Marxists (held in exemplary contempt by Chris Harman) and the no less unworthy Eurocommunist apologists for Neil Kinnock’s social democratic treachery (Eric Hobsbawn went so far as to demand Kinnock formed a coalition governments with former Tory Prime Minister Edward Heath!) can teach us nothing about the real Antonio Gramsci. Proof of this can be found in what the great man actually argued:
“24. The organisation of the proletarian vanguard in a Communist Party is the essential feature of our organisational activity. The Italian leadership of a Communist Party, built as the party of the working class and as the party of revolution, is missing, no victorious outcome of the struggle to overthrow the capitalist order is possible. The construction of a Communist Party which really is the party of the working class and the party of revolution – in other words, that is a ‘Bolshevik’ party – is directly related to the following basic points:
(a) the party’s ideology;
(b) its form of organisation and degree of cohesion;
(c) its capacity to operate in contact with the masses;
(d) its strategic and tactical capacity.
Each of these points is closely linked with the others, and cannot logically be separated from them. Each of them, in fact, points to and contains a series of problems whose solutions are mutually interconnected and overlapping. Examining them separately will only be useful if it is borne in mind that none of them can be resolved, without all being tackled simultaneously and brought to a solution.” [Antonio Gramsci, Selections from Political Writings 1921-26, Lawrence and Wishart, 1978, 357]
Richard Seymour has pitched his tent alongside everyone else determined to destroy democratic centralism. These include ex-SWP leaders like Lindsey German, John Rees and Labour leftists like Owen Jones. The first two responded to losing votes by becoming late converts to the anarchist defense of the rights of minorities to do their own thing. Owen Jones has always been an enthusiast for socialist ‘pluralism’. That allows him to defy majority decisions in exchange for surrendering the exact same right to Ed Miliband. The problem for Owen Jones is that we know what this live-and-let-live organisational paralysis does to the labour movement.
Broad church type parties of social democracy are incapable of acting as vehicles for socialist advance. While they fan the flames of hope for a time, they solve nothing in the long run. They merely pave the road to disillusion, disorientation and eventually collapse of all political and economic democracy of the working class, at the end of the day crushed by the military might of Generals Franco and Pinochet or the paramilitary twats of Adolf Hitler.
If it had not been for the party painstakingly built by Lenin and like-minded people the Russian working class would have moved briefly via Kerensky to Kornilov. Fascism would no doubt have entered the global vocabulary with a Russian, not Italian word. These are the lessons learnt by Trotsky, Luxemburg, Gramsci, Lukacs, Cliff, Harman and Molyneux. These are the lessons taught by these people.
Those who are being marched out of the SWP today by Richard Seymour into the arms of the enemies of democratic centralism don’t know what they are missing. The overwhelming majority of these people patently have been far too busy to familiarise themselves with the writings of Marxist revolutionaries. One of their so-called leaders wants SWP members to study the works of Harvey rather than Chris Harman. Who this Harvey is remains a mystery to me.
Richard Seymour is banking on the heroic ignorance of so much of his fan club who are overwhelmingly students, who are immune to any appreciation of the class character of the party and of the antagonistic class character of the state: special bodies of armed men and women whose role is to defend the property of the ruling class. These people are ignorant of the role of CIA honey traps, Scottsboro boys, infiltration of state agents into the Black Panthers, Bolsheviks, IRA, Trotsky’s Fourth International.
Richard Seymour’s cheerleaders have focussed their ignorance, laser-like, into a tool for justifying their lining up with the CIA and other Intelligence agencies of the imperialist powers to deny Julian Assange a fair trial: Chris Bambery, Catriona Grant et al detest the notion of natural justice. And united fronts between some SWP students and these wretches have proven utterly toxic to the SWP.
Richard Seymour has been caught red-handed climbing into bed with outrageous liars at the beck and call of the capitalist state. He has introduced a contagion within a democratic centralist enemy of the capitalist state.
The Socialist Workers Party should stop worrying about losing these members so much as waking up to the reality that they never really had them in the first place.
The SWP has to start to take the political education of those they recruit seriously. Those incapable of familiarising themselves with the Marxist defense of democratic centralism (which forms an unbreakable thread throughout all Marxist theory and practice since the early 1920s) have to be allowed to decamp to broad church social democratic parties, apolitical anarchist spontaneity gibberish or whatever. Any alternative is better than allowing them to act as a parasite within the SWP.
United fronts, electoral pacts and broad democratic forums are both possible and necessary with such people. But the very best of these people have to be counted (for the time being) as ineligible for membership of the SWP. Artificially inflating membership figures by indiscriminately handing party cards over to the enemies of democratic centralism was always an accident waiting to happen. The public relations disaster of a loss of such ‘comrades’ can prove more serious than never having brought them prematurely on board in the first place. Today’s ‘crisis’ in the SWP could not be bettered as an example of what can go wrong.