Richard Seymour and James Burnham:

  • Writing this letter has been a painful and difficult task for me. It is in no way an impulsive act, but has been preceded by the most careful and lengthy deliberation. I am above all anxious that I avoid giving any impression that I seek to excuse or extenuate myself, my own weaknesses or deficiencies or failures. I do not propose to blame others or history for my faults. When I say that I reject Marxism, I do not at all mean that I am scornful of or consider myself “superior to” Marxists. Not at all. I am humble, believe me before the loyalty, sacrifice and heroism of so many Marxists—qualities found so widely within the ranks of the Workers Party. But I cannot act otherwise than I do.
  • Believing as I do, I cannot wish success to the Workers Party; but I can and do wish its members well. To the extent that each of us, in his own way and arena, preserves the values and truth and freedom, I hope that we shall continue to regard ourselves as comrades, whatever names we use and whatever labels may be tied around our necks.
  • Fraternally yours,
    JAMES BURNHAM

That was James Burnham’s letter of resignation from the Workers Party, which was the organisation he lead after his faction within the American Socialist Workers Party was defeated democratically and they split. Trotsky did not have long to wait to see James Burnham accept that a great deal of what Trotsky had alleged was in fact correct, leading to him split from his split. This letter of resignation of James Burnham from the organisation he set up after the faction fight was never printed by that organisation. His co-thinkers were too ashamed to face the reality of what had happened. Why am I discussing this in my blog today?

I have on many occasions compared Richard Seymour to that other academic Marxist critic of democratic centralism who lead the faction fight within the American SWP, James Burnham. Here are a couple of articles attempting to justify that comparison:

And I am going to do that once more.

I am not sure what will become of those who were lead by Richard Seymour out of the British SWP an hour or so ago, but I predict they will not form any kind of democratic centralist organisation. They will not build any kind of Marxist organisation. Indeed, I do not believe many of them will agree to build any kind of stable organisation at all. They will in the main scatter to the winds: Labour, Greens, SNP, Counterfire, ISG.

Many of those Richard Seymour has convinced to resign from the SWP will drop out of any kind of left-wing activism. They will opt instead for personal advancement. Many will harbour ambitions of becoming MPs. They are as likely to end up as Tories MPs as anything else. What about Richard Seymour himself?

Richard Seymour is as unlikely an organiser of any socialist party as was James Burnham. He is a devious conspiratorialist. He is an egotist on a mission to win fame and fortune, and he will be encouraged to dine out on tittle tattle picked up while a member of the SWP for the rest of his life.

If there is a party going that is willing to bow down before Richard Seymour’s massive academic ‘Marxist’ ‘brain’, he may deign to take out a party card.

However, anyone who invites Richard Seymour to join them needs to keep an eagle eye on him forever and a day. He is not keen to do things by the book. He loves to spy on comrades for John Chamberlain’s support group for convicted pedophiles and Nick Cohen’s Islamophobic warmongers.

If Richard Seymour doesn’t copy James Burnham in resigning from the organisation he sets up after a failed faction fight within a Socialist Workers Party, the only thing that will stop him doing that is probably the fact that those who have left the British SWP are unlikely to hang around long enough to form any kind of organisation.

Good riddance to bad rubbish.

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