In defence of democratic centralism:

In defense of democratic centralism

In defense of democratic centralism

The following was written by probably my favorite living Marxist: John Molyneux.

This brief letter to the last SWP national committee has been in the public arena from the moment Richard Seymour got his grubby little hands on it, naturally.

A few hours ago, Seymour condemned John Molyneux for not siding with his ludicrous faction, but instead siding with the SWP’s central committee.

The fact that Seymour thought for one second that John Molyneux was ever going to side with his pathetic politics reminds us that we are dealing with an idiot. A well-educated idiot, but an idiot nonetheless.

Richard Seymour thinks the way to our hearts is to plunder a thesaurus. No, it’s not. Richard Seymour’s descent into the depths of Althusserian hell to drag out a never-ending string of polysyllabic tongue-twisters impresses no one. He only comes across as a pretentious plonker, shoveling in that many terms no one would dream of using if their priority was to communicate ideas to our class.

I recall a short review John Molyneux wrote many years ago about Althusserians. I recall laughing as he wittily reminded us how they wrote at great length about tautologies that said nothing but went on endless detours along the way, peppering everything with Greek, Latin, German, Klingon too if they thought that would separate them from the masses, reminding us how much better they are than the rest of us. Poor deluded bastards.

Anyway, ever since Richard Seymour passed this letter on to his right-wing pals in Ed Miliband’s One Nation Tory Party, Molyneux’s arguments have had buckets of shit poured over them. I, however, agree with every word of this letter.

Rather than force socialists to add to the internet traffic of enemies of socialism if all they want to do is read what John Molyneux said (and they should because it is important), I have decided I should give socialists an alternative. I would prefer if John did this himself, or if the SWP leadership decided to put this out there. If I thought that John and/or the CC wanted this to be kept out of cyberspace I would not put it out there, and I will take it down if either of them ask me to. But I am not sure why they would want this taken down. Besides, Richard Seymour’s friends still have it there for anyone looking for it. And it is buried beneath a mountain of toxic sectarianism.

Richard Seymour’s friends do not advertise what John Molyneux wrote since they don’t want anyone to pay any attention to these argument, although their kneejerk sectarianism has put it into cyberspace to give them their trigger for yet more bilge. I, on the other hand, do want socialists to read what John Molyneux wrote. The more the merrier in my opinion.

Given the smear campaign Richard Seymour wants to unleash against John Molyneux (painting him in the colours of a turncoat!), I see no justification for not putting the record straight, and John Molyneux does this in his own words much better than I ever could.

Given the pathetic criticism that Richard Seymour’s friends are resorting to to undermine all those who defend democratic centralism (reformists, centrists, anarchists, eccentrics, ultra-left sectarians), SWP loyalists need to fight back. John Molyneux’s letter should constitute a part of that fightback. And that is why I am putting it out there:

  • ‘Dear Comrades
  • Obviously this is an extremely difficult time for the party. We are under attack from many different sides ranging from the Daily Mail, to others on the left, a small section of our own members and a (small) international group of academics and intellectuals, threatening a ‘boycott’ of our publications and events.
  • I am not in Britain but I have received a number of messages and enquiries so I just wanted a) to say where I stand on all this b) to wish everyone well in the circumstances.
  • My position is one of strong support for the SWP and its democratically elected CC.
  • I attended the recent party conference and believe it was conducted in exemplary democratic fashion. Indeed I am not aware of any substantial complaint about the conduct of conference from any quarter. At that conference the CC majority received the backing of the majority on all the disputed questions after thorough and fair debate. The majority on accepting the DC was quite narrow, but still clear, and on electing the new CC it was substantial (5 to3). The CC, therefore, has a clear mandate to lead. Democracy does not mean that we all get our own way, it means the majority gets its way.
  • The demand for a recall conference is not a democratic demand but an anti-democratic demand designed to undermine the vote of the majority.
  • Yes, there are circumstances when the demand for a recall conference is legitimate; for example when there is major new development, such as the outbreak of an unforeseen war or major strike, on which the party is divided as to its response. But this not one of them. Nothing has changed in the outside world except for the public furore CREATED BY THOSE WHO DISAGREED with conference decisions.
  • Secondly, I think Alex Callinicos is right in his article on Leninism in Socialist Review: the question of Leninism and the revolutionary party IS at the heart of this debate. Many of the ‘opposition’ deny this (and complain it is a ‘straw man’ etc) but the fact is that the actual behaviour – as opposed to their formal declarations- of those who have gone public, in the bourgeois press, on their blogs and on Facebook (and FB IS public) shows that they either have a very different conception of the party or no real regard for it. In particular, a question I would put to Richard Seymour (and to his supporters) is do you believe that party rules and norms, which you must be aware of, do not apply to you or is it that you disagree with them all and think that everyone should be allowed to attack the party publicly in any way they like?
  • By the way, anyone who claims to be reclaiming the party for ‘the best in the IS tradition’ by doing this, simply does not know what they are talking about. I can assure them that it is impossible to conceive of any of the comrades who actually forged the IS tradition – the likes of Cliff, Hallas, Foot and Harman – ever doing such a thing.
  • There is a much wider issue here. It is clear that there are very powerful anti-party moods out there – nationally and internationally – look at the Indignados, at Occupy and so on. These reflect a widespread radicalised liberal individualism. When such moods are widespread and common in the movement they are frequently, and to some extent inevitably, reflected inside the party in one form or another. One form taken by this at the moment is not just anarchism/autonomism but yearning for a ‘broad’ ‘pluralist’ type party a la Syriza. Richard Seymour and Owen Jones, for example, both seem to favour this.
  • I, however, continue to believe that the building of an independent revolutionary party – as advocated by Lenin and Trotsky (and Gramsci) – is necessary for revolutionary victory. It is a vital, but also very difficult task and I think that achievements made should be defended not thrown away. Those who say, for example, the whole CC of the SWP should resign or be thrown out clearly have little regard for the party’s future. I also continue to believe, as I have always argued, that democratic centralism is not only necessary for effectiveness in the class struggle but also the most DEMOCRATIC form of party organisation because it controls and holds to account leaders. In the current situation it is not the CC who are not subject to democratic accountability but the likes of Richard Seymour.
  • Finally, I would say that this is a wretched time for many of us – the feeding frenzy on the net, added to by some who should know better, must make many comrades feel sickened. But I think the only way forward for the party is to stand firm in defence of its democratic decisions, [whether or not one agreed with each and every one of them] not yield to pressure, and continue the work of developing the struggle against the real enemy. I appeal to all comrades to adopt this course of action and to everyone who is doing this I send my solidarity.
  • John Molyneux

[What is the real Marxist tradition?]

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One Response to In defence of democratic centralism:

  1. Pingback: Left Unity, TUSC and democratic centralism: | WORKERS UNITED

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