Open Letter to Mike Gonzalez:

Dear Mike Gonzalez,

I hope you will get round some day to answering my questions about why you buried evidence of the former national secretary of the SWP Chris Bambery being a police spy who had been unconstitutionally purging members in Glasgow going back to the mid (possibly early) 1980s, with myself one of his victims: Is Mike Gonzalez a police spy?/.

Is it possible that you buried the evidence because you were paid to keep your mouth shut in order to protect Chris Bambery from an investigation by Chris Harman, John Rees, Lindsey German and the rest of the SWP central committee at the time? While I cannot prove that is why you stabbed the victims of Bambery’s purges for decades in the back, that is certainly the most probable explanation. If you want to pose an alternative, I doubt it will impress the SWP rank and file and leadership any more than if you accept you are indeed a police spy. Either way, Mike, you would undoubtedly face expulsion from the party. You could of course resort to lying, to swearing to Charlie Kimber that I am making up these allegations. Good luck with that, Mike. However, I am willing to swear on oath that I am telling the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. You, on the other hand, are very unlikely to do that. If you are in fact another Bob Lambert (and I don’t know if you are), Special Branch would hardly allow you to go into the witness box again. I doubt they would trust you not to screw it up, lending your masters in even deeper shit than they’re already in – assuming that is that you are the next Bob Lambert.

Anyway, I stand by everything I have said about my two discussions with you about Chris Bambery, Julie Waterson and others. You have no alternative but to call me a liar, praying that SWP members believe you and not me. Good luck with that.

Since I don’t think you will be able to convince Charlie Kimber and his central committee comrades, the national committee, disputes committee, conference etc that I am in fact lying, I think your days as an SWP member are numbered. In the meantime, let us examine some of the bullshit you are resorting to to help Richard Seymour, Chris Bambery, Peter Manson, Phil Burton-Cartledge, Frances Curran, Rupert Murdoch, etc, etc, etc..

Mike, you begin your ‘critique’ of Alex Callinicos’s article on Leninism with a smear:

My starting point for this discussion paper (or whatever we call it) was a phrase in Alex Callinicos’s Socialist Review piece in February “In defense of Leninism”. Like most documents at the time, it was a defense of the Central Committee rather than a serious discussion of Leninism…”

Unbelievable. Beneath contempt, actually. I have made it clear from the beginning that I don’t agree with Alex Callinicos’s article. I am happy to continue to spell out my differences with him which includes the ending of the slate system; tolerance of individual party members taking issue with the majority on at least a few issues (provided they don’t abuse the privilege), while never consciously working to sabotage any majority decision that undermines any action; support (within reason) of factions inside the SWP if it remains an independent party or, alternatively, reducing the SWP to a democratic centralist faction within a broader workers party, one that would (in present circumstances) bring together TUSC, Left Unity, People’s Assembly and their union sponsors. The latter scenario would allow the SWP to organise as Lenin’s Bolsheviks did inside the RSDLP prior to 1912, and as Luxemburg should have organized her followers prior to 1914, or even closer to the 1918 Revolution. The former scenario is probably much harder to make work, but it could prevent the SWP being a brittle organisation that acts as a mere incubator for other ‘Leninist’ groups with pretensions to join the Peoples Judean Front alphabet soup. I have other criticisms of Alex Callinicos’s article that should be discussed to save what we have, rather than surrendering what already exists, by acting as cheerleaders for Richard Seymour’s cancer.

So, Mike Gonzalez starts off his article fairly abysmally. And it ends just as atrociously:

  • We should stop trading quotes from Lenin. Not that he has not much to teach us, but that the first lesson he will offer is that the forms and methods of organization  of revolutionaries will be shaped by the historical circumstance, and will change constantly as those circumstances change. There are no rules to be applied, no  constitutions to obey. There is a revolutionary method – one part of which acknowledges that the teachers must themselves be taught by those they set out to instruct.

We should stop trading quotes from Lenin? Eh, Mike? That wouldn’t because you don’t have any? You have no leg to stand on, so you appeal to ignorance. While Marx and Engels contrasted their scientific socialism to the utopian version, you appeal to the socialist equivalent of witch doctors and alchemists. Isaac Newton saw further than others, not because he was a giant but because he stood on the shoulder of giants. Let’s leave aside the possibility that that was a cruel politically incorrect joke about another scientist; let’s leave aside the obvious fact that Newton was clearly indulging in a bit of uncharacteristic false modesty: not everyone who stands on the shoulder of giants can see so far. Nevertheless, Marx, Engels, Lenin, Luxemburg, Trotsky, Gramsci, Bukharin, Lukacs and Harman left a legacy behind for the rest of us due to their actually doing the work. They all made mistakes. Some more than others. But they all respected the right of those who knew what they were talking about setting them straight. All of these Marxists learnt from one another and were grateful for being helped to see straight: Lenin’s theory of the state was helped by Bukharin forcing Lenin to delve into Marx and Engels to prove him wrong, until he discovered he was right. Lenin could have decided that even though Bukharin was right about what Marx and Engels thought, he (Lenin) was happy to take issue with all of them. But he was persuaded by the arguments deployed by Marx and Engels.
If Mark Bergfeld, Ian Birchill etc could find quotes from Leninists to defend their nonsense, we could at least take a look at it. But they are telling the scientific socialist community to emulate their ignorance. And that is what Mike Gonzalez wants too.

Marxism isn’t rocket scientist. And it isn’t brain surgery either. But rocket science isn’t brain surgery, and vice versa. Nevertheless, anyone who tolerated a brain surgeon designing the rocket that sent him/her into space, or allowed a rocket scientist to fiddle around under their skull, deserves everything they get.

Gramsci captured the essence of this idea:

  • It has to be established that every research has its own specific method and constructs its own specific science, and that the method has developed and been elaborated together with the development and elaboration of this specific research and science and forms with them a single whole. To think that one can advance the progress of a work of scientific research by applying to it a standard method, chosen because it has given good results in another field of research to which it is naturally suited, is a strange delusion which has little to do with science. There do however exist certain general criteria which could be held to constitute the critical consciousness of every man of science whatever his “specialization”, criteria which should always be spontaneously vigilant in his work. Thus one can say someone is not a scientist if he displays a lack of sureness of the concepts he is using, if he has scant information on and understanding of the state of the problem he is dealing with, if he is not very cautious in his assertions, if he does not proceed in a necessary but in an arbitrary and disconnected fashion, if he cannot take account of the gaps that exist in the knowledge acquired but covers them over and contents himself with purely verbal solutions and connections instead of stating that one is dealing with provisional positions which may have to be gone over again and developed, etc.

[Antonio Gramsci, Prison Notebooks pp 438-439, Lawrence and Wishart 1971]

A few points need to be made about this quote. Firstly, Gramsci uses gender-based  pronouns we now find unacceptable. We should not dwell overly on what we would now accept to be bad practice. No doubt Mark Bergfeld will want to make an issue of this to distract attention from the substance of what is being said. Secondly, this quote could be read in a way that is the exact opposite of Gramsci’s intention. Self evidently, Gramsci was not saying that Lenin, Trotsky and Luxemburg were wrong to develop the science of socialism. No one argues that SWP members today or in the past are incapable of developing Marxist theory. Of course not. The point is that in order to make any genuine scientific progress on solid foundations you need to demonstrate that you stand on the shoulders of the giants who got us where we are today: Marx, Engels, Lenin, Luxemburg, Trotsky, Lukacs, Bukharin, Gramsci, Harman and others.

The problem with the anti-Marxist gibberish Mike Gonzalez wants to fob us off with is  that he is reduced to appealing to ignorance. Mike Gonzalez knows he cannot win arguments with those of us who know what we are talking about. So he appeals for a mass drive to recruit anyone who will bow down before his own, not inconsiderable, ignorance and that of Mark Bergfeld, Richard Seymour and every other enemy of Lenin’s democratic centralism.

Mike Gonzalez needs to open the gates of the SWP to anti-Marxists who don’t know who Trotsky is, Mark Bergfeld apparently falling into that category. Mike Gonzalez needs to appeal to all those oblivious to the fact that Marxists have always accepted that the Russian Revolution was the only one that succeeded for any length of time because a democratic centralist workers organisation had been built on the basis of Marx’s scientific socialism, built up over a period of a decade plus.

It is true that Lenin was in favor of opening the gates of the party when the political climate made the ideas of revolutionary socialism cut with the grain of the working class, when workers were calling for all power to the soviets (as they did in 1917), or were at least working on that basis even if they could not find the language to express this thought, as was the case during the 1905 revolution.

That said, Lenin was for closing the gates of the party whenever a substantial degree of organizational quarantine was necessary to immunize the Marxist party’s cadre from the infection of a defeated revolution, with pessimism giving way to impatient ultra-left adventurism. Ian Birchill may want to recruit anything that moves. But that only exposes just how little he understands about the scientific socialist explanation of Lenin, Trotsky and Gramsci for what is to be done.

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