Leninist Party Faction vs. Democratic Socialist Party Perspective Alliance

    Update : For Bolsheviks, notes Trotsky, “there can be no contradiction between personal morality and the interests of the party, since the party embodies in his consciousness the very highest tasks and aims of mankind”.

    “DURING AN EPOCH OF triumphant reaction, Messrs. democrats, social-democrats, anarchists, and other representatives of the “left” camp begin to exude double their usual amount of moral effluvia, similar to persons who perspire doubly in fear. Paraphrasing the Ten Commandments or the Sermon on the Mount, these moralists address themselves not so much to triumphant reaction as to those revolutionists suffering under its persecution, who with their “excesses” and “amoral” principles “provoke” reaction and give it moral justification. Moreover they prescribe a simple but certain means of avoiding reaction: it is necessary only to strive and morally to regenerate oneself. Free samples of moral perfection for those desirous are furnished by all the interested editorial offices.

    The class basis of this false and pompous sermon is the intellectual petty bourgeoisie. The political basis – their impotence and confusion in the face of approaching reaction. Psychological basis – their effort at overcoming the feeling of their own inferiority through masquerading in the beard of a prophet.”

    “…Trotsky was commanding during the Civil War from his armored train. He traveled 100,000 kilometers in it over three years. It had mounted machine-guns, light artillery, a printing press, a radio for broadcast and a flatbed for his Rolls Royce command car. He carried a large amount of tobacco and a brass band on the train to heighten morale of the troops.” On a lighter note, Trotsky also expressed his distaste for the use of ‘foul language’ by the railwaymen who transported him hither and thither: “I consider that a Red warrior, as a fighter for lofty aims, should behave on an armoured train as befits a place of lofty service, and not as though he is in a low tavern” (Order to the Red Army, August 7, 1919, No.140, Konotop).

¡La Lucha Continúa!

Not unexpectedly, the recent split from / expulsion of the Leninist Party Faction (LPF) has produced a flurry of activity on teh Interwebs, both among the parties (and factions) concerned, leftist trainspotters, and er, concerned communists citizens. A sample:

Are you obsessed with sects?, Larvatus Prodeo
Australian DSP divides, Ozleft
and of course

In essence, the central question concerning the reasons for the split/expulsion is the utility of the Socialist Alliance (SA). A secondary question concerns the manner in which the Democratic Socialist Perspective — “Formerly the Democratic Socialist Party. Leninist, but not Stalinist and not Trotskyist, the DSP is enthusiastic about Cuba and Third World revolutions” — is, or was, capable of continuing to function as an effective political organisation while maintaining within it a conflict over such an apparently pivotal question. This, in turn, leads to further questions over the structure of the Party/Perspective, and the manner in which its ‘democratic centralist’ structure is able to manage dissenting perspectives without endangering the functioning of the Perspective/Party as a whole.

Or causing a split.

On a broader, ‘political’ level, the apparent failure of the SA — apparent, that is, to everyone bar the remaining 150 or so (240 according to Party/Perspective leader Peter Boyle) members of the DSP — has been interpreted by some as evidence of the essential bankruptcy of attempting to build a left-wing electoral alternative to the ALP. This may be so — and not merely because of the Greens‘ occupation of much of the political space to the left of the ALP — but, given the involvement of the notoriously opportunist DSP, it’s difficult to tell.

The SA was established with much fanfare in early 2001, barely six months after the protests at, and attempted blockade of, the World Economic Forum summit in Melbourne in September 2000, and in an explicit attempt to capitalise upon the ‘upsurge in struggle’ it was understood to embody:

    The Socialist Alliance was formed on February 17, 2001, by eight socialist groups and parties that saw an urgent need for greater left unity in Australia at a time of escalating government attacks on the rights and living conditions of workers and the poor, in Australia and overseas. The founding conference of the Socialist Alliance took place in Melbourne on August 4-5, 2001.

‘S11’ was read as constituting evidence of an important political development, and the emergence of both a new layer of young people — from which it was possible to recruit — and the existence a broader, dissenting population — from which it might be possible to develop a left-wing electoral alternative. As it happens, SA was wrong on both counts. In general, the perhaps 30,000 or so individuals engaged in the S11 protests proved, on the whole, to be uninterested in joining their comrades in the various Leninist groupuscules. And the SA’s electoral performances — at Federal elections in 2001, 2004 and 2007, and a number of State elections — have been desultory.

The writing on the wall became apparent, if it hadn’t already, in late 2002–mid-2003, when the DSP resolved to transform the alliance into a ‘multi-tendency socialist party’ (‘MTSP’), renaming itself the ‘Democratic Socialist Perspective’. In 2005, Greg Adler, a former national executive member of the SA, took a look at the dispute within the DSP over this shift (DSP split over future, Weekly Worker, 603, December 1, 2005). As part of this rather damning assessment, he quoted from the DSP’s internal bulletin, and the opinion of one of its then-leaders (since expelled as one of the LPF):

Remember what was the actual initiating event that prompted us to think about this tactic? The decision by the British Socialist Workers Party [SWP] to contemplate election work after two decades of abstaining totally from it. We thought, ‘Here’s an opportunity to make an approach to the local International Socialist Organisation [ISO], for joint work, joint election campaigns and a regrouping of the left.’ They either had to respond positively, or suffer a political blow and organisational losses.

In that respect, our tactic worked: they’re certainly a lot weaker than they were in 2001, suffering splits and attrition. And at their Marxism conference in September, they had half the attendance of recent years, with just 40 at their final session. We’ve suffered also, but not as much as them. (John Percy, ‘Party-building report to October 2005 DSP national committee on behalf of national executive minority’, The Activist, Vol.15, No.12, October 2005).

Which appears to be a fairly accurate assessment, at least as far as the DSP’s then-principal rival on the Leninist left, the ISO, is concerned. Further, it’s only with the recent re-amalgamation of the ISO with two other iSt groupuscules — the Socialist Action Group and Solidarity — that the (former) ISO has returned to anything like its previous standing. In the meantime, the other principal Leninist groupuscule, Socialist Alternative, has managed to occupy much of the space temporarily abandoned by both the DSP and the ISO, and continues to carve a swathe through the campuses. The British SWP, on the other hand, and unlike the ISO, which only formally abandoned SA in 2007, abandoned the Socialist Alliance (UK) reasonably early (it participated from 1999 to 2003) to enter Respect. Respect itself split late last year, into two separate parties; one, Respect: The Unity Coalition, dominated by the SWP, the other, Respect Renewal, not. The recent results for both Respect (Renewal) and Respect (The Left List) in local council elections — especially in London, where the fascist British National Party (BNP) leapfrogged the far left into the London Assembly — suggest that both have a long, hard road to travel.

Another important interruption to the process of corralling into Leninist political formations the animals of the ultra- or other-leftist zoo was George II’s declaration of War on Afghanistan, Iraq, and Terror.

But that’s another story.

About @ndy

I live in Melbourne, Australia. I like anarchy. I don't like nazis. I enjoy eating pizza and drinking beer. I barrack for the greatest football team on Earth: Collingwood Magpies. The 2023 premiership's a cakewalk for the good old Collingwood.
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