Tuesday, April 12, 2011
“If at first you do not succeed, try, try again”.
"A revolutionary party is an instrument for making a revolution. If it is blunted or broken another must be built." - Chris Bambery , (now ex-) SWP
Resignation letter at http://luna17activist.blogspot.com/2011/04/swp-chris-bambery-resignation-letter.html
See articles about the SWP here
By fostering wrong ideas about what socialism is and how it can be achieved, the vanguard organisations and their leading ex-members like Chris Bambery are delaying the socialist revolution.The dictum “The movement is everything, the goal nothing” sums up his vanguard outlook. He views himself and his party cadre as the ringmasters. Or, as Trotsky once put it, the masses are the steam, and the leadership is the piston which gives the steam direction. This notion that they are not members of the working class explains why these people sometimes say to socialists: “What are you doing to get in among the working class?”
The vanguardists often justify their reformist actions by saying it is a practice known as “developing consciousness through struggle”. “Struggle” is apparently a sort of metaphysical driving force which is supposed to turn reforms into sparks of revolution. A curious doctrine that the workers will establish socialism inadvertently while struggling for something else. A cynical ploy, because they know that reformism ultimately leads nowhere (as they will admit in theoretical journals meant solely for circulation amongst members, although not in the populist, agitational Socialist Worker). The purpose in telling workers to engage in such struggles is to teach them a lesson, the hard way, which is the only way the SWP think they can learn by experiencing failure. The vanguardist expectation is that when, these reformist struggles fail the workers will then turn against capitalism, under their leadership. In fact working class never do, so all that is achieved is to encourage reformist illusions amongst workers, an effect we in the Socialist Party have to try and undo.
Marx saw that the very social position of the working class within capitalist society as a non-owning, exploited, wealth-producing class forced it to struggle against its capitalist conditions of existence. At first the movement of the working class would be, Marx believed, unconscious and unorganised but in time, as the workers gained more experience of the class struggle and the workings of capitalism, it would become more consciously socialist and democratically organised by the workers themselves. The emergence of socialist understanding out of the experience of the workers could thus be said to be “spontaneous” in the sense that it would require no intervention by people outside the working class to bring it about (not that such people could not take part in this process, but their participation was not essential or crucial). Socialist propaganda and agitation would indeed be necessary but would come to be carried out by workers themselves whose socialist ideas would have been derived from an interpretation of their class experience of capitalism. The end result would be an independent movement of the socialist-minded and democratically organised working class aimed at winning control of political power in order to abolish capitalism. As Marx and Engels put it in The Communist Manifesto, “the proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority”.
This in fact was Marx’s conception of “the workers’ party”. He did not see the party of the working class as a self-appointed elite. A revolution to vanquish capitalism and establish socialism can only happen through the active agency of the working class; it cannot be carried out by a vanguard party on its behalf.
Many political groups, somewhat disenchanted with orthodox reformist practice, fancy themselves as "revolutionary vanguards" of the working class. The Socialist Party do not. We say that workers should reject these would-be elites and organise for socialism democratically, without leaders. Vanguardists may protest at this , they may insist that they are very much concerned with working class consciousness, and do not assert that workers cannot understand socialist politics. However, an examination of their propaganda reveals that ‘consciousness’ means merely following the right leaders. If a need for a disciplined vanguard party exists then the working class is not ready to seize the moment, the vast majority are still integrated into the capitalist ideological mind-set. Then, should the vanguard party take power it inevitably ends up ruling a reluctant working class, the dictatorship over (but not of) the proletariat.
We say that the socialist political party should be organised on a basis that the power to make policy should lie with the membership through delegate conferences and referendums; there should be no party leadership, only an executive or administrative committee charged with arranging for the policies decided by the membership to be implemented.The SWP on the other hand say that their party should be organised on a top-down basis with a “leadership” which, while perhaps formally elected, possess the power to make policy and order other members what to do.
SOYMB doubts very much if Chris Bambury will change his spots in his endeavour to create another "revolutionary" party.