The Third International after Lenin

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Thoughts on new crop of Socialist Action articles

A few words suggest themselves regarding the headlines and content of the articles:
absorption into historic modes and preoccupations of social democracy;
movementarianism re UNAC and Mumia;
a melange, not a Bolshevik paper, though the site is run by a Leninist party.
Andrew Pollock's article on a OWS-called May 1 General strike in the US expresses no political content outside the OWS context, taking that movement and its demands on their own terms; the article does not even contain any notes on a Leninist approach to party-building out of the process of building various May 1 actions.
John Leslie's article "What kind of third party do we need?" is another that leaves Marxist politics out of the equation.  It rightly criticizes the GOP, Obama, Rocky Anderson, and the Green Party; then proposes an electoral formation in this way:
Without class independence, we are forced to depend on the goodwill of politicians who answer to Wall Street. A workers party, or labor party, will emerge from mass struggles to defend the interests and living standards of the working class, protect the environment, and stand behind all oppressed people—Blacks, women, immigrants, LGBT people, etc.—who are fighting for their rights.
Such a party would not have to be a bureaucratic, pro-capitalist party like the Social Democratic Parties of Europe. Nor would it be a party that merely puts forward candidates in the electoral arena. The labor party that we see on the horizon, having come out of a renewed upsurge in the U.S. class struggle, would remain first and foremost a mass-action party—organizing people who are fighting back in their workplaces and in the streets.            
How the Leninist party called Socialist Action or its supporters are supposed to push forward this perspective, the ABCs of the process, are not spelled out.  Leslie's article ends just where it should begin.  Surely with a website, the article's shallowness is not the result of lack of space?
The online paper also carries an article by Mumia Abu Jamal on the need "For a Revolutionary Black History Month."  In a salutory way, Mumia Abu Jamal extols the virtues of CLR James' book Black Jacobins:
The point? People make history, by mass movements, often ones which go faster and further than the leaders want. And masses make and sustain revolutions—often against "leaders" whose every instinct is to betray them.
In a forward to one of the many editions of Black Jacobins, James reminds us, "... that it was the slaves who had made the Revolution.  Many of the slave leaders to the end were unable to read or write"  (James, xvi). But they sure knew how to fight.
Africans, by the tens of thousands, broke their chains, and though penniless, hungry, and scarred by the ravages of bondage, found weapons and the will to fight for freedom against the defenders of slavery: France, Britain, and Spain. They beat them all, because their hunger for freedom was greater than anything. ANYTHING.
And by so doing they changed world history. They shattered French dreams of an American Empire; and enabled the U.S. to double in size after its purchase of Louisiana from Napoleon. They also did what no "slave" army had ever done in modern or ancient history.  They defeated an empire. That is Revolutionary Black History—and it deserves to be remembered during Black History Month.
These are the final paragraphs of the article.  Which begs the question: why is a Leninist party promoting an article that says the masses can prosecute revolutions that their leadership will betray?  Abu Jamal is not a Marxist, and certainly not a Leninist.  He deserves our unconditional support as a class war prisoner, but that is a different question than than promoting his conclusions about political organization, which promote spontaneity and and voluntarism and seek to liquidate the Leninist strategy of party-building.
I think it would be unfair to write-off Socialist Action as an insular, politically weakening organization that pins its hopes on morbund anti-war coalitions and a diffuse and atomized view of particular labor union struggles.  But the tendency and direction, for frequent visitors to the Socialist Action blog site, are plain to see.
Jay Rothermel

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