I’m not certain, but I have a feeling it was the late Al Richardson who came up with the concept of “market socialism”, the idea that far-left groups function like small businesses. The paradigmatic example of corporate Trotskyism would I suppose be the US SWP under the infamous Jack Barnes, which has long since become a successful publishing venture with a small party attached to it.
There is also the phenomenon of small left groups using commercial printing work to subsidise their revolutionary apparat. Gerry Healy was the trailblazer here, but Militant did it to good effect and so did Cliff’s SWP.
In general, “market socialism” has a less literal application, but still a good one in that the rules of competition, of market niches and of trying to get yourself a saleable product apply. Not to mention the proprietorial instincts of the groups’ leaders. Observers of the left with a taste for British sitcoms can be more specific yet. Militant, now rebranded the Socialist Party, is a bit like Arkwright’s in Open All Hours, a business at least two decades past its peak, clinging on like grim death to its customer base and with horizons so prosaic that a new bell for Granville’s bike seems the height of extravagance. The SWP are more like Del Boy, flogging dodgy goods out of the back of a van, consoling themselves with the hope that this time next year they’ll have a mass revolutionary party. If only they could shift these Latvian toasters…
(Although Kieran Allen reminds me more of Swiss Toni, but that’s another story.)
If you can think of a left group that functions like Grace Brothers, we can have a full set.
And now, from the good folks at Red Squirrel’s Lair, we have this extraordinary tale of Dave North, proprietor of the Socialist Equality Party/International Committee of the Fourth International/World Socialist Website, a fragment of the Healy movement best known for continuing its former guru’s charming practice of branding anyone who disagrees with it a CIA agent. But in real life Comrade North, it seems, is not a million miles removed from printing company CEO David W Green. Nice one Dave!