What programmes can tell us, and what they can’t

navjot-singh-sidhu.jpg

Apologies for returning once again to the Weedy Wanker, but this week’s edition provides an opportunity to draw out an issue that I’ve touched on in relation to the Respect row, but could do with expanding further.

On the way there, I notice that Mr Chamberlain, that greatest of living Marxists, devotes a big tendentious article to slagging off Liam and Andy while defending Mark Fischer’s Newsnight performance. He isn’t straightforward about this, of course. The article is topped with some windy ruminations on free speech, and the Fischer affair only makes an appearance over halfway through. Jack justifies “using the enemy’s media”, as he delicately puts it, by reference to Trotsky’s proposed appearance before the Dies Committee. All I will say is this:

1. Trotsky’s brainstorm was, as Jack notes, not uncontroversial in the US SWP. In fact, and this may upset the ancestor worshippers, it’s arguable that Burnham was right and Trotsky wrong.

2. The Dies Committee rescinded its invitation to Trotsky, so we’re talking hypotheticals here – unlike, say, Galloway’s Washington performance, which Jack unsurprisingly doesn’t want to cite as an example.

3. In any case, it’s quite a logical jump from the debate over the Dies Committee in 1939 to Mark Fischer going on Newsnight and proclaiming that the SWP are soft on the Taliban. And if Mark is surprised at how he was edited, then he doesn’t know very much about Michael Crick. If he is only feigning surprise, then he’s even more culpable.

Anyhow, let us proceed to Manson’s Kremlinology, which isn’t very interesting this week. I do however want to deal with this idea Manson is putting forward that the SWP represents the “socialist left” of Respect. No it doesn’t. In the current situation, and it pains me immensely to say this, the SWP is the right and George is the left. Which says more about the SWP’s degeneration than it does about George’s virtues.

Now it’s possible that Manson is just flattering the SWP’s membership with a view to poaching a couple of recruits, which would account for his dopey calls for the SWP membership to rise up and overthrow their leaders – given that there are no mechanisms for doing so, such actions could only lead to speedy expulsion, followed by an overture from the Weekly Worker. But let’s assume for the sake of argument that Manson is being serious.

The trouble is that, even though the SWP are the Marxists in Respect, or the bulk of the Marxists at any rate, this doesn’t feature in how they operate in Respect. They have opposed any idea of Respect adopting a socialist programme. Prior to their recent discovery of “communalism”, they have been much more protective of conservative Muslim sensibilities than, say, Salma Yaqoob. And while the anti-SWP combo’s orientation carries at least the possibility of Respect generating some momentum, with unpredictable consequences, the SWP has been rigid in its insistence on freezing Respect in the form of three years ago.

Manson’s argumentation bears the dread signs of programmitis. One recalls how Militant styled themselves the “Marxist tendency” in the Labour Party on the grounds that, while they might function like social democrats, in private (actually in secret) they had a Marxist programme. Then you had, classically, the insistence of certain Fourth Internationalists that the Maoist takeover of China in 1949 was a proletarian revolution because, even though the workers played no part in the revolution and indeed there were no workers in the CCP, the character of the revolution was determined by the CCP’s “proletarian” programme. It didn’t actually have a proletarian programme, but go with me here.

Now I’m going to say something that will be deeply counter-intuitive for many Irish readers. That is that between 1926 and 1967, Fianna Fáil was, in formal programmatic terms, far to the left of Sinn Féin. You may not be aware that, on Fianna Fáil’s formation in 1926, the Democratic Programme of the First Dáil was incorporated into the party Córú. It may still be there for all I know. Sinn Féin, on the other hand, did not formally become a socialist party until the 1967 Ard Fheis and prior to that, to the extent that the party had any social and economic programme, that programme was Rerum Novarum. What determined FF’s conservative nature from at least the late 1930s was its status as one of the Saorstát’s biggest vested interests; what determined SF’s revolutionary orientation was its de jure non-recognition of the partitionist governments, practically expressed through the policy of abstentionism.

In this I go part of the way with Cliff. I don’t share Cliff’s latter-day disdain for programmes as such – they obviously have an important function – but I do agree with him that you can’t judge political tendencies by what is written in their programme. You judge them to a very large extent by what interests they represent and by what they do. This is why I say that, in terms of its formal politics, the SWP is far to the left of Galloway; in terms of the actual dynamics of the situation, it stands to his right.

Therefore, even if Manson isn’t speaking with forked tongue, he is demonstrably guilty of an idealist deviation. And in the current state of affairs, of all the deviationists you could possibly have, an idealist is probably the least useful.

32 Comments

  1. cameron said,

    October 9, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    Hmmm… perhaps I’m missing something, but explain to me ‘in terms of the actual dynamics of the situation’ how Galloway is to left of the SWP.

    I thought the Irish didn’t care for cricket.

  2. Liam said,

    October 9, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    Isn’t this just encouraging them? You’ll have a centre spread devoted to the awfulness of Splintered Sunrise next week if you’re not careful.

  3. Andy Newman said,

    October 9, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    Cameron, let us work on the possibly false assumption that you are serioulsy seeking knowledge and understanding.

    The “actual dynamics of the situation” is that due to institutional conservatism the SWP wishes to freeze respect as a coalition because that maximise their control without impeding their independence.

    BUt this has meant that there has actually been no ideologocal debate and development. The SWP have simply promoted compromise over issues without allowing them to be debated. It has been accepted that difefrences would remain diffrences. this has meant that respect has failed to develop a debate about such issues as supporting trade unionsim, gay rights, abortion, etc.

    The SWP has just, in a patronising attitude to their Muslim members, assumed that respect could not survive such debates, or that they might lose, and so have used organisational methods to control things.

    had they allowed the debate, and development into a party to which they also were accountable, they would have helped develop a layer of activists in the Muslim communities. They have thereofre been the righht because they have been the ones who have stopped the issues being debated. there are plenty of Muslim members of Labour, Lib Dems etc, who accept those parties broadly progressive policies on social issues – resepct would be no different.

    there is also the questioon that if Cuba and Venezuela had been debated through respect, then Galloways positioon which is to the left of theirs, might have won out.

    There is also the question that because the SWP are sooooh radical that they scorn any change less than a revolution, that they are actually quite conservative and unimaginative towards actually possible gains.

  4. splinteredsunrise said,

    October 10, 2007 at 7:46 am

    What Andy said.

    And I do rather like cricket. Navjot’s batting was a sight to behold, and his commentaries aren’t bad either.

  5. Igor Belanov said,

    October 10, 2007 at 2:52 pm

    “Misfortune arrives on horseback but departs by foot” was one of his best.

  6. cameron said,

    October 10, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    Hi Andy

    I don’t doubt that your analysis of the SWP’s role in Respect is largely correct. Yet my question – a genuine one – was how Galloway is actually to the left of the SWP.

    Simply stating that he has a better position on Cuba and Venezuela as proof of his more leftward trajectory is highly dubious. Irrespective of the rights and wrongs of these two countries – in any case Galloway’s positions owe much to his Stalinist leanings – this hardly constitutes substantial evidence of him being to the left of the SWP. You might just as well draw the conclusion that Livingstone is also to the left of Rees et al.

    Weekly Worker is arguing that the SWP is currently posing left – nothing more than that. They are the architects of the crumbling Respect edifice. Yet Galloway has a fair share of the blame too. He remains a bonapartist figure in Respect – hence, perhaps, his penchant for Bonapartes across the globe – and has never articulated a partyist project. Instead he believes he should be accountable to no one but his good self. He is looking for a way out of Respect, perhaps out of serious politics altogether. Hence his threat a couple of weeks ago to take his ball home.

    If you and Splintered are searching for a genuine left in Respect, then you’ll have to do better than hooking on to Galloway’s criticisms of the SWP.

  7. Andy Newman said,

    October 10, 2007 at 3:51 pm

    Cameron

    You misrepresent or misunderstand the point here.

    The SWP have been objectivley to the right beacsue it has been their institutional conservatism that has blocked Respect debating the issues and developing the membership in a leftwards direction.

    Galloway is Galloway. He has his many strengths alongside some foibles, but he has opened the door to a serious discussion.

    The genuine left in Respect will coallesce around Salma Yaqoob’s position, and GG is lending his weight to that, and is therefore objectiveley to the left.

    the remark about Cuba and Venezuela should not be given more weight than it deserves, but I use it to illustrate the sort fo danger that the SWP must be very wary of (and if you think Chavez is a Bonapart then you either don’t know much about Chavez, or you don’t know much about Bonapartism)

  8. Madam Miaow said,

    October 10, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    Good piece, SS, but I’m surprised you think Mark wasn’t correct to go on Newsnight. After all, the “comrades” are always eager to use it for their own ends.

    Personally, I think they’ve done so much damage to the movement that the point Mark made about them compromising their principles in order to “make the big time” (or however it was that he put it) should be shouted from the rooftops.

    Andy, I can’t understand why you keep on presenting Salma as the left’s salvation when she was one of the problems from the beginning. Surely, anyone who built their career by doing the SWP’s dirty work and smashing up lefties, not to mention destroying the excellent Brum STW, should be booted out of the movement. SS makes the point that it’s not about what you say, it’s about what you do. So, if in practice, you have persecuted workers in struggle, then why should you ever be trusted again?

    You say that GG has opened the door to serious discussion, but isn’t this a tactical move that happens to serve his interests at the moment?

  9. cameron said,

    October 10, 2007 at 4:43 pm

    Undoubtedly George kick-started the debate. Yet that isn’t sufficient to claim Galloway is ‘objectively’ to the SWP’s left.

    Ironically we now have a situation where both factions – Galloway/Yaqoob and the SWP- claim to support Thornett and Lister’s proposals. From this many drew the conclusion that ‘peace’ had broken in Respect.

    Yet nothing could be further from the truth. Neither faction really endorses them, both unable to endorse the Socialist Resistance’s call for a left-wing party to emerge from Respect. One faction does so because it proclaims itself to be the party, whilst the other faction really has no coherent position at all – above all because Galloway, for different reasons, is as nervous as Rees about proclaiming Respect a party.

    Actually, I think that those who espouse the call for a broad party of the left – as opposed to the on-off coalition or the marxist party I advocate – will have to look outside Respect for support. For there is really precious little in Respect seriously advocating such a course.

    Perhaps I have misjudged the balance of forces in Respect. Perhaps Galloway and Yakoob will shoot the SWP fox at conference and demand the creation of a broad anti-capitalist party. They might be shrewd to do so.

    Yet, I believe it is more likely that Respect will dissolve into a few localist fiefdoms aiming to win council and parliamentary seats on the lowest common denominator set of politics. The SWP might well veer into ulra-leftist poses based around bash the fash, stunts on demos,rank n filism etc, whilst maintaining the same opportunist politics.

    Those like Thornett who did their best to destroy the Socialist Alliance will probably live to regret its demise.

  10. Andy Newman said,

    October 10, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    Anna

    The historical (though not so long ago, nevertheless in a different political context) disputes in Birmingham were a huge mess.

    I thought then, and I have always thought, that Ger Francis were objectively correct about what needed to be done, but the undemocratic way in which it was acheived created a whole new set of problems.

    I honestly believe talking to Ger now that he is opposed to the bureuacratic control freakery of the SWP, and sees how it is wrong, but at that time he was part of the SWP machine.

    I think there was a problem, now there isn’t. You may need more convincing.

  11. Madam Miaow said,

    October 10, 2007 at 6:20 pm

    This isn’t just about Brum STWC, whose break-up we can read about on Sue Blackwell’s site, this is also about targeting a striking firefighter, such as writing letters traducing the man to Brum Trade Council which I assume you saw at the time like the rest of us, plus a raft of other matters.

    Being “part of the SWP machine” is no excuse as some of us have been more than able to say no to the control freaks. If anything, that’s as good a test of character and socialist credentials as I can imagine.

  12. Andy Newman said,

    October 10, 2007 at 6:54 pm

    well yeah, but we are never going to get anywhere unless we are prepared to have some sort of “truth and reconciliation” over past mistakes.

    In fact the whole sorry mess of the british left is rehashing reasons to hate or distrust each other.

  13. Madam Miaow said,

    October 10, 2007 at 7:23 pm

    So who should it be who initiates your “truth and reconciliation”, Andy?

    Show me where it’s happening, where mistakes are being acknowledged and rectified, where people are offering themselves up as accountable, where apologies are being sincerely made, where hatreds are being dropped, where real comradeship and solidarity is on offer, and I’ll applaud.

    But it’s not, is it? It’s telescopes up to our blind eyes, business as usual but with a different set of alliances.

    This is how comrades get burnt out.

    I’m not having a fight with you over this, Andy, but I am trying to give you some insight as to why most people won’t touch the left.

  14. cameron said,

    October 10, 2007 at 7:34 pm

    Truth and reconciliation?

    With the Cliffites?? And the Pabloites as well????

    It’s time Andy went back to basics and relearnt the basic tenets of the Transitional Programme. Then he would have no doubts whatsover about the coming British revolution.

    Such hallowed texts bring comfort to the cadres. Don’t destroy the certainties of sect life by calling for a bit of truth and honesty.

  15. October 10, 2007 at 10:27 pm

    Madam Miaow: I agree with absolutely everything you say. For me, I have been around for donkey years, well it feels like it, is watching socialists slide into an alliance based upon religion with popular front style politics. I am not going to rehash the arguments as I am pretty tired of it and actually kinda depressed about things. But what Madam Miaow says is something I can relate to esp. the bit about being comradely in solidarity and support. I feel the left is turning in on itself. And to be honest, I am sure there have been times I have conducted myself in a not very comradely way but am aware of this and try to behave better by thinking about my approach.

    But if the left is to survive then I do think it needs to rethink behaviour, such as macho behaviour, refashion and maybe ditch old templates in building left alternatives and treat comrades as equals ‘cos why the hell would anyone be bloody interested in the left especially women. What I have listed is all basic stuff but it gets lost by the political wayside and the Left is already fragmented and weak.

    ‘Cos as Madam Miaow says comrades will continue to be burnt out and I have seen it time and time again. What makes the latest alliance any different? Look what happened to the SA, SLP, CNWP…. they either get ditched for a younger model or they simply slip away by being forgotten about. How do you attract and entice people to left wing politics? If I was a 14-15 year old now I wouldn’t be interested in the least like I was back then.

  16. splinteredsunrise said,

    October 11, 2007 at 9:15 am

    I agree pretty much with Louise here.

    But to return to Mark on Newsnight, I think it’s all down to context. If the SWP/Respect had put up someone for interview as I think they should have, it would have been a lot easier to take Mark going on to stick the boot in. Not that I have a problem in principle with sticking the boot in. 😉

    But in the absence of that, what it looked like was Mark volunteering to be part of a NuLab hatchet job, and you didn’t need to be sympathetic to Respect – which I’m generally not – to wonder what he was doing there.

    What has annoyed me is not so much Mark’s appearance as the WW’s performance since. Conrad has been giving out about using the enemy’s media to put forward communist politics, but that’s not what Mark did. At the same time there’s the complaint that Crick only used a brief soundbite, but he should have known Crick’s track record. Basically, Crick used Mark and not vice versa. Who whom, as VI used to say.

    If Mark would just admit that he went on to a) stick the boot in, and b) raise the profile of his group, I’d be a lot more forgiving than if we have to suffer another blockbuster article from Conrad about whether Lenin or Trotsky would have gone on Newsnight.

  17. Andy Newman said,

    October 11, 2007 at 11:03 am

    Mmmm, as someone said (I think Charlie Marks) “no-one said it was going to be easy, but no one said it was going to be this hard either”

    Firstly, is this for real froom cameron: “It’s time Andy went back to basics and relearnt the basic tenets of the Transitional Programme. Then he would have no doubts whatsover about the coming British revolution. Such hallowed texts bring comfort to the cadres. Don’t destroy the certainties of sect life by calling for a bit of truth and honesty.” – or is it a parody of trot-speak by someone delibertaly sending them up?

    Ok – on Louise’s point.

    I do have a lot of sympathy with it, and I am sufficiently self critical to know that I also have a bad habit of trying to prove people wrong by bludgening them with the facts. Unfortunately it is easier to recognise a fault than correct it.

    Also, while it is true that everyone is equal, it is not true that their opinions are all equally valid. The hard part is to find a way of debate that respects the person while disagreeing with the opinions. This is even harder via the medium of print or internet than it is face to face.

    Having said all that, I think the problems we have are of political substance not style.

    The problems of the hitherto attempted regroupment exercies is that they have sought to reshuffle the pack without confronting the deep issues of the crisis of not just the Labour party but the underlying material base of labourism, and have failed to break from the paradigm of british trotskyism.

    Loiuse is I think correct that the danger is that the left falls into the intrigues and internalised hostility of hot-house emigre polictics, as we are in exile from mass influence. The weekly worker is the canary in the coal mine that shows the crisis that is engulfing us all.

    If we are to avoid a retreat into abstract propagandism and closed sects, then we need to really analyse the situation we are in, and try to find ways to relating to the actually existing mass polictics.

    But this feeds into my exaspertation! because there is a lot of defensiveness against opening up a debate about the current situation. Some of those in the Labour party are very hostile it seems to a frank assesment of their situation, and much of the extra-Labour left are very hostile over an assessment of just how weak the base s for traditional left politics based upon class consciousness.

    It seems to me that the way forward is to keep talking and networking to create a “big converstaion” about the state we are in, and where we go from here, with no preconditions about who we are talking to, and some acknowledgement that all the actually existing organisational options are deeply flawed.

  18. Madam Miaow said,

    October 11, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    “Also, while it is true that everyone is equal, it is not true that their opinions are all equally valid.”

    And who are the gatekeepers?

    Louise, you are absolutely right about the issue of women and young people being effectively excluded on the left. We are all equal but some are more equal than others – ask the gatekeepers.

  19. splinteredsunrise said,

    October 11, 2007 at 2:13 pm

    Sed quis custodiet ipsos custodes, as Caesar said a long time ago…

    Yes, there’s a culture that excludes especially women, young people and minorities. I think a lot of that comes from a culture that excludes most people to start off with – say if you have a group of a thousand or more, but only a dozen people’s opinion counts.

    It’s the small business mentality, and most of us are doomed to be Granvilles.

  20. October 11, 2007 at 2:30 pm

    Yes indeed, who keeps an eye on the gate keepers? And who are they? Are they self-elected self-serving individuals who believe they are right and everyone else is wrong?
    Fundamentally, you are going to have disagreements but it should be debated with a modicum of respect and equality. It kinda can be achieved. But what I find is a lot of debating technique revolves around trot lecture style i.e. I am right, you are wrong and this is the reason why you are wrong. Most of the groups operate in that style and funny enough, it is not appealing. It like we are empty vessals waiting to be filled with the correct line and to be told what to think and not to think.

    And defensive behaviour is happening all over the left (inside and outside the LP) but it is whether you choose to be aware of it. Being told you are wrong all the time with little to back it is up is not helpful or comradely. That’s all I will say. To be honest, a lot of these debates aren’t comradely, instructive, respectful or helpful instead they can cause distress and for me wanting to drop-out (ah, another casualty and another woman). But being the masochist I am I kinda stay but there’s going to be a point when I say “enough is enough”….

    And yeah Splintered Sunrise, that bit made me laugh about being all Granvilles…utterly true, comrade!!

    I don’t want to appear narky or arsey but the past couple of wks could have been better. Sorry.

  21. Andy Newman said,

    October 11, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    Well – which opinions count? – IMO those that best accord with the evidence.

    If we believe that there is an actually existing reality, and there is some evidence to judge things on, then those opinions that best match the evidence should be treated more seriously, whoever is arguing it.

    What is difficult is the left groups tend to select the evidence to reinforce their narrative that they never make mistakes, and that the opinion formers in the organisatioon have enormous insight, “and in 1945 ted grant predicted the i-Pod”

    BUt I think that what Louise complains of: ” am right, you are wrong and this is the reason why you are wrong.” is how all political debate works. It is only an inappropriate way of arguing if “the reason why you are wrong” is disresepectful or demeaning of the person, or on tha basis the I am right, becasue Ii am more inportnat than you.

    If the “reason you are wrong” is becasue you haven’t taken this piece of evidence into account, or because your argument is inconsistent with this known truth, or inconsistent with a mature and mutually accepted theory, the surely that is generally how we decide between better and worse theories in all apscts of life, and is how debate should be conducted.

    Otherwise we retreat into solipsism and relativism, well done we are all correct!

    What is important is to distinguish between what is a debate about facts and a debate about judgements, and some awareness of the grey area in between (judgements about facts)

  22. October 11, 2007 at 8:05 pm

    But I do believe that the “you are wrong, I am right” way of debating is off putting. How do you engage someone who has entered politics for the first time? What happens when you debate someone who is new to this, do you still debate in the same way?

    I know people who find this old style debate as off putting and old fashion. It does not include people, it excludes. And it can come across as disrespectful and tedious. It just seems so inflexible. Debate is about bouncing around ideas and sometimes you may consider them wrong, sometimes right, hell, you may even change your mind.

    There just seems to be a desperation of the “I am right attitude”… and it is not the best way to conduct political debate in the least. Ask yourself, if you want more people who experience oppression in this society to engage with the left, then we will need to change the way we do things as we will continue to be a white, straight male talking shop, getting ever smaller and that’s bad…. Don’t you see the problem?

    Separately but connected, I remember something on Madam Miaow’s blog about the left being be more compassionate and have a shared kinship of spirits. I think that is correct. I am not saying we should be social workers or whatever but the left should look out for each other a bit. If the left is to be accomodating and understanding then we should try harder as we are supposed to be the ones who challenge capitalism and shit that goes with it.

    People are screwed over by this society and we should be more open and engaging to people who want to take on the inequalities and oppression. And people are affected by things happening in their lives and this has an impact on them. Me for instance, I had a breakdown at work recently due to some bullying and inappropriate behaviour. But they want me to forget about it and “move on” and being a trade union steward I know what they are up to and know it is wrong but I certainly feel powerless as I have hardly any support. And this has affected me and I have represented countless people in my time who have experienced this.

    As Elvis Costello said: “What’s so funny ’bout peace, love and understanding?”

    Apols to Splintered Sunrise: probably drunk too much red wine as I am rambling on

  23. Phil said,

    October 11, 2007 at 11:59 pm

    There just seems to be a desperation of the “I am right attitude”… and it is not the best way to conduct political debate in the least.

    I find I’m agreeing and disagreeing with you at the same time. We’ve all been in meetings where a deeply-felt – but perhaps not perfectly-worded – contribution has got squished by one of the local guardians of orthodoxy, the guardians’ mates nodding wisely all the while. I’d agree with you that that’s no way to run any kind of group, least of all a group that has something to do with liberation and radical democracy.

    Having said that, I don’t think the hat fits as many people on the left as you suggest it does. When Andy says that all debate is about saying “I’m right, you’re wrong and this is why”, I think he’s at least half right. I don’t think the idea that *you* are wrong and *I* am right needs to come into it at all – but I don’t get that sense from Andy’s comments anyway.

    Maybe this is just a long-winded way of saying I don’t understand why you’re so down on Andy…

  24. October 12, 2007 at 8:13 am

    Well Phil, I could give an explanation but it would make things worse. Best leave things as they are.

    But on a general point, I think women experience things differently to men. And in debating style as well. If the Left was inclusive and open and wasn’t so dogmatic in its debating style then why aren’t there more women? I know many women who are active feminists who will not touch the left with a 6-foot bargepole. These are the kind of women the Left needs but fails to attract. Why? I remember a debate on a couple of feminists blogs a couple of years ago and many of these women specifically indicated that it was the way debate and discussion was engaged that was off-putting and venturing an idea watching it being slapped down etc.

  25. Andy Newman said,

    October 12, 2007 at 8:32 am

    Thanks Phil.

    I have to say that I am dubious that “white, straight males” are the only ones to make the left unfriendly, if that is what is being suggested. perhaps it isn’t.

    Yes Louise, there is a place for bouncing ideas about, and there must always be space for learning from other people, and changing our minds.

    But there also comes as time for trying to work out which ideas are correct and which aren’t, and perhaps trying to synthesise some truth that transcends any of the partially correct positions.

    And in that phase there has to be a more challenging approach to opinions. Do they match the evidence? What are the assumptions behind them?

    I think this is particularly important at the moment because we are in a very challenging situation, where the political left have extremely limited influence, and are having trouble coming to terms with it.

    Some of the obstacles are based upon the boosterism of loyalists to various projects. So there are some in the SWP who massively overplay the significnace of Stop the War, and Respect. there are some in the labour left who cannot see what a diastrous defeat the failure of mcDonnell leadership campign was.

    this is where it gets difficult to have a debate when the underlying dispute is not about bouncing ideas about, but that people are basing their position on a self-deluding assessment of the facts.

    So if someone is making a tactical or even strategic decision to be in Labour or Respect based upon a realistic assessment of the situation, then that is the type of thing we can agree about. But if people are advocating their project based upon a reading of the facts that doesn’t match the actual facts. then they are very hard to work with.

    Now perhaps I am wrong to argue, and we should just give up on the comrades who are deluding themselves, and not debate it further. BUt I think there are a lot of serious people currently in denial about how bad the situation is, and that is minimising their ability to play a constructive role.

    But as the dispute is then about facts, i don’t know how the debate can be conducted excepot on the basis if these are the facts based upon evidence x and y. And the other person being asked to justify their reading of the facts with evidence as well?

  26. Madam Miaow said,

    October 12, 2007 at 10:55 am

    ” i don’t know how the debate can be conducted excepot on the basis if these are the facts based upon evidence x and y. ”

    If only ’twere so.

    From my own experience, you can present the facts til you are blue in the face, but if you have been deemed a pariah or a mere drone by one’s comrades for their own self-serving reasons, don’t rely on anyone else giving you support, even if it is in the interest of the movement.

    I can give plenty of examples. A few choice ones may even make it into my blog.

    My take on what Louise is saying is that she is trying to demonstrate the everyday ways in which even the best comrades slip into this mode. Revolutionaries are supposed to make the invisible visible, and that’s what I see her attempting to do.

    Our consciousness has grown stale with habit and defeat – especially with the habit OF defeat.

  27. Andy Newman said,

    October 12, 2007 at 11:08 am

    Yes Anna, I agree, and you and me both have been that pariah!

    But is that what Louise is saying? It seesm to me she is making a different critique.

  28. October 12, 2007 at 4:58 pm

    “My take on what Louise is saying is that she is trying to demonstrate the everyday ways in which even the best comrades slip into this mode. Revolutionaries are supposed to make the invisible visible, and that’s what I see her attempting to do.”

    Thanks Anna. That’s is what I am trying to say. And esp. so about habit and defeat. I think we need to change our habits and rethink our style of debate. We have to encourage more women to engage in the Left as it will whither and die and frankly, it has to be a more conducive atmosphere where people can grow politically and feel confident in putting their ideas across.

    When I became a trot twenty odds years ago, the guy who recruited me gave me two bits of advice: One, if in doubt quote Trotsky and/or Mandel. Two, when you are arguing your position or line you go in hard. Now, telling that to a 16 who didn’t feel confident about the world or had high self-esteem, that really freaked me out but nonetheless I did it. I argued my line and position in a kind of auto pilot stance. By my mid-20s I became aware that this was nowt but crap and dropped out.

  29. WorldbyStorm said,

    October 13, 2007 at 9:02 am

    Parties are deceitful. It’s in the nature of the beast I think. But, until someone comes up with better structures we work with what we have.

    Oddly enough the guy who recruited me into the WP (who was my age, had been in the same school as me) the first time we went canvassing door to door said, ‘…the one thing you have to remember is that Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky never lived in Kilbarrack’. *

    Sound advice as it happened.

    * [Kilbarrack is a large working class area estate in Dublin, and was the model for Roddy Doyles Barrytown – actually in the various movies derived from the books, it and Darndale were used as the backdrops].

  30. Madam Miaow said,

    October 13, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    “But, until someone comes up with better structures we work with what we have.”

    Or you could hold people accountable and CHANGE things. Strange how revolutionaries talk about Big Changes but are barely able to change their socks.

  31. October 13, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    Yeah, agree with that Madam M.

    One thing quickly is, on the way I was “trained” to argue was actually ineffectual and counterproductive. There has to be a better, more inclusive and flexible ways to discuss and debate where people feel confident enough to engage. Obviously that is just one aspect but an important one nevertheless.

  32. WorldbyStorm said,

    October 14, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    That’s a very fair point Madam Miaow. I guess I’m talking about parties as vehicles in the broader sense that in representative democracies even getting a sniff of state power demands ‘parties’, not in their structural sense which I completely agree should incorporate genuine democratic accountability and the capacity for change to come within. But then we’re into a talk about the nature of parties which have come from Leninist or sub Leninist roots and whether that is a credible model for Marxist political parties in this century.


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