Monday, 8 November 2010

How to do Comradely Polemic

The good old RNCPGBML might effectively spoof what remains of the Stalinoid far left in Britain, but the language employed isn't that far removed from bona fide Western Maoists. Below is a paragraph of a 1974 polemic between two American groups, Workers' Viewpoint Organization and the Communist League. As per the general rule of the tiniest of tiny revolutionary groups, the denunciatory decibels increase in proportion to the political proximity rival groups have to each other. Just witness some of the polemics between the Spartacists and its wayward progeny in the International Bolshevik Tendency and the League for the Fourth International, for example.

This comes from
Leftist Trainspotters, the one mailing list no discerning sectarian can do without. In this the WVO angrily takes the CL to task:
As we have seen, the "C"L's counter-revolutionary nature comes out of every pore, on every issue. Despite its Marxist-Leninist phrasemongering, the "C"L has its feet planted firmly in the worst of two worlds – the worlds of revisionism and Trotskyism. On its right foot, the "C"L wears the notoriously stinking shoe that the social-imperialist Khrushchev once waved in the United Nations, while on its "left" foot the "C"L wears the battered and soiled shoe that Trotsky once wore while trotting around the world demanding his "permanent revolution." The "C"L today proudly wears both of these shoes, stumbling around the "USNA," trying to build its "Party."
Aren't Maoist polemics a beautiful thing to behold? Don't you just love the "C"?

I wonder if the people involved in this spat, which probably numbered less than the four-strong curry evening I had a few weeks back, ever stopped to think if this nonsense
helped. It's one thing to fight for "theoretical clarity" (always the standard excuse for hyperbolic exercises of revolutionary identity politics), but quite another to rubbish your opponent to the point of self-parody. Did the thought ever occur that the working class they claim to lead might see it and *not* fall into line behind them? That it is so absurd that 36 years later an ex-Trot might seize upon it for blog filler (and a few cheap laffs) and show them up for the joke political tradition they are? Probably not - it's a job of work figuring out what groups of socialists you can denounce next as counterrevolutionary running dogs of US imperialism.

9 comments:

Duncan said...

As per the general rule of the tiniest of tiny revolutionary groups, the denunciatory decibels increase in proportion to the political proximity rival groups have to each other.

A very useful rule this. I think it explains, for example, the hostility between the pretend CPGB and the AWL better than any other approach.

Mark P said...

An "ex-Trot"?

And here was me thinking that you still claimed to be in broad agreement with the politics you espoused up until a few months ago, but had developed a different tactical assessment of Labour.

tamworthalternative said...

Nice use of the term 'pretend', comrade!

A few of us used to spoof this kind of Maoist nonsense as students (we were devotees of the excellent journal Conquer the World and its mortal enemy Red Rebel). A friend of mine had a column in the students union paper at Lancaster from which he could pontificate in such style. Perhaps his best Mao-esque insult was "Posh dinosaur lackey". I dunno what it meant but it trumped imperialist running jackal every time...
Rob M
Editor "Workers Juggernaut" 1990-1

Phil said...

I was only a Trotskyist by virtue of being a member of the SP - but I didn't regard myself as one before or during my time in the organisation. Tbh apart from bits and bobs I'm at a loss to see how Trotsky is relevant to 21st century socialist politics.

Entdinglichung said...

more of this "great" stuff here

Danny O'Dare said...

Duncan,

"A very useful rule this. I think it explains, for example, the hostility between the pretend CPGB and the AWL better than any other approach."

No, it's because there are very real and substantial differences between the CPGB and AWL - as often outlined in the Weekly Worker.

Doug said...

Trotsky's relevance to the 21st century? Here's two for starters - transitional demands and the united front. For the vast majority of Labour Party members the first is irrelevant, the second to be avoided.

Phil said...

Nice of you to post under your name for a change, Doug.

Transitional demands ... tell me - where exactly has this political method built anything substantial in say the last 50 years (let alone today)?

Boffy said...

Not even Trotsky beleived that Transitional Demands were relevant to conditions such as those of today!!!!! Just read what he says in the Programme, for example about the demand for the Workers Government or the demand to nationalise the banks. They are only of any use, he says in a situation of dual power!

As for the United Front, again Trotsky would disagree with you. In his important contribuitons on this at the Second Congress of the Comintern where the tactic was thrashed out, he says that the UNited Front can only have meaning where the working-class is divided between two competing parties of almost equal size. In fact, he's pretty specific saying that if the revoluitonary party has less than 40% support within the class, then the tactic is no good. If the revoluitonary Party is smaller than that he says then it is in no position to make such an approach because the larger party could simply proceed on its own. If the revolutionary party has more than 50% support then it does not need the United Front because it is only a tactic to break workers away from the larger reformist party.

I have no idea what the Old Man would have thought about someone who thought that sects with absolutely no support within the working-class should proceed by issuing ultimatums to mass reformist Parties.