Saturday, May 05, 2007

An exchange of views

Dave broder was a member of the old red party group, his decision to leave to join the AWL was the catalyst that finally broke the remainder of the group from traditional leninist, trotskyite Left. Broder recently wrote to the newspaper of the cpgb the Weekly Worker, ptting forward his own version of the break,which can be found here .
This is jez's reply which we reprint here as it sums up quite well how our politics have developed over the past couple of years;

I doubt that readers are interested in how two people have different memories of the same, fairly insignificant series of events, but since David Broder feels the need to “correct” me in the pages of the weekly worker (May 3, 2007) I am obliged to do the same. David, now as then is preoccupied with the faction rights of the red platform and how the decision was taken to not publish one of the seeing red columns. I have to say this was never a particular concern of mine. As far as I am concerned, the weekly worker is controlled by the PCC and they make editorial decisions in accordance with their tactical concerns, which can be criticised at members’ aggregates after the event. Not how I would do things, but that’s how Leninist publications work, surely?
I was more concerned with the decision that was taken to critically support Respect and what it revealed about the cpgb and Leninist politics, rather than how that decision was made. Most people can see that Respect is bollocks: an opportunistic attempt by a bunch of self-serving politicians to try and get themselves voted into the petty corridors of power. The vast majority of the membership saw this too, yet the decision was taken to ‘critically support’ it in order to get a foot in the door and influence the people around Respect. This meant openly arguing that Respect was worth being in and trying to persuade other people to vote for it and join it. I was not comfortable with this: it seemed dishonest, arrogant and bossy. For the first time I began to seriously question whether or not I actually agreed with Leninist politics. In retrospect it marked the beginning of my rejection of democratic centralism: there are some things I am prepared to do or not do even if the whole of the rest of the world disagrees with me, let alone the narrow majority of a small political group.
David says that we should have stayed in the cpgb and fought to win the majority to our position, which is what the cpgb argued at the time. I disagree. In retrospect I was growing disenchanted with Leninism as a political method. To stay in an avowedly Leninist organisation, stamp my feet and insist that they stopped being Leninist would be daft. It only makes sense if you subscribe to the (Leninist) position that there should be one all powerful vanguard party. I don’t. I think the revolutionary movement should be, as it is, made up of people working together in groups of varying size and permanence whose analysis and objectives change. Groups form and fall apart, grow and shrink and above all change in response to changes in material conditions.
However, it needs stating that despite what David claims, the red party did not start out hostile to Leninism when we formed, and certainly not because of any petulant dislike of the cpgb. To the contrary we all found it hard to break with what was for most of us the only political method that we knew. We tried very hard to reconcile our increasingly humanist and libertarian tendencies with Leninist politics. We could not make it work. The problem as I see it is that Leninism and its variants start with a pessimistic view of our class: that we can only achieve genuine emancipation if we follow a leadership that can match the bourgeoisie in ruthlessness and levels of organisation, and that this leadership can and will sacrifice freedom and individuality in pursuit of a future that will supposedly celebrate freedom and individuality. I could not reconcile Leninism with libertarianism and humanism, and so I rejected Leninism.
Given that they embrace vanguardism, statism and democratic centralism, it hardly needs saying that I don’t regard the AWL as a libertarian socialist organisation. I suspect that the AWL doesn’t either. The cynic in me suspects that David’s attempt to rebrand the AWL has more to do with its current orientation towards the anti-capitalist movement, where, like the good Leninists that they are, they seek to provide leadership to the poor befuddled masses. Apparently our reluctance to join the AWL was “sectarian” and “ridiculous.” The rest of us all made it clear to David that we had no intention of joining them. Other members of the red party explained their reasons less politely, but personally, as I said at the time, I would not join them because in my opinion the AWL combine the authoritarianism of Leninsm with the smug arrogance of Guardian readers.


Dave E said...

Broder is an arrogant little pampered shit - a snidey fuck in the David Miliband mode, and the AWL is the nursery for New Labour. They should get on just fine.

J.B said...

glad to see that some RPers are still about online and writing things. I really enjoyed reading the things that were published.