BUILD A WORKERS PARTY THAT FIGHTS FOR SOCIALISM
Recently there has been some discussion here in America about the need to create an umbrella 'left of the Democratic Party' organization, presumably that would encompass the Greens and other smaller left-wing propaganda groups. I have written elsewhere and my byline makes clear where I stand on the issue of the third party bourgeois Green Party. So my comments will be premised on the idea of the advisability or reasonableness of creating such an organization to the exclusion of that party.
To be honest, dear reader, I am not at all clear as to why a discussion of a left, apparently electoral, united front is in the cards today. If one means by left, at least some vaguely socialist program, then I would argue against such an alliance. One of the most notable features of the political landscape of the last couple of decades is that the mass of working people have forsaken for the most part, at least for now, the goal of socialism as a part of their daily existence. If that observation carries any truth internationally it holds doubly true for conditions in the United States.
And that is the nub of the matter. Despite the upsurge in protest activity in the wake of the American-led Iraqi invasion that activity has not generated any kind of mass movement away from the Democratic Party (the place here in America that a knowledgeable leftist would necessarily have to look to observe a break in the norms of bourgeois politics). Thus the creation of some conglomeration of already existing groups, basically propaganda groups with counterposed programs, assuming that the sectoral nature of most groups could be overcome has no objective basis for existence and in the nature of such things would be stillborn.Moreover, a strong argument can be made that such an organization would constitute an impediment to the formation of a mass workers party.
This discussion has made me think, however, that it would not be a bad idea to clear the air about this whole question of left-wing regroupment and entry tactics. For those not familiar with the concept a brief primer. Over the course of working class history various seismic shifts in the political landscape caused mainly by war, revolution or extreme economic dislocation, have created political realignments within the working class movement. Thus, the revolutionary movement is not stranger to this phenomenon.
Over the last 150 years or so there have been numerous realignment of the revolutionary forces beginning with Marx himself before, during and in the aftermath of the 1848 Revolutions. A very famous, influential and decisive regroupment occurred during the Russian Revolution when Trotsky’s Inter-District Organization fused with the Bolsheviks. Lesser examples would include the realignment of the socialist forces between reformism and revolution in the aftermath of that revolution, which formed the basis for the creation of most communist parties and the Communist International. More recent examples in America were the creation of the Socialist Workers Party as the dominant anti-Stalinist leftist organization in American in the aftermath of the labor upsurges of the 1930’s and later the realignment of the student revolutionary movement, based on Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), in the late 1960’s.
I have emphasized these particular examples for a reason. The most notable point is that these realignments came when there was some kind of societal upheaval. More important, from our perspective, is that there was a visible political motion to the left and revolutionary forces were there to take advantage of it. Observing today’s political landscape indicates to me that to merely pose the question of regroupment is to answer it. No, today the real tactics for leftist militants are centered on the united front –March separately (under one’s own banner and program) and Strike together (use collective effort to create political clout on the issue at hand).
If the question of revolutionary regroupment is obscure today then a related question, that of entry into larger leftist political formations, is downright peculiar. But since the question of regroupment was posed I might as well make a comment on this tactic as well. I would argue, as above, that the conditions for entry into larger left labor organizations would not be appropriate at this time, assuming that such organizations existed here in America, of course. The whole point of entry into a larger reformist labor organization is to split it into its reformist and revolutionary components leaving the old organization as a shell, taking the best elements out and making a speedier, faster, more effective revolutionary organization.
But, friends, this requires some kind of organization that is moving leftward. And here the example of the British Labor Party can serve as the consummate example. Despite rather lukewarm threats in the direction of radical positions over the past 100 years the British Labor Party has been, on the whole, an extremely stable reformist electoral organization. While there are good tactical reasons for revolutionaries individually to belong to that party that is a long way from committing one's organization to a full scale entry in order to oust the leadership of that party. History shows that every attempt to do so by British revolutionaries has done nothing but create frustrated, burned out militants. Why? What passes for momentary radical blips on the Labor Party radar soon pass. A long term entry, and that is what leftist organizations have tended to do, thus is the equivalent to political suicide.
To close the subject I will give an example of an entry that made sense in contrast to the sorry Labor Party entry history, although I am still not sure it was worth the price that the organization, the Socialist Workers Party (U.S.), ultimately paid for doing so. I have written on this entry elsewhere in discussing the work of the pioneer American Trotskyist James P, Cannon (see archives under History of American Trotskyism). In the mid-1930’s during the mass labor upsurges in America, which formed the basis for mass trade union organization, in response to the rising menace of international fascism and genuine revulsion at the Stalinist do-nothing policy against it there was both a massive recruitment to and a real left-ward bulge in the previously moribund American Socialist Party.
Leon Trotsky advised and Cannon agreed to, not without internal opposition, an entry into that party. Although the conditions imposed by the Socialist Party leadership in order for the Workers Party of the United States (successor to the Communist League)to gain entry were onerous the almost two years in that organization as an organized tendency before they were booted out gave the Socialist Workers Party something of a small mass base in the organized trade union movement. But in case the reader has wandered off the conditions then were of upsurge and leftward movement. I will take out my magnifying glass to find 1/100th of that condition today. Enough said for now.