Can we ever escape Leninism?

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Joined: 20-04-08
Dec 3 2017 22:29

Actually, we have, Jacob.

I will repeat something i have said elsewhere. The SPGB was founded in 1904 when women did not have the vote and i think perhaps up to a fifth of men still did not have the franchise. We argue for a "functional majority which is not numerical but a political power position.

1955 EC Statement of "The overwhelming mass of the people will participate, or fall in line with, the process of reorganisation "[my emphasis].

We also adopted the Chartist slogan that if we are not permitted to do it peacefully, we will do it forcefully if necessary.

One of our pamphlet sums it up

"We’re talking about a radical social revolution involving all aspects of social life.”

I have no idea what your final caveat means regards the UK and the SPGB

and (much more importantly) on the condition that 100% of that 34% support is working-class?

You can disagree if you wish on my feelings that the early SPGB envisioned becoming a mass party in the shape and form of the SPD but without the reformism. It was as i said a personal view from reading a few books on the founding and evolution of the SPGB.

Trying to equate emulation of the SPD with only Bolshevism - you might as well include the Mensheviks in it too since they also shared the same aspiration. I think most political parties that considered themselves socialist looked at the healthier expressions of the German SPD and hoped to repeat the success, hence why many such as Luxemburg and Pannekoek did not depart until WW1.

Jacob Richter
Joined: 13-07-08
Dec 6 2017 06:16

1904 irrelevant. The SPGB hasn't accounted for changes since universal suffrage was achieved in the UK.

Joined: 20-04-08
Dec 6 2017 08:41

You raised a question of principle and i answered, Jacob. You may not like the example but i think it is apt.

But if 1904 is not relevant, 3 decades later we stated at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War

Whether the Spanish workers were wise in participating in a struggle so costly in human lives may be debatable, but as they have decided to take the plunge, and as they have the most violent partisans of capitalism against them, Socialists are, of course, on their side.

Which goes some way to answer your question "Are you willing to support unilateral ([i]even extra-legal if most likely necessary[/i]) change"

I'd like to know what changes you had in mind that the SPGB has not heeded.

Our pamphlet on Parliament explains our position

"we use terms such as “majority” and “majoritarian” this is not because we are obsessed with counting the number of individual socialists, but to show that we reject minority action to try to establish socialism – majority as the opposite of minority....a majority (yes, but in the democratic rather than mere mathematical sense)...."

IMHO, If the percentage of our fellow-workers actively supporting the revolution outnumber those who are actively opposing it, with the rest of our class either passively support us or just only keeping their heads low to see what emerges from the situation and events and then comes to pass that should be sufficient to achieve the SPGB goal - the democratic capture of political power which constitutes a sufficient majority of socialists, in my view. The deciding factor on what constitutes the majority is how much of the population it takes to make socialism actually work.

The franchise, even when considered "universal", always excludes sectors of our class. In the Scottish Referendum, over-16s had their vote counted. Not so in the General Election. Prisoners, non-UK citizens but nevertheless UK residents are not on the electoral roll. Nor can we cannot assume that all of our class will want to be actively involved - many for purely personal, social or health reasons will not necessarily be apathetic, but passive. Should the opinions of the old and infirm be excluded simply because they cannot physically mount the barricades but an X on a ballot paper involves them and presents their voice?

We should also expect that the revolutionary process may not be such an orderly affair as to bee conducted legalistically and constitutionally. By the time, the revolution unfolds and begin to succeed there may well be no need for such a ballot because the outcome will be obvious and will have been the result of class warfare. There are a wide variety of scenarios. We do not limit ourselves to what is theoretically ideal - and thus probably unlikely. We need to be able to act in an imperfect world rather than waiting for the perfect one. It is why the SPGB doesn't campaign for better voting rules such as proportional representation in all its different form. The present first-past-the-post electoral system is not perfect, is it? But it suffices and fit for purpose. As we determined it did in 1904

I previously said that the SPGB position is a nuanced one. We do not lay down any determinist laws for a future we cannot predict.

But we can lay out some principles that will make the process easier in our view and we can criticise other positions which we believe to be counter-productive and harmful. If we are right or wrong will be decided not by my party imposing its ideas on an unwilling or unreceptive mass but to the contrary, letting our fellow-workers choose which road they trust in. But that does not mean our silence if we judge that the wrong turning has been made. We'll simply persevere under whatever circumstances arise.

Common Struggle
Joined: 8-05-06
Mar 29 2018 20:32

Leninism as Conservatism: The Russian Revolution and the Lessons of History, also available on Kindle