One of the more entertaining elements of hanging around on the political left is the insistence of the various leftie parties that they are “open and democratic,” usually moments after they’ve been caught out playing silly buggers within a broad church movement.
"Open and democratic" is a phrase which obviously has a lot of baggage when it comes to any democratic centralist (Trotskyist, Stalinist, Socialist etc) outfit, tarred as they are by years of capitalist propagandising on the failings of the Soviet Union. Similar and connected is "entryism," the practice of joining a burgeoning movement en masse and attempting to capture it by packing votes and capturing/creating powerful leadership roles.
But that baggage becomes heavier rather than lighter when incidents like the Socialist Party stitch-up of the National Shop Stewards Network happen, continuing a long line of similar Lenin-inspired efforts stretching back into anti-war, anti-racist and class struggle history all the way back to 1917 and beyond.
Lenin’s crew pioneered and continue to offer the pinnacle of such tactics in the 1910s and 20s when they used the bodies they had captured to destroy grassroots organisations they considered to be rivals, effectively ending any hope of a genuine communism emerging in Russia.
Since then, Trotskyists, Stalinists and the like in Britain have attempted the same tactics within an ever-dwindling circle of sympathisers and lefties, seemingly unaware that every time they do so they help put another generation off left-wing politics entirely.
Incidents like those linked to above, picked off the top of my head out of a list of hundreds in Britain alone, would be best summed up by the famous Albert Einstein quote “insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
And so today, on a much, much tinier scale, we have the Right to Work (SWP), the Coalition of Resistance (Counterfire), the National Coalition Against Fees and Cuts (AWL, sort of) and the People’s Charter (CPB) while the Socialist Party’s gone a bit anti-cuts crazy with two seperate front groups, Youth Fight for Jobs and now the NSSN. All squabbling among themselves and prioritising not the fight against cuts but their own level of influence within the left ghetto.
In fact the only group of any note not fronting itself is the CPGB, which is making a bid for non-sectarian status by calling for a uniting of all the different fronts into a kind of super-front capable of looking, at least initially, like something big enough for local groups (and fronts) to sign up to. The mind boggles.
Because the thing is we already know what all the possible outcomes of both normal fronting and super-fronting are, none of which have the least bit to do with improving things for working people or threatening business as usual. Because we’ve already seen it over and over again.
The little groups will most likely go nowhere, or recruit the young and naive for just long enough to drain their energy and spirits. A larger group would be a short-lived mess which might well build a new Stop The War Coalition-type outfit which would allow a far greater number of people to experience the wonders of sectarian political squabbles before the whole thing collapsed under the combined egos and inadequacies of its collective leadership.
What really needs to happen to these groups is for the sound and solid people to leave. If you are in one of these outfits, just go and do what you should have been doing in the first place, acting as an independent militant whose work focuses on the REAL big picture and attempts to form a resistance without this inane, counterproductive bullshit.
Help local and workplace comrades to organise themselves and stop trying to trick them with false promises of democracy when you could be helping create a genuine one accountable to its members rather than your far-removed central committee.
We’re not idiots, when your high command tells you to pack a meeting and pretend it’s democratic because “every view got some time” we notice these things and it kills wider participation.
Your leaders on the other hand, because they refuse to learn the lessons of their own history, are.