Sunday, February 24, 2013

The deadly lure of esoterica...

“Since the revolutionary party cannot have interests apart from the class, all the party’s issues of policy are those of the class, and they should therefore be thrashed out in the open, in its presence. The freedom of discussion which exists in the factory meeting, which aims at unity of action after decisions are taken, should apply to the revolutionary party. This means that all discussions on basic issues of policy should be discussed in the light of day: in the open press. Let the mass of the workers take part in the discussion, put pressure on the party, its apparatus and leadership.”--Tony Cliff, Trotsky on Substitutionism.

This is not an absolute statement and we should always be wary of authority by quotation, nonetheless suggests there is a socialist epistemology, or theory of knowledge.

Socialism and fascism are opposite ends of the political spectrum (as generally understood). The BNP operates on levels of membership, the highest being gold membership. The SWP on the other hand has, or claims to have an understanding that “all members are gold dust”. Esoteric knowledge, secret understanding that can only be accessed through ritual, limited to a small group is what holds fascist organisations together (the core of the Nazi party was the Thule Society). It is a logical extension of the capitalist understanding, of a world and its people graded, ranked and talked to on a need to know basis, people presented with the inflexible judgment of ministers, executives and experts, none of whom you can ever meaningfully access. Esoteric practice is deadly to socialist organizations.

Though the SWP is home to thousands of great socialists, and has been home to thousands more in its time, it has become fatally top-heavy. Access to the little Vatican on Thames is a mysterious practice that takes place via email or an occasional phone call or (if you’re really lucky) a personal audience; the point being you don’t ever go there and start poking round. Despite a formal ban on secret or permanent factions there are dozens of them, petitions are passed out, letters are passed around the great and good demanding X resign from Y position. The CC meets every week. No one except the CC is party to its discussions. The only secret factions uncovered are the ones that aren’t actually factions. The only crime is getting caught.

While we must admit the pressures of the capitalist world are very difficult to resist, to acknowledge them is halfway to successfully combating them. There is no sign that the current SWP leadership even understands what the SWP is meant to be doing and how it is supposed to relate to the wider world. It is merely self-perpetuating  and this is a large aspect of what’s killing the SWP.

1 comment:

Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo said...

Yick. The fucked up thing is, I could see the seeds of this in my IST group of 150-200 members.

And I say seeds in the same way Victor Serge uses it to describe the seeds of Stalinism in Bolshevism.

It still had a crippling effect, and has rendered the group a one-city rump that is actually quite marginal in that city despite the great work of some activists. Fortunately, they are no SWP in terms of weight on the left, and over time, things have improved. But I and many others are no longer involved. At worst, what happened was the stifling of creative, initiative and open debate. I think that's still the case and will likely lead to another crisis when a new cadre of young members begin to try and create new directions that clash with what rolls downhill from those who actually slavishly follow the SWP line.