Return to materialism

Slowly a myth developed within the Trotskyist movement that to this day still has some support. That myth is that

Return to materialism


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elationship of forces limits the immediate possibilities in New Zealand. The leadership of the Alliance is proving itself remarkably.

Firstly, to have succeeded in forming the Alliance, an extremely difficult achievement, and thus begin to break the monopoly grip of capital over politics in New Zealand and secondly, to begin building up a membership organization that begins to consolidate without losing its mass influence.

After the next elections it might become more possible for the Alliance to begin consolidating support in the union movement and building support among students and other youth. That is to go a bit more beyond the electoral framework under which it began. But we must keep in mind that New Zealand at this moment is not under the impact of a deep radicalization with mass actions and political fervor among its youth.

The New Zealand Alliance has received next to no support from all the "correct program" sectarians. On the contrary all they can think about is raiding the Alliance in order to add another member to their sect. All they focus on is the formal stated platform of the Alliance.

The key to the Alliance's program is its break. Its leadership is completely independent of the ruling class in New Zealand and internationally and it is totally committed to defending the working people, the poor, to fight for defence of the environment and promote solidarity with other working people internationally.

This is an historic first in the post-Cold-War period. The Alliance, in part because it is close to Australia, becomes an excellent opportunity to promote class-struggle politics by calling for a break in Australia, like in New Zealand. The DSP focuses not on the living class struggle and the leadership being formed in that process, but on whether "cadres" with an ideologically "correct program" are being formed.

Since, after four years, it doesn't see something happening that fits its preconceived forms, the DSP now feels uncomfortable with the Alliance. The DSP's international report states: "And in this framework we also note the problems with there not having developed an organized revolutionary socialist current. Such a current, which can provide a principled position of how to advance forward, is even more urgently required in the period ahead."

The fixation on program blinds the DSP to understanding a form of development different from their own experience. To make the above statement is factually wrong. A process is now under way in New Zealand which is developing a leadership, but it is happening in a manner much more like what happened in Nicaragua.

It is very different from how groups like the DSP have been formed. In the same manner the DSP document on the environment looks at Green groups not as part of a process in motion with which we not only must ally ourselves but of which we are a part.

Instead, the resolution focuses on programmatic issues. Statements like: "Greens, like everyone else, must choose where they stand on all social issues," is a ridiculous formal logic oxymoron. By Greens we mean exactly those people who are in motion around one aspect of problems being created by the world capitalist system.

By definition, "Greens" is an expression of motion, of rebellion, on a specific issue not "all social issues". By this logic of they "must chose", all struggles and all real movements that appear can be criticized since they always appear with incomplete platforms, otherwise they would not have their mass character. That is in the real world.

The opposite of what the DSP resolution argues for is the direction we should pursue. We want there to be a Green movement that does not take up "all social issues" in order to bring about the largest possible unity in exposing and opposing the destruction of the environment. How that movement then inter-links, inter-relates and develops with other social movements is a complex process.

Thus what Greenpeace is doing with its dramatic actions to expose the corporate polluters should be cheered by us, not denounced. To refer to these actions as "stunts" is insulting and arrogant to the committed activist who often, risking their lives, have sought to force the world media to reveal what is happening to the environment.

Such an attitude blocks the ability of the DSP to work with others. It is sectarian posturing. The idea that lobbying is some how reformist or incorrect is also promoted in this resolution. It is referred to as the politics of "liberal reformism."

Lobbying is just one kind of activity. Its nature is determined by its interrelationship with other events and movements. It has no specific characteristic in itself, it is like a tactic such as demonstrations, strikes, elections, etc.

Once again the resolution is not written with an eye on our objectives, our relation to living movements and struggles, but a sect-like declaration of our ideological superiority. Finally, I should mention a comment that was quoted in one contribution from the National Committee report on "DSP Interventions in Australian Politics". This is referred to as being "based on the Leninist strategy of building a revolutionary Marxist vanguard party".

Before doing so we should note the use of terms like "a revolutionary Marxist vanguard party" sounds really radical. It's not just a Marxist party, but a "revolutionary" one, meaning obviously that there are Marxist parties that aren't revolutionary, and its not just a revolutionary Marxist party but a "vanguard" at that.

This kind of language reveals an underlying ultraleft posturing. That is something we need to consciously rid ourselves of, because it comes out of the culture and tradition that has led to the self-isolation and destruction of organizations like the SWP in the United States.

In the quote that follows there is a reference to a category of people referred to as the "revolutionary vanguard" as against the "social vanguard". An explanation of how class consciousness is developed follows with these words: "Through the intervention of the revolutionary vanguard in the broader social vanguard (the "natural leaders" of the class) and winning them to a revolutionary Marxist perspective and commitment to socialism. The tactical essence of the method is to turn the more conscious elements of the vanguard against the less conscious and to try to draw the vanguard as a whole towards a socialist perspective through ever higher forms of organization and unity in struggle. The highest form of unity is, of course, that of the revolutionary party itself."

This paragraph is confusing on several levels, but I want to focus on just one aspect. The idea that unity is achieved by setting the more conscious workers against the less conscious workers seems rather odd.

While there might be some explanation for this formulation, the way it is presented seems rather ultraleft. Our goal is try to unify the class in action. The more conscious workers try to draw in the less-conscious workers in concrete actions of a class struggle character.

In John Percy's report, while accepting that the DSP may have made mistakes he states: "But at each major struggle, at each step, we did the right thing." Of course, that is exactly what all vanguardist organizations believe and it is exactly the kind of statement that organizations leading the masses, like the FPL, the FSLN, etc, never make.




In the last analysis if we are correct and capitalism will be surpassed by a more rational social order in which class divisions as we have known them will end, this has to have very deep objective roots. If our concept of the origins of ideas is the material world, the ideas of class struggle and of a socialist vision are being generated continuously.

The experiences of people in this society, the exploitation, oppression and abuses always generate struggles, organizing and the development of social movements. Ideas about these movements and how to change society are always in flux.

To believe that a few decades ago a small list of individuals discovered the magic wand is not materialist. Our movement is still developing ideas on how to organize and how to change society. A lot of people around the world are thinking about these issues. Their experiences are helping them to find a way forward to end the way capitalism is destroying the planet and its human population.

Our movement has existed only a moment in history. The future will hold all kinds of surprises especially regarding forms. The DSP itself is a very unusual formation. In many ways it is the only one of its kind. It arose out of the student movement of the 1960s, survived exposure to the sectarianism of the US SWP and survived the 1980s when most left organizations, for whatever reason, were collapsing.

Its leadership has been very astute in having the courage to think for itself, try experiments, pull back from things that did not appear to work and continue to look for openings. It appears to me that in the recent period there has been a shift to the left and sectarianism.

It first hit me at the Green Left conference, when in a panel on what we should do next the DSP representative did not focus on what the Australian people or its working class needed, the challenges before Australia for justice, democracy and saving the environment but instead on the need for a Leninist Party.

Thus the issue of what the nation needs was reduced to a focus on the discussion on how best to org

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