Luke Skywalker lets the cat out of the bag


Bob Gould

First of all, to Luke himself. I’ve got nothing at all against you, Luke. Years ago at a demonstration you grumbled to me in a humorous way that I had kept you up half the night reading stuff that was on Ozleft. To anyone who writes, even for a small audience, the notion that anyone reacts is always flattering, so thanks for your interest.

I also found your personal apologia on the Green Left site, in which you described your own human itinerary involving experimentation with different religions, of some interest.

But I’d submit to you that Marxist politics is something quite different to religious inquiry and enthusiasm. I respect people who’ve experimented with religion, because it’s a fairly common phenomenon among vast numbers of people, including many workers and peasants. But religious enthusiasms applied to socialist, Marxist and working class politics is a thoroughgoing pain in the neck.

Marxism has a sociological, tactical and strategic aspect that’s central. Appeals to conversion can have a certain value when there’s an upward movement in the working class. Lenin was at some pains to insist that Marxist parties shouldn’t exclude religious people, and the Bolsheviks recruited very widely among the Old Believers, the most persecuted sect in Russia.

For that kind of reason I’m completely out of sympathy with the attitude of flamboyant, reactionary bourgeois atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. The latter, in particular, uses his flamboyant atheism to attack Muslims and anti-imperialists of all sorts and advance the cause of US imperialism. I belong to the Tariq Ali-Terry Eagleton faction in matters of religion.

I do insist, however, that Marxism is a product of the Enlightenment and that Marxist politics and strategies based on simple religious enthusiasm, without a realistic balance sheet of the possibilities and social factors bearing on socialist tasks, is pernicious. I don’t particularly like picking on you personally as representative of a trend among supporters of the DSP leaders, but in fact you are.

On the matters in train as we speak in the DSP, you’ve well and truly let the cat out of the bag in a rather naive way (I find one aspect of how you’ve done this deeply offensive. You refer to the minority as a tiny group of splitters who you hope will be converted back to the true path. In fact, the leaders of this group have been fighting for socialism, and involved in socialist political activity for more than 30 years. I’ve had deep-rooted conflicts with them, which are unlikely to go away unless we reach some clarity, but I have respect for their ongoing political activity and understanding. You would do better to try to learn something from them, rather than dismissing them as an absurd minority standing in the way of the progress of the DSP.)
The story that you tell lets the cat out of the bag in the following way.

It’s quite clear what you’ve repeated on the Green Left list is the story that the Boyle leadership is telling the ranks of its faction.

I don’t doubt that they’re telling the ranks this story with the advantages they have from being in charge of a small apparatus, and I don’t doubt that they’re telling the ranks about the minority with the extravagant vindictiveness that is often present in disputes in small groups, and which bursts out from time to time on the Green Left site and Marxmail.

The story that you repeat is obviously the bill of goods for the forthcoming expulsions. If you’re repeating the story the way you do, it’s clear the exclusion of the minority is immediately pending. The way these things work in small groups is that the Boyle leadership has obviously telling everyone among the majority’s relatively small rank and file that a split is likely and probably unavoidable and the onus is on the minority.

This all has a bit of a flavour of the exclusion of the Cochrane-Braverman minority in the US SWP in 1953, which was justified by Jim Cannon and others on the grounds of the minority’s boycott of the big anniversary celebration of the SWP.

Another aspect of your blurting it all out is also significant. You refer to the opposition as a tiny minority. In a very small organisation, the probably 40 or so members of the minority are in fact a fair chunk of the membership, and they include a large number of the seasoned, historic leaders of the DSP. If you think they’re a small, irrelevant minority who can just be shrugged off unless they respond to the majority’s calls for conversion, your view of practical politics is even more eccentric than I thought.

It’s pretty clear from your blurting it out that the expulsions won’t happen at the congress, but afterwards, and the minority will be presented with some sort of ultimatum to buckle under or they’re out in the interests of the homogeneity of the organisation and the great possibilities that face it. Of course, that’s all nonsense, and obviously so.

The ranks of the Boyle faction should be a bit cautious in these matters, and even now restrain their leaders from forcing a split the outcome of which will be the opposite of what you desire.


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