- Capitalism and Alternatives -

Sectarian Marxism: An Infantile Disorder

Posted by: Samuel Day Fassbinder ( Citizens for Mustard Greens, USA ) on November 26, 1999 at 17:52:14:

In Reply to: 'Sectarian' Marxism and SDF's Utopian Snit-fit posted by Barry Stoller on November 26, 1999 at 11:39:26:

: Despite the truly uninviting tone of your latest post, I do have a few comments.

: You repudiate the idea of a revolutionary party leading the working class.

SDF: You mischaracterize my position in order to promote your book club. Even RD belongs to a revolutionary party. Is he a vanguardist?

: That, you say, is 'vanguardist.'

: My attacks on those who champion private property of the means of production and support institutional inequality (i.e. Rawlsian 'justice')

SDF: Please read "Critique of the Gotha Programme" on institutional "equality".

: you call 'sectarian.' You quote revisionist history by Julius Braunthal that makes it look like Marx believed that Communists should subordinate their aims in order to achieve unity with a host of liberal and democratic parties.

SDF: I guess if it's "revisionist history" it can be safely ignored, regardless of whether or not one can mount any legitimate challenge to its veracity. Engels REALLY DID write the letter Braunthal quoted...

And let's look carefully at this idea that Engels counseled achieving unity with "liberal parties". It is the habit of sectarian Marxists to call everyone who doesn't agree with them in every way "liberals," as Marcos did. That's just delusion.

: You also say that 'sectarians'---pointlessly quoting the 'founding fathers' of Marxism---disregard 'empirical' facts when assessing revolutionary potential.

SDF: I challenged this "Russia" thing in several ways. Some empiricism!

: And, finally, you insist on a future ecological crisis of apocalyptic proportions which will act as midwife to a mass commune movement (which will engender socialism).

SDF: You really don't know what the Green Party is, do you? And empirical considerations of ecological crisis don't really matter, do they?

: Let us look at those assertions.

: Perhaps a party devoted to the elimination of private ownership of the means of production should accept into its ranks 'fellow-travelers' who believe that 'some' members of society should own some means of production.

SDF: Marx apparently had a definition of "socialists" that was broader than "all those who agree with me on every point." This, doubtless, helped him to recognize who was really a liberal and who wasn't. Who knows, maybe he wanted to do something more than just defend an idea. Marcos, on the other hand, was just interested in name-calling.

: Perhaps a party devoted to the elimination of hierarchy should accept into its ranks 'fellow-travelers' who wouldn't discount the 'possibility' of benevolent authoritarianism.

SDF: I guess any historical-materialist analysis of the connection between "benevolent authoritarianism" and the means of production is out of the question. NJ was defending "the lesser of two evils," peasant production as opposed to capitalist wage-slavery. His argument wasn't a very important one, as he didn't really give it much substance, but neither was it any indication of his own authoritarian tendencies.

Marx defended the British conquest of India, on margin: shall we dismiss Marx as an imperialist, as some of the cultural studies bunch have done?

And since vanguardism claims itself to be a form of benevolent authoritarianism (as it, and you, reject "democratic parties"), we have to wonder who's the authoritarian here ...

: And perhaps a party devoted to the economic equality of all citizens should accept into its ranks 'fellow travelers' who believe that 'some' inequality is inevitable or even acceptable.

SDF: Go back and read "Critique of the Gotha Programme" on "equality," "right," and other bourgeois values.

: What steady leadership that would be!

: On to Braunthal. The treasured quote, of course, is this:


: The Communists have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole.

: They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.(1)

: Yet a few sentences later, Marx and Engels wrote:


: The Communists...are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.(2)

: THERE is your dreaded 'vanguard'!

SDF: Nope, M & E's quote is too vague to establish a direct clash with Braunthal's assertion. And Marx isn't asserting "communists" as some sort of vanguard, as he is not claiming HIS GROUP to be the ONLY GROUP of REAL communists, just the BEST one, yet today there are several "communist" and "socialist" parties (Maoist, Trotskyist, Leninist, Stalinist, Castroist, etc. etc.) all claiming to have the ONLY "correct line" on everything, and that everyone else is an enemy of the people... THOSE are the true sectarian Marxists.

I'll take one last stab at the localized production of energy thing. The point was to promote alternative energy sources in order to allow energy production to be localized.

I guess the alternative is to go to Saudi Arabia to promote the revolution, since that's where the oil (& thus the power over the global capitalist infrastructure) is. This defense of centralized production seems to have a preconceived notion behind it that "we" will control the centralized locus of production from the first days of the revolution. So have you bought your plane ticket for Riyadh yet?

(further debate deleted)

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