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 Post subject: The WSWS/SEP a critique
PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 11:30 am 
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Since I listen to the WSWS podcast every day, I easily come by the material to serve as a critique of them and the SEP which is as far as I can tell, the same thing.

The most glaring and telling problem is the campaign of Jerry White and Niels Niemuth for control over the most powerful capitalist state on earth. Let that sink in for a moment. What would alleged socialists want with such power? Here a number of objections are immediately raised. But the campaign is run not with the intention necessarily of winning presidency, but to serve as a platform to spread awareness of the socialist opposition to war. What should be immediately noted is that Marxism attributes no value to intentions, and that they are indeed attempting to take control, in an approved way, of the capitalist state machinery. The question must also be raised, why go to such lengths (they have spent some time in court battles etc. getting their names on ballots) to run for presidency? Would not the time and money spent on this endeavour have been better spent doing what they purportedly wish to do, that is, raise awareness about, and support against, the next world war? It may then be argued that this is just one of many platforms to use, and therein lies the heart of the problem. They treat entrance in the competition for control of the most powerful capitalist state in the world as a fundamentally neutral act. That is to say, the viewpoint that the state is merely a tool, and not the organised military rule of capitalism. This viewpoint is rampant throughout the campaign and in various rhetoric that can be heard through various WSWS articles. Complaints about the lack of "true democracy," about access to the ballot, as if the capitalist state machinery is supposed to be made accessible to the working class. They have also frequently made use of the phrase "deep state" used to signify a portion of the state that isn't publicly accessible, which perpetuates the illusion that any part of the capitalist state IS accessible to the working class. The WSWS has referred to Bernie Sanders as the frist trap for the working class to have their energies redirected behind the democratic party, and that Jill Stein is the second trap, an attempt to keep the working class on the terrain of, as they call it, the pseudo-left. We must now say that the campaign of Jerry White and Niels Niemuth is the third trap which perpetuates the illusion that participation in the capitalist state can in any way be considered a socialist position.

The SEP entered in to the heavy-weight boxing arena that is the U.S. presidential election. They bemoaned the fact that the heavy-weight gloves were too big fro its hands and were reluctantly allowed to use smaller gloves, but not only did they forget to check the size of the boxing shorts which were much too big and fell down at their first step, they also forgot to put in a mouth guard which resulted in their teeth being sprayed over the audience at the first punch. The embarrassment results not from the predictable knock-out, but from the fact that they entered the ring at all. The working class has no place in the arena of bourgeois politics.

This begs the question, what is the origin of this tactical mistake?

Bordiga wrote:
A theoretical error is always at the root of an error of political tactics.


In this case, the SEP being a trotskyist party, make the classic trotskyist mistake of substituting the party for the class. Nowhere is this more evident than in David North's recent interview about his book A Quarter Century of War: The US Drive for Global Hegemony 1990 -2016 when he is asked why there has been no subsequent anti-war movement following the 2003 anti Iraq war movement. He immediately begins his answer by making an objective analysis. This is good, he begins with a materialist methodology, but what, for him, is the active agent to be analysed? Do we hear about the massive losses of wages and jobs that served as the objective basis for the break out of the Occupy movement? Do we hear about how, instead, the working class is revolting against more immediate threats to its daily life in the form of murders by police? No. For David North, the active agent to be analysed is the various trotskyist parties whose leadership, he complains, landed various high paying jobs and therefore abandoned working class politics and have, in effect, become stalinists (The stalinist accusation is my call, not his as far as I'm aware). This of course calls to mind that old joke. What's the difference between a trotskyist and a stalinist? The trotskyist doesn't betrray the working class until after it has seized power. Which enables us to say that the SEP is able to remain on the terrain of the working class only by virtue of the fact that they are unsuccessful.

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 Post subject: Re: The WSWS/SEP a critique
PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 4:38 pm 
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I don't know if they have bothered to give a particular theoretical justification for electoral activity.

On MIA there is available their newspaper Bulletin; Twice-weekly Organ of the Central Committee of the Workers League
https://www.marxists.org/history/etol/n ... /index.htm
Quote:
Unique on the left in the U.S. the paper by the 1970s became a twice-weekly journal and toward the end of that decade, became the first paper to use full color half-tones for color photographs.


The basic objection is indeed that electoral activity ends up taking all time and efforts, leaving nothing for preparation for immediate conquest of power. An example of what the latter practically involves (in conditions of illegality, Germany late in the war) is given by the activity in 1918 of the Revolutionary Steward's movement leader Emil Barth in his (untranslated) book. Probably the WSWS/SEP doesn't detail how much it spends on its presidential electoral vs. "revolutionary" activity now, although such transparency might be made available to members (like any company gives a report to its shareholders). I think CPGB is pretty open about it. Maybe you could even ultimately make a 'profit' by electoral fundraising going to your revolutionary/non-electoral activity.


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 Post subject: Re: The WSWS/SEP a critique
PostPosted: Sat Oct 08, 2016 6:02 pm 
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The basic objection is far more severe than merely a waste of time.

I'll drop a few Bordiga quotes because he dealt with this issue pretty thoroughly.

Theses of the Abstentionist Communist Faction of the Italian Socialist Party wrote:
Capitalist relations of production cannot be modified by the intervention of the organs of bourgeois power.
This is why the transfer of private enterprises to the state or to the local government does not correspond in the slightest to the communist conception. Such a transfer is invariably accompanied by the payment of the capital value of the enterprise to the former owners who thus fully retain their right to exploit. The enterprises themselves continue to function as private enterprises within the framework of the capitalist economy, and they often become convenient instruments in the work of class preservation and defence undertaken by the bourgeois state.

The idea that capitalist exploitation of the proletariat can be gradually diminished and then eliminated by the legislative and reformist action of present political institutions, be it elicited by representatives of the proletarian party inside those institutions or even by mass agitation, leads only to complicity in the defence of the privileges of the bourgeoisie. The latter will on occasion pretend to give up a minimum of its privileges in order to try to appease the anger of the masses and to divert their revolutionary attempts against the bases of the capitalist regime.

The conquest of political power by the proletariat, even if such an objective is considered as the final, total aim of its action, cannot be achieved by winning a majority within bourgeois elective organs.


...


Because of the great importance which electoral activity assumes in practice, it is not possible to reconcile this activity with the assertion that it is not the means of achieving the principal objective of the party's action, which is the conquest of power. It also is not possible to prevent it from absorbing all the activity of the movement and from diverting it from revolutionary preparation.


The Lyons Theses wrote:
It must be emphatically stated that in certain situations, past, present and future, the proletariat has, does, and inevitably will adopt a non-revolutionary stance — either a position of inertia, or collaboration with the enemy as the case may be — but despite everything, the proletariat everywhere and always remains the potentially revolutionary class entrusted with the revolutionary counter-attack; but this is only insofar as within it there exists the communist party and where, without ever renouncing coherent interventions when appropriate, this party avoids taking paths, which although apparently the easiest routes to instant popularity, would divert it from its task and thereby remove the essential point of support for ensuring the proletariat’s recovery. On dialectical and marxist grounds such as these (and never on aesthetic and sentimental grounds) we reject the bestial expression of opportunism that maintains that a communist party is free to adopt all means and all methods. By some it is said that precisely because the party is truly communist, sound in principles and organisation, it can indulge in the most acrobatic of political manoeuvrings, but what this assertion forgets is that the party itself is both factor and product of historical development, and the even more malleable proletariat is yet more so. The proletariat will not be influenced by the contorted justifications for such “manoeuvres” offered by party leaders but by actual results, and the party must know how to anticipate these results mainly by using the experience of past mistakes. It is not just by theoretical credos and organisational sanctions that the party will be guaranteed against degeneration, but by acting correctly in the field of tactics, and by making a determined effort to block off false paths with precise and respected norms of action.


The basic objection, therefor, is that being determines consciousness, and by acting in the arena of bourgeois politics you become a bourgeois politician.

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 Post subject: Re: The WSWS/SEP a critique
PostPosted: Sun Oct 09, 2016 4:14 am 
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Yes, the point Bordiga also makes is that (at least if you win a seat) an oath must be sworn of loyality to the state, or commitment to legality, which even if you do it only verbally/mechanically, can be used then by the bourgeoisie to go after any breach you make of that oath.

Maybe that's a reason why the WSWS doesn't seem openly to repeat (what they surely must know as orthodox trotskyists) in its propaganda the thesis about smashing the state apparatus. They limit themselves to 'minimum demands', ie upholding bourgeois ideals of democracy. In any case, there seems not a whole lot of theorising about the relation to the state.


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