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re bangs and whimpers.
It would be good if people commenting on the SWP could get some perspective on all this. Followers of Jonathan Swift will remember the moment when Gulliver holds the King of Lilliput in his hand and the King tells Gulliver about various great grandiose schemes he has. (This is from memory. I will look back at it later!). What I mean here is that we should remember that the Left-of-Labour Left in Britain is a long history of Lilliputian grandiosity. No matter how good and important the moments, writings and organisation has been, we should be ruthlessly realistic about how Lilliputian it has been. We should come up with realistic and boneshaking reasons for this. Secondly, we should be just as realistic about the relationship between the organisations we create and what this would look like if mapped on to anything non-Lilliputian.
This is where I get more than a bit concerned. We are very good at dissecting the enactments of power in eg the Tory Party, Universities, Corporations etc, and we’re good at showing how various cliques and powergroups intersect, become self-serving etc and yet again, we’re good at showing how these are part of, contribute to, are consequence of capitalist relations. I suggest then we should get to be as good at looking at the so-called basic tenet of ‘Leninism’ about how we need this fast-moving, fast-thinking tightly-knit ‘vanguard’ who will know exactly what to do as the capitalist starts to crumble etc etc. Do we really want such a group to ‘take power’ or ‘guide us’ or any of the command-leadership models that have been produced in the last hundred years? Is that really the best we can do?
I am beginning to sound like a ‘gramophone’ (metaphor used in 1956/7/8 i the CPGB) but I promise you that virtually all these arguments were rehearsed during that period – including the whole questioning of the elite clique not only of the CP’s Central Committee but, more significantly, its ‘Political Committee’. The questions re full-timers, the slate (‘the panel’ in old lingo), the non-questioning culture etc etc were all raised in the ‘Minority Report’ written by Christopher Hill, Malcolm McEwen and Peter Cadogan.) I will write this up as soon as I have a moment.
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