Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Calling Out Sectarianism!

Sometimes the best way to combat something is to bring it out into light. One thing the socialist movement in the US suffers heavily from is sectarianism (not the broadly misused form of the word sectarian where people call you sectarian for writing a polemic against a certain group or ideology, or for calling an idea Utopian or liberal). Sectarianism is when someone or a group cause splits in the movement for opportunist reasons rather it be money, members, leader control etc etc etc. A great example is when two groups share the same politics, same political line and yet still do not unite their parties for silly reasons thus keeping divisions over small or petty reasons (members, money, leader control.)

Nothing annoys me more than when I say I disagree with the Trotskyist/anarchist/social-democrats and their tactics and instantly the other person yells; "sectarian!". This is a misuse of the word. If I had said; "don't be a trotskyist/anarchist/social-democrat because they eat babies and want to enslave the working class" with the intention to keep people from joining a Trotskyist/anarchist/social-democrat ORG so they would join mine then that would be sectarian. I just wanted to make that clear before moving on.

I hope to bring light to some sectarian organizations and parties in this post. Not just to attack these groups but to hopefully help them get over this problem and maybe we can create a bigger movement if we can get over sectarian problems.

First I'd like to address the Trotskyist sectarian groups. First of all it is important to point out that the third campist who constantly blame Stalin for everything to the point that they sound like conspiracy theorist are being sectarian (and annoying). They cause the largest split between socialist in this nation. What happened in the thirteen congress is over, Trotsky lost, Stalin won, there was no conspiracy, Trotsky was in the party for only a few years and Stalin's line won get over it and move forward this is the USA 2011 not Russia 19-anything. You will have to work with Stalinist if you want the revolution to happen. (this is just a small example but I don't wanna turn this into a Trot bash but in my opinion the Trotskyist line is almost pure sectarian under fake calls for unity/solidarity)

Now I would like to point out point blank the sectarian Trotskyist parties who's politics differ so little that the fact they do not combine their groups is prof of true sectarianism. Even though I don't view them as real communist and see them as no more than paper boy liberals the ISO (international socialist ORG) is one of the first groups I think of when sectarianism comes to mind. Besides their members being notoriously rude/sectarian and pompous asses they share many political stances with other groups. The ISO could easily merge with the SWP (socialist Workers Party) they could also absorb Socialist Action. If all of these groups joined together they could have a small but considerate amount of influence on the political landscape. But that would mean working together across their international groups which would mean throwing off the chains of sectarianism. I can't speak for the SWP as I have never even met a SWP member but I don't think that the ISO would be capable of building this network between other groups.

Other groups that could be joined in with those same parties are the Socialist Organizer, the International Marxist Tendency's US group, the Workers International League and the Socialist Alternative. Though these groups are much smaller and would have a smaller impact but coupled with the SA, ISO and SWP they could have some political relevance.

Now I am going to address the APL (American Party of Labor) who seem to think only Hoxha and Stalin had any clue what socialism was and how it is to be built and everyone else is a revisionist/reactionary etc etc etc. This is another group who's members are notoriously assholes and are almost irrelevant in every struggle. If the APL got over their selves and focused on ground work and not insulting other groups they could probably grow and become relevant. Although to give credit where credit is due; they are pretty much unique in their political line so their main form of sectarianism is their in-ability to work with anyone who is not a Hoxhaist.

My next group of people I address will be the tankie Marxist Leninist groups. Now seeing as I was in one of these groups I am most knowledgeable in this section and this section breaks my heart the most. Unfortunately the sectarianism in this area is based on recruiting members to their groups and leaders. I think if the tankie/anti-imperialist groups all got together that they could have a large group with a good amount of political sway in the country. You probably know all of these parties if you are from the US left if not; The PSL (Party for Socialism and Liberation) the FRSO-FB (freedom road socialist organization-fight back) and the WWP (workers world party). I think if these groups joined together that the US would have the biggest socialist movement it has had since the 60's. With the PSL's numbers and the FRSO's ability to motivate people into the streets I really think this coalition would be an unmovable force with a great amount of influence.

What is sad that these groups are not very sectarian besides this aspect, in fact I think all these groups are good at working with other parties and groups to achieve their goals.

The differences between these three parties are so minuscule that they are not even worth mentioning. This is the saddest case of sectarianism I see in the US today. When I think of the best opportunity to create a large and relevant movement in the USA this is the number one way I think that it should be done. These three groups should unite and they should unite today!


  1. Among Trotskist groups, I don't consider Socialist Action to be sectarian. They actually tried to stay in SWP but they were expelled for objecting to the SWP leadership's opportunist turn towards Castroism. Anyways they should at least be commended for their honesty in staying true to the historical ideology of Trotskyism.

    There doesn't seem to be much difference between PSL and WWP ideologically, but unless they changed their line to reflect the existence of colonized Black and Chicano nations in the Southern US, then they probably still use the Trotskyist "revolutionary integration" line on minorities in the US. That is the most obvious difference between the rather Stalinist FRSO and the ex-Trotskyism of the PSL/WWP, but it is by no means the only one. Frankly it doesn't seem like a huge leap for them to come around to the FRSO line on this particular issue, but it would be a tremendous change for FRSO to drop Haywood, since its always been their defining political position, for better or worse.

    But in the final analysis, even if the impossible happened and all these groups unified, they would still need to win thousands of new militants to become really effective and millions more to enact meaningful social change. Thats why party building is more important than "left unity" or whatever you want to call it.

  2. party building is useless when all parties are doing the same thing because to outsiders we all seem to be at eachothers throats over what happened in the thirteenth congress. "left unity" is not what this calls for but instead it calls for parties getting over stupid little squabbles or stupid line differences. The PSL has a large membership and the FRSO can motivate great numbers. Those two united would have a great effect on the political landscape.

  3. The call for One Big Revisionist Party or for a Grand Revisionist Coalition smacks of desperation. There are two main factors here:

    1. THE OBJECTIVE SITUATION: Objectively, Americans almost absolutely belong to the world's richest 10%. Yet apparently we are to believe that this thoroughly bougeoisified population can be made receptive to the idea of global equality in a major or even overall sense. It's simply not going to happen. There is far more in common between Americans than there is between Americans and the world's bottom 80%, the Third World. The internal contradictions in the U.S. are thus rendered non-antagonistic. Class distinctions have polarized along national lines in the era of capitalist imperialism.

    2. THE LINE: All the First Worldist so-called communist groups have what essentially is the same line: the 'fight the cuts' line. That is another layer to why they all seem to experience a similar fate. In reality, authentic defeatism is progressive in the First World. The 'fight the cuts' line is objectively imperialist because it advocates for dividing up plunder among looters. It advocates the retention of what objectively are First World privileges rather than for global equality. Uniting all First Worldist so-called communist groups will not address this underlying problem of wrong, and even social-imperialist, line. It will simply concentrate that problem.

  4. I appreciate the positivity of this article, but would like to present another view of the situation concerning the PSL, WWP, and the FRSO. The purpose of this piece is to better illuminate some of the critical differences between these three groups.

    The above blog post, while generally agreeable and good, operates under the assumption that the differences that keep these groups apart are petty differences in political line over "what groups/people/countries" we support. I.E, all three groups generally support Cuba, we support the Self Determination of Opressed Nations (ignoring different situations and definitions), we've got a lot of people in all three groups who have readthe little red book, ect ect.

    However, these petty differences are not the reason the three groups are seperate. The real reason they are seperate is the differences in practice, which are very, very large and would have to be resolved.

    For example, the FRSO practices Democratic Centralism. The FRSO organizes in Mass Groups that are not just front groups. The FRSO does not engage in electoral politics. The FRSO does not directly organize as open Socialists who raise a red flag wherever we go. These are issues that may be resolved in the future, but to ignore them because all 3 groups support Cuba shows immaturity concerning our understanding of what it means to be in a Party and what being a Marxist is about - practice, not ideology.

    The FRSO concerns itself with building mass movements before it concerns itself with the growth of our group because we understand that the mass movements give rise to the party (the party does not and cannot come "first" before the mass movements). Other groups attempt to focus on building the party first. This is one of the bigger differences in my own opinion.

    I could go on with critical differences (i.e. the FRSO does not engage in electoral politics which is a fundamental part of the PSL's program) but feel as though the points have been stated. There may be resistance to this position, but I challenge any such resistance to provide ways of resolving fundamental differences like one group putting a large part of it's efforts into a campaign the other groups feel is incorrect or non-ML. I would love all three groups to work together in the future, but ignoring differences in practice because certain aspects of political line are similar does not help that become a reality.

  5. Thank you for your comment.

    You are right that there are main line differences between the FRSO and the other two groups mentioned here. But I don't really see the electoral participation as huge dividing line because the group would be large enough that a wide range of tactics could be used and it could be chosen rather or not electoral tactics should be used. I personally am against the tactic and think that most communist misquote Lenins Left-wing communism a infantile disorder when applying it to the US situation.

    however I am not aware of the style of dcism used by FRSO but I know that the PSL and WWP (I was in the PSL and talked with many members who left the WWP) that they both have a strange form of DCism where there is much Centralism and little democracy. If the FRSO uses Lenins form of DCism then yes it may be impossible for this merger.

    But still if a two line struggle was allowed then this would cure all minor splits among the groups.

    However, you are right about the party building. Both other parties are focused on building a party first before building a mass movement (which I think could be dangerous if they succeed). But still these are things that could be debated and discussed through.