We have all seen it. Anyone that has been in the movement for a while has encountered it. One week a person is attacking you for your political line saying you are wrong and how his/her party has all the answers and his/her party is the vanguard leading the charge. When you raise a question about his/her parties line they attack back with blind rage calling you a stalinist/trotskyist (depending on which they think is a bad word) reactionary, revisionist and all kinds of names.
Then the next week they are out of the party openly attacking its line. Obviously this is only an overview from the outside of what is happening. But why do certain socialist parties seem to have large member turnover rates? More plainly put; why do some party's have so many people coming in and at the same time have many people leaving?
Bad Party Democracy!
Lets face it, sometimes socialist and communist parties are run by right leaning authoritarians. These are people who see democratic centralism as a form of control more than a tool of creativity and democracy to be used by the proletariat. These leaders seem to think that democratic centralism means 'what the leaders say goes and everyone who doesn't follow is a bad communist/Marxist' etc. Others take it to mean that you do not question party lines or else you are a traitor.
This kind of party "democracy" does many things to its (rank and file) members.
First it stifles creativity of the members and creates a bad image of the party from the outside. As Ive said before it makes you appear like your party is full of mindless drones not capable of self thought, just walking around parroting whatever the parties newspaper and leaders tell them to. This is the kind of "democracy" that will help you have a large member turnover in your party.
No one wants to have their creativity and thoughts be discarded. When people first join these parties they brush off not having any say in the parties line. "Hey, I'm brand new. I wouldn't give a lot of power to new people either" is what one comrade said to me about his party (he is no longer a member.) But what happens is that as time goes on the person starts to realize that he/she is never asked for votes except to nominate people to go to conferences/congresses in which it is always people with the most inside friends. And it becomes discouraging to feel like you have something to contribute and yet are expected to not question party lines and to not say things that have not appeared in your paper or on your webpage.
I think bad party democracy is one of the worse reasons for a high member turnover. Not to mention when members only know how to and are only allowed to parrot they become impotent in debate. Thus discrediting your whole group to everyone outside of your group.
Although this is not technically a real term I know some of my readers will understand what I mean by the term.
These groups are one of the biggest groups for member turnover. These are the groups who have a steak in every issue facing the nation today. They are there to protest every action of the government using liberal slogans and language to attract more people so they can point to their protest and events and claim to be huge. Even though the majority at those events go home and vote democrat. They are anti-everything to ensure they can get a member out of every demographic. They claim they are participating in elections to spread the idea of socialism when really they just want a spot light for fifteen seconds.
Don't get me wrong these recruiting tactics work! But they don't keep everyone in the party. Eventually some members realize that protesting everything only makes you FEEL like you are getting something done and are winning. In all reality you are just yelling with a bunch of liberals who also hate (insert current pet issue here) but would never riot or even vote third party.
Populism in Marxism rarely works in keeping members because it is easy to be too spread out on issues. Your group will gain members because it supports or opposes everything but your organization wont be able to focus on certain issues long enough to keep those same members. For example if I join a group because they support Ireland unification, (just an example calm down) and then when I actually become a member I realized you don't actually organize around that issue then I am going to leave the group. So you would have lured me in with the issue of supporting Ireland unification but if that is the issue that I care about the most and you only support the issue in talk then I will go seek out a group that does organize around that issue.
Another problem I have with populist Marxism is that the groups who follow it tend to only organize around the current 'hot button issues'. They are always organizing around whatever is popular at that time (get it, popular. populist it makes sense) this is very opportunist and a huge turn off.
For an example most of these Marxist populist claim to be revolutionary socialist/communist who think reform doesn't work. Then they participate in elections. Or when the government makes program cuts they are there to "fight back" (AKA stand around with liberal democrats and chant but would never actually do anything) which means they hope to reform the system to be more helpful, but in the leftist world the word revolutionary attracts people and reformist doesn't. This is called lying in the real world and if people feel like they have been lied to then guess what? They will want to leave your group.
Culture of Hype!
Have you ever had a friend talk up a movie, TV show or a band they love? Only then to find out when you watch or listen to it yourself that it sucks? This is kind of the same thing here but with socialist/communist parties.
Some groups are so good at talking themselves up that many people believe that they are the leading force in revolution today. The facts: they aren't! These groups claim many things, such as; they are the most active, revolutionary, they are the only ones with the correct science to achieve revolution.
But after you get members by this chest beating hype, what happens? They hang around for a while and learn the truth; that the group is full of shit. This can be very disheartening for comrades to come to terms with. After believing the hype for a while and even parroting it yourself, it can become very discouraging to accept that your party is not advanced, leading the charge, or on the brink of spreading world wide proletarian revolution.
Written by: Dustin Slagle