Date:    Tue, 24 Jun 1997 10:44:49 -0400
To:      marxism-international@jefferson.village.Virginia.EDU
From:    Louis Proyect 
Subject: Re: M-I: (POF-7) Centralism in the Service of Democracy

Ben Seattle:
>There is another issue here that is of interest.  Lenin favored a party
>modeled after the most advanced form of capitalist cooperation which
>existed at the time.  I doubt that many who study capitalist organization
>today would argue that the factory is the most advanced form.  People who
>today study the organization of modern corporations (and are generally
>well-paid by the capitalists for their advice)--are much more concerned
>with forms of organization which "push down" decision making to lower
>levels.  Today, the more advanced forms of capitalist organization are more
>concerned with such matters as encouraging greater "initiative from below".

This is the most powerful observation in Ben's most recent installment on
the organization question. Lenin thought that the Economists represented a
form of adaption to the earlier mode of production in Czarist Russia, in
which small-scale craft production dominated. The type of party he called
for would employ the same sort of division of labor that the large-scale
modern factory used. And Ben's insight about the need to update Lenin's
conception rings true.

One of the things that I observed in the decline of the SWP in the 1970s
was its inability to permit the free flow of information that typifies the
Internet. I was struck by the contrast between the sort of free information
flow I saw at Goldman-Sachs using PROFS, an IBM mainframe electronic mail
system, and the party leadership's sclerotic control of every piece of mail
that members were exchanging in the party back then. Private correspondence
over disputed matters was strictly forbidden. When large numbers of cadre
were expelled in the early 1980s, the trial bodies amassed evidence of such
correspondence. Can you imagine what fears would have gripped the party
tops during that period if the Internet had been commonly available as it
is now?

I think Ben is on the threshold of making some real breakthroughs on the
organizational question. I would only caution him to ease up on the
Trotsky-bashing. When he refers to Trotsky as a "clown", he is expressing
prejudicial attitudes from Stalinist sources. Perhaps, he is also judging
Trotsky on the basis of the performance of our list Trotskyists, who *are*
clowns. But Trotsky deserves better.

Trotsky was wrong on the organization question, but so was Rosa Luxemburg.
Yet they are two of the greatest Marxist theoreticians of the 20th century.
When you are trying to piece together a history of the 20th century class
struggle, it is imperative to read and understand Trotsky. His analysis of
fascism stands up, as does his critique of Thermidor in the USSR.
Unfortunately, his movement has turned his writings into religious
scripture but this has been true of Marx and Lenin as well.

Louis Proyect

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