From building two ‘parties’ to building two ‘organisations’ – what’s the meaning of Comrade Boyle’s latest ‘clarification’
The Activist - Volume 15, Number 13 – October 2005
By Doug Lorimer, Sydney branch
The August 15 national executive meeting unanimously adopted a draft resolution for vote at the 22nd DSP Congress in January 2006 that stated that the political "conditions to build the Socialist Alliance into a new party did not exist" at the time we embarked on this turn; that without a "regroupment with broader left forces that are generated by a new upturn of resistance to the capitalist neoliberal ‘reforms’" the SA cannot "take a significant step to creating a new socialist party", and that, in the absence of the existence of these conditions, the DSP should build the SA, not as a new party, but as a campaigning alliance in the social movements (particularly the trade union movements) that seeks to build a mass workers’ party.
However, in his report on this draft resolution to the August 15 NE meeting (The Activist Vol. 15, No. 4), Comrade Peter Boyle argued that "we can and need to build two ‘parties’ at this time: The DSP and the Socialist Alliance." Clarifying what he meant by this statement, he argues: "But they are two different kinds of ‘parties’. The DSP is a revolutionary party. The Socialist Alliance is a broad left party project around a more limited ‘class-struggle’ program but can only really move forward with revolutionary leadership." At the end of his report, however, Comrade Boyle claimed that "We did not begin the turn that gave us SA as a second party at the last DSP Congress", but in September 2002, referring to the September 2, 2002, NE report (The Activist Vol. 12, No. 10) that proposed that we "make the Socialist Alliance the party we build today" by converting the Democratic Socialist Party into a tendency in the SA and by attempting to integrate our resources into the SA.
The NE majority’s party-building report, presented by Comrade Boyle to the October 15-16 national committee plenum and endorsed by the majority of the NC (Activist Vol. 15, No. 12), attempts to further "clarify" the NE majority’s position. According to the report, we are not building "two parties", but "two organisations: The DSP and the Socialist Alliance." What is the difference between these two organisations? "The DSP is a revolutionary organisation with a high level of political unity and discipline." The other organisation we’re building – the Socialist Alliance – is defined in the report as "a broad left party project around a more limited ‘class-struggle’ program that can only move forward with revolutionary leadership". However, on the basis of the experience of the last two years, the NE’s draft resolution for the coming DSP congress draws the conclusion that it will require something more than revolutionary leadership for the SA to move forward as a party-building project, namely, a "regroupment with broader left forces that are generated by a new upturn of resistance to the capitalist neoliberal ‘reforms’".
In Comrade Boyle’s new "clarification" of what we’re building, the SA is no longer described as our "second party". This may seem to be a step forward. But lest anyone think that the NE majority has moved closer to the NE minority’s position that, in the absence of the existence of those broader left forces, we should build an actually existing revolutionary party (the DSP) and a new party project (the Socialist Alliance) as a campaigning alliance of socialists that advocates the building of a mass workers’ party, the NE majority’s report now junks the description of the DSP as "a revolutionary party". As a result of these "clarifications", the SA is the only actually existing party-building project that the majority of the NE proposes members of the DSP will have after the January congress. This is only a slightly adjusted way of saying that we will be continuing with the perspective, the view, that we adopted at our last congress two years ago that the SA is our party-building project.
A mistake the NE majority refuses to recognise
The NE’s draft resolution states that our attempt to integrate the resources of the DSP into the SA so as to make the SA "the party we build today" has failed because the "conditions to build the Socialist Alliance into a party did not exist" when we embarked upon this attempt and will not exist without a "regroupment with broader left forces that are generated by a new upturn of resistance to the capitalist neoliberal ‘reforms’". The NE minority has argued that this means it was a mistake for us to have adopted the perspective of trying to make the SA "the party we build today" and that the NE majority refuses to recognise that it was a mistake. In his report to the NC, Comrade Boyle claims this it is a "red herring" to argue that the NE majority doesn’t "want to admit mistakes". He then presents a chronology of the decisions the NC has made over the last two years in relation to our work in the SA, citing these as evidence that "we have been constantly recognising mistakes and addressing them as we saw fit at the time". But all of the decisions he cites, with one partial exception, were taken within the framework of advancing the perspective we adopted at our last congress.
The partial exception was the decision taken at the May NC plenum to halt the integration of the DSP’s resources into the SA. While the party-building report adopted by the May NC plenum ("DSP and Socialist Alliance – An urgent reality check on our party-building perspectives", The Activist Vol. 15, No. 2) decided, as Comrade Boyle describes it in his report to the October NC plenum, "that our attempt to integrate as much of the resources of the DSP into the Socialist Alliance was stalled without new political developments and we needed to increase the organisation of the DSP", it did not acknowledge that the perspective we adopted in December 2003 – of seeking, through attempting to integrate the DSP into the SA, to make the SA "the party we build today" – was a mistake.
To the contrary, in his summary of the discussion of the May NC report. Comrade Boyle argued that our turn to make the SA "the party we build today" was not a mistake: "Are we saying in this report that we were wrong to take the turn to trying to make Socialist Alliance our new party? Was our Socialist Alliance initiative a crude and voluntaristic attempt on our part to copy the SSP model and apply it in very different conditions? The answer to both these questions is No. Go back through the reports and see what we said. We knew Australia was not Scotland. But we were inspired by the SSP and did seek to learn lessons. We made an assessment of what might be possible here and built our tactics around that." (In his summary, Comrade Boyle also made it explicit that this assessment was not part of the general line of the report that the NE was asking the NC to vote on: "We have begun to discuss on questions such as whether we remain an internal tendency in the Socialist Alliance or become the Democratic Socialist Party today. We have begun to discuss what in our 2004 [sic] resolution on the DSP and the SA might need to be changed. But we are not voting on these questions today.")
The NE’s draft congress resolution on "The DSP and the Socialist Alliance" makes the assessment that "our attempt to integrate as much of the resources of the DSP into the Socialist Alliance as possible has stalled" because the "conditions to build the Socialist Alliance into a new party did not exist" (emphasis added). Unless the NE majority is going to argue that it is the correct thing for Marxists to adopt a party-building perspective based on a mistaken reading of the political conditions that are necessary to implement such a perspective, then a recognition that the political conditions did not exist to successfully implement the perspective of seeking to turn the SA into a new party, to "make it the party we build", means that it was a mistaken perspective. It was a voluntarist attempt on our part to substitute our will and effort for the absence of the broader left forces that were needed to transform the SA into a broad left party. The May NC report implicitly acknowledged this by recognising that the "current level of substitution involved in our work in SA is unsustainable".
Does the NE minority deny that the SA is a new party project?
In his party-building report to the October 15-16 NC plenum, Comrade Boyle claims that the "NE minority conflates two assessments: the assessment that the objective conditions do not exist for the DSP to integrate most of its political and organisational resources into the Socialist Alliance, and the assessment that there is no more political space for the Socialist Alliance as a new party project.
"This leads the NE minority and its supporters into engaging in a highly formalistic and abstract discussion of the definition of a party, to support their assertion [sic] that we should rename ourselves the Democratic Socialist Party.
"The DSP, they say, is a party and one with ‘all the attributes of a (small) Leninist party’, while the Socialist Alliance is not a party because if the objective conditions for it to become a party were present then we would be still trying to integrate our resources into the Socialist Alliance. Therefore we should not even describe the Socialist Alliance as a new party project...
"The NE minority argues it has to be a party now or else it cannot be a new party project."
Where has the NE minority argued this? Comrade Boyle does not tell us. The NE minority has not denied the fact that the SA is a new party project – an alliance of socialists that aims to build a new party. In the first PCD article that Comrade John Percy and I wrote ("Why the coming DSP congress should rescind the constitutional amendments adopted by the last DSP congress", The Activist Vol. 15, No. 4), we noted that the "DSP’s previous party-building perspective – set out in the resolution ‘The Democratic Socialist Perspective and the Socialist Alliance’ adopted by the 21st DSP Congress in December 2003 (printed in Links No. 26) – was predicated upon the decision by the 2nd national conference of the Socialist Alliance (May 2003) to ‘adopt the perspective of transforming itself into a single, multi-tendency socialist party and to accept and welcome a strong revolutionary socialist stream as an integral part of our vision of a broad socialist party’." We noted that the resolution adopted at our last party congress "stated that the DSP ‘agrees with this’ and ‘advocates that the affiliate groups in the Socialist Alliance pool their resources and experience and build the Socialist Alliance as the new multi-tendency party for socialism in Australia’, adding: ‘We seek to lead this process through example, by converting the Democratic Socialist Party into an internal tendency in the Socialist Alliance with the following purposes’;"
The first two of these purposes were "to build the Socialist Alliance and progress its transformation into a united, multi-tendency socialist party" and "to integrate as much of the resources of the Democratic Socialist Party into the Socialist Alliance as possible".
The NE minority has certainly argued that the SA has not become a party, despite DSP members’ best efforts to make it one. That’s also the assessment contained in the NE draft resolution for the coming DSP congress: "Our December 2003 resolution to integrate as much of the resources of the Democratic Socialist Party as possible into the Socialist Alliance was based on an over-estimation of the political conditions. This attempt at integration has failed because the conditions to build the Socialist Alliance into a new party did not exist."
Responding in our PCD article in The Activist Vol. 15, No. 4 to Comrade Boyle’s statement in his August 15 NE report that "The DSP is a revolutionary party" while the "Socialist Alliance is a broad left party project", Comrade Percy and I wrote: "We completely agree. But this means we are not actually building two actually existing parties – we are building an actually existing revolutionary party (the DSP) and a broad left party project (the Socialist Alliance)" (emphasis added).
The accusation that the NE minority denies that the SA is a broad left party project, a new party project, is a demagogic diversion from the real issue that is in dispute, namely, should we continue with the perspective that the SA is our only party-building project today? Or should we adopt the perspective that the DSP is the party that we should build today and build the SA as a campaigning alliance of socialists that advocates a mass workers’ party?
How should the SA seek to build a mass workers’ party?
In his draft report for the NC (The Activist Vol. 15, No. 8), Comrade Boyle argued that "A weakness in section 21 of the [NE’s draft] resolution may be the phrase ‘championing the need for a broadly based anti-capitalist party or a ‘new mass workers party’’ might suggest that the Socialist Alliance should just advocate rather than try to organise what steps towards such a new party may be feasible. It should take any such steps." However, he made no proposals as to what "feasible steps" the SA could take to actually organise a mass workers’ party in today’s political conditions, i.e., in the absence of broad left forces that are seeking and willing to be organised into such a party. In the report he presented to the NC plenum, Comrade Boyle dropped this argument, despite there having been some debate in The Activist between members of the NE majority and the NE minority over whether or not the SA can do more than just advocate – carry out propaganda arguing for – a mass workers’ party.
Ironically, even when we thought the political conditions existed to rapidly progress the SA to become a multi-tendency socialist party we voted for a resolution that committed the SA to carry out propaganda, to argue, for a mass workers’ party, rather than attempt to actually organise such a party. The 2nd national conference of the SA (May 2003) adopted a resolution "Rebuilding democratic, militant unionism – Socialist Alliance and the trade unions" (printed in the pamphlet Dare to Struggle, Dare to Win) which stated:
"Socialist Alliance works towards a break by the militant unions to build a mass class-struggle workers’ party.
"As steps along this road:
- "We argue for unions to take a stand on politics and to involve their memberships in those debates;
- "Where unions are affiliated to the ALP, precise tactics will vary. We argue for the unions to seriously take up the fight against pro-capitalist politics of the ALP leaders;
- "We stress the need for unions to organise publicly for pro-worker politics. We argue against secret deals with ALP leaders and governments;
- "Where there is a move towards disaffiliation from the ALP, we argue for rank-and-file debate and conscious, democratic choice by the union membership instead of anti-bureaucratic factional manoeuvring;
- "Disaffiliation on the basis of ‘anti-political’ conservative politics is no advance – what is needed is a concrete alternative that will improve the union members’ political representation;
- "For disaffiliation from the ALP to be a political step forward, there needs to be a process of generating rank-and-file involvement in the decision as to what alternative political proposal the union should adopt;
- "Socialist Alliance will take every possible opportunity to promote, initiate and/or host debate and discussion on the road to rebuilding an authentic political voice for working people, within individual unions and across the movement as a whole;
- "Socialist Alliance does not in the present stage of its development encourage unions to affiliate directly to it. We do urge unions to fund political parties, Socialist Alliance included, to the degree that the union membership judges that such parties advance their interests; and
- "We encourage as many individual unionists, including militant union officials, to join and participate in the Socialist Alliance" (p. 5, emphasis added).
This was a realistic approach to how the SA could work in 2003 "towards a break by militant unions to build a mass class-struggle workers’ party" and it remains so today.
On the ‘dialectical relationship’ between the DSP and the SA
In his report to the NC, Comrade Boyle claims that the "NE minority wants to narrowly define the Socialist Alliance as just a ‘campaigning alliance’ to contrast it with the DSP, ‘the party we build"‘, adding that the "NE majority accepted the formulation John and Doug proposed for the first bullet point 32" (sic). He then quotes the amendment that Comrade Percy and I proposed on August 13 to the first bullet point of paragraph 34 of Comrade Boyle’s second draft of the resolution "The DSP and the Socialist Alliance":
He goes on to write: "We did so because it makes the point that SA is more than an electoral alliance, it seeks to collectively campaign in the social movements (particularly the trade unions) and build a new mass workers’ party. But where the NE majority sees this as a positive statement of SA being a campaigning organisation, the NE minority simply see it as a device to further their argument that we should build the DSP, and not the SA, as our party – an argument which denies the dialectical relationship between the two organisations, as Jim McIlroy has explained in his PCD."
The actual dialectical relationship between the DSP and the SA is that for the last two years we have implemented a perspective that we thought would strengthen both organisations – integrating our resources into the SA so as to turn it into a new socialist party – but which has in practice turned into its opposite, i.e., it has weakened both organisations. The NE minority argues that the DSP needs to ditch this mistaken and failed perspective and seek to implement a different perspective, one that will actually strengthen both the DSP and the SA., i.e., prioritise the DSP as "the party we build" (in the first place by prioritising the rebuilding of Resistance) and by building the SA as acampaigning alliance of socialists in the social movements (particularly the trade unions) that advocates the need for a mass workers’ party and that seeks to recruit to its ranks all those who agree with this perspective for the SA.
Comrade Boyle makes no attempt to demonstrate from what we have written that the NE minority denies the "dialectical relationship between" the DSP and the SA. Instead he refers comrades to Comrade McIlroy’s PCD in The Activist Vol 15. No. 9 for this argumentation. But nowhere in Comrade McIlroy’s PCD article did he do this. He wrote: "There is a dialectical relationship between SA and the DSP. SA, just as it has, until now, required a lot of DSP resources and cadre to survive, can also play an important part in rebuilding and strengthening our cadre and resources in the future." (emphasis added) As for what the result has been of the implementation of the perspective of integrating the DSP’s resources into the SA so as to rapidly progress its transformation into a "the party we build", Comrade McIlroy states that "running SA was seriously weakening us" and we therefore need a "new balance of priorities in the coming year" in which we "need to ‘re-imagine SA on a less ambitious basis for the next period".
Comrade McIlroy’s thinking on this seemed not to have progressed since the May NC plenum. It unanimously adopted a party-building report that recognised that attempting to integrate the DSP into the SA so as to turn the SA into a new party was "seriously weakening us" and proposed implementing eight emergency measures to "reverse our party-building crisis". But that report also set as "a major challenge in the second half of the year" the need for us "to clarify what might be a reasonable perspective for the DSP and the Socialist Alliance in the next period. If SA cannot become our new party – without external political developments – what can it be? What must the DSP be?" Comrade McIlroy’s PCD article provided no answer to these crucial questions. However, he did vote at the October 15-16 NC plenum for a report that does.
What is the DSP?
The report to the NC on party building that Comrade McIlroy voted for declares that the SA is and can be a "broad left party project around a more limited ‘class-struggle’ program that can only move forward with revolutionary leadership". Taken in conjunction with the NE majority’s rejection of the view that the DSP is the only actually existing party we can build today, this description of the SA is only a modified version of the mistaken perspective that we adopted two years ago.
As for what the DSP is and can be, the report states that the "DSP is a revolutionary organisation with a high level of political unity and discipline". In the dim and distant past, i.e., before we began the turn 36 months ago to make the SA "the party we build today", we called that a "Leninist-type party". Now this is being called into question.
In their PCD article in The Activist Vol. 15, No. 5, comrades Windisch and Miller cited the following remarks from the PCD article that Comrade Percy and I wrote for The Activist Vol. 15, No. 4: "The NE draft resolution argues that the DSP needs to cease functioning as an internal tendency of the Socialist Alliance and again operate as a ‘public revolutionary socialist organisation’. To do so, but to retain the name we adopted when we became an internal tendency of the Socialist Alliance (Democratic Socialist Perspective) will send out a confusing message about what the DSP is doing – reverting to being a public revolutionary socialist organisation with all the attributes of a Leninist-type revolutionary socialist party but which, for some unexplained reason, does not call itself a party." Comrades Windisch and Miller went on to argue that the "implication of the last phrase ‘all the attributes of a Leninist-type revolutionary socialist party’ is that the DSP no longer sees SA as a component of our general party-building project".
In "A comment on comrades Miller and Windisch’s argument for retaining the name ‘Democratic Socialist Perspective"‘ (The Activist Vol. 15, No. 6), I wrote: "Why this should be so, the comrades do not explain. However, the implication of their statement is that if we see building the SA as a current component tactic of our general party-building project (to build a mass Leninist-type party) the DSP should not have all the attributes of a (small) Leninist-type party. This raises a question of far more importance than any differences about how to concretely implement this DSP-building tactic or the public name of our organisation, i.e., what attributes of a Leninist-type party do Comrades Miller and Windisch think the DSP should not have" (emphasis in original).
The NE majority report to the October NC plenum, as I have already noted above, correctly recognises that it is the NE minority’s view that the DSP "is a party and one with ‘all the attributes of a (small) Leninist party"‘ (emphasis in original). Does the NE majority disagree with this position? The report doesn’t give a clear answer. Instead, it goes on to falsely accuse the NE minority of denying that the SA is a new party project. However, later in the report, Comrade Boyle makes the remark: "Taking Comrade Chris Slee’s advice, I won’t talk about building two ‘parties’ and refer instead to the challenge of building two organisations: The DSP and the Socialist Alliance – just to remove one excuse for yet another nit-picky diversion into the ‘what is a party’ question."
Comrade Allen Myers (in The Activist Vol. 15, No. 11) has already pointed out the grotesque and bizarre character of this remark and its potential theoretical/political implications, i.e., that it could lead to the view that the DSP isnot a Leninist-type party. However, since Comrade Boyle does not attempt to provide any theoretical argumentation for such a view, at this stage in the discussion I think it can be treated as an example of a point that Lenin made in the 1921 PCD in the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks), i.e., that there is an "objective logic" in inner-party polemics "which inevitably leads even the best of men – if they persist in their mistaken attitude – into a state which differs little at all from unprincipled demagogy"‘ ("The Party Crisis", Collected Works, Vol. 32, p. 51).
One member of the NC majority, however, has attempted to provide theoretical argumentation for the claim that the DSP is not a Leninist party. In his PCD article "The DSP and the Socialist Alliance: comments on an argument" (The Activist Vol. 15, No. 10), Comrade Jonathan Strauss wrote:
- "The claim that the DSP has ‘all the attributes of a Leninist party’ is misleading. Among the attributes a Leninist party seeks to develop are:
- "The organisation of Marxists, however few their number.
- "Devotion to the class struggle of the proletariat, in order to help the class establish its dictatorship and abolish all classes.
- "Close contact with the proletariat and its allies in the class struggle.
- "The correctness of its political strategy and tactics, not in its own view, but in that of the masses, gained from their own experience.
- "The DSP can reasonably lay claim to having significantly developed some of these attributes. However, our organic links with the masses are weak and the conviction of the masses in the leadership of our organisation is weaker still."
Comrade Strauss goes on to argue that, "Understanding this weakness" – i.e., the DSP’s lack of "organic links with the masses", i.e., that we are not a mass Leninist party – "has directed us towards, among other activities, regroupment projects. The need for these is necessitated in the [NE’s] draft resolution, which calls for ‘consistent effort by the consciously revolutionary forces to win over and fuse with the leaderships that come from the working class’; (thesis 31). If we think that the DSP has ‘all the attributes of a Leninist party’, however, we deny the need for the regroupment tactic to ourselves and to others as well."
I’d certainly agree with Comrade Strauss’ last sentence if anyone in the DSP has lost all sense of proportion and is claiming that the DSP is a mass Leninist party. But who is?
Comrade Strauss continues:
"Of course, we called our organisation ‘Party’ for a very long time, from 1976 to 2003. What mattered, however, was our understanding of the significance of the organisation, and how that developed over time. The SWP/DSP was the only organisation in which a reasonable approximation of the attributes of a Leninist party then existed. However, even before our 1986 Congress resolution on building a broadly based anti-capitalist party (see thesis 32), we also had pursued regroupment projects with Marxist organisations and in more broadly-based, objectively anti-capitalist, formations.
"By 2003 the circumstances for the regroupment tactic had changed because for ‘the first time in many years ... many unionists ... looked towards a left party project’ (thesis 21). This more broadly based class-struggle current , in the form of the organisation Socialist Alliance, did not just discuss or offer the opportunity for, but decided to seek to transform itself into ‘a single, multi-tendency socialist party’ which recognised ‘a strong revolutionary socialist stream as an integral part’. The attributes of a Leninist party now existed in an organised form outside the DSP alone, although the development of each attribute was different from that within the DSP – indeed, in more or less the opposite degree to which the attributes’ development was found in the DSP (weakest in that it only gave recognition to the organisation of Marxists, strongest in the testing of its leadership – more exactly, in the leadership of its militant unionists – among the masses)."
Deciphering this extremely convoluted argument, I presume Comrade Strauss means that some of the attributes that he considers a Leninist party must have to be worthy of the name "Party" – such as "close contact with the proletariat and its allies in the class struggle" and the "correctness of its political strategy and tactics, not in its own view, but in that of the masses, gained through their own experience" – were/are possessed by the "leadership of the militant unionists" who have joined the SA, and therefore we cannot claim that the DSP has all the attributes of a Leninist party.
This argument, however, is based on a false premise, i.e., that only a democratically centralist Marxist cadre organisation with mass support can be called a Leninist party and therefore use the word "Party" in its name. But if that were true, the Bolsheviks and Lenin himself would have been mistaken to have called their revolutionary organisation a "Party" – full name: Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks) – prior to its becoming a mass party in the latter part of 1917.
In April 1917, when the Bolshevik Party had 80,000 members (it had 23,000 members prior to the February Revolution that disintegrated Tsar Nicholas Romanov’s autocratic police state), Lenin argued that the Bolsheviks had to prioritise propaganda work – to "patiently explain" the Bolsheviks’ revolutionary policies to solve the issues that were most pressing for the Russian workers and peasants (i.e., "land, peace and bread") – so as to carry out a massive process of left regroupment with literally hundreds of thousands of leaders of millions of militant, revolutionary-minded, workers who were organised in potential organs of workers’ state power (the soviets) and to weld them together into a mass revolutionary Marxist combat party (when the Bolsheviks led the Russian workers and peasant-soldiers to seize state power in November 1917 they had a party membership of 350,000, in a country with a population of 140 million.).
Comrade Strauss doesn’t tell us where he got his false premise, his list of attributes that he claims an organisation must have to be defined as a Leninist or Bolshevik-type party. However, the last three in his list bear a resemblance to the following comments made by Lenin in his 1920 booklet ‘Left-Wing’ Communism:
As a current of political thought and as a political party, Bolshevism has existed since 1903. Only the history of Bolshevism during the entire period of an existence can satisfactorily explain why it has been able to build up and maintain, under most difficult conditions, the iron discipline needed for the victory of the proletariat.
The first questions to arise are: how is the discipline of the proletariat’s revolutionary party maintained? How is it tested? How is it reinforced? First, by the class-consciousness of the proletarian vanguard and by its devotion to the revolution, by its tenacity, self-sacrifice and heroism. Second, by its ability to link up, maintain the close contact, and – if you wish – merge, in certain measure, with broadest masses of the working people – primarily with the proletariat, but also with the non-proletarian masses of working people. Third, by the correctness of the political leadership exercised by this vanguard, by the correctness of its political strategy and tactics, provided the broad masses have seen, from their own experience, that they are correct. (Resistance Books edition, pp. 30-31, emphasis in original.)
If this is the source of Comrade Strauss’s new theory of the attributes that a democratically centralised revolutionary Marxist cadre organisation must possess in order to describe itself as a Leninist party, then he has misread – by taking completely out of context – what Lenin is referring to here. The chapter in which Lenin wrote the above quoted sentences is headed "An Essential Condition of the Bolsheviks’ Success". It begins with the following comments:
It is, I think, almost universally realised at present that the Bolsheviks could not have retained power for two and a half months, let alone two and a half years, without the most rigorous and truly iron discipline in our party, or without the fullest and unreserved support from the entire mass of the working class, that is, from all thinking, honest, devoted and influential elements in it, capable of leading the backward strata or carrying the latter alone with them.
The dictatorship of the proletariat means a most determined and ruthless war waged by the new class against a more powerful enemy, the bourgeoisie, whose resistance is increased tenfold by their overthrow (even if only in a single country), and whose power lies, not only in the strength of international capital, the strength and durability of their international connections, but also in the force of habit, in the strength of small-scale production. Unfortunately, small-scale production is still widespread in the world, and small-scale production engenders capitalism and the bourgeoisie continuously, daily, hourly, spontaneously, and on a mass scale. All these reasons make the dictatorship of the proletariat necessary, and victory over the bourgeoisie is impossible without a long, stubborn, and desperate life-and-death struggle which calls for tenacity, discipline, and a single and inflexible will.
I repeat: the experience of the victorious dictatorship of the proletariat in Russia has clearly shown even to those who are incapable of thinking or have had no occasion to give thought to the matter that absolute centralisation and rigorous discipline of the proletariat are an essential condition of victory over the bourgeoisie. (p. 30.)
That is, Lenin is discussing how to build up and maintain the internal discipline necessary for a revolutionary workers’ party to take and hold state power in the face of the furious resistance of the bourgeoisie, drawing on the experience of the Bolshevik Party in the period from the October insurrection in 1917 to the Bolsheviks’ victory in the subsequent Russian Civil War, not the attributes that define a democratically centralised revolutionary Marxist party (a "Leninist party").
The NE majority report’s answer to Comrade McIlroy’s ‘central question’
In his PCD article in The Activist Vol. 15, No. 9, Comradely McIlroy argued that, in practice the "central question" that the coming DSP congress must decide is "what amount of resources and effort are we going to put into the SA next year?" At the October NC plenum, Comrade McIlroy voted for the NE majority’s report on party building and against the counter-report presented by the NE minority. While the NE minority has been accused of wanting to shut down the SA, of not wanting to put any DSP resources into building the SA, and of letting the SA "die out through benign neglect" (the latter accusation was made by Comrade McIlroy in his PCD article), our report on party-building to the October NC plenum contained definite and realistic proposals on the "amount of resources and effort" we should "put into the SA next year" in order to build it as a campaigning alliance that advocates a mass workers’ party. Comrade McIlroy presumably found these inadequate, as amounting to "benign neglect", and thus preferred the NE majority report’s answer to the "central question" of what "amount of resources and effort are we going to put into the SA next year?"
What is the answer given in the report Comrade McIlroy voted for? Under the subhead "Resources", the report informs us about the reduction of resources allocated to the SA that we have made at the national level since the May NC plenum, e,g., "we have reduced our allocation of full-timer resources to the SA national office (Lisa [Macdonald], for instance is now half-time on Green Left Weekly editorial)". It informs us that immediately following the plenum, Comrade Dick Nichols "will be taking on the DSP’s Venezuela Solidarity national steering committee as well as assignments in the Socialist Alliance national office and leading the endless task of building maintenance in 23 Abercrombie [Street]". Whether this amount of allocation of leadership resources is to continue in 2006, the report does not say.
The report goes on to say that "we have to work out how many SA branches can be sustained and how to keep them alive". It then sets some general guidelines that need to be considered in doing this, with the specific proposal that the SA branches we should "sustain" must have at least a "modest campaign such as an open letter campaign, a local speak-out on the issue of the day or an invitation to a militant unionist or Brigadista to speak". Does this mean that each SA branch we decide to "sustain" has to, as Comrade Sue Bolton has argued, hold a regular monthly branch meeting to which we should try to cajole the SA’s "paper" members to attend, in order to discuss, decide on and organise such a "modest campaign". That’s the implication of the report’s injunction that we should keep SA branches "alive", i.e., we should, in practice, resume our mistaken and failed voluntarist attempt to make the SA an "effective party".