Sunday, December 10, 2006
Dead Man Walking
Only a little while ago Dave Osler chose to inform the world that he was no longer a Trotskyist. That he still continued with the ludicrous idea that he ever was a Trotskyist came as a very minor surprise to a tiny few. Quite why he chose to spit on his political past in this way was a bit of a mystery too. But now he has revealed that he is 'returning' to the Labour Party.
I freely confess I find former comrade Osler's point of view quite disgustingly rank and opportunist lacking in any kind of principle whatsoever. Although his rationale for joining Labour does have considerable continuity with the bankrupt variety of post-Trotsky Trotskyism with which he was for a long time associated. In fact as he suggests it is an attempt to continue the very same failed politics that he has been arguing for this past decade or so that he borrowed from the disUnited Secretariat of the Fourth International.
Of course Dave did not find the disUnited Sectarians by chance he graduated to them by virtue of a shared lack of confidance in the revolutionary capacity of the working classes and a rejection of principled Marxism. But he did find them and that current did shape his ideas, and quite clearly still does to some considerable degree. This emerges from his advocacy of the building of parties of recomposition whatever that dubious term is meant to mean.
What most certainly can be found in what masquerades as the workers movement in 2006 are parties of decomposition. That is to say parties which once expressed, however poorly, the aim of constructing a new socialist society by reformist or revolutionary means but which have now decayed into hollowed out shells, emptied out of their former working class membership. Which Dave knows to be a major problem hence his desire for many years to build a new party in opposition to Labour the party of decomposition in this country.
What a party of recomposition is seems to be rather harder to grasp from a reading of the USFI's ideas on the subject. It seems that in different countries it can mean very different things but always means the demand that revolutionary socialists abandon the aim of building their own organisation openly and join another larger political formation based on a non-revolutionary program. In other words in a period of recovery such as the one we are passing through it means the building of a new party, in part by uniting the existing socialist groups, based on a reformist practice and for the revolutionaries concerned not to come forward with their full program as such is deemed inappropriate.
For our brave advocate of unity at all costs this strange idea, namely that revolutionaries should not be the best fighters for reforms but the best fighters for a reformist party, led to his advocacy of Arthur Scargill's Socialist Labour Party. Which might have been fine, although the expected prospoects for the SLP were never as Dave fantasised but hope as they say springs eternal, were it not for the idealisation which Dave and his comrades had treated Scargil to in the past. Indeed a grouping of Dave's former comrades in the USFI who joined the SLP were amongst the most noxious witchunters and anti-democratic bullies within that short lived parody of a workers' party. And all because they needed to protect the great leaders status in order to make the party attractive to workers a position the more conscience wracked Osler recoiled from but a position consistent with his own views on recomposition.
With the inevitable collapse of the SLP, albeit a collapse that was more grotesque and distasteful than even this blogger expected, our brave advocate of socialist unity learnt nothing and blithly rushed into the next unity project which presented itself, the Socialist Alliance (sic). If anything the illusions briefly built on the frail edifice that was the Socialist Alliance would seem to suggest that Dave has a capacity to hallucinatory delusions that can only be informed by prolonged use of serious drugs or an utterly banal failure to grasp reality at any level beyond that of the workday and its tasks.
Around this time too our hero resumed his affiliation with a far left fragment and for its short livetime would appear to have been a supporter of the Socialist Democracy grouplet led by one Phil Hearse, a well known functionary for the USFI, who for a brief moment entered the SP only to exit it but a short while later, another 'unity' manouvre one can but guess. Tellingly Dave chose to write a 'comedy' column for this insignificant publication entitled Bollinger Bolshevik although like most of the contents of the magazine it lacked not only real content but humour and bite too. And when some time later it disappeared nobody even noticed.
Suffice to say the very idea that the warring fragments of what is laughingly known as the revolutionary left should unite in a single body was and is a very bad joke indeed. The idea that they should then unite with some tiny fragments of the Labour Party on the basis of a rotten stitched together ragbag of a program even more ridiculous. Both of which propositions being based on sober thought through joined up thinking in comparison to the vision pushed by the Socialist Workers Party, when it belatedly joined the Socialist Alliance, that the body in question should and could become a magnet for disillusioned Labour activists. Which strategic vision led to the Socialist Party throwing a hissy fit and walking out of the Socialist Alliance when the SWP used its majority to push its ludicrous vision. A vision soon abandoned when reality, as was always going to happen, falsified the opportunist nonsense dreamt up by some demented hack at the behest of the SWP's leadership.
Picture poor Dave at this point with all his political hopes in tatters. Bereft of anything to recompose the poor boy must have been in a terrible state. But no worries even if the left in England had failed him at least the left in Scotland was following the route he had charted for them. Until its recent division into two rival 'parties' with almost identical programs that is. So picture poor Dave again, politically bereft with few hopes for any way forward, small wonder that in a moment of doubt and despair he began looking again towards the Labour Party perhaps?
Ironists will of course be aware that Dave had only shortly authored a useful, if not terribly original, book exposing the links of the Labour Party to big business showing how its roots as a party founded and linked to the trades unions was being eroded by the direct links of the Blairites to capitalism. Of course his little book languised on the shelves to some degree as none of the socialist groups publicised it or boosted it as they might have done given that it is completely in harmony with the views of the extra-Labour Party far left. That Daves book was a victim of petty sectarianism cannot be doubted and surely the way it was largely ignored might have warned him as to the sheer futility of socialist unity?
Small wonder indeed that the poor boy despaired of Trotskyism at this point. One almost feels for the poor fellow disappointed as he so clearly has been by the failures of the left to deliver on its promises. Almost but not quite given that his understanding of Trotskyism has always been faulty, as indeed it had to be given his schooling in the ranks of the disUnited Sectarians. The central defining feature of this tendency being its quest for substitutes for the working class which have led it onto many a centrist detour and have doomed entire layers of activists who have at one point or another joined its ranks only to succumb to disillusionment and eventual retirement from revolutionary politics.
It follows with an almost elegant logic that if one rejects the central role of the working class in the struggle for social revolution that various other social forces which appear at a given point in time to share a similar goal can be embraced. At bottom it is this confusion as to the goal of the revolutionary socialist movement, as well as any confusion as to agency, that betrays the trotskyist pretensions of the USFI and Dave Osler as being mere guff. For the good reason that the two most important social forces which they have in the past most popularly been seen as substitutes for a class conscious working class have both been deeply statist I refer of course to Stalinism and Social Democracy/Labourism.
But if the USFI was willing to look to substitutes for the working classes in various and varied forms, for example they looked to 'reform' Stalinism in the 1950's and ridiculously to Student Vanguards in the 1970's, Dave has managed to produce some absurd interpretations of what Trotskyism was all by himself. Thus in his article disavowing Trotskyism he declares that in order to be a Trotskyist one must adhere to the conjunctural positions developed by Trotsky in both the 1920's and 1930's. Quite how anybody, let alone Trotsky himself, could hold positions which were counter-posed and specific to a given time is not expalined, nor can it be. But if such a banal contradiction is typical of our friends lack of understanding of what Trotskyism was his failure to discuss, let alone refute, Trotskyisms revolutionary opposition at all times, not simply conjunctural, to both capitalism in its imperialist stage of development and to Stalinism is not even touched upon! But one cannot honestly disavow what one never avowed or even understood.
Even before his final disavowal of Trotskyism former comrade Osler was clearly stepping away from an internationalist vision of socialism and had made clear his willingness to support the intervention of imperialist forces in such countries as Sierra Leone and Haiti. A position which places only a milimetre to the left of the turncoats who signed the Euston Manifesto. Indeed one cannot but suspect that if Dave were a little more red blooded and less ashamed of his renegacy he too would have signed that traitors charter. Just as one gets a similar feeling from his new found friends in the quasi-Shachtmanite Alliance for Workers Liberty who are also increasingly clustered in the ranks of the Labour Party.
What then remained of former comrade Oslers socialist vision, indeed of his Marxism, that impelled him to rejoin the Labour Party? (In passing it must be noted that although Dave is technically speaking rejoining Labour in fact his earlier sojourn in the ranks of that party was as an entrist and not as a loyal member of that party as such). Nothing really as he has made clear that he disavows any attempt to recruit to any new project within the party or to fight for socialist policies at all. Indeed his only real motivation, other perhaps than personal ambition, would appear to be his despair that all the socialist unity and recomposition projects have been tried and failed and that one can do no better than taking cover within the Labour Party.
Such an understanding, sane and sensible though it is at least in comparison to the absurdist projects of the various sects, born of political despair as it is condemns the man adopting it to the status of dead man walking zombie like into an open grave. It is the end result of a politics which long ago rejected the conception, central to Marxism, that the working classes are the subject/object of the social revolution and if Marxists do not relate to that class then they are breaking with the social revolution itself.