Saturday, 7 April 2007

I wish the Lord would take me now...

Well, it takes a lot to generate in my icy breast sympathy for Manchester United fans, but somewhere between scenes of horrific police brutality in Rome and...well, over to you, Martin "One Gobshite To Rule Them All" Kettle...

Football is for foul-mouthed people who should get a life.

Yes. You heard the comrade, you disgusting proles. Fuck off. And best of all, the future............is golf.

Golf?

Golf?

What the fuck is wrong with this man's brain that he can consider golf to be a "people's game"? When has golf ever been played by anything other than the ruling class of the day? It's like a rite of passage. The day your revolution is complete is the day you commence work on your handicap (whatever the fuck that means - explain it to me adequately and I'll paypal you twenty pence). It certainly fits quite nicely up with bourgeois values. Why has our reprehensible turncoat picked this over similarly paced and mannered games such as cricket? Cricket is, for a start, too popular. Some smelly poor people like it. The barmy army even drink...whisper it...lager, instead of a nice pinot noir. but above all, cricket - like football, like other games unencumbered with hooliganism such as rugbies union and league, basketball and so on, but utterly unlike golf - is a team sport. Too "tribal" for you, Marty? Well so was class politics. Funny that.

The biggest joke of all is that, in decades, this man has not propounded a single remotely leftwing position, but still claims to be a "progressive". The punchline is that, in spite of everything, his primary evidence for this is that he - you know - used to be a communist. Communism is dead, except to the extent that it functions as an alibi for my reactionary crap. Keep that bitch on life support, nurse - there's a round of privatisations coming up and I've got some 5th columning to do.

Jesus H Christ in a chicken basket.

The fucking moon.

Chairman Bob...again.

Well, after one fawning editorial too many, I have finally been prodded into action. Which is to say, a sternly worded letter, as only the English know how. Thus!


Comrade editors,

I read with interest, among other things, the lead testimonial of your "special issue" on Bob Avakian, entitled "The Crossroads We Face, The Leadership We Need". I write, it must be said, from a somewhat distant position with regard to your party and paper. I am English, and I have no organisational or direct political ties to the anti-revisionist movement here, let alone the RIM which apparently lacks a formal British section. Nevertheless, I have taken an interest, mostly historical, in the American Maoist tradition, which gathered immense steam in the same period when my own tradition – Trotskyism – was making headway on this side of the pond.

It can also not be overstated the significance that the success or otherwise of the Marxist left – whatever species – in America is of the utmost concern to comrades throughout the world: not simply in the matter of principled internationalism, but in the very real effects that upheaval in the world imperialist centre cannot but have elsewhere. When America goes to war, Britain follows, and everywhere else suffers one way or another. So what follows is meant in a comradely spirit, in the hope that the American movement might beat the odds and take the lead in dismantling the imperialist system operating in large part out of its own backyard.

It is a boring but true enough commonplace among the more na├»ve parts of the far left that the principal difficulty facing our movement is its disunity. The old "two trots, three factions" joke still has a resonance, but it's not, nor has it ever been, just us. In fact, as many of your own more experienced cadres will surely attest, the ultimate failure of the 1970s New Communist Movement was, at least partially, due to the inability of participants to reach an agreement for principled unity. Had the thousands of energetic comrades who made up that movement been able to do so, things may have been radically different when the onslaught of neoliberalism set in. As it is, instead of punching with one fist, the New Communists poked with a hundred pinkie fingers. With that in mind, we can say that building such a unity is still the overriding priority. Of course, such tasks are not as easy as they sound – even the most sectarian organisation can agree that, in principle, the left must be more united, but in practice scupper all such efforts by insisting on their own terms beyond what is reasonable.

It is for this reason that I ask for the Avakian cult to end.

As the man himself might say, "'He didn't just say cult, did he?' Oh yes he did." The treatment the esteemed chairman enjoys from his charges goes beyond...well...esteem. I fully expect, to the extent that I expect any sort of reply, a defence along the lines of "we're not idolising him, he really is that good" - a defence one might expect from the followers of Jesus, or the more rigid and uncompromising Stalinists of the Bill Bland school. But the fact is, no progressive party, to my knowledge, in the imperialist countries has this relationship to its main leader. My own group, as a fairly typical example, is the CPGB. There is a member of the CC called Jack Conrad who writes at greater length than anyone else, provides the most persuasive leadership of the milieu and has written most of the party's books. Yet he is never introduced as a great leader; his articles get the same kind of lead-in as anybody else, and so on. The same goes for pretty much every other group with a main figurehead – from the CPUSA to the Spartacist League. Can you imagine the CPUSA's website carrying the boxout "Our Ideology is Marxism-Leninism. Our Vanguard is the Communist Party USA. Our Leader is Chairman Webb"? Not likely – and not just because they're awfully quiet about Marxism-Leninism nowadays.

The waste of human energy notwithstanding, it does not bother me when David Icke's followers behave in this way. It does not bother me when Alex Jones' followers behave in this way, or any other conspiracy-theorist or religious wing-nut for that matter. But for the RCP to over-promote Chairman Avakian is another matter, because it brings this phenomenon into the Marxist left. Thus, it becomes our problem in a more immediate sense.

I implied earlier that the cult is an obstacle to socialist unity. This is for the simple reason that, for the left to be united effectively, it must be united within a party. A "movement of movements" is not good enough. It is much easier, furthermore, to organise in the latter way; but in the long term, such coalitions fizzle out when their initial stimulus recedes into history. The RCP, therefore, should be seeking to bring smaller groups into itself, or fuse with larger "rivals" on a formal basis. This cannot be done while a party leader is promoted in this aggressive way. There is no chance whatsoever of other left parties, or even many individuals, accepting unity on the basis of subordination to any leader in this way. The leadership, by contrast, must be accountable to the membership and representative of it. It must be a collective body which provides for some sort of argument over the direction of the party, not a single chairman beavering away at his researches and handing down the line. On point after point the cult is an obstruction to unity – it makes the RCP seem an unattractive partner, and provides various formal and organisational obstructions which will scupper the best will in the world.

In fact, it seems to me that Avakian's reputation is done more harm than good by this sort of thing. Your article implies that he is the only leftwing figure to offer coherent challenges to various bits of conventional wisdom about communism being dead, American democracy being great and so on, without in fact bring up a single issue which isn't the stock in trade of every Marxist periodical in the Western world. Anybody with any experience on the left will see through this immediately. I listened to his interview with Michael Slate, who introduced his contribution on the Stalin question as "original and provocative thinking" - imagine my surprise when Avakian came on and basically repeated the standard Maoist position on the matter. I don't think it's particularly terrible for Maoist leaders to, shock horror, take some cues from Mao here and there. It is not even as though Avakian does not make citations when he does so. But in implying that such things were created ex nihilo by him, the Cult undermines the man, and allows people to dismiss his work – whatever its real merits – out of hand. "Oh, he's that guy with the cult, you ain't going to read that, are you?"


Your article proposes: "the question...is NOT "leaders vs. no leaders"—the question is what kind of leaders, with what kind of goals and methods." Fine, but this is not the only question. There is also the question of the leaders' relationship to the rank and file and to the class at large. The Revolutionary Communist Party does not, on the whole, have a bad leader in Bob Avakian. He is indeed a good communicator who has gone through immense personal sacrifice for the cause, and he has been able to openly self-criticise when positions are changed, which is all too rare. But on the second question, the RCP has got it disastrously wrong. I implore you to reconsider this course, and join with other communists of all trends on a principled basis in destroying this brutal capitalist system.


Comradely,

Jim Grant