Tomás Ó Flatharta

Looking at Things from the Left

Archive for the ‘John Molyneaux’ Category

Reading Lenin in the light of the collapse of the SWP and the ISO – Independent Left – Conor Kostick

with one comment

Conor Kostick, a supporter of the Irish Independent Left Organisation, offers an interesting analysis of the problems facing the radical left in Ireland and across the globe.

In 2013, not long after the British SWP went into dramatic convulsions over the way their party failed to support a young member in her allegation that a very much older and more senior member had raped her, I had reason to be in Chicago. While there I met up with the International Socialist Organisation (at the time a relatively successful example of a revolutionary party), gave a talk on Ireland’s revolutionary years and attended a dayschool of theirs on Lenin and the revolutionary party. The bookstall had copies of studies of Lenin by Lars Lih, Paul Le Blanc and Tony Cliff.

Anyone wanting to encourage the development of a revolutionary party has, of course, to form an opinion of Lenin. Before the ISO fell out with their British equivalents (i.e. the SWP), their approach to Lenin would have been profoundly if not exclusively shaped by the British SWP and in particular by the leading figure in that party, Tony Cliff. It interested me that the ISO had a wider outlook on the subject than was usual in the SWP and the enthusiasm of the bookstall organiser meant that I came away with a copy of Paul Le Blanc’s Lenin and the Revolutionary Party.

The cover of Paul Le Blanc’s Lenin and the Revolutionary Party
This book was first published in 1990 and I had never read it because having inhabited a rather closed-minded organization, I felt there was little that someone closely aligned to the politics of Ernest Mandel would have to say on the subject that would be useful. After all, as I was told and believed at the time, I had been guided in my understanding of Lenin by someone with vastly superior politics to those of Mandel: Tony Cliff. More than this, as an SWP organiser in the UK and then in Ireland I had always used Cliff’s Lenin: Building the Party as the essential text for explaining the theory behind SWP party-building methods to those members who I anticipated would go on to play leading roles in their branches and nationally.
— Read on independentleft.ie/reading-lenin/

I have not read the books Conor refers to. I have read (and re-read) a different book about Lenin, Marcel Liebman’s “Leninism Under Lenin” – which belongs to, broadly speaking, the Ernest Mandel tradition which Conor describes.

The opening paragraph of this review might persuade readers that time spent reading Liebman on Lenin would not be wasted : Read the rest of this entry »