Two, Three, Many Parties of the New Type
A link to the following item has shown up in my mailbox twice in one day, which is no accident. Friends do know what to send along, sometimes....It's by the British science-fiction novelist Ken Macleod, whose The Star Fraction I have heard described as "Trots in Space."
Whenever he made a speech, the late Tony Cliff looked and sounded like a mad scientist, explaining how his apparatus of cogs, wheels, transmission belts and rank and file movements was about to transform the diaphanously-draped damsel of trade union reformism into the capering chimpanzee of revolutionary socialism. There was no personality cult of Cliff, but his personality left an imprint on the party he founded. The same was true of all the grand old men of British Trotskyism. It's no surprise, as John Sullivan puts it somewhere, that the SWP is excitable, Militant long-winded, and the Healyites [redacted] had anger management issues.
In the 1970s I was a member of the International Marxist Group. It was the largest British Trotskyist group not led by one of the grand old men of British Trotskyism. This was less of an advantage than might be supposed. Lacking a grand old man the IMG settled for a squabbling coalition of alpha males (and females). The resulting frenzy of competitive nit-picking has often stood the group's ex-members in good stead in their later careers. It also helps to explain why the intelligence of so many of the group's individual members seldom showed itself in the group's political line, which lurched hither and yon as the squabbling alphas wrested the joystick from each other....
Here's the whole thing. At this point I have to admit that Socialist Unity, a group I was in during the mid-1980s, looked to the IMG as an example of a healthy organization. Well, maybe it was, by contrast with the Communist League (Trucker Hat) anyway.
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