[ Home ]  [ Canadian Bolsheviks ]  [ Documents Index ]  [ Reminiscences Index ] [ About ]

Overture
Remembering Arnie Mintz and the 1973 LSA Split

by Mitch P.

Introduction: This piece is drawn on my memory of events, my political understanding of what I participated in and is thoroughly reflective of my view of those events and my curiosity of course about how they might affect the future.

I wrote this just after finding out that Arnie Mintz had died in 2000. Sometimes in life you partner up with someone for a project or a venture or an adventure and sometimes its great. I had the privilege of working with Arnie for a time; he was my favourite collaborator during my active political life. I learned a lot from Arnie. You could always trust Arnie to be where he said he was going to be and do the good work. Of the reds Iíve met in my life, Mintz was absolutely the most original person that I knew.

When I started writing this I never expected that all this stuff would flow. Iíve barely been around the active left for some time mostly because of the cosmic side effects of Appalachian modal banjo tunings. I realized that I couldnít write just about Arnie without placing it in the context of the LSA. I donít think that Arnie would mind that my previously unexpressed ideas about what had transpired in the LSA are intricately attached to many of my remembrances of him.


Recently an old friend and comrade, Arnie Mintz, passed away. He was brought down by a combination of MS and Parkinsonís disease and the damn old flue. Arnieís dying was a moment of great sadness for me personally. We had lived and worked together in 1969 as organizers for the League for Socialist Action (LSA) in Winnipeg. The LSA was the Canadian section of the Fourth International. We were two very young, Toronto born and raised radicals, entirely focused on the job at hand. We established a LSA branch in Winnipeg and a Young Socialists (YS) local. We also worked successfully in Saskatchewan. Our job was to spread the vision of Trotskyism, Internationalism and of World Revolution. For the period of time that we worked together it was a successful and rewarding partnership. We achieved the short-term goals that we set out to accomplish.

Living and sharing a space with Arnie was a real challenge for me as I am sure that living with me was for him. Roommates share some of the characteristics of newlyweds as you begin to shape your living space. Arnie and I, as is typical of most young men, were slobs of the highest order. We mostly argued about where we were going to pile our stacks of unwashed clothes and who would remove the moldy food from the fridge. Neither of us had any money and both of us were serious carnivores, we became quite able in our ability to massage capitalism in such a way that, not only did we eat well, but we were able to entertain prospective recruits over dinner. We were ruthless. Shouting the slogan "By Any Means Necessary" I often filled the larder.

Shortly before I left Winnipeg. We got the boot from our apartment. The caretaker, who managed the block, was an odious creep and the comings and goings of so many strange looking people, raised his suspicious nature. He unjustly evicted us. I was mad, Arnie was incensed. Arnie devised a plan of revenge. We had an extra and mostly unused room, except for the odd traveling comrade, in the apartment.

Under Manitoba law the caretaker was obliged to give us a months notice. Arnie determined that heretofore the extra room was to be the "garbage room". All garbage, especially rotting vegetable manner, was to be dumped in the room and the room sealed. For the entire month we followed this path. I was constantly in fear that some new life form was going to jump out and devour us whenever we unsealed the door to add to the pile. We survived the monster from the deep and left the apartment on a high note.

My next assignment was in Halifax and during that short period I rarely saw Arnie. We would run into each other occasionally in Toronto. Following the work in Halifax I moved back to Toronto where for about a year we hung out whenever possible. During this time I got together with Ava and Arnie was often the third plate at the table. He was going through his late Holden Caulfield period and his search was often a mixture of comedy and tragedy. This coincided exactly with the emergence of the womenís movement inside the LSA and this phenomenon was entirely up front and strident. We were all male chauvinists and marriage became a taboo. Ava and I got married and really pissed off a lot of people. Arnie struggled with the love question.

By the early seventies the LSA was a strong political force within the framework of the Canadian left. There were LSA branches and YS locals across the entire country; almost every major centre had a branch. In Quebec, we had a presence that was considerable. We published a weekly paper and did well planned political work within the Womenís, Anti-War, Student and Trade Union Movements. We were crude in many ways, the level of political understanding within the organization was entirely uneven, but despite all, we were the most dynamic force on the left. This dynamism alone attracted potential cadre. Hundreds of new people joined us between 1969 and 1972.

In retrospect, we should have been much more cautious in recruiting uneducated persons to the organization. We recruited the best activists because we were right there with them in the struggle. They joined for the best of reasons. We were growing for the first time in decades and we really got excited and we recruited new members most often before they were really ready. The organization felt like we had collectively swallowed a growth hormone and we had become addicted to the pills.

The new comrades were not Trotskyists in the sense that they really understood the differences between the CP and us. Without understanding where we had come from historically, their basis for making judgements concerning how we operated externally or internally was entirely without values. The concept of a Leninist organization was something that was entirely foreign to most of the new comrades. The methodology of the LSA was an attempt to operate within the traditions of Bolshevism or at least our understanding of what that meant. In time, some of them learned politics but most of them eventually disappeared. The uneducated were the easiest to manipulate and eventually the LSA leadership relied on this unschooled core group to fight against the opposition in the organization. An ironic historical comparison is the way that Stalinís support in the CPSU came from the flood of people that joined the party after the October Revolution and not from the old Bolsheviks.

The LSA in the early seventies was like a Roman candle, hundreds of people exploding in a beautiful array of colour, like the work we did to end the War in Vietnam, which was magnificent, then, the darkness fell.

In 1971 real political differences emerged within the LSA and I moved purposely back to Winnipeg. Arnie took the trip to Winnipeg with Ava and me, the three of us, all of our stuff including two cats jammed into a Toyota heading west. The trip was a riot, certainly one of the most memorable automotive adventures that Iíve ever been on. Arnie made a speech to the assembled patrons of the Shell restaurant in Kakabeka Falls, Ontario, on the decline of capitalism based on the size of a miniscule scoop of ice cream he had received with dinner. I remember this scene and Arnieís humour as if it were yesterday. The shock on the faces of the other patrons was only matched by my own. The laughter hurt.

In Winnipeg the majority of the comrades were in sympathy with my view that Canadian nationalism on the left was an anathema. There was a development within the Canadian Social Democracy, the NDP, of a New Left current called "The Waffle" that was supposedly anti-imperialist but in fact was simply anti-American. The rhetoric was left wing but the politics were essentially disguised bourgeois nationalism. The leadership of the LSA began to orient to this grouping and in doing so they began to politically capitulate to the nationalist orientation. Ross Dowson, the venerable leader of the LSA really misunderstood the implications and potential dynamics of the "French Turn" and lived and died by the slogan "Win the NDP to Socialism". Rather than bring internationalism to the Waffle, they politically tailed those rotten villains. This was not the "nationalism" present in a war of national liberation such as in Vietnam, this was the "Nationalism" of a petty-bourgeois, consciously anti-Leninist grouping. The LSA began spouting Canadian Nationalism and we were well on the road to national chauvinist politics.

For those of us in the LSA that bought internationalism as a philosophical and political cornerstone of everything we believed and had worked for, this development was astounding. The LSA leadership that was capitulating to nationalism was, in large part, the same people who had recruited and politically educated the cadre of the organization. We felt betrayed.

I well remember that as a youth of fifteen, while being recruited to the Young Socialists, the explanation of Democratic Centralism that was offered. "Itís a team effort" I was told. "We argue strategy and line internally, but externally we present a common view". "We work politically as a publicly united group". It was explained that the internal discussion was a model of democratic discussion with minorities guaranteed the right to present their views to the entire membership. The power of Democratic Centralism was that the majority view prevailed, the organization would publicly present a common line and that during the next pre-convention period any question of line, orientation or strategy was up for discussion, review and possible alteration. It seemed like a good idea so I joined, I didnít understand it all and Harry K. tried to get me booted once from the YS cause I made a verbal error.

It was with this belief in the democratic norms of the organization, that the Winnipeg comrades formed a "tendency" for the period of the pre-convention discussion. The Winnipeg Communist Tendency (WCT), what a stroke of romanticism. Forming a tendency like the WCT was well within the methodology that was historically accepted within the LSA. The right to form such a body within the organization and the methodology, by which the discussion would be held, was supposedly set in stone.

I want here to distinguish the difference between a "tendency" and a "faction". Simply, a tendency is established for the purposes of a specific discussion and a faction is established because those comrades feel the leadership itself needs to be replaced. Factionalists essentially believe that the political differences are of such a nature, that nobody who believes (insert whatever) should constitute the leadership of the organization. Long-term factionalism within an organization is of course, a guarantee of disaster.

The comrades in the WCT prepared a document on the national question. For all of us, it was our first go at preparing and\or supporting a document of this nature but there a couple of talented people in the Winnipeg group especially Murray. Even I, the guy who had been around the longest, had never before been part of a formal tendency out to change the line. In every sense, we constituted a disciplined and loyal to the organization, grouping. We were not out to change the leadership; we were out to change the line on one question. We were naÔve.

Our document was suppressed. We sent it for inclusion in the pre-discussion bulletin twice. As each issue of the bulletin came out we nervously and excitedly awaited its publication. The first time it was claimed that they lost it, the second time that pretense disappeared. Suddenly three comrades from Toronto moved to Winnipeg. If ever there was a recipe for creating a faction where none previously existed, the LSA leadership, were great chefs. The methodology they were employing we began to describe as bureaucratic centralism (Stalinism).

Once you begin to believe that the leadership of a Trotskyist organization has degenerated into a Stalinist clique, you begin to plot their demise. We became a faction. How I remember the sadness of that discussion in Winnipeg. At least I was sad.

Three "thousand mile stares" arrived in our midst. We were so paranoid of these comrades that we persecuted them. We refused to behave in a comradely manner toward them and really try to convince them of the correctness of our position. This is something I have been ashamed of for almost thirty years. Our methodology began to parallel that of the leadership. We believed all of our own bullshit and "all out" factional warfare raged at every branch meeting. Once you become a faction you have to meet to plan your approach, then you have to meet to implement your approach. At one point I was the LSA branch organizer, the faction organizer, an executive member etc etc. It became nine internal meetings a week. Our real political work was washed away in a sea of fratricide and stupidity.

We began to circulate our document independently within the organization across the country. A number of comrades stood up and saluted, including Arnie. Unbeknown to us in Winnipeg, a number of comrades in Toronto, along with part of the leadership in the Montreal Branch, were also in the process of forming a faction in line with the majority tendency within the International organization. The American (SWP) and the Canadian sections were aligned with the minority. When our document arrived, these comrades who agreed with us on the national question, decided that we were potential allies.

Here we were in Winnipeg, a grouping of self-described and very pissed off Cannonists, jumping into bed, without really looking, with comrades whose entire politics we had not examined. They were against the LSA leadership and so were we and that essentially was enough. Besides, being aligned with the European leadership was really sexy. We adapted to their politics the same way that the LSA leadership had embraced nationalism, by osmosis. Iím not discussing here whether the European comrades were right or wrong on various issues, what Iím talking about is the adaptation to their political line for the sake of winning the factional war and wiping out the LSA leadership.

Right across the country comrades began to align with the new united faction. Anybody who was pissed off about anything joined in the fight. It was a really diverse group. There were the European-a-philes especially the comrades from Quebec. There were trade union comrades who believed that more emphasis needed to be placed directly within the labour movement especially in contrast to the student work; some fools might describe these comrades as workerists. There were a group of very able intellectuals who had skill in writing theoretical treatises. There were old left red diaper babies like myself that had been attracted by a combination of the Cuban revolution and the anti-war movement and had joined the LSA before the advent of the Vietnam War and the New Left. There were academics and dope smoking hippies and iconoclasts of every description. All in all in was the perfect sociological make-up for a factional war. Were we united by programmatic clarity? The answer is a resounding no. This became really apparent later, once we were outside of the LSA.

The LSA leadership then split into two factions. The supposed issue dividing the old leadership was the national question. The issues that really divided the leadership were multiple, with personal ambition being near the top of the pile. The LSA was led for many years by Ross Dowson, a remarkable and dedicated revolutionary of the old school. When nearly everybody on the left rejected Trotskyism, Dowson alone stood the test. There simply would have been no organization in Canada without his work. He spent many years trying to train a new leadership, consciously encouraging young people to take a leading role. I have lots of criticisms of Dowson, especially his political positions on the national question and on the nature of Social Democracy, but being a good red is not one of them.

My subjective view of this is that the leadership of the Socialist Workers Party in the U.S. didnít politically like Ross Dowsonís turn to Canadian nationalism and instigated a rebellion by the young Turks in the Canadian leadership. The leadership of the SWP had recently passed on a generational basis.

The SWP leadership encouraged their sycophants in the leadership of the Canadian section to stage a surprise coup d'ťtat in the Political Committee and they deposed Dowson. What also became really clear at this point is that the group of young Turks, who had been minding the store while Dowson was away in Europe, had been running the show for some time. Our problems in Winnipeg with the national office had not been with Dowson, but with the young Turks. In my retrospective view, had Dowson been in control, our documents would have been published and a principled discussion would likely have taken place. Whatever his differences with comrades, I never knew Dowson to back away from a fight or to act in an unprincipled manner.

A few years after all of the events described in this narrative, Dowson spent a couple of days staying with me while attending a Marxist conference in Winnipeg. I had known him since I was fifteen and that visit marked the first time I talked in detail with him as a mature adult. His total disappointment in what transpired was hard for him to disguise. He never whined, he was too tough a cookie for that, but his lifeís work blew up in his face and it affected him deeply.

Dowsonís Brutus in the LSA was John Riddell. More than anybody else Riddell supposedly embodied the new generation of leadership. He had the air of an intellectual. He was well spoken, well dressed, could write well and worked hard for the organization. He had been active since his youth in the organization and to give him much credit, he had sacrificed a lot to be in the organization. I guess he wanted to be the leader.

The three comrades sent out to Winnipeg went from being pro Canadian Nationalism to being anti-nationalist in the drop of a hat. One week they presented the previously united leaderships political resolution, which was pro nationalist at a branch meeting and a week later, they had, without discussion and without a new draft of a political resolution, on the basis of a phone call, changed their line. In Winnipeg, this further enraged the situation. Our definition of them as dumb and mindless Stalinoids seemed all the more real.

Ross Dowson was no wilting flower. He had been almost single handedly, both the continuity and the renaissance of Trotskyism in Canada from the end of WWII, through McCarthyism, until the day of the coup. He gathered his supporters, formed a faction and began to fight. It became a three-ring circus.

Parallel to the discussion within the organization, two groupings in Toronto were moving toward Trotskyism independently of the LSA. The Old Mole and the Red Circle. The comrades in Toronto began to work directly with these groups with the intent of splitting the LSA and setting up a "real" section of the FI. These comrades were also very attracted by the sexiness of the European sections. The Europeans themselves were following this discussion blow by blow and even occasionally slipped one of their factional warriors into the country in order to offer advice and encouragement. Some of the Red Circle comrades joined the LSA to assist in the faction fight and we moved toward the convention.

When the comrades outside of Toronto agreed to this split scenario, we had completed the transition from loyal tendency to disloyal faction intent on wrecking the LSA and setting up a new and better and more democratic and more revolutionary organization. This transition had taken only about six months. We had come a long way in a very short time.

The convention came. We drove the thirteen hundred miles to the convention. I remember the car ride well because almost all the shit house songwriters in the organization were in that car and we composed a three hundred-verse song. Each verse was an individual character assassination of somebody in the leadership or in their tendency. There were the three factions and nobody gave an inch. Nobody won, nobody lost, and we all just followed the script. Many of the sociological phenomena present in a civil war existed at the convention. Old friends refused to talk to each other; civility didnít dwell at the LSA convention. Tendencies had become factions, nothing could be settled and peace could not be made. Dowsonís group was the smallest and many of the older comrades were part of it and despite the political distance between us on the national question, there was no real hatred between us, we both focused on the SWP minions.

A few weeks later we staged a public meeting in Winnipeg where we put forward the "armed struggle" line of the FI majority on Latin America. We intended to force the LSA leadership to expel us rather than simply splitting off. We wanted to be expelled for presenting the FI majority line so that we could claim that it was the LSA leadership that was in violation of international democratic centralism. We wanted to establish the new organization. The new LSA leadership accommodated us nicely. The "trial" was held at the Winnipeg LSA office, we arrived singing, led by Murray Smith, the Bugs Bunny song "Overture"

"Overture, cut the lights
"This is it, night of nights
"No more rehearsing and playing the part
"We know every part by heart!"

We got the boot.

All of the equipment in the office belonged to us and when we got the boot we stood up and began to take our stuff. A struggle over property ensued. Imagine a struggle over property between communists. It only lasted a minute as mostly the furniture had come from Murrayís basement. But John Riddell initially attempted to bar the door. There was a moment that Iíve never forgotten. John was standing in front of the door; I was the first wanting to leave. Despite the fact that we had consciously engineered our own expulsion, I was really angry at the whole turn of events. Fundamentally my guts rebelled at the whole damn thing. Riddell was the focal point of my anger. I said to him very quietly, "John, move out of the way", to this day Iím grateful that he did because if he hadnít, I would have punched out his lights. I was standing there visualizing where in his face I would pound him, my fist was clenched at my side, I really wanted to hit him.

The idea of hitting a comrade, or anybody on the revolutionary left, is offensive to me, but there right in front of me, rightly or wrongly, was the person whom I considered the leading architect of the degeneration and destruction of the LSA, we both came close.

If in this narrative, I have been unclear, let me be entirely forthcoming. I entirely believed in the LSA that I helped build. Like a number of comrades, Arnie Mintz being a worthy example, I had spent most of my conscious life trying to build an effective political organization capable of winning a political and social revolution. Getting the boot was a blow defining much of my political work of the previous decade, as a waste of time. I never had entered politics with any other perspective than that we were going to win. Any other view I had no time for. Being active in revolutionary politics is far to consuming and the sacrifices are far to great to really be able to tolerate stupidity, personal ambition to "be a leader", power mongering, cynicism or historical pessimism.

The LSA office was located in the oldest office building in Winnipeg; the McIntyre Block located right at Portage and Main. It was a beautiful beater of a building long since demolished. It also had the cheapest rent in Winnipeg. A few days earlier, confident that we were going to be expelled, we had rented a new office right in front of the circular stairway two floors down from the LSA office. After 5 P.M. the elevator operator went home so Riddell and the three stooges were forced to walk by our office on the way out. When we took our stuff, we just walked down two flights and dropped the stuff into our new office. We also had bought a few cases of beer and invited our entire periphery and much of the Winnipeg left to a party celebrating the formation of a new organization. Free beer is a hell of an attraction and everybody showed up. We hand painted a sign which said "REVOLUTIONARY MARXIST ALLIANCE" which we attached to the front door, When Riddell and company came down the stairs we gave them the raspberry. We had now mastered the art of revolutionary pettiness.

Our expulsion was the signal across the country. New branches were formed. The organization, which had existed within and without the LSA, became public. It became the Revolutionary Marxist Group (RMG\GMR). Eighteen monthís of factional warfare had come to an end, or so I thought. It was time to do political work and build the party.

I had high hopes for the life of the RMG. It was a new beginning and the possibilities were evident. Walter Davis moved to Winnipeg, he had been a leader of the Toronto group and a solid force during the factional war. We were glad to have him. I was especially glad. I thought highly of the man and the war had taken a lot out of me. We needed some fresh blood in Winnipeg, some new ideas and approaches to even the most mundane tasks. I looked forward to working politically and to recruiting new folks to the org.

Because it was a new formation we needed to settle the issues of policy and leadership. Almost immediately after the split we entered into a pre-convention discussion in order to settle the questions of line and orientation.

I was really uncomfortable about going this hastily into a convention. I argued alone in the Winnipeg branch against having a convention quickly, I convinced nobody. My thinking was that it would be better to let the comrades do real work again, have some decent experience and then begin the discussion based on real life. Even the comrades I was the closest to politically thought I was wrong.

The sociological makeup of the group that formed the RMG was perfect when a faction fight was the order of the day. Party building was another matter. What we had accomplished during the fight in the LSA was to train a whole group of comrades in the art of factional warfare and not to train them as organizers and agitators. We were fucked.

The RMG immediately formed two camps, and while the level of hatred never reached even a proportion of what had happened in the LSA, with certain comrades it was like watching the gears shift comfortably into place. Out came the pen and ink and out came another round of bullshit. I voted for the document that was closest to my instincts but I did so without enthusiasm and I didnít go to the convention. I didnít realize it at the time but, I was quite beat-up by the process and what I needed was inspiration not internal war. I began to pull away from the RMG. Not so much politically as personally. It wasnít long before I involved myself in the folk festival and the comrades noticed my absence pretty quickly. I left the organization but maintained good relations.

A year and a bit later I rejoined by instinct just as the RMG and the LSA decided that the split was stupid and we should get together. I only stayed briefly. Not long after I left for good they split apart again for good. After I left a number of the Winnipeg comrades and my old pal Arnie split off and joined the Spartacist League. They had been secretly plotting with Jim Robertson and the Spartacists in New York. The next time and the last time I saw Arnie he was selling the Spartacist paper outside of a political meeting I attended in Toronto while visiting there. I went up to him to say hello and was met with a sectarian rant. Not a drop of the old humour, not the same person at all. It was fucking awful.

One of the most interesting aspects of the splits, regroupments and splits is that with each action, each of the component parts got smaller. The LSA and RMG merger created an organization that was considerably smaller than the LSA was when the convention discussion began. After the next split each component got even smaller. In time the RMG grouping declined and split again creating what is now called Socialist Action. The LSA grouping became the Communist League and abandoned Trotsky and Trotskyism and embraced Castro and Mandela as the pillars of human progress. Itís really interesting that the grouping that few years earlier we were castigating as methodological Stalinists, subscribed to a Stalinist like Mandela as the new messiah. Makes ya wonder, eh.

For the last pile of years I have belonged to a wonderful, democratic centralist organization, the MPCP, a one-person political organization named after myself. It has no meetings and has the correct line on every question. There have been short-term United Front efforts that have worked out real well particularly during the May Day anniversary of the Winnipeg General Strike. We organized the largest May Day march I have ever seen.

The MPCP assisted in the formation of the Winnipeg Labor Choir, which played at the evening social of that strike celebration. With the demise of the Soviet Union the level of sectarianism between factions of the left in Winnipeg has almost disappeared. Almost every view within the left participated in that May Day without rancor and with comradely cooperation. I was amazed. I hosted the evening show and very consciously pointed out the different left tendencies in the audience to everybody in the audience, "Look who is here" I said. It was a neat moment, everybody cheered everybody else.

For a while I paid attention to Socialist Action. I liked the press and I know that this small group is doing the work of keeping Trotskyism alive. Whatever I think about SA, in the great scheme of things, they are quite insignificant in the body politic even of the left. In a way they reflect the true state of the far left in Canada. When they started, with the old RMG grouping splitting apart, it was not over politics. The leading comrades in the SA explained this to me at the time. It was a personality struggle between comrades. A power struggle over an anthill fought with written arguments? Oy vey!

In my view, there are four consequential factors that have so far derailed Trotskyism and the far left as a force in North America. The first is temporarily beyond our control and that is the victory of the counter-revolution in Europe and the freedom that defeat allowed Imperialism. US capitalism only wants partners or compradores. Even bourgeois elements that want some independent financial action get crushed. Witness the national bourgeois in Iraq, the demonization of Hussein, and the stupid bastards only wanted their piece of the action.

The second is the ability of the bourgeoisie to control, through the use of mass media, the thinking process of most workers. Television is the opiate. The tube has surpassed religion as the opiate of the masses, while still a serious factor, religion plays second fiddle. Television delivers the lies directly into the homes of the working class. George Bush Sr. was able to label Hussein as Hitler and then go commit genocide on the people of Baghdad. The working class believed the bullshit and tied yellow ribbons around trees and lampposts when the soldiers came home. In WW1 the propaganda showed German soldiers bayoneting babies in order to motivate the American soldiers, in the Gulf adventure off they went to kill the new Hitler. Working class soldiers killing working class civilians so that the capitalist class could smack their uppity minion and make big bucks for the war industry. Almost everybody bought the bullshit and is still buying it.

The third is something we could control if we had a mind to. It is the incredibly "mechanistic" application of Leninism that has dominated all the Trotskyist organizations in North America since 1938. Currently, we are not engaged in a civil war with the Whites. When push comes to shove we will need a highly disciplined, highly motivated and entirely united organization. In the process of building toward that eventuality, we have to understand that both discipline and motivation are learned traits. It is permissible to make mistakes without being labeled as an enemy of Leninism and of the working class. Party building, developing the line, the application of politics, the art of politics is a living process, the dialectic, the argument, is in play.

Party building is likely more an organic process than is the application of a rigid North American definition of democratic centralism. Trail and error perhaps can build a truly democratic centralist party. The last six decades have clearly demonstrated what the mechanistic application of mythological Russian formulas has done for us.

The bottom line for me is the following. REAL LENINISTS DONíT SPLIT. What we have now is bupkas.*

In the last few years I abandoned my traditional Ludditeism and learned how to use a computer. When I finally got on line I studiously searched the web for Trotskyism. It was more disheartening than enlightening. There are hundreds of different grouplet\sects out there all invoking the name of Trotsky, who is probably spinning in his grave in thorough disgust. The stuff you find is amazing. The former Spartacist League has a site and in their first paragraph of self-description they attack Pabloism even before they attack capitalism. Thirty-five years since they split from the SWP and they are still talking about the joy of splitting from the SWP. It appears to be their reason for existence. The reality is who gives a shit. There are more groups with reasons for not getting together than there are hairs on a jackass. The only time it is possible to define a working class political tendency as an enemy is when they cross the class line as in the Popular Front in Spain. A political alliance with the enemy is the big shit. This is the difference between Stalinists and us.

My mom used to talk about my Uncle Harry Karn, an anarchist by inclination. Harry used to go back and forth between the various tendencies on the left in the late thirties and talk working class unity. Everybody hated Harry because everybody he was talking about didnít fit into the line of his or her sect. Harry the anarchist was more right than he was wrong. What we need to apply between us Trots we also need to apply to broader sections of the left.

The fourth and unfortunately the most immediate ingredient is the meglo-fucking-mania of too many of our comrades. We too often attract the alienated, the lost and the disassociated. I often think of the Statue of Liberty with the " bring me your huddled masses" and compare it to our movement with its "bring me your loonies, losers and lost". We provide often a framework, an infrastructure for them to flourish. We provide a rigid definition of democratic centralism in which they can sublimate their fantasies of being the next Trotsky or Lenin. The rigidity of the definition and the application creates the room to argue for argument sake, without the benefit of real political work in the class. To often, it is this element that leads both majority and minority groups in Trotskyist and other far left formations.

Real leadership is tied to real experience. Faction fighting can in no way be equated to political practice. Leadership needs to be earned and needs to be trained and hardened in real political work not at the typewriter. The concept of Ďpublish or perish" belongs with the academics and not with us. That the infinitesimal differences over line, break us apart, instead of us allowing room for real life to show us where to go, is the real crime against Leninism and the working class. A specter is haunting us, it the specter of megalomania and sectarianism.

We have pretty much forgotten how to do basic Socialist propaganda. Remember the working class vs. the bourgeoisie. All of us against the few of them. They are in total control of the means of dissemination. We need to find a 21st century methodology to combat their horseshit. We need to learn new tricks and approaches to getting our ideas out on a mass basis. We donít have the resources that they do but both the Battle for Seattle and the recent cyber attack on the net gives me hope that just below the surface, a cauldron is boiling. What we have to figure out is how do we harness the steam where the anarchists have built fires. For sure, we should do it together.


Thatís it. I started writing this to honour Arnie Mintz, my old friend and comrade and to assuage my guilt for not having seen him for so long. That all of this came out of my brain really surprised me. Iím not a theory person, never was and never will be. I guess Arnie dying really blew me away.

In 1995 Bob and myself took a trip east together and we ran into Stew at a Left Caucus meeting of the Ontario NDP. Stew told me about Arnie being laid low with MS. I never went to see him because I remembered the last time I had seen him and so I made a bad call. Without a doubt, the working partnership we had in Winnipeg was amongst the best experiences Iíve ever had. That Arnie is dead without us yet winning a socialist society or even having a good shot at it, is the real tragedy. Arnie was a relentless fighter and whatever our differences, I am proud to be on the same side of the class struggle that he was.

[ Top ] [ Reminiscences Index ] [ Documents Index ]


Copyright South Branch Publishing. All Rights Reserved.
www.socialisthistory.ca  ▪