Response to the 21st Century Socialism Tendency

Response to the 21st Century Socialism Tendency

This is not a comprehensive critique of the Tendency's documents, which would take a lot more time and thought. Just a couple of preliminary comments.

1. There is a blatant double standard in the document entitled "Formation of the 21st Century Socialist Tendency".

The authors complain that the Socialist Alliance national leadership treats political differences as being the result of psychological problems. They say: "Concerns and differences have been written off as the product of 'demoralisation'; resignations psychologised as being for 'personal reasons'".

Yet the authors of the document also give psychological interpretations of political disagreements. They accuse the leadership of being "defensive" and "paranoid".

This is "psychologising". They are giving a psychological explanation (defensiveness, paranoia) for why the leadership rejected some of the proposals they have put forward. They don't acknowledge that those who disagree with them do so because of genuine disagreement with what is being proposed.

2. The document is subjective in its approach. The authors blame the party leadership for problems that are to a large extent a result of objective conditions.

They talk of "...the inherited model of leadership that still dominates in Socialist Alliance nationally, and no doubt in some branches. It’s a model in which a small group of leaders (or even a single leader/organiser/convenor) does the bulk of the thinking, formulating proposals to take to the larger group which discusses the proposals, perhaps with some minor tweaking, then almost invariably vote for it.".

They claim that: "From this model, a schism develops between those who have less time and those who have the most time, and from this flows an organisational division between the intellectual labour carried out by the 'professional revolutionaries' and the manual and administrative labour carried out by the rest".

The gap between those who have more time and those who have less is a product of life under capitalism. Some people have more time than others to participate in meetings and carry out party tasks. This gap can not be wished away. We can try to reduce the effects of this difference, but we can't abolish it.

Members differ in the amount of time they are able and/or willing to put into party activities. This is one reason for the existence of leadership bodies.

For example, branch executives deal with some more detailed decisions which other members don't have the time and/or desire to participate in. Major questions are taken to the branch meeting for a decision. Usually, the executive will make a recommendation, which the branch meeting usually accepts.

The authors complain about this. They say it means the branch is acting as a "rubber stamp" for executive decisions.

But this is the most efficient way of doing things, given that many members are time-poor and don't have time for numerous long meetings to discuss every detail.

The culprits are not the members of the branch executive. The culprit is the capitalist system, which deprives many workers and students of sufficient free time to spend long hours in meetings.

The document talks grandly about "inverting the leadership pyramid", but does not say what would be required if discussions taking place in the executive were transferred into branch meetings. It would require more frequent and/or longer branch meetings.

This may be desirable. But it should be discussed openly, not disguised by empty rhetoric about "inverting the pyramid".

All this is not to say that the party's functioning is optimal and can't be improved. But we need concrete proposals on how to do that. Such proposals should recognise the reality of members' limited and unequal free time.

And comrades should not "psychologise" those who disagree with their proposals, by calling them things like "defensive" or "paranoid".