I’m in a bit of a nostalgic mood right now. I’ve been flipping through some old notebooks that I used to keep, where I wrote observations on current events, theoretical perspectives on local politics and drafts for Letters to the Editor in the days before I set this blog up.
As the PLP engages in its self-reflection and a period of restructuring, I thought it may be of interest to provide some of my notes on the PLP over the years.
The notes below were written in 2004, when I had let my PLP membership lapse for the first time and was considering the political options available to me (previous notes discussed the potential for a Green Party option). I later rejoined the PLP (in 2006), but did so with the hope of a last-ditch attempt, on my part, to defend and advocate a socialist perspective within it.
“The Gathering Storm”
The need for a revival of workers democracy. A return to ‘progressive labour’ and away from political opportunism.
The PLP Leadership – ‘an aristrocracy of labour’.
The PLP ‘grassroots – The foundation of the party, the ground beneath the Leadership’s feet.
The Leadership is frequently seen as a Judas, selling-out the Party’s soul for ’30 pieces of silver’ – it has become an ‘Uncle Tom’, simply a different section of the oligarchy. Opportunism.
The PLP Government (1998 to present 2004) can be characterised by the phrase ‘donkeys leading lions’.
The contradictions between what the PLP ‘was, and was thought to be’ and what the PLP ‘has become and is becoming’ is great and increasing. This cannot but help lead to a gathering storm of contradiction and antipathy between the grassroots and the collective leadership of the Party.
Will this storm manifest itself as a violent tempest, or sustained and increasingly frequent squalls, or as an anti-climatic whimper, a ‘storm of the doldrums’ where the Party finds itself listless, going nowhere, and eventually overtaken – even by default – by an alternate force, either one continuing with inertia as the PLP falls short, or powered by a new force, or organisation of components, like the Clipper overcoming the Carrack sailing ship.
Democratic Centralism – An Achilles Heel
The right of free and comradely criticism – exercised fearlessly and unflaggingly. It is necessary to regenerate and renovate the party apparatus, and to make it feel that it, the party, is nothing but the tool of the collective will – that the party is the people, rather than separate, above and leading the people.
The renovation of the party apparatus must aim at replacing the ossified leadership and party aristrocracy with fresh elements linked to actual life, or capable of maintaining such a link. In this way it keeps the party as part of ‘life’ rather than increasingly detached and ‘out of touch’ with the genuine concerns and dreams of the people.
Before anything else, the leading posts must be cleared out of those who, at the first word of criticism, of objection, or of protest, brandish all manner of reactionary penalties at the critic.
The Leadership believes that democratic centralism means that all power, all democracy, is centralised only with the leaders – the executive of the party – or the Premier itself. This is not what the original meaning of the phrase meant.
Democratic centralism meant, originally, the diversity of opinion, ruthless self-criticism – its motto is ‘de omnibus dubitandum‘ – doubt everything – but unity in action. Action decided on by consensus or, only once attempts for consensus are exhausted, a simple majority vote.
The flawed version of democractic centralism, the perversion of its meaning, this lead to a superficial strengthening, of decision, of authority, but a corresponding weakness of vision and collective energy on the part of the PLP to realise its historic task.
It proved to give the Party an illusion of invincibility, cloaked in the remaining aura of the 1998 victory, but in reality it left the Party open to a historic failure, a fatal vulnerability.