I refer of course to the Menagerie that is the Far Left in the UK. The article is dated (it's from 1988), but is a fascinating glimpse of a world that we RWDBs (Right Wing Death Beasts) know only second-hand and as fable.
The Sparts' complete parasitism on other groups makes them very unpopular on the rest of the Left, so, regrettably, little attempt is made to understand the theory which explains their behaviour. The Sparts' core belief is that, in the forseeable future, it is impossible for revolutionaries to address themselves to significant sectors of the working class, as anyone open to revolutionary politics is already a supporter of one of the groups which, falsely, claim to be revolutionary. The key task of revolutionaries is, therefore, to win over supporters of these Ostensibly Revolutionary Groups (ORGs), by heckling their meetings and hoping to be thrown out. The Sparts will, in this way, achieve the primitive accumulation of cadres which is a necessary stage to be gone through before proceeding to a direct involvement in class struggle.Fascists and Communist Thugs adjourning to the pub at "half time", and streetfighting with a strictly observed code of Chivalry. Only in England, Only in England.
In the early 1980s as Tony Cliff was walking through Islington market he stopped to watch some of his supporters battling it out with the National Front, when something struck him as odd. His followers were on suspiciously good terms with the "enemy" and the battle was obviously being conducted according to recognised rules. When the whistle blew for half time the antagonists bowed to each other and went off to drink in the same pub (admittedly in separate bars). Cliff, a near teetotaller who genuinely detests Fascists, ordered an inquiry fearing that the local SWP had been infiltrated by the Sealed Knot Society, who dress up and re-enact historic battles. It transpired that, on a previous occasion, a rising young SWP intellectual had been recognised by his own comrades and beaten up when he refused to join in the fun.
The street fighters, who are known as "Squaddists" by other SWP members, and now serve as an inspiration to the currently fashionable Gay Nazi pop artists Gilbert and George, refused to admit that their behaviour amounted to revisionism. Cliff, who is historically well informed, had in consenting to their semi-autonomous existence been taking a leaf from the book of the Catholic Church which creates religious orders to channel the enthusiasm of particularly devout believers, while preventing them from getting in the way of the mainstream operation. Some "Squaddists" adopted the RCP line that Fascists are more honest than Labourites and Trotskyists, who, although equally racist, hypocritically refuse to go out and beat up Blacks. It was alleged that the SWP's inability to appreciate the rules of chivalry observed in the battles with the National Front were a proof of its pacifism and that many Front members were good types although politically mistaken. When the "Squaddists" were shown the door they set up the journal, Red Action, and denounced all other groups as incurably petty bourgeois because of their addiction to reading and discussion and refusal to engage in physical combat.
As you can see from the exerpts, the article is written with tongue placed firmly in cheek, and with some affectionate humour from an insider's viewpoint.
One of the most loathsome features of Ultra-Leftism is its general inability to take itself anything other than completely seriously. It's inability to Laugh at its own absurdities. This type of fanatic devotion to The Cause has historically led to such Enormities as the "Cultural Revolution" and the "Red Terror".
But as the article shows, there are people, good humane and rational people, who exist in the upper echelons of movements that I wholly detest and despise, and with principles I'm in complete disagreement with. Now if there were more members like these, I'd be forced to re-consider my political position. But as they remain the exception rather than the rule, my
A word to the wise though, especially to the rabid and deadly-serious Libertarians and "Foaming-at-the-Mouth Capitalists and Proud Of it". If a member of something as discredited as the Ultra-Left can look at its fellow-travellers with a jaundiced, critical, and altogether irreverent eye, maybe we should do the same about our own (dis)organisation, lest we become what we're fighting against.
Hat (or rather, ClothCap) Tip : Socialism In An Age Of Waiting