Is Leninism finished?

Do revolutionary parties, like the Socialist Workers Party, that draw on the method of organising developed by Lenin and the Bolsheviks still fit in the twenty first century? Alex Callinicos challenges the critics and argues that Leninism remains indispensable

The demise of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and of the political tradition that it seeks to embody have been widely proclaimed on the British left in recent weeks. Thus the columnist Owen Jones has announced that “the era of the SWP and its kind is over.” Is he right?

The flood of attacks on the SWP originates in some internal arguments that culminated in our annual conference in January. The conference discussed a difficult disciplinary case. But wider political differences emerged. Two factions were formed in the lead-up to the conference to fight for changes in the model of democratic centralism – the system of decision making used by organisations in the revolutionary Marxist tradition – that the SWP has developed.

These issues were argued out in vigorous political debates at the conference, and the positions put forward on democratic centralism by the outgoing Central Committee (the main party leadership) were approved by large majorities. Unfortunately, a small minority refused to accept these decisions. Through a series of leaks and briefings some ensured that a highly distorted account of the disciplinary case was circulated on the web and taken up by some of the mainstream media.”

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