This article is a review of Anatomy of the Micro-Sect, by Hal Draper, dated 1973. It thus refers to political sectarianism. I was particularly taken by this quote,

What characterizes the classic sect was best defined by Marx himself: it counterposes its sect criterion of programmatic points against the real movement of the workers in the class struggle, which may not measure up to its high demands. The touchstone of support (the “point d’honneur,” in Marx’s words) is conformity with the sect’s current shibboleths – whatever they may be, including programmatic points good in themselves. The approach pointed by Marx was different: without giving up or concealing one’s own programmatic politics in the slightest degree, the real Marxist looks to the lines of struggle calculated to move decisive sectors of the class into action – into movement against the established powers of the system (state and bourgeoisie and their agents, including their labor lieutenants inside the workers’ movement). And for Marx, it is this reality of social (class) collision which will work to elevate the class’s consciousness to the level of the socialist movement’s program.

There’s more below/overleaf, including a commentary on the featured image. …

I am also rather taken with this,

There are two notions that try to remedy the ills of sectism by broadening the sect. The intention is good; the remedy impractical.

One is the proposal to abolish sectarianism by a call for the unity of all the sects. This may also be presented as a road to forming a socialist “movement”. It is a piteous illusion. In practice, it may mean a spate of unity negotiations among some of the sects (a common time-killing enterprise), or even a unification or two (a drop out of the bucket). But the actual unification of all the sects is an inherent impossibility where the programmatic shibboleths on which the sects are based are politically incompatible. The product of sect unification turns out to be nothing but a somewhat larger sect, as long as the conditions for a genuine socialist movement do not obtain. The idea of an “all-inclusive” sect is a will o’ the wisp.

There is a piece on how the plan of the sect is to grow to become the movement,

There has never been a single case of a sect which developed into, or gave rise to, a genuine socialist movement – by the only process that sects know, the process of accretion. The sect mentality typically sees the road ahead as one in which the sect (one’s own sect) will grow and grow, because it has the Correct Political Program, until it becomes a large sect, then a still larger sect, eventually a small mass party, then larger, etc., until it becomes large and massy enough to impose itself as the party of the working class in fact. But in two hundred years of socialist history, this has never actually happened, in spite of innumerable attempts.

Draper argues that this is impossible but sadly its vision is one used by the right in the Labour movement to justify its witch hunts. (Although if impossible, why bother to witch hunt them, although in the UK, I suspect that the opposition to them in Union movement is more serious.) Part of the answer is the destructive nature of the so-called debate of the sectarians and their abusive relationship with newly found cadres. By abusive, I mean that the sects, use a portfolio management policy towards recruitment, recruiting five and keeping one, while the remaining four become disillusioned with politics and fall into inactivity.


And now I need to write a featured image commentary. This is snip from a digital copy of Hogarth’s Beer Street and Gin Lane which, inspired by John Sullivan’s 80’s masterpiece “As soon as this pub closes” on the fissiparous nature of the British Left and how to spot which group your local trots are/were in, I did an image search on “As soon as this pub closes”. This pointed me at the various sites, decorated with Hogarth’s picture including a semi-serious one by Keith Flett from whom I learned that the article was named after a song of the same name from the play “Close the Coalhouse Door”, written by Alex Glasgow and Henry Livings which perhaps sums up the awkward relationship between drink, pubs, the left and the wider labour movement. The singer of the song, in the pub, talks about all the things he plans to change in the world, but as the drinking goes on, the song concludes with the line ‘I think I’m going to be sick’.

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