Pat Stack examines how the SWP came to adopt its internal structures, how they led to a “democratic deficit” in the organisation, and what needs to be done to transform them today. He concludes:
Leninism faces a huge challenge in the 21st century, and one that it will fail if treated like a dead dogma. If however we take the central guiding spirit of Lenin’s vision of the party, and adapt it to the needs of today and tomorrow, democratic centralism can remain at the forefront of building for revolutionary change.
To achieve that it is necessary to understand that for the centralism of united action to really work, democracy, argument and discourse are essential. Comrades have to have faith that even if they have ended up on the losing side of an argument, the democratic structures they participated in are open, honest and thorough, and that arguments can be revisited where necessary.
Such democracy can’t be restricted to three months, stamped on by constitutions, outlawed, by dictate, or ignored when it is hammering at the centralist gates. If it is then all that’s left are orders and rules, 99 per cent discipline and 1 per cent conviction, that’s a recipe for disaster and a negation of everything our tradition stands for.