Over the past year there have been a couple of high profile cases in both the world of blogging and the mainstream media about left wing groups and their treatment of individual members. The first of course was the allegations surrounding "Comrade delta" in the Socialist Workers Party and now we see similar scrutiny over former Maoists around "Comrade Bala" and the alleged "slave keeping" in what remained of their Maoist "Commune".
Over at A Very Public Sociologist Phil BC tries to make some sense of this from a Marxist perspective. He writes:
Messianism is not the unique property of Maoists. Just as the far right is divided among would-be fuehrers who brook no opposition, so the far left is split between collectives of varying sizes, each uniquely offering the correct politics and the right leadership to sweep capitalism away - if only the working class would listen to them instead of their traditional (mis)leaders. If you subscribe to a group with grand pretensions of a glorious mission, one shouldn't be surprised if they act a bit strange. Or self-destruct spectacularly.
Of course Phil goes on to write about Trotskyism and reminds us that Marx himself rejected the idea he was a Marxist and showed disdain to those who proclaimed themselves "Marxists". In my view this misses the point entirely. No matter how you choose to view the "Marxist" movement the groups that follow this philosophy and their supporters show the same traits that one would find in religion.
Given we live in a period where religion is seemingly making a come back, particularly in the backward version of Islam promoted by the various Islamist hate preachers that tour the world spreading bile along with the high profile Christian Fundamentalism found in the United States and elsewhere, shows that this kind of messianic thought is highly prevalent even in the modern, open world that has evolved in the West in particular.
Yet even amongst so called "progressive" thinkers and their follower a messianic "world view" has developed around an alternative "Holy Trinity" in the form of Marx, Engels and Lenin.
The texts of these men are treated with due reverence but the many Marxists that exist on both the fringe and more mainstream political movements that exist today. You can substitute the Bible for the collected texts of these men, Gospels if you like such as The Communist Manifesto (Marx/Engels), What is to be done? (Lenin) and so on. Every word of these men has been preserved in print or on line for reference by their followers.
The Marxists even have their own "heresies". The majority of Communists world wide have followed in the tradition of Stalin, but a substantial number of today's activists (particularly in the UK) are disciples of Leon Trotsky considered as not just a "false prophet" by the mainstream communists but condemned (unto real death) as an agent of fascism. His murderer Ramon Mercader was famously made a Hero of the Soviet Union on his release.
Like religion there has been a process of splits and upheavals within the Marxist Tradition. Each group has developed it's own "guru". This can clearly be seen within the British Trotskyists. In the beginning there was the Revolutionary Communist Party (1948 or thereabouts) which contained nearly all the major influences on the existing sects today. There was Tony Cliff (founder of the Socialist Workers Party), Ted Grant (Militant/Socialist Party/Socialist Appeal) and the infamous Gerry Healy (Workers Revolutionary Party).
All these groups have seen doctoral and personality schisms over the years of which the "delta" affair is the most recent. Even the smaller groups have their prophets like Sean Matgamna (Alliance for Workers Liberty) David Yaffe (Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism). Overseas other groups have also developed in similar (and sometimes laughable) ways. Take Jean Posadas. He argued for the Soviet Union and China to use their nuclear weapons to "wipe out capitalism" (which fortunately no one ever took notice of) but also gained notoriety for claiming that flying saucers come from a workers planet. His inane logic suggested any civilisation that advanced had to be socialist. Go figure.
Despite the insanity of Posadas his determinism that the next stage of human development after capitalism would be socialism (and then communism) is actually the basis of most Marxist thinking. They live in a cosy little world where the superiority of "scientific socialism" was the cure-all answer to man's problems.
Combine such thinking and reverence for a political system of thought and hey presto you have
an embryonic religion. The Party is always right, the leadership of the party must be followed and of course deviation will not be tolerated. Imbued with the enthusiasm of people looking for easy answers to the world around them and there you go.
The Church of the Hammer and Sickle.
That even in this day and age members of an organisation that claims to fight for women's rights cannot even treat it's own members with humanity and respect, preferring to trust in the Professor and his merry crew is a sign of cultism. Less so perhaps than the Maoists, but equally as disturbing. The SWP should have fallen on it's sword a year ago. They can't even admit wrong-doing. Those that do are simply brushed aside.
Blind faith indeed!
Lets end with a Maoist "Hymn" by Cornelius Cardew.