This account of the dispute in the SWP is a little less balanced than some might like, but worth reading.
It’s worth reading less as an analysis than as a collection of examples of what happens when history is transformed from evidence to support an argument to an authoritarian assertion of what is to be done.
If you’re a progressive in the UK in 2013, an appeal to the authority of the past by reference to what Lenin said in Russia in 1905 is not immediately an obvious analogy.
If the SWP want to know why they struggle to demonstrate their relevance, references to the past in Russia or to the National MInority Movement or other events a century ago should tell them all they need to know.
History is evidence, not authority. We look at history to understand the present, but we make history, even if we do not choose the circumstances. By resorting to appeals to the authority of figures from the past we deny our own responsibility and agency – which possibly explains why the SWP has refused to take responsibility for its own responses to accusations of rape by one of its members. Lenin knew nothing about feminism, and didn’t even have the opportunity to learn from considering its errors. Lenin’s inability to understand even the simplest critique of the first category error that is vanguardism is, of course, why he’s an unreliable reference point.