Report of our cadre school: new members discussing Marxist theory
Cadre – from the French for ‘frame’ – refers in Marxist organisations to members who are experienced in the ideas and methods of a revolutionary party. Socialist Alternative regularly organises ‘cadre schools’, aimed at introducing new members to Marxist theory. Here is a report from a new member in Brighton, JESSE BROCKHILL, of the cadre school on Leon Trotsky’s pamphlet ‘Transitional Programme’ held recently. Trotsky was one of the leaders of the Russian Revolution in 1917 and of the Left Opposition (which organised against Stalin), later helping to form the Fourth International.
As a new member of Socialist Alternative, I’ve been looking forward to getting a grasp on the fundamentals of socialism and the theories of Marxism through discussion and study. The cadre schools, organised as part of the Socialist Alternative consolidation drive, have so far been a useful tool in this process of learning. Because of the current pandemic, the cadre schools are taking place online, beginning with the distribution of preparation material and sets of questions to be answered and brought up later in discussion. I attended one focused on Trotsky’s Transitional Programme, the session was split into three sections; a lead-off consisting of the historical context for the writing of the Transitional Programme, and two group discussions centred around the first five chapters of the programme, and the contemporary case study of Socialist Alternative member in the US, Kshama Sawant, and her position on the Seattle city council.
These discussions displayed the historic role of the Transitional Programme in its criticism of social democracy and its laying bare of the opportunism that suppressed real revolutionary movements. The discussion also revealed the present day relevance of the ideas that it sets out; ideas that call for the education and mass organisation of the working class and for demands that go beyond the framework of what bourgeois democracy deems acceptable; creating a bridge between the ‘minimum programme’ of reforms and the ‘maximum programme’ of achieving full socialism. The organisation of the session was very efficient, considering the current situation, and, due to the preparation materials and preliminary guidance, all those involved were prepared to confidently join the discussions and ask relevant and interesting questions.
The discussion hosts were very knowledgeable and prompted discussion very well. There was not one point in the session where the concepts seemed too complex to grasp, nor were they dumbed down to the point where there was no room for questioning. Those in attendance offered many different perspectives on the concepts raised, and the relevance and usefulness of trade unions in achieving a revolutionary situation was especially well discussed by the group, utilising the knowledge of union activists in attendance. I am sure that the friendly and open nature of the discussion will help newer members (including myself) to galvanise feelings of disgust at the injustices and inequalities we currently face in modern capitalism, into a strong and educated socialist resolve to get involved in activism and see real change in our society.