At Lenin’s Tomb, Socialist Workers Party cadre Richard Seymour mocks an eminently mockable and cringe-inducing video featuring some kids performing a song about the importance of respecting authority and obeying one’s parents, teachers and the teachings of Jesus. He calls it a “Hitler Youth Christmas Special” and sneers, “Jesus made these little fuckers and their despicable parents.”
But wait. Isn’t this the same Richard Seymour whose political party practices “democratic centralism,” thus demanding that all members fall into line and support the rulings of the Central Committee, even if they disagree with them– on penalty of expulsion?
Isn’t this the same Richard Seymour who named his blog and calls himself “lenin” in honor of the man who wrote:
Whoever weakens ever so little the iron discipline of the party of the proletariat (especially during the time of its dictatorship), actually aids the bourgeoisie against the proletariat.
[The small commodity producers] encircle the proletariat on every side with a petty-bourgeois atmosphere, which permeates and corrupts the proletariat and causes constant relapses among the proletariat into petty-bourgeois spinelessness, disunity, individualism, and alternate moods of exaltation and dejection. The strictest centralization and discipline are required within the political party of the proletariat in order to counteract this, in order that the organizational role of the proletariat (and that is its principal role) may be exercised correctly, successfully, victoriously.
Let the “Lefts” [i.e. leftwing opponents of the Bolsheviks] put themselves to a practical test on a national and international scale; let them try to prepare for (and then realize) the dictatorship of the proletariat without a strictly centralized party with an iron discipline, without the ability to master every sphere, every branch, every variety of political and cultural work.
… and in honor of the man whom the American anarchist Emma Goldman met in Moscow in 1920:
I broached the subject of the Anarchists in Russia. I showed [Lenin] a letter I had received from Martens, the Soviet representative in America, shortly before my deportation [from the US]. Martens asserted that the Anarchists in Russia enjoyed full freedom of speech and Press. Since my arrival I found scores of Anarchists in prison and their Press suppressed. I explained that I could not think of working with the Soviet Government so long as my comrades were in prison for opinion’s sake. I also told him of the resolutions of the Moscow Anarchist Conference. He listened patiently and promised to bring the matter to the attention of his party. “But as to free speech,” he remarked, “that is, of course, a bourgeois notion. There can be no free speech in a revolutionary period. We have the peasantry against us because we can give them nothing in return for their bread. We will have them on our side when we have something to exchange. Then you can have all the free speech you want–but not now. Recently we needed peasants to cart some wood into the city. They demanded salt. We thought we had no salt, but then we discovered seventy poods in Moscow in one of our warehouses. At once the peasants were willing to cart the wood. Your comrades must wait until we can meet the needs of the peasants. Meanwhile, they should work with us. . . .”
Free speech, free Press, the spiritual achievements of centuries, what were they to this man? A Puritan, he was sure his scheme alone could redeem Russia. Those who served his plans were right, the others could not be tolerated.
So it seems that Seymour’s real objection to the video isn’t that the kids are singing about the importance of respecting authority, but rather that they are singing about respecting the wrong kind of authority.