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Ideological Intransigence, Democratic Centralism, and Cultism: A Case Study from the Political Left

Dennis Tourish, Ph.D.
University of Ulster, Northern Ireland

 

Abstract

There is a dearth of literature documenting the existence of cults in the political sphere. This article suggests that some left-wing organizations share a number of ideological underpinnings and organizational practices which inherently incline these groups toward the adoption of cultic practices. In particular, it is argued that the doctrines of "catastrophism" and democratic centralist modes of organization normally found among Trotskyist groupings are implicated in such phenomenon. A case history is offered of a comparatively influential Trotskyist grouping in Britain, which split in 1992; and it is suggested that an analysis of the organization in terms of cultic norms is particularly fruitful. This is not intended to imply that a radical critique of society is necessarily inappropriate. Rather, it is to argue that political movements frequently adopt organizational forms, coupled with "black and white" political programs, that facilitate the exercise of undue social influence. This stifles genuinely creative political thought. Also considered are issues suggested by this analysis that are particularly pertinent for those involved in radical politics.

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Ideological Intransigence, Democratic Centralism, and Cultism: A Case Study from the Political Left

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