Party, Organization and Social Change.
This is a response to Graeme's question on parties and methods of change.
I. To Party or Not to Party?
While I favour the formation of a party in the mid-nineneeth century concept ion of it – which at that time meant tendency or grouping, I do not favour the creation of what the concept became in the latter half of that century. Typically such parties are top-down and centralized. Such structure means they cannot help but become sclerotic, or opportunist or corrupt. The situation is even worse for parties in the parliamentary arena, where compromise and deal-making are the order of the day. Legislators soon become shut off from their party base, let alone the masses whom they are supposed to represent.
Revolutionaries should not form parliamentary parties, in my opinion, in order to stay true to principle. This does not mean revolutionaries cannot join or participate in a parliamentary party, just that the two groups should be separate.
Rather than a "party" with all the negative connotations of the term, I prefer the development of a Revolutionary Organization. (RO) The function of the RO is to advance the self-activity of the populace, to prevent the take-over of the popular movements by power-seeking groups and to encourage the socialist direction of the struggle. The RO leads by example, by loyalty to the people, by strength of ideas and practice, rather than top-down leadership which is only another form of bossism. In the RO, power flows from the base upwards in the form of recallable delegates. Each RO branch is autonomous – within the confines of the Program and Constitution, I should emphasize.
Three principles of the RO are "Theoretical and Tactical Unity", "Collective Responsibility" and "Social Insertion".
Theoretical Unity" ... an agreement on the theory upon which [the RO] is based. In other words, that members of the organisation must agree on a certain number of basic points, such as class struggle, anti-capitalism and anti-statism, and so on... While... everyone will not agree with everything... it is important to reach as much agreement as possible, and to translate this into action. Once a theoretical position is reached, the members have to argue it in public (even if they initially opposed it within the organisation but they do have the right to get the decision of the organisation changed by internal discussion). (1)
"Tactical Unity" mean[s] that the members of an organisation should struggle together as an organised force rather than as individuals. Once a strategy has been agreed by the [RO], all members would work towards ensuring its success (even if they initially opposed it). In this way resources and time are concentrated in a common direction, towards an agreed objective. (1)
"Collective responsibility" means while recognising each member's rights to independence, free opinion, individual liberty and initiative,[the RO] requires each member to undertake fixed organisation duties, and demands execution of communal decisions." (1)
"Social Insertion" means to be at the heart of the social struggles and not mere cheer leaders... to enhance the social and popular movements, to make them more militant, without trying to make them 'anarchist.' (2) Part of social insertion involves "social weaving" by which the RO reunites community organizations of the oppressed classes... to build solidarity. (2) The RO also works within trade unions and encourages syndicalist ideas and practices, and where possible helps build revolutionary syndicalist unions.
II. Social Change
I do not oppose reforms. On the contrary, nothing would please me more if this system could be peacefully and gradually reformed in the direction of equality and self-management. But through the advancement of neo-liberal policies of corporatization, cut- backs and increasingly authoritarian measures, the ruling classes have "burnt their bridges." Just to return to the mild 1960's style social democracy would require the mobilization of the entire populace. Thus, we have to think increasingly in a revolutionary direction.
I see social revolution coming about in four different ways.
1. A left-wing populist or left-social democratic government is elected and is continuously pushed from below by a mobilized populace. At some point this government is either pushed out of the way by popular power or dissolved into it.
2. Insurrection in the contemporary style. The government and corporations are seen as totally corrupt and unable to reform by the populace. Massive demonstrations, strikes and occupations bring the economy and government to a standstill. The army and police refuse to attack the people. New forms of governance arise based upon existing neighborhood committees and strike committees.
3. Dual Power – "Government From Below." Involves; a. Coordination of popular movements b. Regionalization of struggles, municipalities controlled from below. 3. consolidation of regional grass roots power. (2)
4. Any combination of the preceding.
1. The Platform from the Anarchist FAQ
2. The Social Question: Latin America and "Social Insertion" by Micheal Schmidt
See also articles