Monday, June 22, 2009

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.

End Notes

1. The Platform from the Anarchist FAQ

2. The Social Question: Latin America and "Social Insertion" by Micheal Schmidt

See also articles


And Wikipedia


Blogger Renegade Eye said...

I'm not sure where it differs from what Graeme posted?

1:12 PM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

Hi Ren, This was in response to Graeme's question in the State and Revolution article , see "how do we take power? What are your thoughts on political parties?" How my answer differs from his view I am not sure.

7:42 AM  
Blogger Graeme said...

Thanks for the answer Larry, interesting post.

I agree that a top-down bureaucratic party is not at all desirable, but at what point does this become simply a name switch? No organization is immune to the threat of bureaucracy, no matter what it is called. Obviously this needs to be fought against at every level, but I don't see anything in this that would prevent a bureaucracy from forming any more than the guards against such deformations in a true Revolutionary party that practices true Democratic Centralism (actually, many parts of the post very much resemble Democratic Centralism, at least in my understanding of it).

1:43 PM  
Blogger mollymew said...

Hi Larry,
What Graeme says may be true if one takes some sort of idealist "democratic centralist" party that has never existed in human history since the end of the Third International. There is no doubt that there have been Trotskyist parties (and to a lesser extent Maoist parties) that have given full freedom for factional debate about one item of consequence tied into 55 items of theoretical non-consequence. Aside from those I have always styled as the "real commies" the ability of the leadership of the parties (Trotskyist and Maoist) involved to enforce the sanction that "THOU SHALT LIE" on their adherants ie "ideological unity" has been pretty minimal. How many Trotskyist sects are there in the world today, or even in any given country ? I would hate to see anarchists repeating this sorry record because, plain and simply, in the absense of overwhelming power of resources (Moscow gold ???) the demand for ideological unity leads to nothing but factionalism and fission over one or the other major point of tactics covered up with all too many points of "theory". ONE effective organization becomes five mutually feuding sects. maybe we should learn from the competition. I have a lot more to say on this subject, but I'll leave to later.

11:50 PM  
Blogger Larry Gambone said...

I think the difference between the Platform and our Marxist friends is that the former is for a GENERAL level of theoretical unity (anti-capitalism, anti-statism etc) which leaves a good amount of leeway, whereas the latter tend to desire unity on every jot and tittle. I se no evidence that Platformist organizations are any more divisiveness-producing than any other form of anarchism. If I though this was the case I wouldn't touch Plastformism with a 10 foot pole. Indeed the worst sectarians in our milieu are not Platformists but fringies like the primmies or some of the syndicalists of the IWA.

8:13 AM  

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