Sunday, February 20, 2022

Part 2 Robert Michels - POLITICAL PARTIES The Errors of “POLITICAL PARTIES”

There are a number of assumptions made by Michels which are not based upon empirical evidence and are little better than elitist prejudices, or at best, may have been true at the time, but are no longer the case today. There is a “pathology of the crowd” and the “masses incapable of most necessary resolutions.” 25 In the “lower stages of civilization, tyranny dominant.” 32 As we know from anthropology, societies without the state tend toward consensus and are not tyrannies.
Millions cannot make decisions without intermediaries. Assemblies of thousands have the “gravest difficulties”. (Tell that to the Indignados) 26 Hence the need for delegates to represent the mass” 27(A confusion between representation and delegation) 25 
“A strong organization needs a strong leadership.” 36 A “fighting party needs a hierarchical structure” as “liberty must yield to the need for prompt action.” and “democracy incompatible with strategic promptness.” 42 All are assumptions and are counter-acted by evidence, such as the anarchist militias in Spain, the Zapatistas, the Kurdish militias etc.
For most people the relationship of the “good of the individual and the good of the collectivity... little developed.” which is why parties reject referenda as a means of safeguarding democracy.” 42 This was written two years before tens of millions of men went off to get themselves killed in a misguided, but nonetheless authentic desire to sacrifice themselves for the national collectivity.
The majority are indifferent, only a minority take part in party decisions. 50
(Are they really indifferent, or just happy with the way the organization functions? About 90% of the IWW members do not bother to vote in the annual elections – yet these same members are active in activities of their branches.)
There is a huge difference of educational level among members, giving rise for a need for leadership. 53 (This may have been true in the past, but part of today's lack of deference toward authority is rooted in the fact that many of us are better educated than our masters.) 53
The masses have a need to “prostrate themselves” before their leaders, which is the remains of a “religious need.” 67. This may have been true to an extent in the past, but today – other than the far-right – witness the adulation of Trump – most people have a fairly cynical view of their wannabe leaders.
The anarchists are “enemies of all organization.” 81 Not that old cliché again!
Bernstein is quoted as evidence. He denies the average person the knowledge and ability to make “unreconstructed popular sovereignty” possible and as the masses lack a sense of responsibility, “socialism is [not] everything BY the people, but everything FOR the people.” 88. For social democracy, democracy is an end, not a means. The mass must submit to the leaders, who know more than they do.” 95 Ominous! Here we have socialism stripped of its the self-managed essence. Right-wing social democracy begins to confuse state ownership with socialism.
Michels complains in a rather priggish way about the vast numbers of associations social democratic workers belonged to. Lacking the slightest notion of the pre-figurative – all the good stuff has to wait for the Party taking power – he sees this associationalism – today seen as one of the high points of German social democracy - as dangerously “petty-bourgeois.” This is from the guy who ten years later supports Mussolini! 289
Michels refers to syndicalism's attempts to overcome the iron law by reducing the control of a minority over the union. He criticizes this attempt by confusing delegation and representation, asking how can the problems of organization be overcome by an antidote rooted in representation? 340 He sees the oligarchic nature of French syndicalism in the lack on initiative of the working classes. They don't move unless told to by the union. Only a handful of union members subscribe to the CGT press. 354 But activists are always a minority, everywhere. This is only a problem if this minority becomes a self-perpetuating elite, or tries to force itself boss-like upon the mass of workers.
He assumes that social wealth could only be administered by a bureaucracy which leads to the impossibility of a society without classes, as the adminstrators end up with the power of a capitalist. These administrators would use their power and relative wealth compared to the workers to secure the same positions for their children. 383 Michels has seemingly no conception of self-management, and the use of decentralization and federalism to minimize the possibility of a centralized bureaucracy forming.
He reiterates Marx's complaint about the position of the Federal Council anarchists on the need to send delegates to committees. According to Marx, these delegates would “be invested with an authoritative character.” 359 This is pure obfuscation, since delegates carry out the will of the assembly and can be recalled by the assembly.


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