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Why We Need a Vanguard Party (according to my friend - and he has me stumped)

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ultraviolet's picture
ultraviolet
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Aug 18 2011 03:38
Why We Need a Vanguard Party (according to my friend - and he has me stumped)

so i got in an email debate with my trotskyist friend about revolutionary tactics.

he of course is for the use of the vanguard party, which will be vested with the authority to make the decisions that lead and shape the revolution.

and i of course argued for direct democracy.

but his reply to my calls for direct democracy was... well, it was good. some of his points were irrelevant, but some of them were valid. they stumped me. i don't know how to respond.

i feel very strongly that the revolution must be libertarian in character, with everyone involved having direct decision making power. not just a group of elected political elites who claim to represent us. that they're elected doesn't change that it's oligarchy.

but how to deal with some of the points he raises? i'll paste his email below, but the three best points he makes and which i don't know how to respond to are:

1. direct democracy is time consuming, which is ok during peacetime after we've won the revolution but not ok when there's a violent class war

2. it's totally impractical for millions of people to decide the wording of things to be voted on, so it seems like at least some decisions will have to be made by elected delegates without consultation of the masses

3. in a revolution people's political consciousness is quickly radicalized, and every week we have thousands of new recruits whose politics are now revolutionary but in many ways still quite shitty, and they might make really bad decisions (like joining a social democratic government! agh! not spain allover again!) that cost us the revolution

again, i'm committed to direct democracy and self-management of the revolution... but i'm wondering how we can deal with these problems he raises in an anarchist way.

his email is below.

PLEASE HELP!!!

========================================================

Quote:
This is in response to your comments on the vanguard idea:

How do you imagine using direct democracy when there are hundreds of thousands or millions of people supporting you, all of different levels of consciousness?

I don't know if you are thinking of consensus model or just straight voting on every issue that comes up, but either way it is very time consuming (mass elections are hard to organize, a huge use of resources, and easily open to vote-rigging).

This model is too slow for real-time decision making in a crisis. Are you going to hold a public vote to decide if the revolution is tomorrow at dawn or next week? This is not realistic.

And since you can't fit a hundred thousand people in a room to talk things over either... who is controlling the communications, deciding what issues to vote on, the wording of the votes? Those people would be defacto in control. This is one of the problems with this model.

Furthermore, people who just became revolutionaries last week might not have a grasp of history or tactics that more experienced people do. To use the G20 thing as an example - people new to the fact of police brutality might be more likely to blame the victims, or to want to witch hunt the 'violent' elements and blame them for the abuse... instead of seeing it as arising from the system. So it makes sense to have delegates that reflect the highest level of consciousness - these people would be the vanguard. It's people like you and me and P. who have higher level of knowledge and consciousness that are the vanguard, not some nameless group of hacks. It's real people, and in a revolutionary situation it would be made up of people we trust.

A vanguard party is successful because it is democratic and reflects the ideas of revolutionaries in the population. That is why people follow it and why it leads. If it isn't reflecting that then it will be irrelevent.

It will also have the maximum possible democracy - based on recallable delegates that are truly representative. On local levels we elect the people we know are smart and experienced to represent us (like P. of whoever), and they are part of regional and national assemblies that make decisions for us. If P. fucks up and supports the wrong thing we send a different delegate to replace him. Delegates could pick someone to be in charge of military strategy or whatever, but they would also be as accountable as the circumstances allow. The system would be flexible, so that at the time of state repression it might be less open if that's what delegates thought was necessary. But in general it would reflect the maximum democracy possible in the circumstances.

Of course platformism reflects democratic centralism - it was an idea made up after the success of the Bolsheviks, when some anarchists realized their old ideas had failed in practice. Platformism is Leninism halfway as the BT has it.

RedHughs
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Aug 18 2011 06:37
Quote:
1. direct democracy is time consuming, which is ok during peacetime after we've won the revolution but not ok when there's a violent class war

The experience we have with direct democracy (good and bad), the Soviets, Italian workers councils, revolutionary Shuras in Iran and Iraq, Argentine neighborhood councils, Hungary, Nicaragua, Cuba, where-ever, has always been during times of social war if not honest-to-god war. As this long list shows, directly democratic institutions have formed spontaneously in many revolutionary situations independently from any anarchist or anti-state communist movement. The thing is that this has generally involved groups simply acting and coordinating their actions on a larger level, not groups beholden to some gigantic direct democracy machinery (which I would agree wouldn't work). But direct democracy combined with direct action can be very light on its feet.

Quote:
2. it's totally impractical for millions of people to decide the wording of things to be voted on, so it seems like at least some decisions will have to be made by elected delegates without consultation of the masses

See above. You and he might not understand councils as "simultaneously executive and legislative" bodies. The point isn't to have a state whose decisions are all approved by the whole of the population. Rather, councils make decisions and then establish coordination to improve the decisions.

Quote:
3. in a revolution people's political consciousness is quickly radicalized, and every week we have thousands of new recruits whose politics are now revolutionary but in many ways still quite shitty, and they might make really bad decisions (like joining a social democratic government! agh! not spain allover again!) that cost us the revolution

A) There is no revolutionary group which could remain revolutionary while taking command of some group of "willing followers" and telling them what to do. Further, the followers who quickly join a centralized party are not simply well-meaning people who want wise leadership. They tend to be authoritarians, opportunists and sheep. In my limited reading of Trotsky, I remember he, himself admitted that the consequence of Bolsheviks expanding the party massively in Russia was a huge influx of opportunists who became the base of support of Stalin.

B) There is absolutely nothing wrong with a disciplined, articulate organization putting forward its ideas effectively and forcefully. It is simply that the discipline here should involve avoiding the temptation to numerically expand faster than members can digest the ideas and avoiding the temptation to simply impose decisions rather than educating people concerning the decisions. It is far better to have people who aren't yet up for the task be on the outside than have them on the inside where they can speak with whatever (moral, intellectual) authority you might have accumulated.

C) As far as avoiding mistakes goes, you and your friend have very high opinion of what a centralized party can do. I would assert that mistakes are unavoidable by any organ of any sort. Revolutions have historically been tragi-comedies of mistakes and errors and that's not likely to change. Any group that thinks it has all the answers already and just needs to impose them on people is simply a dangerous enemy of the revolution. That isn't saying that we communists shouldn't put forward our views but our analysis is going to be just one piece of a very large puzzle.

Revolution will be a process of self-education or it will be nothing. Revolution has historically involved a quick education in how to organize society (in Spain, Russia but various other areas as well). The main lag, the main problem has been the self-organized populace's willingness to allow various authorities to reassert their control in various ways. There's no reason revolutionaries shouldn't act to educate people against this - but said revolutionaries would pretty much acting in opposition something like a Trotskyist party.

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RedEd
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Aug 19 2011 04:34

I agree with what RH said. Here are a few more points:

Quote:
A vanguard party is successful because it is democratic and reflects the ideas of revolutionaries in the population. That is why people follow it and why it leads. If it isn't reflecting that then it will be irrelevent.

This is wrong on all counts. A vanguard party is not necessarily democratic either internally or in how it relates to the working class as a whole. A vanguard party does not represent the views of the revolutionaries in the population, it represents a sort of amalgam of the views of its leading members. It's membership may agree or disagree with those, but in a large party they will typically have very little ability to influence the position of the party directly. Revolutionaries outside the vanguard party obviously are not represented by it. The idea, so often put forward by Trotskyisyts, that a leadership rises and falls according to whether it has the assent of the masses is simply absurd for several reasons. Most obvious, every vanguard party that has ever gained power has used gerrymandering, intimidation, imprisonment and murder to suppress opposition and makes sure it stays relevant through brute force. How could it not? The whole premise of centralism is that a central authority dictates policy to everyone else, so no matter how democratically chosen it is it has to enforce its line and stifle dissent that makes this too difficult, which, in a revolutionary situation, there is bound to be a lot of. Another factor is that certain institutions and modes of decision making naturally lend themselves to certain outcomes. If you put people in a bourgeois democracy and ask them to vote for parties, the outcome is very different than if you arrange them according to direct democracy. This is hardly surprising, the fact that people operate in terms of the institutional arrangements around them is a basic tenet of sociology that Trots have a blind spot about, but which should be pretty obvious. If you set up a revolutionary state, and enforce that model of organisation on people, then of course people will relate to it in terms of the form of the institution. The outcome of this will be that the institutional form will determine the horizons of action revolutionaries can take, meaning that the leadership does not represent the ideas of revolutionaries, but instead represents the sort of people and positions made viable by the institutional model. Trots often seem to think that an enlightened leadership can 'do the right thing' in any institution, from bureaucratic trade unions, to social democratic political parties, to bourgeois parliaments. This is idealism of the most pernicious kind.

Quote:
It will also have the maximum possible democracy - based on recallable delegates that are truly representative. On local levels we elect the people we know are smart and experienced to represent us (like P. of whoever), and they are part of regional and national assemblies that make decisions for us. If P. fucks up and supports the wrong thing we send a different delegate to replace him. Delegates could pick someone to be in charge of military strategy or whatever, but they would also be as accountable as the circumstances allow. The system would be flexible, so that at the time of state repression it might be less open if that's what delegates thought was necessary. But in general it would reflect the maximum democracy possible in the circumstances.

You friend uses the word delegate when he should say representative. What he wants is someone to go and make decisions for the other people, and if they don't like how the representative is making decisions for them, they can pick a new one. Good bourgeois democratic principles in other words. A delegate should be carrying out a mandate they have been given by the people who delegated them. In other words, they don't act as they think best until they are recalled, they act as they are told and get recalled if they don't. Your friend may think it is a revolutionary thing to trust in the ideas of people we think are 'smart and experienced' but again, this is hopeless idealism of the kind 'if only our leaders had the correct ideas everything would be fine'.

Quote:
Of course platformism reflects democratic centralism - it was an idea made up after the success of the Bolsheviks, when some anarchists realized their old ideas had failed in practice. Platformism is Leninism halfway as the BT has it.

This is simply false. Platformism represents a mode of anarchist organisation that is as old as the anarchist movement itself. The principles of the Organisational Platform of the Libertarian Communists are basically those of the Alliance that operated prior to and within the International Working Men's Association. Platformism is resolutely federalist, not democratic centralist. Perhaps your friend is labouring under the delusion that organisation=centralism. These two points, that the Platform was a restatement of basic anarchist organisational principles, and that it was not centralist but federalist, were explicitly made by it's authors and accepted (after some unfortunate confusion due to choices of language, etc.) but most leading anarchist communists.

Finally this:

Quote:
Furthermore, people who just became revolutionaries last week might not have a grasp of history or tactics that more experienced people do. To use the G20 thing as an example - people new to the fact of police brutality might be more likely to blame the victims, or to want to witch hunt the 'violent' elements and blame them for the abuse... instead of seeing it as arising from the system. So it makes sense to have delegates that reflect the highest level of consciousness - these people would be the vanguard. It's people like you and me and P. who have higher level of knowledge and consciousness that are the vanguard, not some nameless group of hacks. It's real people, and in a revolutionary situation it would be made up of people we trust.

This is a strange bit of double think. First he says that the vanguard is people with the "highest level of consciousness" and includes you (I'm guessing some one with explicitly anarchist views?) in that. But he has also set up the idea of a democratic centralist vanguard party which presumably would have party lines, conditions of membership and so on that would exclude you from participation. He leaps from his definition of the vanguard as members of the working class who are class conscious revolutionaries to a definition that basically boils down to members of a specific organisation. So whilst he pays lip service to the idea of the vanguard as the most conscious sector of the proletariat, how he wants to practically define it by his actions in the world, rather than his pronouncements, is as members of an specific organisation, and more specifically the leadership of that organisation. For him, in practical terms, the real vanguard is the central committee of his favoured trot group.

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cantdocartwheels
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Aug 19 2011 09:11
Quote:
3. in a revolution people's political consciousness is quickly radicalized, and every week we have thousands of new recruits whose politics are now revolutionary but in many ways still quite shitty, and they might make really bad decisions (like joining a social democratic government! agh! not spain allover again!) that cost us the revolution.

don't be fooled, political groups are just as capable of doing and saying the wrong thing the idea of an infallible political minority or a pure line that will lead to a succesful revolution is gibberish whatever the doctrinal preferences of the people touting it.

Socialism can;t be created by decree or by force by a minority. It can only be implemented by the majority of the people taking over the economy (taking over their workplaces, streets and estates) and reorganising them as they see fit.
Without said process and everyday content, socialism has no meaning but empty slogans..

Angelus Novus
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Aug 19 2011 15:14

Really, when well-meaning Trots use the phrase "vanguard party", what they mean is something rather banal and non-threatening: basically that revolutionaries should also organize themselves *as* revolutionaries, and not simply dissolve themselves in mass organizations. That is certainly the meaning of the term as used by Ernest Mandel in his essay of the same name.

There's a lot to criticize about the historical practice of Bolshevism, but people really need to junk the politics of suspicion that self-proclaimed Bolsheviks are really advocating the politics of conspiratorial cabals. That isn't how they see themselves.

Recent scholarship by people like Lars T. Lih even suggests that the very notion of "Leninism" is a creation of the post-Lenin Comintern, and that all Lenin ever advocated was the creation of a Kautskyite Social Democratic Party in Russia (which of course can be criticized in its own right....)

Now, if one wants to argue that revolutionaries shouldn't organize themselves as such -- which is in fact the position of people like Henri Simon and journals like Echanges -- that's a perfectly legitimate position to argue for (I personally think it's incorrect), but Syndicalists, Platformists, etc. should really stop with the disingenuous argument that most soft-Trots are arguing for an organizational form radically different from what they themselves advocate. The real differences between most Trots and most anarchists are of a more tactical nature: whether to stand for elections, how to function in non-socialist unions or how to relate to unions in general, etc. Not whether or not revolutionaries should organize themselves as revolutionaries.

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RedEd
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Aug 19 2011 16:22

AN,

Whilst I think what you say is in some ways spot on, I think you are perhaps glossing over real differences. Obviously few people here are going to oppose the idea revolutionaries should organise as revolutionaries. But there's more than simply organisation as revolutionaries to a Leninist (which is still a useful shorthand, despite the very real problems you point out*) vanguard party. The way that Trotskyist parties are organised really does make them different from federalist groups in important ways. Even revolutionaries aren't immune to group dynamics and the effects of institutional frameworks. No one is arguing that Trotskyist central committees are shadowy cabals, far from it. But The claim that they are substitutionalist, for example, is not one that should be lightly cast off. Nor should the idea that the structure of democratic centralism saps self management, where as federalism fosters it.

I also think the tactical differences you point out are inextricably wound up in the organisational differences I have stressed. For example, democratic centralism lends itself towards a politics of representation that sits so comfortably with parliamentary activity and mainstream unionism. Federalism is largely structurally incompatible with these things, which is not to say federalist organisations can't engage in them, they can, but it goes against the grain of, rather than being facilitated by, the organisation structure.

* The main reason I think the term is useful is because Trotskyists and others really do often use the slightly mythological conception of the Bolshevik model of vanguardism, even though the history of the Bolshevik party and many of the pronouncements and actions of its leaders do not bear it out at all.

piter
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Aug 19 2011 17:59
Quote:
Recent scholarship by people like Lars T. Lih even suggests that the very notion of "Leninism" is a creation of the post-Lenin Comintern, and that all Lenin ever advocated was the creation of a Kautskyite Social Democratic Party in Russia (which of course can be criticized in its own right....)

well Lih is right that Lenin advocate the creation of a party like the german one in "What is to be done? "and later on, but he changed his mind after the bolsheviks were in power (for differents reason, but most importantly because of the resistance of workers, about workplace questions, political questions, etc.,) and then advocated a party exercising a state dictatorship.

Quote:
The real differences between most Trots and most anarchists are of a more tactical nature: whether to stand for elections, how to function in non-socialist unions or how to relate to unions in general, etc. Not whether or not revolutionaries should organize themselves as revolutionaries.

well, not only that...trots are statist, often authoritarian, often their marxism is like how it was in the 2nd and 3rd international, etc...
and also some of them advocate the need of a party dictatorship after the revolution (as Trotsky advocated himself from 1917 and until the end). but yes not all of them.

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ultraviolet
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Aug 19 2011 18:00

Hi comrades, thank you for your responses! They have been convincing and have relieved the bulk of my anxieties on this issue! smile

That being said, I do have a few further questions. The questions are scattered in with my own thoughts, so I've bolded them for convenience. I've also separated question themes with lines.

Firstly:

My understanding is that anarchists in a revolutionary situation sometimes have elected people to make decisions which they must follow. I am thinking specifically of the anarchist militias in the Spanish civil war. Each unit elected a general who gave orders and commands. I think this was fair, especially because these generals were recallable. I also think it’s an example of where full direct democracy isn’t practical. But I do think that it was “democratic enough” and as democratic as possible for the circumstances – a military unit needs to act swiftly.

To my knowledge, most anarchists see this (elected recallable generals who give commands) as consistent with anarchist principles. If I’m wrong on that, correct me. Might there be other realms, besides the militias, where it might be a good idea to have elected recallable decision makers? Personally I can’t think of any off the top of my head, and in fact I suspect that militias are unique in how urgent and quickly decisions need to be made (within seconds), so I doubt that such limited democracy is necessary in any other realm. But I try to be open minded so am open to considering the possibility. If anyone can think of any, please share... even if you aren’t sure about it, we can debate the pros and cons.

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My other questions are based on things that two of you said. But I invite ANYONE to respond, please... even if my question isn’t about something you wrote, maybe you have a helpful answer.

The questions aren’t about whether federalism is superior to a vanguard party. The questions are clarification questions about how federalism functions, as some things are confusing to me.

RedHughs wrote:
The point isn't to have a state whose decisions are all approved by the whole of the population. Rather, councils make decisions and then establish coordination to improve the decisions.

I’m very confused by what you mean by this, that “councils make decisions and then establish coordination to improve the decisions.” Can you explain?

I suspect that it is something like what I have described, further down this post, in my description of how I think delegates facilitate decisions made beyond the local level... but I’m not sure that’s what you’re talking about.

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RedHughs wrote:
The thing is that this [democratic revolutionary activity] has generally involved groups simply acting and coordinating their actions on a larger level, not groups beholden to some gigantic direct democracy machinery (which I would agree wouldn't work). But direct democracy combined with direct action can be very light on its feet.

You're right, we don't need some gigantic direct democracy machine for decisions applicable to the local level – such as the expropriation of workplaces in a community. But other decisions need to be coordinated beyond the local level. For this I do think we will need a gigantic direct democracy machine... I have a question about this "gigantic machine" that I hope you can help answer, and it is asked below, in direct response to something RedEd said about delegates.

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RedEd wrote:
You friend uses the word delegate when he should say representative. What he wants is someone to go and make decisions for the other people, and if they don't like how the representative is making decisions for them, they can pick a new one. Good bourgeois democratic principles in other words. A delegate should be carrying out a mandate they have been given by the people who delegated them. In other words, they don't act as they think best until they are recalled, they act as they are told and get recalled if they don't.

This is also my understanding of delegates: In a higher level council of delegates sent from local councils, these delegates do not vote however they please, and must vote in a way that their local council told them to vote.

But if all delegates are just voting in the way that their local council told them to, why not just have every individual from the local councils vote (basically a referendum)? The outcome of the vote will be the same whether individuals vote or whether delegates vote as the individuals in their local council told them to. A meeting of delegates voting as they were told to seems an unnecessary step.

If delegates must only vote as they are told to, I see no usefulness of delegates as a network for decision making. Am I correct? Or am I missing something?

Although I don’t see the purpose of delegates being a network FOR decision making, I do see the purpose of delegates as networks of communication to FACILITATE making decisions about issues that are not strictly local, and apply to a larger region. In my understanding it goes something like this:

1. Issues that apply to the larger region are first discussed/debated in local councils.

2. Next, these local councils send delegates to meet and discuss/debate the regional issues, each arguing from the views of the local councils they each “represent.”

3. Then the delegates report back to their local councils and share the views of the other councils. The issue is then discussed/debated again – new information and perspectives from the other councils may shift many people’s views.

4. Finally, individuals in each local council vote on the issue.

Is that about right?

I also see delegates as being important as networks of communication that keep everyone informed of what’s going on in other communities: Strictly local decisions are made in local councils, then delegates meet to update each other on the decisions made by the local councils they each “represent”, then the delegates report back to their local councils to update them on the decisions made by all the other councils. This allows every individual to have a sense of what’s going on in the broader revolutionary movement.

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I’m also wondering... Isn’t it ok for delegates to make some decisions independently, without consulting their local councils? I can see situations in a revolution where regional / nonlocal decisions need to be made quickly, and there isn’t time for every local council to meet for a vote, let alone debate, send delegates to debate, listen to report backs from delegates, then debate again. I personally feel that allowing delegates some decision making power is both ok and necessary. However, I also think that, to make sure that the masses (non-delegates) are not disempowered by this, they have the right to veto any decision that delegates make independently. If the masses don’t like a decision delegates made, they just hold a vote to reverse the decision.

How does that sound to you, comrades? Is it democratic enough?

In my experience I have already seen anarchists do similar things in our organizations. Like when an anarchist organization writes a position paper, not every member is involved in writing it. Just a few. But after it is written, it needs to be approved by the majority in the group. Or in reform campaign organizations with heavy anarchist involvement and that use direct democracy, there will be, say, a media committee will create the group’s flyer, website, propaganda videos, posters, etc. Only a few people are involved in this stuff, and the rest of the organization doesn’t vote to approve everything they create. However, if the majority of the membership objected to (for example) a flyer that the media committee produced, they could organize a vote to veto that flyer.

I've never heard an anarchist object to these practices, and it seems pretty much the same thing as allowing delegates some decision making power but with the masses having veto power. Is that a fair comparison and do you agree, or no?

Angelus Novus
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Aug 19 2011 18:20
RedEd wrote:
The way that Trotskyist parties are organised really does make them different from federalist groups in important ways.

I think it really depends on what Trotskyists one is dealing with. The British SWP does not allow permanent internal factions (I think they do allow factions immediately leading up to party conventions?), whereas the French LCR, shortly before dissolving itself into the NPA, had about 4 or 5 different internal factions co-existing long-term. The Mandelite Fourth International was so loosey-goosey in structure in the 1970s that it housed two public, mutually opposed tendencies concerning the question of guerilla warfare in Latin America. So, although the point seems trivial, I think it's worth not generalizing about "Trotskyist organization" like it's some universally applied principal.

Quote:
Nor should the idea that the structure of democratic centralism saps self management, where as federalism fosters it.

It's worth bearing in mind, though, what the original intent behind the concept of "democratic centralism" was: namely that parliamentary delegates of Social Democratic parties should be bound by the resolutions of party membership and conventions, rather than freely exercising their "conscience" as individuals in parliamentary bodies, such as when the German Social Democracy voted for war credits.

Obviously, this isn't an issue for anarchists, who oppose parliamentary activity in principle, but for the sake of honesty it should be kept in mind that the intent behind "democratic centralism" was to discipline party bigwigs, not stifle activity in the ranks.

Quote:
The main reason I think the term is useful is because Trotskyists and others really do often use the slightly mythological conception of the Bolshevik model of vanguardism

This I totally agree with.

Angelus Novus
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Aug 19 2011 18:23
piter wrote:
well, not only that...trots are statist, often authoritarian

Eh, the older I get, the more I'm convinced that "statist" and "authoritarian" get tossed around too much as mere swearwords rather than substantive critiques. In debates between the ICC and anarchists on this board, for example, differences often seem to amount to exactly how one defines the term "state".

piter
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Aug 19 2011 18:31
Quote:
Eh, the older I get, the more I'm convinced that "statist" and "authoritarian" get tossed around too much as mere swearwords rather than substantive critiques. In debates between the ICC and anarchists on this board, for example, differences often seem to amount to exactly how one defines the term "state".

well, yes, it was in a way "to make it short", of course one has to be really more concrete than that to describe well the exact positions of each one, their exact differences, etc...

also some "anarchists" can be in some way also "authoritarian" or "substitutist", or even "statist" in some ways...

and also yes there are trots of very different kinds (for exemple Lutte Ouvrière is very different from the SWP, which is different from the LCR, etc...).

Dave B
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Aug 19 2011 19:08

I suspect the;

Quote:
They tend to be authoritarians, opportunists and sheep. In my limited reading of Trotsky, I remember he, himself admitted that the consequence of Bolsheviks expanding the party massively in Russia was a huge influx of opportunists who became the base of support of Stalin.

Refers to;

Leon Trotsky The Workers’ State, Thermidor and Bonapartism (February 1935)

Quote:
Socially the proletariat is more homogeneous than the bourgeoisie, but it contains within itself an entire series of strata that become manifest with exceptional clarity following the conquest of power, during the period when the bureaucracy and a workers’ aristocracy connected with it begin to take form. The smashing of the Left Opposition implied in the most direct and immediate sense the transfer of power from the hands of the revolutionary vanguard into the hands of the more conservative elements among the bureaucracy and the upper crust of the working class. The year 1924 – that was the beginning of the Soviet Thermidor.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1935/02/ws-therm-bon.htm

I actually think the cautious and often reserved quality of understanding and knowledge of Marxism, Leninism and Trotskyism on this site is refreshingly excellent compared to the average boneheads on Revleft.

Actually the size of the Bolshevik party around 1920 was never very great, in that period it peaked at around 800,000, about 1% of the adult population, under Lenin, before it started to be purged.

It was an astonishing achievement in a way for them to hold power and exercise their self confessed ‘dictatorship of one party’ with so few.

I suspect it went up a bit in the 1930’ under Stalin.

The concept of Leninism that most of us here know and hate is written through Lenin’s work both before sizing power and after it ie from 1902 to 1920, thus;

V. I. Lenin THESES ON THE FUNDAMENTAL TASKS OF THE SECOND CONGRESS OF THE COMMUNIST INTERNATIONAL

Published in July, 1920

Quote:
On the other hand, the idea, common among the old parties and the old leaders of the Second International, that the majority of the exploited toilers can achieve complete clarity of socialist consciousness and firm socialist convictions and character under capitalist slavery, under the yoke of the bourgeoisie (which assumes an infinite variety of forms that become more subtle and at the same time more brutal and ruthless the higher the cultural level in a given capitalist country) is also idealisation of capitalism and of bourgeois democracy, as well as deception of the workers.

In fact, it is only after the vanguard of the proletariat , supported by the whole or the majority of this, the only revolutionary class, overthrows the exploiters, suppresses them, emancipates the exploited from their state of slavery and-immediately improves their conditions of life at the expense of the expropriated capitalists -- it is only after this, and only in the actual process of an acute class struggle, that the masses of the toilers and exploited can be educated, trained and organised around the proletariat under whose influence and guidance, they can get rid of the selfishness, disunity, vices and weaknesses engendered by private property; only then will they be converted into a free union of free workers.

http://www.marx2mao.net/Lenin/TSCI20.html

Which was the same view that Lenin had in his What Is To Be Done, in 1902

Quote:
…………..what has been said above, we shall quote the following profoundly just and important utterances by Karl Kautsky on the new draft program of the Austrian Social-Democratic Party:

"Many of our revisionist critics believe that Marx asserted that economic development and the class struggle create not only the conditions for socialist production, but also, and directly, the consciousness (K. K.'s italics) of its necessity. And these critics aver that England, the country most highly developed capitalistically, is more remote than any other from this consciousness. Judging from the draft, one might assume that this allegedly orthodox-Marxist view, which is thus refuted, was shared by the committee that drafted the Austrian program. In the draft program it is stated:

'The more capitalist development increases the numbers of the proletariat, the more the proletariat is compelled and becomes fit to fight against capitalism. The proletariat becomes conscious' of the possibility and of the necessity for Socialism. In this connection socialist consciousness appears to be a necessary and direct result of the proletarian class struggle.

But this is absolutely untrue. Of course, Socialism, as a doctrine, has its roots in modern economic relationships just as the class struggle of the proletariat has, and, just as the latter, emerges from the struggle against the capitalist-created poverty and misery of the masses. But Socialism and the classs struggle arise side by side and not one out of the other; each arises under different conditions. Modern socialist consciousness can arise only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge. Indeed, modern economic science is as much a condition for socialist production as, say, modern technology, and the proletariat can create neither the one nor the other, no matter how much it may desire to do so; both arise out of the modern social process. The vehicle of science is not the proletariat, but the bourgeois intelligentsia (K. K.'s italics): it was in the minds of individual members of this stratum that modern Socialism originated, and it was they who communicated it to the more intellectually developed proletarians who, in their turn, introduce it into the proletarian class struggle where conditions allow that to be done.

Thus, socialist consciousness is something introduced into the proletarian class struggle from without (von Aussen Hineingetragenes) and not something that arose within it spontaneously (urwüchsig). Accordingly, the old Hainfeld program quite rightly stated that the task of Social-Democracy is to imbue the proletariat (literally: saturate the proletariat) with the consciousness of its position and the consciousness of its task There would be no need for this if consciousness arose of itself from the class struggle. The new draft copied this proposition from the old program, and attached it to the proposition mentioned above. But this completely broke the line of thought. . . ."

http://www.marx2mao.net/Lenin/WD02i.html

And;

V. I. Lenin The Trade Unions, The Present Situation And Trotsky’s Mistakes

Quote:
But the dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be exercised through an organisation embracing the whole of that class, because in all capitalist countries (and not only over here, in one of the most backward) the proletariat is still so divided, so degraded, and so corrupted in parts (by imperialism in some countries) that an organisation taking in the whole proletariat cannot directly exercise proletarian dictatorship.

It can be exercised only by a vanguard………

http://marxists.anu.edu.au/archive/lenin/works/1920/dec/30.htm

This was basically Blanquism, Jacobinism and for that matter Bakuninism, a position incidentally rejected by Engels

Quote:
………….led certainly by a minority, but this time not in the interests of the minority, but in the real interests of the majority? If, in all the longer revolutionary periods, it was so easy to win the great masses of the people by the merely plausible and delusive views of the minorities thrusting themselves forward, how could they be less susceptible to ideas which were the truest reflex of their economic position, which were nothing but the clear, comprehensible expression of their needs, of needs not yet understood by themselves, but only vaguely felt?

To be sure, this revolutionary mood of the masses had almost always, and usually very speedily, given way to lassitude or even to a revulsion to its opposite, so soon as illusion evaporated and disappointment set in. But here it was not a question of delusive views, but of giving effect to the very special interests of the great majority itself, interests, which at that time were certainly by no means clear to this great majority, but which must soon enough become clear in the course of giving practical effect to them, by their convincing obviousness. ……………….was there not every prospect here of turning the revolution of the minority into the revolution of the majority?……………History has proved us, and all who thought like us, wrong.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1850/class-struggles-france/intro.htm

Burnham the ex Leninist and Trot theoretician understood his subject, and perhaps himself, well enough I think;

Quote:
"Both communism (Leninism) and fascism claim, as do all the great social ideologies to speak for the people as a whole for the future of mankind. However it is interesting to notice that both provide even in their public words for an elite or vanguard. The elite is of course the managers and their political associates the rulers of the new society.

Naturally the ideologies do not put it this way. As they say it the elite represents, stands for, the people as a whole and their interests. Fascism is more blunt about the need for the elite, for `leadership'. Leninism worked out a more elaborate rationalisation. The masses according to Leninism are unable to become sufficiently educated and trained under capitalism to carry in their own immediate persons the burdens of socialism

The mases are unable to understand in full what their interests are. Consequently, the transition to socialism will have to be supervised by an enlightened vanguard which `understands the historic process as a whole' and can ably and correctly act for the interests of the masses as a whole; like as Lenin puts it, the general staff of an
army.

Through this notion of an elite or vanguard, these ideologies thus serve at once the two fold need of justifying the existence of a ruling class and at the same time providing the masses with attitude making easy the acceptance of its rule.

This device is similar to that used by the capitalist ideologies when they argued that capitalist were necessary in order to carry on business and that profits for capitalists were identical with prosperity for the people as a whole…………….The communist and fascist doctrine is a device, and an effective one, for enlisting the support of the masses for the interests of the new elite through an apparent identification of those interests with the interests of the masses themselves."

Managerial Revolution, Chapter 13.

The idea of an intellectual elite charitably saving the masses from themselves runs through the Spanish inquisition, fascism and Leninism with all the predictable consequences.

You could call it, as self-aggrandising elitism, a trans-historical personality disorder that just manifests itself in slightly different ways and disguises, in different historical and political epochs.

On the issue of making democratic decisions and the impractical tedium of every decision having to voted on etc. There is a practical solution, which falls out of the problem that needs to be dealt with.

What is required is that decisions need to be made that creditably and accurately reflect the wishes of society a whole.

Any scientist, lazy by nature and intelligence, knows damn well that you don’t have to measure height of everyone in the world or obtain their opinion to know how tall everyone is or what they think would be a good idea.

You take a random sample of 10,000 or a 1000,000 and find out from that what you need to know.

Sure enough a random sample of 10,000 taken to obtain an opinion on nuclear power would be a problem on its own.

As that 10,000 would initially be technically clueless and unqualified as to all the implications as .a random sample of 10,000 would be.

However given the time to mull over the various arguments and being taken slowly through it they would come up with the same decision as we all would after spending a year contemplating it.

Hopefully particularly after observing scientific experts battering shit out of themselves from both sides of the debate.

The idea called demarchy, but it is a much older idea as part of the judicial jury system.

Although a sample of 12 would be a bit unreliable.

The mathematical theory behind it is well established. ITrust me I am an elitist statistician and a scientist!

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Aug 19 2011 19:46
Angelus Novus wrote:
Really, when well-meaning Trots use the phrase "vanguard party", what they mean is something rather banal and non-threatening: basically that revolutionaries should also organize themselves *as* revolutionaries

In my experience it's more double-edged than that. In 'theoretical' debates they reduce it to a minimal meaning - revolutionaries should be organised - and construct all kinds of straw men to show why anarchists oppose organisation etc. And who in their right mind could be opposed to that?

But then they pull a bait-and-switch and say organisation means them forming a steering committee for whatever struggle which follows the line of the central committee which is elected unopposed on a slate every year. that is to say the up-front meaning is simply a synonym for 'revolutionary organisation', but the actual meaning is closer to 'hierarchical form and closely intertwined leftist content.'

On the ground these differences are manifoldly apparent.

Tbh this is exactly the same trick they pull with the word 'state' and many others. Up front it just means 'workers organised in councils during a revolution', but then it actually turns out to mean something like the USSR up to whatever date that particular sect jumps ship (long after the councils where repressed).

I suppose this kind of sophistry is in-built to politics based on bourgeois notions of politics (hierarchical parties, consciousness as a thing possessed by leaders etc).

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Aug 19 2011 21:47

Vanguard sounds so fishy. Maybe if they changed the term to, well, "elite group of people controlling the means of production and thus society itself in much of the same ways capitalists now control it" I may sign up smile

There would need be a second revolution to oust the party. I don't think the state would just wither away. People like to control other people....people get a taste of power and they don't want to let go. It's really given communism a bad name. I would purge the poster above me if I were heading the party....maybe kill some kittens? No one could stop me.

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Aug 19 2011 22:03
ultraviolet wrote:
Might there be other realms, besides the militias, where it might be a good idea to have elected recallable decision makers?

Absolutely. For two main reasons. One, in a large organisation there are simply to many decisions to be made too often to allow for full participation. In this case the mandate given should be a set of parameters, principles and aims which the mandated individuals try to implement as best they can, which will involve decision making, of course. If they are judged not to be carrying out their mandate in good faith or just less competently than is acceptable, they get recalled. The difference between this and a centralist conception is that the mandated person is still acting within a specific framework for the tasks they are charged with and not making decisions as an individual based on what they think is best for the organisation. It also sets up a different dynamic. Mandates are given to perform tasks the membership decides are worth performing. In centralism, the kind of tasks that get performed are dictated more by the nature of the roles that exist. Obviously this is a bit of a caricature, but I think it describes an important tendency.

The second reason is that you don't want a whole organisation knowing about the plans that are being made. That may be due to there being a war on as in your Spanish Revolution example, but even in the day to day running of quite mundane groups this can be important. For instance the UK IWW has a several mechanisms for co-ordinating industrial action and so on secretly because obviously if plans get out to employers, that's going to be a big problem. But after the event you can see what people have done, whether they've acted in accord with what they were supposed to do and so on, in the same way a sub-committee mandated to carry out a non-secret task reports back on their activities.

But more broadly speaking, any sub-group given specific responsibilities is going to be making decisions, from the editorial board of a publication to the committee charged with organising the next delegate council. This is not a problem so long as instructions flow primarily from the membership to the people carrying out the task, rather than from individuals to the membership, if you see what I mean.

Quote:
RedEd wrote:
You friend uses the word delegate when he should say representative. What he wants is someone to go and make decisions for the other people, and if they don't like how the representative is making decisions for them, they can pick a new one. Good bourgeois democratic principles in other words. A delegate should be carrying out a mandate they have been given by the people who delegated them. In other words, they don't act as they think best until they are recalled, they act as they are told and get recalled if they don't.

This is also my understanding of delegates: In a higher level council of delegates sent from local councils, these delegates do not vote however they please, and must vote in a way that their local council told them to vote.

But if all delegates are just voting in the way that their local council told them to, why not just have every individual from the local councils vote (basically a referendum)? The outcome of the vote will be the same whether individuals vote or whether delegates vote as the individuals in their local council told them to. A meeting of delegates voting as they were told to seems an unnecessary step.

If delegates must only vote as they are told to, I see no usefulness of delegates as a network for decision making. Am I correct? Or am I missing something?

The practice of having delegates voting in one place in person on pre-formed resolutions is, I agree, a bit redundant. I'm not sure that a referendum is always the answer to this. In a federalist group it is often worth giving equal weight to each local group even if they are of differing sizes so that the interests of, for example, London based members, doesn't swamp those of people based elsewhere. But that decision can be argued over on a case by case basis. Either way, you can do the same thing by email these days. So delegate councils do have to be a bit more than just places where people show up to vote the way they've been told to be more than symbolic. Happily they usually are and lots of other things, including things that aren't to do with decision making as such can happen there, such as submitting reports of activities, drafting a report of what the organisation has been doing to send back to locals and so on. As you pointed out later on, information exchange is a key role of delegate councils.

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Aug 24 2011 21:41
Dave B wrote:
This was basically Blanquism, Jacobinism and for that matter Bakuninism, a position incidentally rejected by Engels

Dave, you know very well how Engels' intro has been used by the revisionists. Kautsky refuted Bernstein on this e.g. in The Road To Power (A.M. Simons' translation dropped this part). But Kautsky had fought Bernstein's distortion of this text already earlier. In the French preface (1900) to Bernstein And The Soclai-Democratic Programme (1899) for instance on p. XXI. Incidentally Kautsky there also defends the anarchists against Bernstein's abuse
(on p. XII ).

I'll leave you with a quote:

Quote:
If the doctrinaires were able to flatter themselves that they had crushed democracy with no chance of return it’s because the late catastrophe permitted them to put a halt to propaganda.

Re-establish it and we will move forward.

For the aristocracy is powerless to fight against republicans on the field of ideas. If the press is still an arm in its hands it’s because it uses it to spread slander while we, with the sole force of our doctrines of equality and fraternity, are sure to carry the masses along.

But it’s necessary that our voice reach them.

Let us then unite our efforts, citizen, in order to destroy the most odious of monopolies, the monopoly on enlightenment. Let us prove to the proletarians that that they have the right to ease with freedom; to free, common and equal education; to intervene in the government, all of which are forbidden them.

As you see, citizen, we have less a political change in mind than a social re-foundation. The extension of political rights, electoral reform, and universal suffrage can be excellent things, but only as means, not as goals. What our goal is is the equal sharing of the charges and benefits of society, is the total establishment of the reign of equality. Without this radical reorganization all formal modifications in government will be nothing but lies, all revolutions nothing but comedies performed for the benefit of the ambitious.

But it isn’t enough to vaguely declare that all men are equal; it’s not enough to combat the slanders of the evil, to destroy prejudices, and the habits of servility carefully maintained among the people. Through principles it’s necessary to replace the prejudices in their hearts. It’s necessary to convince the proletarians that equality is possible, that it is necessary. They must be penetrated with the sentiment of their dignity and clearly shown their rights and duties.

This must be the direction of our efforts. They will only be effective with the cooperation of all republicans: we appeal to their devotion and ask for their active and disinterested cooperation.

Did you guess who its author is?

Blanqui

You should name yourself Dave Blanqui!

edit:

Also in 1900 Kautsky's Die Neue Zeit published a couple of articles by Paul Louis on Blanqui and Blanquism against the stereotype image of him as a conspirator Carbonari stormer of the barricade.

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Aug 25 2011 23:33

Furthermore, in response to Dave's post, his picture of the Bolsheviks as a Blanquist party falls behind even the theory of cold war liberal sociologists. Philip Selznick's major study, The organizational weapon; a study of Bolshevik strategy and tactics, for the Rand Project in 1951 states that Lenin rejected Blanquism and the October revolution was not a Blanquist coup (see p. 252). Also, it would be wrong to see later Stalinism (he at least still acknowledged the difference) as Blanquist (p.256). Selznick quoting Lenin

Quote:
To be successful, insurrection must rely not upon conspiracy and not upon a party, but upon the advanced class. That is the first point. Insurrection must rely upon a revolutionary upsurge of the people. That is the second point. Insurrection must rely upon that turning-point in the history of the growing revolution when the activity of the advanced ranks of the people is at its height, and when the vacillations in the ranks of the enemy and in the ranks of the weak, half-hearted and irresolute friends of the revolution are strongest. That is the third point. And these three conditions for raising the question of insurrection distinguish Marxism from Blanquism.

http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/sep/13.htm

Communard
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Aug 26 2011 00:05

I suggest reading "Militancy - Highest stage of Alienation"... there is the answer, and more:
http://libcom.org/library/militancy-ojtr

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Aug 26 2011 18:43

Ultraviolet asked
This is also my understanding of delegates: In a higher level council of delegates sent from local councils, these delegates do not vote however they please, and must vote in a way that their local council told them to vote.

But if all delegates are just voting in the way that their local council told them to, why not just have every individual from the local councils vote (basically a referendum)? The outcome of the vote will be the same whether individuals vote or whether delegates vote as the individuals in their local council told them to. A meeting of delegates voting as they were told to seems an unnecessary step.

And Red Ed has largely answered this well. In a reductio ad absurdum nightmare we could have everyone sitting in front of computers pressing buttons saying yea or nay to everything but that misses the essential point about workers "democracy" and delegation. Discussion is an essential element of a lively involved society. Delegates go to discuss at some higher and more central body. If you find you are mandated to vote for something which turns out in the course of discussion to be a nonsense you have to either hastily reconsult or vote differently from what you were sent for and come back and explain yourself. If you are then replaced that's no problem (we are not talking career politicians here).. One problem for us is that we are brought up in a society where we are schooled to be passive but in a real process of revolution all the muck of ages is cleared out (as Marx put it more elegantly in the German Ideology) and people begin to adopt new patterns of behaviour which hopefully mean they take an active part in running a future society. Oh and I think we will need to have a revolutionary vanguard party to fight for a council run society but this does not mean that it rules (a social democratic idea which the Trotskyists etc still hold). It is the instrument for smashing the old state not for forging a new society which needs the vast majority to be successful.

Dave B
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Aug 26 2011 19:21

I will just provide two links for 'interest', feeling too tired to argue;

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1874/06/26.htm

http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1885/letters/85_04_23.htm

Stevein7
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Aug 26 2011 20:04

I thought that delegates to higher level councils would not be dealing with a few issues and simply reporting the will of the local council.
They would be involved in lengthy periods of debate, new questions and decisions would arise, they would be in the role until the local council meeting removed the mandate. Who knows, perhaps for years.
Not as bureaucrats, but subject to constant scrutiny, revocable.
The local council would be free to choose any delegate, and that includes members of political organisations/parties.
As such, Party members could indeed exercise power in the higher council structures, but so could any other person given a mandate. The Party does not become a government nor are its members aloof from the council structure.
Anarchists who can only conceive of a Party as a separate power which usurps the class are simply dividing our strength and muddying the waters. The Party we need is not a governing organ but a vehicle to fight for the destruction of the current obsolete labour movement, the establishment of workers' councils which become the sole power and participation within them, as delegates subject to the same conditions as any other delegate , to constantly advocate the revolutionary path in the face of the vacilating, timid and reformist minded who would seek to do a deal, fail to understand the need to smash the caitalist state etc.

In my mind a member of a political party who is delegated to a high level council is first and foremost loyal to the party to which s/he belongs. If it is necessary to choose between upholding the party line and popularity with the local council, then I believe the only option is to support the Party and risk losing the mandate. This would probably involve some discussion between delegate and Party, after all, the Party wants its perspectives to prevail, but if a choice has to be made, I say the correct and principled thing is to vote in accordance with the Party.

The dictatorship of the proletariat is the rule of the Workers' Councils.

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Aug 26 2011 23:30

Stevein7 doesn't sound like an anarchist whatsoever

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Aug 27 2011 00:13

RedEd and Cleishbotham - thanks so much to you both, you have helped clarify my understanding of federalism and council democracy. I will probably repost my question about this as a new thread to get more answers... not because I didn't think your answers were good and helpful (they were), but because the more answers I get the deeper my understanding will be.

Thank you also to those who posted links to articles -- I haven't read them yet but will check them out later! (although I wasn't clear if they were posted in response to my question/s or to the side-debate about Trotskyism.)

Stevein7 - I think I might agree with you except for the language you are using. As far as I can tell, you are using the word Party to mean a revolutionary organization with unity of essential principles and tactics. I do support the existence of such "Parties" but I do not call them parties, I call them political organizations. As I understand it, a political party is a particular type of political organization which seeks to control the State. So I can see why the croydonian says you're not anarchist, but it seems to me you are probably a platform-anarchist who is misusing the word "Party."

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Aug 27 2011 17:32
ultraviolet wrote:

Stevein7 - I think I might agree with you except for the language you are using. As far as I can tell, you are using the word Party to mean a revolutionary organization with unity of essential principles and tactics. I do support the existence of such "Parties" but I do not call them parties, I call them political organizations. As I understand it, a political party is a particular type of political organization which seeks to control the State. So I can see why the croydonian says you're not anarchist, but it seems to me you are probably a platform-anarchist who is misusing the word "Party."

Ok, I may of jumped in a bit too quick, but yes, Stevein7 needs to clarify his definition of party. I look forward to hearing it

Stevein7
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Aug 27 2011 19:55

As to the exact distinction between "Party'' and mere "Revolutionary Organisation'', when it is possible to declare the Party etc I am going to admit to some confusion on the issue and invite clarifiction.

The ICC write

The existence of the party is closely linked to and conditioned by the period and state of the proletarian class struggle. In a period of developing struggles the class secretes the political organization, the party[3]; but if the class goes through decisive defeats a long period of retreat opens up, inevitably resulting in the disappearance or degeneration of the party. In such periods, when the counter-revolution has the upper hand over the class and its organizations, to try to reconstitute the party displays a voluntarist conception and can only lead to adventurism and opportunism, During the thirties, the Communist Left waged the most violent battles against Trotsky's voluntarist conception of artificially building the party.

However Onorato Damen , according to the CWO/ICT quote-

We have to fight as foreign to Marxism the schema which rejects the existence of the Party in the period of counter-revolution and which entrusts to a restricted vanguard the melancholy task of study; which foresees the appearance of the Party in the fire of the revolutionary assault and gives to the Party, and only to it, the function of subject in the overturning of praxis. We don’t know, for how long and through what magical virtue, the body (constituted by the class) should remain without a head (the class Party).In this schema, given the erroneous conception of the nature and function of the Party a totally catastrophic idea is precisely defined with the sudden appearance of the Party in one of the final periods of the crisis of capitalism, leaping, who knows how, from the head of Jove to resolve alone the miracle of overturning praxis. In this conception, the Party is detached from the class and its genetic development as a whole, this Party to which individual workers and the labouring class stimulate through their consciousness and will, an accumulation of the necessary revolutionary potential without which the return to the determining base would not be possible in the same way that a revolutionary outcome for a class detached from its Party would not be possible.

The CWO write

" Interestingly Damen does not dispute that they are living under counter-revolutionary conditions. He even thinks a third world war is likely. What he does insist though is that the proletariat has a permanent need to strive for a revolutionary party.''

..............
However, what I do know is that we of the ICT reject the concept of Party as a governing body of a territory. The proletarian semi-state in our perspective is the power of the Councils. We regard the party as the means for the advanced part of the class to propagate and develop their ideas to the remainder of the class, and we will fight for revoltionary consciousness before during and after the inception of council structures which will be a battleground between reformist illusion and revolutionary consciousness.
Only when the Councils are led by revolutionary communist theory will they become the means for revolutionary trasformation, not simply a replacement for unions but the only power.

So our position is clear.

The Party is the necessary organisation of the advanced part of the class who arrive at revolutionary consciousness before the majority and organise in order to generalise that consciousness.
The Party will seek to win positions within the council structure but will not govern as a ruling party, but wll be subject to the same conditions as all delegates.
The dictatorship of the proletariat is the rule of the Councils. We reject the theses that the Party rules on behalf of the Proletariat. Also Councils without revolutionary consciousness, which does not arise spontaneously out of everyday experience, are no threat to capitalism.

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Aug 28 2011 17:42
Stevein7 wrote:

So our position is clear.

The Party is the necessary organisation of the advanced part of the class who arrive at revolutionary consciousness before the majority and organise in order to generalise that consciousness.
The Party will seek to win positions within the council structure but will not govern as a ruling party, but wll be subject to the same conditions as all delegates.

Quote:
The dictatorship

of the proletariat is the rule of the Councils. We reject the theses that the Party rules on behalf of the Proletariat. Also Councils without revolutionary consciousness, which does not arise spontaneously out of everyday experience, are no threat to capitalism.

You sound like a typical trot/leninist to me. Im quite offended I might be encompassed in your 'our'.

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Aug 28 2011 22:29

I'm going to respond to my own question! I've been thinking about this over the past few days so I want to put in my own two cents. I hope others will read this and comment/critique... especially to point out if they see any flaws in my analysis.

Trotskyists claim we need a vanguard party during revolution because many people will not have the right political consciousness, and if we let them use direct democracy they will make counter-revolutionary decisions that sabotage the revolution.

True enough many people won't have a pro-revolution political consciousness. But we need a majority of people to have good enough politics that they support the revolution. If they don’t, even the vanguard party strategy will fail. Trotskyists say that they want the vanguard party to be democratic, for the representatives in the party to be chosen in free elections. So if the masses don’t have an evolved enough political consciousness to be pro-revolution, then wouldn’t they just elect people as their representatives who reflect their backwards political views? If the masses don’t have advanced enough political consciousness, this is going to sabotage the revolution one way or another – whether it gets sabotaged through counter-revolutionary decisions being made via direct democracy, or sabotaged via electing counter-revolutionary leaders via representative democracy.

This would be the point where many of those who favor the vanguard party strategy would suspend even representative democracy. They attempt to solve the problem of widespread backwards consciousness by implementing a one party dictatorship with the “representatives” chosen from within the party rather than freely elected by the masses.

If most people don’t have a sufficiently advanced political consciousness, the revolution will fail whether a vanguard party is used or not. And if a totalitarian vanguard party succeeds in stealing power from the not-revolutionary-enough masses, the revolution will still fail – because tyranny in itself is counter-revolutionary.

So one way or another we need most people to have pro-revolutionary politics. Anarchists deal with this by advocating for a ‘vanguard of ideas’ to use education and persuasion to create more supporters of the revolution and to improve the politics of the supporters. It’s really the only way.

slothjabber
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Aug 30 2011 12:46
the croydonian anarchist wrote:
Stevein7 wrote:

So our position is clear...

You sound like a typical trot/leninist to me. Im quite offended I might be encompassed in your 'our'.

Stevein7 seems to be saying that this is the position of the ICT - this is the 'our' that he is referring to I think.

Unlike Ultraviolet's Trot friend, my reading of Stevein7's position is not that we need a vanguard party because 'the masses' can't be trusted with direct democracy, but that the international co-ordination of revolutionaries (class-conscious militants not a government in waiting) is necessary.

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Aug 30 2011 13:24
Quote:
You sound like a typical trot/leninist to me

The language is similar, the meaning is totally different. I think Stevein7 is just saying that revolutionaries need to regroup internationally and participate in worker's councils actively, arguing for ideas and actions that would promote the deepening and spread of the revolution. Their 'Party' membership informs their activities as revolutionaries; it does not define their activity. I don't think the term Party is particularly important given the baggage. I think how Nabat acted in the Ukrainian soviets is a good example of an organization developed to regroup revolutionaries and inform their activity during a revolutionary situation- as opposed to what happened with the Bolsheviks.

Cleishbotham
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Aug 30 2011 16:44

Ultraviolet

Absolutely agree that without the active participation of the mass of the working class in the fight for a communist/stateless society cannot even be contemplated. However we have a problem in how to get from a capitalist condition where only a minority accept a revolutionary solution to one where the mass of the class are active. For us (ICT) this means that the revolutionary organisation (or international party) has to be more than "a vanguard of ideas" but has also to bring together all those around the planet who agree on the need to smash capitalism and begin the struggle for communism as an organisation. The ideas have to be made flesh since it is flesh and blood human beings that will actually change the world. Revolutionaries have to be linked as widely as possible to the class in workplace and neighbourhoods so that they have the capacity to grow with the class movement. I think some anarchists are also aware of this problem (Solfed and AF both have their own strategies as far as I can work out for dealing with it). Obviously this is an incredibly complicated issue and I am probably not explaining myself very well. We wrote a pamphlet "Communist Organisation and Class Consciousness" to try to answer this question. One thing for sure is that we reject notion of most Trotskyists that all we require is to re-enact in some form the October Revolution and the job is done. For us the party is for spreading world revolution. It does not "take power" in any geographical area (although its members will participate, like all other workers, in any class-wide bodies such as councils but they do so as delegates of the class).

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ultraviolet
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Aug 30 2011 19:49
devoration1 wrote:
I think Stevein7 is just saying that revolutionaries need to regroup internationally and participate in worker's councils actively, arguing for ideas and actions that would promote the deepening and spread of the revolution.

Spot on! That's what it sounded like to me, too...

Cleishbotham wrote:
For us the party is for spreading world revolution. It does not "take power" in any geographical area (although its members will participate, like all other workers, in any class-wide bodies such as councils but they do so as delegates of the class).

This is the first I've heard of your group so I know nothing except what you're telling me here. Although you say you consider yourself Trotskyists, it seems to me that you aren't Trotskyists at all. Trotsky did believe that the revolutionary party should take state power. From how you describe it, the role of the so-called "party" is an organized group of revolutionaries who lead by ideas. As far as I understand it, this is anarchist-platformism not Trotskyism. But often it seems these and other labels are as much a barrier to communication and understanding as they are enablers of it.

Cleishbotham wrote:
the revolutionary organisation (or international party) has to be more than "a vanguard of ideas" but has also to bring together all those around the planet who agree on the need to smash capitalism and begin the struggle for communism as an organisation. The ideas have to be made flesh since it is flesh and blood human beings that will actually change the world.

Of course ideas have to be "made flesh" through actual human beings -- how else to ideas get communicated but through humans? And of course the leadership of ideas has to manifest through those human beings organizing themselves and putting forward their ideas in a coordinated way -- how else do we expect our ideas to lead? I fail to see how "making flesh" these ideas is in any way different or beyond the leadership of ideas. Indeed, it's the only way ideas can possibly manifest or lead, is through organized humans. Unless you imagined that by "leadership of ideas" anarchists meant something disorganized and haphazard, or even disembodied?

I hope the above didn't sound condescending, comrade. sad It sounds like our politics are pretty similar.

My recommendation to Stevein7, Cleishbotham, and the whole ICT is stop using the word party and stop calling yourselves Trotskyists. I realize you have your own definition of the word party, but people who hear you use that word don't realize what it means unless you explain it... and even when you explain it, their definition of the world may prevent them from accepting that you have a different definition. When people hear party, they think a political organization that seeks to control the state. And when people hear Trotskyist, they think of people who thought that pre-Stalin USSR was good, that the massacre of Kronstadt anarchists was justified, the repression of strikes by workers and peasants, forcefully taking grain from peasants, etc. etc. etc.