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

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Android
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Aug 30 2011 20:14
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My recommendation to Stevein7, Cleishbotham, and the whole ICT is stop using the word party and stop calling yourselves Trotskyists.

On the latter, Cleishbotham and Stevein7 definitely don't consider themselves Trotskyists, in fact they view the Trotskyist movement as an obstacle in the struggle for communism.

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Alf
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Aug 30 2011 22:25

Ultraviolet, you really have got yourself mixed up on this. The ICT has never considered itself to be Trotskyist, and as Android said they see the Trotskyists as an obstacle. The ICC agrees with this. We define the Trotskyists as the extreme left wing of capitalism, and I think the ICT would also agree with this.

The discussion is not about Trotskyism. It's about the role of the revolutionary organisation. Everyone on this thread seems to be agreed that it's not the role of the revolutionary organisation to take power on behalf of the workers, whether or not you describe that organisation as a party.

Clearly there are disagreements, between the left communists and the anarchists, and among the left communists themselves. Sometimes they seem to be about semantics. Some anarchists like the term 'leadership of ideas' but they don't like the word 'vanguard'. Some anarchists are OK with the term 'revolutionary political organisation', but they don't like the term 'party'. I am convinced that there are more substantial issues involved here than just language, but they won't be drawn out if we are unclear about what others are saying.

Stevein7
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Sep 1 2011 08:08

I can safely say on behalf of the Internationalist Communist Tendency
http://www.leftcom.org/en/about-us

1. We are not Trotskyists.
2 We consider the Revolutionary Party a necessity
3 We do not see that Party as a governing party , the organs of power we promote are the Worker's Councils.

I think many of the people who consider themselves anarchists (I was one!), should educate themselves on this matter. I think many anarchists are close to us but because of misrepresentation can only see communism in terms of an Orwelllian Big Brother type Party/Leader/powerless audience.
************
Truth and forgery are very similar. Only by close examination can they be differentiated . Don't be fooled!

Quote from ICT
The overthrow of capitalism is only possible through a revolution, i.e. the conquest of political power by the proletariat, outside and against all bourgeois pseudo-democratic channels (elections, reforms, etc..) mechanisms which are specially designed to avoid any radical change in society. The forum of our “democracy”, the bodies of power of the revolution, will instead be the workers’ councils, mass meetings in which delegates will be entrusted with specific mandates and will be recallable at any time. But these organisations will never become real bodies of proletarian power, without the approval of a clear program aimed at the abolition of exploitation and, therefore, the elimination of classes, for a society of “freely associated producers” who work for the human needs. This program does not fall from the sky, but through the consciousness of that section of the working class which tries to grasp the lessons of past struggles, regrouping themselves at an international level to form a partythat fights within the workers’ councils against capitalism for socialism. This is not a party of government that would replace the class, but a party of agitation and political leadership on the basis of that program. Only if the most advanced sectors of the proletariat recognize themselves in the political leadership of the party will we be on the road to the revolutionary socialist transformation.

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Rob Ray
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Sep 1 2011 09:01

Just out of interest, would you consider SolFed or AFed to be revolutionary parties?

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Croy
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Sep 1 2011 14:46
Stevein7 wrote:

1. We are not Trotskyists.

Stevein7 wrote:
I think many of the people who consider themselves anarchists (I was one!), should educate themselves on this matter. I think many anarchists are close to us but because of misrepresentation can only see communism in terms of an Orwelllian Big Brother type [b]Party/Leader/powerless audience.

Firstly, and most importantly, there you say you were an anarchist, which suggests you are not one now ? What do you define yourself as ? Secondly, which anarchists are you talking about when you say "many anarchists" ? Also, when detailing the misinterpretation you think these anarchists have of communism you talk of parties and leaders. This would be good a point, though I don't know which anarchists your referring to if, if you did not yourself talk about

1.parties and a political leadership from them, a political leadership that would recognize themselves, a phrase which does not suggest democracy in the slightest
2. an advanced sector of the proletariat

Both of these points are based on

Stevein7 wrote:
Only if the most advanced sectors of the proletariat recognize themselves in the political leadership of the party will we be on the road to the revolutionary socialist transformation.

I just don't get how you can say those things and not call yourself a trot. I know you have clarified your meaning of party, but you seem to be using quite a different meaning in this post which you quote from the organization you belong to. Does no one else see this ?

Android
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Sep 1 2011 15:05
Rob Ray wrote:
Just out of interest, would you consider SolFed or AFed to be revolutionary parties?

I can't speak for Cleishbotham and Stevein7, but as a supporter I do consider AFed and SolFed to be revolutionary organisations. Not sure if that addresses you question since I wasn't sure what your mention of 'revolutionary parties' was meant to indicate.

Plus, as far as I know historically the CWO has never had any problem co-operating / working with anarchists when there was a common political basis to do so - e.g. the Sheffield NWBCW group.

yourmum
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Sep 1 2011 15:10

yeah they have no clue what a party is, thats the problem. a party is an organization that strives for p o l i t i c a l power, namely a state with a defined territory and people where this group (named party) will be ordering all inhabitants with their violent monopoly and force people with repression to abide the law that is their interests. clear now?

Android
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Sep 1 2011 16:12
yourmum wrote:
yeah they have no clue what a party is, thats the problem. a party is an organization that strives for p o l i t i c a l power, namely a state with a defined territory and people where this group (named party) will be ordering all inhabitants with their violent monopoly and force people with repression to abide the law that is their interests. clear now?

Come on, this is ridiculous. This is just a total refusal to engage with the content of what has been argued. Fine, you object to use of word 'party' irrespective of the political content it is expressing. But that is not an argument / analysis, it is just an ad-hominem.

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Sep 1 2011 16:19

yeah they have no clue what a party is, thats the problem. a party is an organization that strives for p o l i t i c a l power, namely a state with a defined territory and people where this group (named party) will be ordering all inhabitants with their violent monopoly and force people with repression to abide the law that is their interests. clear now?

Clear as mud, I’m afraid. Neither the ICC or the ICT believe they are ‘the’ party, or even ‘a’ party. They both see themselves as part of the process of developing a future party – a party that will NOT strive for political power. Only class wide organs such as the councils can seize and keep power – anything else is a victory for counter-revolution. But the working class is not homogenous: there are, have been, and will be elements who have a wider understanding of working class history, the dangers of counter revolution, and an understanding of how we can progress. The ICC/ICT refer to such working class elements as a vanguard. They see themselves, organisations such as AFED and SOLFED, and any similar organisation that defends the autonomy of the working class and its organs (councils, neighbourhood organisations etc) and rejects ANY idea of the organisation substituting itself for class rule, ( the bourgeois notion that the class has to be led for its own good) as part of a vanguard, part of a process that hopefully will lead to international organisation. I reckon there's a pressing need for debate on how such organisation can develop, and dont accept the ICC/ICT's template on organisation, but have to reject Yourmum's caricature. Clearly, there’s an emotional response from some here that insists on seeing terms such as ‘vanguard’ or ‘party’ as always counter-revolutionary. The response is clearly motivated by a genuine horror of the experiences of the counter-revolution (Stalinism, Trotskyism, Maoism etc) – but it would be good if the positions of the various left-com organisations were actually read to understand what they were really defending. But maybe too, those organisations could accept that language often resonates, and looked to different terms to distinguish themselves from the counter revolution.

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Sep 1 2011 16:24
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Not sure if that addresses you question since I wasn't sure what your mention of 'revolutionary parties' was meant to indicate.

It's meant to make the various people posting about parties ITT think about what they actually mean by the word "party" because on a website specifically built by and largely populated by anarchists if you fudge it (repeatedly) you'll tend to come across as either disingenuous or ignorant.

As yourmum suggests, I think the definition of "party" is very unclear in some of the writing that's gone on from non-anarchists, where anarchists tend to use it in a very specific and quite different way from "organisation." The first word implies a desire to take political power, the second doesn't.

Similarly for vanguard and leadership. One denotes an understanding of class which is beyond the class, the other an understanding which is on a cutting edge of it.

yourmum
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Sep 1 2011 16:36

its only ad-hominem if you want to make a party and seize political power. but fine, i'll engage: we need vanguard to clear things up to the workers. we dont need a party for any revolutionary purpose that i support. if you want to make a party you want to force contradictions to be decided in one side's favour while the contradictions are maintained, thats what political power is about and there is no other reason for political power.

strong suggestion to drop the name party if ur not up for that stuff...

but look its quite clear you dont want that since ur an EX-anarchist for a reason, right?

Android
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Sep 1 2011 16:50
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its only ad-hominem if you want to make a party and seize political power. but fine, i'll engage: we need vanguard to clear things up to the workers. we dont need a party for any revolutionary purpose that i support. if you want to make a party you want to force contradictions to be decided in one side's favour, thats what political power is about.

That is my point though. No one in this thread has argued along the lines you are saying.

Rob Ray wrote:
It's meant to make the various people posting about parties ITT think about what they actually mean by the word "party" because on a website specifically built by and largely populated by anarchists if you fudge it (repeatedly) you'll tend to come across as either disingenuous or ignorant.

I would pretty much hold to the distinction between historical and formal party made by Bordiga and Dauve etc. To me party (in a formal sense) simply means - a political organisation united around a political platform. I just don't agree with anarchists that it necessarily has a staist, substitutist political content.

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strong suggestion to drop the name party if ur not up for that stuff...

I don't really make a point of using the term, but I don't see how it inherently has the political content posters are suggesting. And in fact in the CWO pamphlet that covers these issues is called 'Revolutionary Organisation and Class Consciousness' so maybe such considerations motivated that title, I don't know to be honest.

Stevein7
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Sep 1 2011 17:04

I suppose in a sense we revolutionaries who are against the rule of the party as a governing organ, but fight to make the ideas of the party prevail i.e.
Only if the most advanced sectors of the proletariat recognise themselves in the political leadership of the party will we be on the road to the revolutionary socialist transformation.

could be called anarchists. Our goal is the classless stateless society.

However we distance ourselves from those utopian elements within anarchism which reject a centralised party, reject the need for the working class to take on state power.

What is a state?

A machine for the suppression of a class.

So we seek to smash the capitalist state and replace it with that of the power of the Workers' Councils until that time that the world is free from capitalism.

We are in favour of authority- that of the proletariat.
That is what I mean by saying I am an ex-anarchist, but if what I have described still allows me to label myself as an anarchist, so be it. Semantic argument, but if it helps I can be flexible.

yourmum
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Sep 1 2011 17:41

how is the proletariat not rid of capitalism when you have smashed the state? what other reason to smash the state then to expropriate the capitalists and be done with their class? where is the need for a party when workers councils are to be sovereign? you dont see yourself as a bolshewik either, is that true? how can you guys always talk about building a state to reach a stateless society, cant you see a contradiction when its hitting you in the face?
was there at any time even the slightest indication that in real socialism the state would "wither away"?

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Sep 1 2011 17:47
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I don't see how it inherently has the political content posters are suggesting

No word "inherently" has anything, meaning is based on common use far more than on dictionary definitions*. But if you post on an anarchist website about parties the common use of party draws the line I explained. You're welcome to ignore it, but don't complain if you then have a messy thread full of people asking wtf you're talking about.

---
* Though fwiw we're closer to accuracy in the dictionary sense than you are:

OED wrote:
Party: A formally constituted political group, typically operating on a national basis, that contests elections and attempts to form or take part in a government
Android
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Sep 1 2011 18:12
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Though fwiw we're closer to accuracy in the dictionary sense than you are:

But if we were to adhere to the 'dictionary sense', all sorts of words would have to be abandoned - anarchism, communism etc.

What I was complaining about was the attempt to pigeon-hole other posters into politics they don't hold and refuse to address the content of their posts.

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Sep 1 2011 18:12

Apologies to ultraviolet since it was my ambiguous remark about "most Trotskyists" which probably gave him the suggestion that the ICT is Trotskyist. Thanks to all the comrades who corrected this before it went too far. Our pamphlet "Trotsky, Trotskyism, Trotskyists" (it is online too) makes it clear that we regard the whole tradition today as anti-working class.

On the issue of party in so far as Solfed and AF are organised around a set of clear poltical principles with a realistic recognition of their own limitations but a consistent orentation within the working class I would suggest that they are no different from ourselves. However we don't see ourselves as the party either which will we think come about through the coming together of all kinds of forces in the working class both existing now and in the future. It will only arise as the class consciousness of the working class rises. But the party will always be a minority of the class since under condtions of capitalism "the dominant ideas are those of the ruling class". It will be in the course of revolution that it will begin to fogre a new consciousness but part of that forging is also the agitation of an internationally active revolutionary minority (we call it a party, you can call it what you like). What yourmum has not made clear is whether he thinks that the arrival at the overthrow of the capitalist state will flow automatically from the contradictions of the system (ergo no revolutionary minority needed) or whether he sees revolutionaries acting within the movement to ensure it constantly moves on (as we know from history a revolution which stops fails). Spontaneous action of the class will take us a long way but we also have to be aware that the bourgeoisie are not short of finding ideological alternatives (e.g the Catholic Church which came to dominate the Polish movement in the early 1980s) which the working class will have to fight. The instrument best suited to this fight is the already prepared revolutionary organisation. This preparedness gives it no special rights to rule (in fact history suggests it is not suited to the job though Marxists once believed this). And as said earlier no minority can forge a classless, stateless society - that can only be the work of the overwhelming mass of the class. It cannot happen any other way.

All this is in the pamphlet referred to above by Android, as is a brief account of how the word "party" has changed meanings since the eighteenth century and which yourmum might find interesting.

yourmum
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Sep 1 2011 18:25

i wrote:

we need a vanguard to clear things up to the workers.

and yes the vanguard aswell as the revolution itself "flows from the contradicitions of the system".. what else?

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Sep 1 2011 18:26
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But if we were to adhere to the 'dictionary sense', all sorts of words would have to be abandoned - anarchism, communism etc.

And? In this case, common use, certainly on libcom, dovetails with dictionary use, which was actually the main thrust of that post and you completely ignored.

I'd also note that outside the rarified air of the left, most people when asked "what does a political party do" would almost certainly answer "try and win seats in parliament."

marmot
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Sep 1 2011 18:30
yourmum wrote:
yeah they have no clue what a party is, thats the problem. a party is an organization that strives for p o l i t i c a l power, namely a state with a defined territory and people where this group (named party) will be ordering all inhabitants with their violent monopoly and force people with repression to abide the law that is their interests. clear now?

lol like the CNT, makhno, and virtually every armed, anarchist group that lined up people against the wall because they were "priests", "fascists", etc

marmot
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Sep 1 2011 18:31

people who use the term "statist" and "authoritarian" where probly dropped from the tenth store of a bulding

Android
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Sep 1 2011 18:45
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And? In this case, common use, certainly on libcom, dovetails with dictionary use, which was actually the main thrust of that post and you completely ignored.

I'd also note that outside the rarified air of the left, most people when asked "what does a political party do" would almost certainly answer "try and win seats in parliament."

Obviously I disagree with the common use on this thread. Although they are articles in the library that contain the usage along the lines I mean. The usage historically, meant an association conceived on the basis of share material/political interests, not the common sense understanding today of a statist-oriented, electoral machine. I also think your advocacy of the common usage is problematic too as mentioned before. But I'm not sure if there is much point continuing along this line of argument.

Stevein7
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Sep 1 2011 19:17

QUOTE
how is the proletariat not rid of capitalism when you have smashed the state? what other reason to smash the state then to expropriate the capitalists and be done with their class? where is the need for a party when workers councils are to be sovereign? you dont see yourself as a bolshewik either, is that true? how can you guys always talk about building a state to reach a stateless society, cant you see a contradiction when its hitting you in the face?was there at any time even the slightest indication that in real socialism the state would "wither away"?

The revolution will have a starting point. Now there is every reason to believe it will occur relatively simultaneously in various locations, but any bastion will be up against the remaining capitalist world and up against the habits/fear/apathy/ of the less advanced sector of the class. The revolutionary party will be constantly calling for greater efforts, galvanising the class into participation.

The withering away of the instruments of violence will only occur once the class enemy has been soundly defeated everywhere.
Once this is the case and production is able to satisfy the material needs of the population, there will be ever less need for the councils to have to resort to violence.

No good looking to Russia for this, the revolution did not get anywhere near that point, but Lenin wrote that this was not an immediate possibility and revolutions are hardly made in ideal circumstances.

yourmum
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Sep 1 2011 19:37

you are saying that the russian proletariat was never able to satisfy its own needs. you are implying thus that the "concious adaptation of the law of value" as done in the sovjet union with its new economy policy is the way to go again, the problem only being it wasnt done long enough for the production forces to be as developed as they should be to make the step to communism (which isnt even a step since nothing changes except less need of violence). i dont think any of this is right, i think the plans of socialism as an economy policy itself leaves no doubt about its statist character and the step to communism as a classless, stateless society is an illusion if pursued by the means described as the real usage of the law of value.
im planning to translate some texts about this right now but i cant say if i will really do it, you could also do it yourself if you care, i know there is a german section of the icc and the stuff is in german.

Stevein7
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Sep 2 2011 08:47

I think that there was no solution within Russia, possibly not even Russia and Germany combined.

I doubt that in the future any revolution that fails to globalise will last long.

No one has the precise formula for this.

I think from the outset, the distribution of goods will to a certain degree correspond to need rather than earned through individual effort. We already have that under capitalism. Much depends on the reality on the ground when all this transpires.

Lenin said that there was no promise regarding the 'higher stage' of communism. We are dealing with a bloody birth out of a sick mother.

The circumstances, speed , of the withering away of the organs of coercion will be resolved only in a practical attempt.

Failure to smash and hold down the capitalist oposition through organised vio lence, guarantees we won't see the 'higher stage' where such brutality is unnecessary.

(Even if I quote Lenin, that does not mean I agee with all of his positions. Same applies to 1917, it not a simple good/bad evaluation to be repeated or discarded).

Stevein7
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Sep 2 2011 19:20

The comment about STATIST and AUTHORITARIAN...

When a group like CLASS WAR parade around the wealthy area of London with the banner
BEHOLD YOUR FUTURE EXECUTIONERS
is that not Statist and authoritarian?
One class imposes its authority on another via organised violence.
Or perhaps they are advocating individual terrorism with no mandate from the class?
The State is an organ of class oppression. That can be a most positive thing.
Seriously, do you want to smash the bourgeois state or is your idea of anarchy listening to music and smoking a bit of dope?

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Sep 3 2011 05:07
marmot wrote:
people who use the term "statist" and "authoritarian" where probly dropped from the tenth store of a bulding

a comment that contributes nothing to the debate and serves only to humiliate others into silence. shame. i think they call this "flaming"?

you probably have some valuable ideas, why not put some effort into expressing them? if you disagree then explain why without trying to make people feel like shit. don't sell yourself short and don't be cruel.

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Sep 3 2011 05:24
ultraviolet wrote:
marmot wrote:
people who use the term "statist" and "authoritarian" where probly dropped from the tenth store of a bulding

a comment that contributes nothing to the debate and serves only to humiliate others into silence. shame. i think they call this "flaming"?

you probably have some valuable ideas, why not put some effort into expressing them? if you disagree then explain why without trying to make people feel like shit. don't sell yourself short and don't be cruel.

yea it was a bad comment, i'm sorry. its just really frustrating to argue with anarchists that use fuzzy terminology to catalogue the shit they don't like. "authoritarianism" is a politically meaningless term, but is used in contrast to "libertarianism" to score rhetorical points. the problem is that anarchist praxis where there has been a meaningful class movement has been almost virtually identical to "leninist" praxis, including extra-judicial killings, anarchist class terror, centralized vanguards etc. I am not accusing anybody of hypocrisy, because I think that the class struggle is not a question of specific organizational forms (i.e. mass assemblies vs democratic centralism) but the forms take shape depending on the circumstances. the term "statism" is also meaningless because the correct "leninist" understanding ofthe state is not to prop it up, but that it emerges naturally if there are class contradictions. you can't will it out of existence if class society still exists (i.e. peasants, the petit bourgeois and the proletariat)

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Sep 3 2011 06:04
marmot wrote:
yea it was a bad comment, i'm sorry. its just really frustrating

Thank you for saying that... I understand, and have done the same when frustrated.

marmot wrote:
the problem is that anarchist praxis where there has been a meaningful class movement has been almost virtually identical to "leninist" praxis, including extra-judicial killings, anarchist class terror, centralized vanguards etc.

- extra-judicial killings
I do see how this qualifies as authoritarian. However, I also see it as unavoidable to win a revolution. Excepting pacifists, I think anarchists openly accept using authoritarianism against active counter-revolutionaries / those who pose a threat to the revolution, whether that be killing or camps or whatever.

- anarchist class terror
What do you mean by that? Do you mean violence towards those who commit violence or paying/instigating others to commit violence against the revolution (which is revolutionary-defense, not terror)? Or do you mean violence towards those, ruling class or not, who are nonviolent/noncombatant and are not paying or instigating others to be violent towards the revolution (which I would agree to call terror)?

- centralized vanguards
What historical case(s) or vanguard(s) are you referring to here? Not sure I can think of any centralized vanguards by anarchists, but my history knowledge isn't as good as it should be.

Bedlamist
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Nov 11 2011 04:26
ultraviolet wrote:

Might there be other realms, besides the militias, where it might be a good idea to have elected recallable decision makers?

Things that are obvious to everyone as "the moral equivalent of war." Which would be a very small category of circumstances.

Let's assume a committee of carpenters, structural engineers and architects would not have to be elected: we'd all decide we need a new building and ask those who are trained and/or experienced to help us get that done. Those "experts" who want to help direct we listen to (which is not to say "unconditionally obey"), those who don't would function as "ordinary workers" or would go do something else. I doubt we'd need a formal process to get a barn built, so "electing" and "recalling" should be unnecessary.