Towards Theory of Political Organization for Our Time Part I: trajectories of struggle, the intermediate level, and political rapprochement

Political organization is a collective answer to common problems. People organize based on a collective sense of need, and the perspectives and problems encountered in social groups crystallize into organizational forms and moments. This is a general historical trend; even without a theory, organization emerges to meet concrete needs that cannot be solved except by building social forms to address them.

Submitted by s.nappalos on January 19, 2011

The end of the twentieth century was a time of transition. The regime of low-intensity warfare, the dismantling of the welfare state, and neo-liberal privatization schemes ultimately was running its course[1]. The final defeats were to be dolled out across the world in the eventual collapse of finance bubbles, widespread resistance to austerity, and the implosive of the economies of Latin America[2]. Before this was all but said and done, there was the gradual and later meteoric rise and fall of social movements against neo-liberal reforms and the militarism leading to the afghan and Iraq wars. Revolutionaries played an active and disproportionate role in mobilizing the social actors in what would become the largest mobilizations of their kind.

Time has passed, and the limitations and deflation of the early 2000s anti-globalization and anti-war movements are becoming clearer to many revolutionaries. Though massive mobilizations occurred, little lasting organization was built. This means that the militancy we witnessed in the streets had a very short shelf life, and much of the work can reasonably be said to have disappeared. Millions of people engaged in various forms of resistance to the wars, globalization, and the new forms of capital and state; however the left was not able to produce a sustained alternative that was able to engage, nurture, and develop that activity into a lasting movement against capitalism and the state. While seemingly militant direct action was relatively common, this militancy rarely led to further radicalization or the popularization of struggle. Power was built, but dissipated. The left had not developed the ability or perhaps the orientation to build movements, either mass movements or revolutionary ones.

As this decade draws to a close, many are having an increased reflectiveness about our methods, our organizations, and the history of our tendencies in light of these recent experiences. This is true of the left in general, but particularly the rise and deflation of revolutionary currents in social movements has pressed organizational questions on our practice. The ensuing world capitalist crisis (following the series of collapsing bubbles: financial, dot-com, accounting scandal, real estate, etc) is making the question of activity and organization of revolutionaries more timely and crucial. At the same time there is renewed interest in organization, there has not yet been an emergence of forces capable of acting on the crisis. These questions are particularly present for the currents of revolutionaries who recognize the need for organization with: attempts to develop common strategy, a common understanding of the period, standards of accountability and contributions from members, and an orientation to the building of socialism that breaks with the state-capitalist and authoritarian practices of past and present state capitalist regimes.

This is a problem we were gifted by our predecessors. There is little knowledge that has been passed down on organization during periods of low-points of struggle such as ours. Much of the well-known revolutionary organizational theory and history is based on the highest points of struggle. Consequently, there are serious disanalogies to the time we live in. Whatever can be said of Spain 1936-1939, Hungary 1956, Russia 1919, Uruguay in 1968 and the 1980s, etc., today there is certainly not the level of mass struggle, reactionary forces, revolutionary groupings, etc during such periods.

This isn’t to say we can’t learn from those situations. We can, and must. We need to expand the lessons we draw from, which at present is a fairly narrow pool. Still there is also a distinct lack of new theory being produced as a tool for understanding and acting in our time. It is particularly on the question of how we develop revolutionary organizations and how we build movements towards revolution in our conditions that we move into new territory. That is to say that there are historically and materially rooted questions of organization, and that they vary depending on the period we are in. In other words, our problems are not general problems but problems rooted in our time, in our balance of forces, and in the development of the working class in world capitalism today.

These perspectives have been largely absent from discussion of revolutionary organization in our time. There is anyway a gap between actually existing organizations discussing organization, and a materially rooted discussion of organization itself. Adopting such a perspective can help us break from our existing practices and move towards a different orientation to the development of revolutionary organization. This article will suggest a methodology and political process for our time that can facilitate the development of organization. This process is based on the concepts of political rapprochement, an intermediate organization analysis, and a qualitative method to political militant development.

Walking From Our Doorsteps

The theories that revolutionaries draw from today come from the periods in which the oppressed classes were in their most pitched battles. This is true of nearly all the different left tendencies; Leninists, anarchosyndicalists, platformists, especifistas, dual-organizationalists, insurrectionists. The organized tendencies tend to draw on theories that promote high levels of unity on theory, strategy, tactics, and collective responsibility. Cadre organization is constituted by unified cadre acting on a tight strategy, and implementing collective work in concert. Platformists take action to build revolutionary mass movements through organization with unity from theory to tactics. Trotskyists believe there is a crisis of leadership in the working class, and the vanguard party’s discipline and unity provide the solution to the crisis.

Whatever we may think of these theories, the problem is that now the left is in a different place. There is not the mass struggle that would ground the left’s theories, develop leadership, and build the unity necessary for these theories. We are not platformists yet, but want to be platformists once we build praxis out of struggles and obtain a high level of unity. If the left is isolated from struggle in an era of bureaucratized mass organizations, any left leadership will be deformed and attempts to cement that leadership with a self-proclaimed vanguard will be an isolated and hollow vanguard.[3]

We can agree and learn from the high level of struggle and insights from the revolutionary past, but that does not answer the question of what to do when the activity and balance of forces is different.

What we need then is to develop a praxis of how we build greater unity, functioning, and militancy in a period where it is often difficult to find and participate in mass struggle, where we our historical memory and practices have significant gaps, and where the existing radical left base is alienated from working class struggle. More often than not, we need to be able to catalyze and initiate struggle without artificially trying to be the struggle. We should not reject the lessons from historical struggles, but try to develop an organizational theory grounded in our specific conditions, and addressing the contradictions in our attempts to build organization. This would actually allow us to expand our range of examples and lessons we draw from beyond a relatively narrow pool of historical high points.

One difficulty we face is that our time presents unique challenges to developing capable militants. We are in a period of low struggle marked by an absence of mass movements, and the dominance of bureaucratized institutional forms of the left. The revolutionary lefts’ isolation from mass struggle creates a barrier to further developing organization in theory and in practice. The effect is that political organizations today have an extremely difficult time developing militants[4]. The isolation of the left from practice has a causal force that despite the theoretical justification (from whatever school of thought) brings convergence towards populist maneuvering. Organizations have an outward display of strategy and unity, but internally tolerate and facilitate dysfunctional stasis through refusing to deal with real problems. The lack of a practice centered on working class self-activity in mass struggle throws up roadblocks to attempts to build further practice.

The prevalence of institutional forms of the left, particularly academia and the NGOs, combined with the low level of struggle translates into a de facto dominance even when these professional bureaucracies represent a numerical minority. This relationship manifests in the class, race, and gender politics of our organizations, and in the dominance of academia and NGO staff on revolutionary thinking. The ideological dominance of the bureaucracies contributes to reproducing existing intra-class and class relationships on the left. These institutions function to draw up a certain layer (largely a well-educated progressive one), and are characterized by extremely high turn-over due to poor working conditions and contradictions in the work. The structural isolation of the bureaucracies from the conditions and interests of the working class paired with the careerism and high turn-over endemic to the industries have a negative effect on the movement. Despite being a minority, these institutions have hegemony over the ideas of the movement, and the left often expresses the interests of these institutions. At times this represents an antagonistic or parasitic relationship of the bureaucracies to the rest of the working class. The left consequently tends to reflect the perspectives these institutions and related industries. Intellectuals or small groupings of leadership tend to dominate the thinking of organizations, and the base tends to either withdraw from participation in the life of the organization or give paper consent to the ideas of a small minority without engaging them.

Likewise many left militants have either no intention of being active in mass movements or have difficulty finding struggles to engage in when they do have the intention. Again a small minority is rooted and immersed in struggle, while others instead use organization solely as a social network or ideological field of intellectual battle. Unity can be artificial or non-existent, and often breaks down in the face of conflict, whether within the organization, with other political organizations, or in mass struggles. Members either have paper unity or unity is sacrificed to the question of numbers.

This illustrates the fundamental dynamic of the dominant approaches of political organizations of our time. Organizations vacillate between populism and purism. Populism, as I define it amongst the organized left, is an orientation to politics of numbers. It is a “people-ism” that uses a division between the people and elites (sometimes merely foreign elites as opposed to local ones) as one of the founding bases of building a movement. This orientation is in contrast to a class perspective, which attempts to understand and act on reality based on analysis of social categories from their class character and interests. Populism, and it’s emphasis on hazey “oppression” can have the effect of obscuring class, and thereby opens the door to the domination of populist organization by bureaucracies and opportunists. Populism puts forward positions based primarily on trying to gain access to the largest venue of potential recruits. This is because the populist analysis argues that the primary thing holding back the tide of change is subjective conditions, and emphasizes influence and sway in the battle of ideas to move the broadest current to its positions. Therefore it assesses its strength and orients towards an ability to mobilize the greatest numbers for action. Populist politics then moves us towards liberal models of propaganda with obfuscated revolutionary content in its attempts to gain influence, positions of authority, and street-cred in mass movements. Populism pushes revolutionaries towards gaining access to mass media, and repackaging/marketing the content of revolutionary organization for the sake of numbers. The basic populist move then is to try and put forward reformist ideology led by revolutionaries in a move to gain credibility and positions of influence amongst large swaths of people. There is a structural pressure then towards obfuscation, dishonesty, or perhaps better an honest move to reformism, social democracy, nationalism, etc.

This obsession with abstract influence and numbers obscures the real issues, which is what political work actually looks like on the ground, social relationships which build consciousness, and the role of struggle in giving birth to transformative consciousness. Historically left populism often turns into right populism, and it is politically dangerous to ignore these tendencies. This isn’t to say we ignore media and issues of quantity, but rather that there is a complex relationship between ideas and practice, and that over subjectivizing the problem leads to populist practice. In the present time, issues of quality of militants are dominant because we do not have the objective strength necessary to build, sustain, and activate mass numbers. Without that qualitative baseline, quantative transformations will remain hollow and evaporate at critical moments.

Purism is the opposite; it is the imposition of artificial unity, the centralization of responsibilities, ideas, leadership, and activity into an exclusive minority, and a disciplinarian orientation to solving the problem of developing militants. Political sects attempt to impose this unity, but have difficulty doing so. The problem is that a lack of struggle and a lack of militants, makes their unity either static or constantly under threat of dissolving with the drastic unevenness in consciousness between activists. Purism attempts to guard against this through legislating unity. Despite the legitimate concern that exists about bureaucracy, a far greater danger at this time is populism, which can have these purist bureaucratic tendencies internally anyway and is widespread.

Taking a step back, we see that most revolutionary organizations in our time (ideology aside), function at a non-revolutionary level. That is, revolutionary organizations do not engage either in the collective theorizing or coordinated activity reflective of revolutionary unity. Without an active praxis immersed in struggle, building lessons and theory out of practice, and strategic coordinated organizational activities, revolutionary organizations are relegated to pseudo-mass organizations or theoretical societies. In fact most revolutionary organizations operate as deformed intermediate organizations; that is networks of conscious militants who share broad strategy with uneven political development and unity, but under contradictory or false pretenses. Small groupings within these organizations control the de facto political thinking and organizational life, while often taking a populist orientation towards the other membership to sustain membership beyond the handful of militants who do have unity. In fact they are deformed intermediate organizations because intermediate organizations (like organized tendencies in unions, caucuses, etc) come together out of mass struggle to unify the lessons and strength of tendencies in the mass struggle, and to advance its thinking. Most political organizations today are largely distant or institutionalized apart from mass struggle. The revolutionary organizations of today act like intermediate organizations in part because of populism, but also because of their inability to contribute to building movements.

As I’ve indicated before, I don’t think it is random that we have these problems. Likewise, any solution of these practices, the position of mass movements, and the left’s situation will not come solely from attempting to correct dysfunctional organizations or organizational building. There are two aspects of the problem: internal and external. Objectively, we must overcome the present state of affairs to fundamentally transform the political landscape. This cannot be done by will alone nor by waiting for struggle to fall into our laps. It is a dynamic then between the trajectories of struggle and the work we do to prepare for and facilitate these struggles emerging and expanding. Looking to the trajectories of struggle, we need to be conscious of the limitations and possibilities at present, and have a process of interpreting and responding to our objective reality. This requires moving past pressing for strategies and demands without attempts to assess, reflect, and develop based on the specificity of our time, place, and levels of struggle. Humility is called for in assessing the impact of organized revolutionaries on history, and today some internal concepts can help us contribute more fruitfully to the self-liberation of the working class.

There are three concepts, internally speaking, that help illuminate a method for moving forward. Specifically, we need a method for developing militants and building organization that moves beyond the present populism and purism. These concepts give us tools to understand how organizations change, a methodology for building organization, and trajectories of struggle. At the same time these concepts guide our internal activities, they illuminate a way to understand and move forward objectively as well. They are: political rapprochement, the intermediate level, and a qualitative approach to the development of political militants and organization.

Political Rapprochement

Rather than starting from the assumption of high levels of unity, political rapprochement is a process of developing greater levels of unity through common struggle. This is both a methodology for how revolutionaries should work with others as well as internally. The point of political rapprochement is to explore what unity we have, and based on that find where we can take action together. Taking action allows us to consciously build praxis; testing our theory, reflecting actively on the lessons and limitations in our experiences, and reformulating our theory. As our practice advances, we aim towards building greater unity as we find where are beliefs and methods worked and failed, converged and diverged.

Political rapprochement as I laid it out looks linear, but in fact it’s dynamic. Rather than assuming a linear unity of resolutions and propositions, political rapprochement is about constructing political consciousness in struggle through active social relations. Political rapprochement is a conceptual model for a dynamic understanding of building of praxis, unified with a method of relating militants-to-militants and militants-to-organizations. This typically will not lead to a neat step-by-step unity or even be explicitly conscious. We should expect consciousness to evolve in bursts and contractions alongside the trajectory of struggle. Political consciousness and organization is no different in this regard from other forms of proletarian social organization and struggle.

The method used by revolutionaries typically inverts this process. It starts with assumed unity and activity, and tries recruit into that. The false unity leads to tension, and organizational development lags in the gridlock.

Political rapprochement is a historical and material process that builds from where we are at, and requires an active process of organization building across time. Another way to say this is that revolutionary organization isn’t proclaimed or written, but developed as a conscious movement of increasing unity[5]. That unity is the basis for expanding confrontations with the state and capital, again following the ebb and flow of the mass mood or fighting spirit of the working class. Seeing this, we can also understand how existing organizations are reflections of the historical level and development of the movements they grew out of. This allows us to learn from rather than judge or condemn organizations for their place in history. If we have moved away from building organization based on marketing and selling revolutionary credentials to the people, then we can begin to see the way in which one part of our job is to try to understand the role of class, history, and struggle in producing and forming organizations.

An Intermediate Level Analysis

The intermediate level is, as was mentioned before, a level of struggle between the mass level (common struggle for common interests) and revolutionary level (unity of theory and action)[6]. Likewise the intermediate level shows us a methodology both for building the mass level and revolutionary level. Existing mass struggles are often very limited, and militants are spread out and diffuse. Building intermediate organization allows us to concentrate militants on a basis of strategy within the movements and develop that layer to a higher level than if militants are simply isolated. Likewise revolutionary organization would benefit from intermediate organizations since they provide a field for testing, developing, and integrating with mass struggle without the dominance or bureaucratic control of mass movements by political organization. Miami Autonomy and Solidarity has developed this strategic orientation defined as attempting to move mass militants to the intermediate level (M->I) and revolutionaries into the intermediate level so as to be present in mass struggle (I->M or R->M depending how you interpret it). These categories are fluid though, as we’ve seen that most Rs are actually Is or even Ms. Part of this activity then must be “intermediate activity” organizing contacts based on their practice towards the models rather than into neat organizations of pure-I, pure-M, or pure-R.

A few decades ago, some Haitian militants developed similar practices working at the point of production in factories. Committees and networks of militants would build structures outside the union that would strengthen and develop struggles. Often these structures would give birth to intermediate level militants (militants willing to fight for class struggle, not just their own struggles) and revolutionary militants. During the fall of Duvalier in Haiti, intermediate organizations of militants were instrumental in creating new mass worker and peasants’ movement, and revolutionaries had a critical role. In the history of the United States, the IWW often functioned as a dual-mass organization and an intermediate organization. Other examples from the syndicalist movement share these features (British shop stewards movement, the early CNT, etc[7]), and clandestine revolutionary worker networks played significant roles in various insurrections (Hungary, Poland, Uruguay, Russia in 1905).

Again there is a risk of interpreting this linearly. One should not conceive of this work as literally bringing mass militants to new intermediate organizations (though this is possible) formed as such. As discussed before, all organizations existing today are mixtures of mass, intermediate, and revolutionary with their composition changing as struggles change, militants change them, and new forces emerge within them. An intermediate organization approach then is as much about what our political work looks like and prioritizes, as it is the location of struggle. Intermediate organization is as much an analysis of actually existing practices at the mass level, as a proposal for future work and organizations, and as a methodology for how to act as revolutionaries within these existing practices.

There is a practical and theoretical unity of political rapprochement, intermediate organization, and militant organization. That is to say that our work as organized militants is to be conscious of and function within the evolving dynamic between levels of struggle and organization, clarifying and strengthening class power through rapprochement, and unifying militant organization out of this non-linear evolving practice.

Quality not Quantity

A qualitative method to militant organization attempts to address where we are at in history, and the capacity of present political organizations. There is a low level both in capacity and in terms of numbers amongst revolutionaries in our time. This leads to a situation where groups will often find themselves with extreme unevenness in terms of experience, consciousness, capacity, willingness to fight, etc. The pressures both to grow and to maintain our revolutionary politics give birth to the twin problems of populism and bureaucratic micro-sects. Under pressure of repression and when people’s interests, livelihoods, and freedom are at stake, we can only imagine what the populist functioning of organizations will yield. There is no formula to overcome this; however we need a strategy and a method of internally functioning that can facilitate the expansion of our capacity and development of our militants.

First we must recognize at this time that numerical growth would not translate into an expansion of capacity unless it was simultaneously numerical growth of well developed capable militants growing together in struggle. Given the low level of capacity existing today, rapid expansions would overextend the few militants we do have and lead to paper-tiger organizations, much like many of the NGO projects leftists have propagated with administrative positions of committed revolutionaries with passivity and disengagement by a serviced-membership base. Secondly, it is well within our capacity to strategize, target key activities and organizers, and use our resources to recruit and develop other militants. By prioritizing qualitative growth, and organizing the life of our organizations to that qualitative transformation, we can build the foundations necessary for other more drastic shifts in quality and quantity.

How to recruit and develop militants is a process for which we must work, and build a praxis. What little we do know is that militants do not arise out of the realm of intellectual debates, and we can’t expect them to fall into our laps simply because we’re doing good work. Struggle opens doors, but we need to be prepared for what is on the other side. This will take both immersing our inexperienced revolutionaries into struggle, have a collective process that allows people to make sense of their experience in struggle, and go beyond it through the collective experience of the group as a whole and the historical lessons we’ve retained. In theory, all groups are equally committed to ending the unevenness we see. What is missing however is having a dynamic process for working with militants, preparing them for struggle, working through their issues, and building upon that. Reading groups and business meetings are the de-facto political arenas where the unevenness can remain hidden or stagnate, without an organizational culture of challenging each other and drawing out each individual to find their contribution.

Loose group practice combined with a commitment to quantitative growth can mask the unevenness and the divisions that lie barely beneath the surface. Instead we need to develop a conscious internal practice of dialogue between contacts, militants, and the collective life of the organization. This is necessarily a process and not a code, because the transformation from struggle to revolutionary is one that transforms both those struggling and the organization attempting to understand and integrate the lessons of those struggles. Study sessions can hide those processes in their dominance by intellectuals and group dynamics, as well as not necessarily meeting the participants where they are at both in struggle and thought.

Political organization then requires a number of levels of interaction and development, internal and external. The foundation of this is the 1-on-1 or small group interactions, which are the communicative body where the organization and the individual contact can grow together, learn from struggle, and draw out the unity and disagreements which will build organization. As that process unfolds, the organization needs methods for integrating the militant, and having an internal organization which is capable of assessing, analyzing, making commitments and taking risks, and ultimately responding to the work and perspectives of the contacts. This sets up a democratic method for learning from struggle, integrating and developing members, and in fact a means of maintaining accountability to the class through its movements.

A qualitative method to militant organization then is a strategy that prioritizes creating a means of dialogue between the organization and contacts with emphasis on qualitative expansion utilizing multiple levels of interaction and development. This represents a significant departure from revolutionaries in recent times, and as such is a preliminary strategy that requires experimentation, reflection, and further development.

Collective Accountability

Militant organizations have members who are highly committed, capable of arguing for shared positions, principled in disagreements, active in mass struggle, and engaged in critical reflection and praxis building. Everyone wants to get to having unified strategy, immersion in struggle, and well developed members. Any way you construe it, if we truly believe in the need for a deep transformation in social relationships and existence, it will take a significant degree of personal commitment. This can be underappreciated. Living in this world is traumatic and alienating. A political organization should try to help alleviate that alienation which will inevitably be made harder by committing yourself to long term struggle. Still without that dedication to politics, we will be unable even to have a modest impact on history. The hobbyist orientation to politics of many activists is understandable, but it is stunting when brought into and fostered within revolutionary organizations.

Our organizations need to struggle hard to develop liberatory education that can make organizational unity a practice and not merely a position. This is a significant challenge. Commitment here too unfortunately raises its head. When conflicts arise and particularly when people’s self- and material interests are on the line, paper unities break down. Radicals are not good enough at developing and pushing people we work with. Too often there is pandering to others by inventing elaborate excuses for lack of commitment (generally in the form of populism) without having a means of developing commitment. We need to work to find a way to develop each other that fits our time, our needs, and our perspectives. Too often our educational attempts leave the working class out of the equation and it is only academically trained militants that advance.

Lastly we need to be steadfast in putting our money where our mouth is. All revolutionary militants need to be present in (or in actuality we need to be able to facilitate and make) mass struggle as direct participants whenever possible. While struggle is not always easy to catalyze or locate, we need to commit our resources to being active on the ground and not merely as outside cheerleaders, believers that direct action alone is sufficient, or arm-chair theorists. In fact in these times, it will unfortunately often be us who help build the initial steps in struggles. Our people need to become useful and competent in struggle, rather than merely trying to put a radical spin on it. The reproduction of the theorists-militant divide so prevalent in left circles that see themselves as theorizing the struggle in their publications and study circles is often a mirror of society’s division between academics and workers, intellectual and manual workers. Alongside this we need to develop our ability to critical assess ourselves, analyze in historical and material terms our development, and adapt our ideas to new challenges and changing situations. These are skills which are learned, and need to be developed in all our contacts as well.

Towards Regroupment

Having this orientation arms us with better tools to build a revolutionary practice. By situating ourselves in history, we can clarify our relationships to social forces and try to find a path that leads us to deeper and deeper engagement. If revolutionaries can take up this challenge, we could see the emergence of a higher level of dialogue and thinking around organizations, and possibly build political rapprochement of the tendency that is engaged in struggle, building unity, and trying to develop praxis.

Most of the debate around this orientation will perhaps center less on the analysis than on the implementation. What is the upshot of these conclusions? These tools provide a framework for beginning and continuing the work necessary to any future revolutionary organization, rather than a specific proposal for unification.

In this time, we are witnessing a broad convergence on practices and concepts in organizations which began at different starting points and with different traditions. In the United States a number of groups are finding parallel limitations of existing national groups, and local groups. Our problems can’t be solved by shotgun weddings of organizations, or by conferences and calls for unity.

Regroupment is necessary. This will take a collective struggle, both internal to the movement and in practice. The reasons are many. Populism, which is ubiquitous, has made often more internal division within organizations than between them. There is strong unevenness within organizations, and internally most organizations have people moving in different directions. This is made worse by the fact that groups tend to unify exclusively around identification with being a Marxist, a Leninist, an anarchist, a platformist, etc. Historical associations of traditions, strong as they may be, don’t cut neatly across strategic and political lines (largely because at this time all traditions presence in struggle here is fairly low). These associations can mask underlying divisions as well as unities. At the same, we are witnessing distinct traditions converging on similar positions. Currents are unifying in strategy and practice from different theoretical and traditional starting points. For instance there is a reformist social democratic convergence amongst sections of Maoists, Trotskyists, and sections of the (now old) ex-New Left. Likewise left communists, councilists, and anarchists share currents that increasingly have built common practice in a broad libertarian communist tendency. This isn’t to suggest some kind of pan-leftism or fusion, but instead to try and pose the possibility of struggling around historical and materially rooted strategic, theoretical, and tactical orientations located in practice.

Whatever that would look like, it would have to involve a substantial transformation of existing orientations and forces, and as has be demonstrated above would require developing through mass and political work. Inevitably this would require conflict, splits, and rupture of existing organizations into distinct tendencies that at present battle only internally. This is actually to be welcomed, as it would clarify our directions, and alleviate some of the periodic internal paralysis. It should however be clear that this is precisely the work and aims we should have to overcome the present alienation and stasis. Increased reflection and experimentation with organizing is indicative of potentials that, if nurtured and developed, could lead to the emergence of a new social revolutionary force in North America.

This is a risk, but it is a necessary risk we need to take to be able to have the resources and capabilities to prepare and intervene as ruptures open up new possibilities and new danger in this time of crisis. In such a time, organizational and ideological loyalties should be re-assessed in favor of the interests of the proletariat and the movement as a whole. The stakes are high enough that it has become worth it to experiment and break from our existing practices in favor of possibly creating a higher form of organization than we have seen in decades in North America.

[1] Midnight Notes Collective. Work, Energy, War: 1973-1992. Autonomedia, 2001.

[2] Wallerstein, Immanuel. Structural Crises. Originally published in New Left Review #62 March-April 2010.

[3] This essay is one piece of what has become four essays. The others will address the usefulness and problems of the organizational theories in use today, the first being a critique of attempts to recast democratic centralism away from its centralizing tendencies, the second as a critique of simply trying to implement theories from high periods of struggle without concepts of how we get to that level (specifically platformism, especifism, synthesism, and cadre organization), and the last an analysis of the nature of our period.

[4] Some mass organizations and intermediate organizations on the other hand are very good at developing leadership in militants. Still, in terms of developing consciousness, praxis, and revolutionary process we are roundly lacking. It is an open question, and should be called into question what the role of political organizations is in mass organizations given the often backwards and lopsided development of political organizations actually existing today.

[5] Marx’s German Ideology makes a related point, and the work of French Anarchist Communists apply the idea of communism as the living movement of the working class with anarchist communist organization as an emergent historical pole. See also George Fontenis’ Manifesto of Libertarian Communism, or the position papers of Alternative Libertaire.

[6] See Miami Autonomy & Solidarity’s position paper on the intermediate level for a more in depth analysis of the logic of the intermediate level and its application to our present period.

[7] See the section on unions in Black Flame: the revolutionary class politics of anarchism and syndicalism by Schmidt and van der Walt, AK Press 2009.



13 years 4 months ago

In reply to by

Submitted by posi on January 19, 2011

this is excellent.