Re: Creating the party of the future
- pratical reply:
Let's get cracking on that webpage Ben--I like your idea of how to
start and will do so soon. I hope that those reading on the list make
themselves a part of this project by critiqueing our work.
Ben also mentioned my livejournal:
I welcome you all to read it and make comments there, or reply here.
I also welcome Ben to forward any of the posts from it that he likes
to the list--and I will think about doing so.
Also, I'm sorry my last post had the broken lines--I switched to a new
email program (Mozilla mail) and I must not know the settings well on it.
the following is my theoretical reply to Ben's post:
There's a saying: don't toss out the baby with the bathwater--and when
the bathwater is a hundred years worth of mud, that's going to be
difficult. We're faced with a situation in which Marxism has been
used to justify any number of terrible things (though most Marxists
disagree on which things are terrible, they all disagree someone
calling themselves Marxist is full of shit). There's been an endless
amount of mudslinging from almost every angle, and so it's nearly
impossible for us to dig through all that. I myself have been a
Marxist on and off for seven or eight years because I kept
encountering theoretical deadends and the use of Marxism to justify
things I couldn't accept on principle.
The bathwater's so dirty and thick we'll have to use a shovel to clean
it out, but at the same time, we don't want to throw out that baby!
This is a very difficult thing to do, and I'm afraid Ben may've caught
a hand or foot in his last post.
Put simply, I'm afraid Ben may've rejected some precious insights of
Marxism because of his sincere desire to save the baby. So I think
he's mistaken, but I think so while still having the utmost respect
and high hopes for working with him--even if we don't come to see eye
to eye on this issue.
Specifically, I think that Ben rejects some of the true aspects of
Marxism in regards to the "revolutionary party"--something that
particularly has a lot of shit associated with its name, and it's
extremely hard to find those gems in all of that dirt.
On the crisis of theory
I said that the crisis of theory largely relates to Stalinism--by
which I should've clearly said I meant not just the ideology but the
material degeneration of the USSR and the counterrevolution led by
Stalin under the cover of Marxism.
Ben says that on all essential points, Trotskyism is in agreement with
Stalinism. I think he's right (in a way) in that by Stalinism I
didn't mean "Stalinism vs. Trotskyism" but the material reality behind
Stalinism--which deeply affected virtually all of the Trotskyist
groups as well as the Stalinist groups (and also laid the basis for
the resurgence of anarchism). However, I think such 'Trotskyism' does
not represent the actual theory of Trotsky (but that's a historical
discuss for another time.)
Here are excerpts from Ben's post that I think are especially relevant
to what I want to talk about divided into three sections:
Ben's comments on the revolutionary party
Ben argues that the word "community" rather than "party" best
describes what we need today (and has less bathwater).
On an LRP article: "What I found instead were various truisms that
explain very little and endless, mind-numbing repetition of the same
abstract generalizations that have been repeated for decades by people
who do not have a clue what any of it means."
Ben's comments on the crisis of theory
Ben gives the essence of the crisis of theory as follows:
"(1) how a society (and economy) would function that did not rely on
commodity production and exchange, (2) how the transition period would
lead from a commodity economy to an economy that was not based on
commodity production and exchange. ... (3) how would [a revolutionary]
organization work and what would it do?"
Ben's comments on political transparency
"Genuine revolutionary organization would involve finding methods of
bringing serious, militant activists together to engage in common
struggle and to sort out and focus on the tasks which are decisive.
This would require public discussion and public debate.
Unfortunately, both the CVO and the LRP appear to me to be deathly
afraid of any process which might lead to political transparency"
Ben critiques the CVO & LRP for their websites not allowing the
posting of criticism, et al., and that they "are not accountable to
the working class in any way whatsoever."
"Any _real_ revolutionary organization that emerges from this point
forward will make use of the weapon of transparency; will encourage
activists to ask public questions and to make public comments and
"By providing solid and reliable public answers to public questions a
real revolutionary organization will provide a service to militant
activists everywhere (who are struggling like hell to make sense of
the movement and their role in it), help to bring order out of chaos,
prove that it does not have its head stuck in a place that can't be
reached by sunlight -- and demonstrate that it is worthy of attention
1. marxism & the crisis of theory
Ben says the crisis of theory is how we can transition from commodity
production to a society not based on commodity production (and how
that society would look).
This surprises me--and I'm not trying to be glib or anything--because
I thought Marx himself answered this question and it is what defines
Marxism as a contribution to the world. Of course, we can't just
mindlessly repeat the lessons of the past, but from Capital to his
study of the Paris Commune, Marx didn't think there was a crisis of
theory on the questions Ben poses.
History has since then both enriched our understanding of Marx's
answer (which I think is best summed up as the "dictatorship of the
proletariat") in the Russian Revolution of 1917 and negatively in
other failed revolutions but history has also obscured it through the
suffocation of the Russian Revolution and other revolutions and the
misleading things done in the name of Marxism and the dictatorship of
So I ask Ben: are you claiming that Marx's answer was wrong? I agree
we can't mindlessly repeat Marx, but your crisis of theory questions
seemed as if no suitable answer had ever been given. I could be not
understanding your point though.
And the above is why I say the crisis of theory is not so much the
search for a new theory as the task to restore the authentic theory of
Marx from the refuse of the counterrevolution in the USSR masquerading
as a communist leadership.
Ben critiqued the LRP article for making "mind-numbing repetition of
the same [old] abstract generalizations." That may be true, but it
decides nothing, because if there is a small, beleagured group
dedicated to restoring authentic Marxism, as a result of the lack of
resources it will be forced to resort to abstract generalizations.
And the question is then: are these generalizations right or not? The
phrase "commodity production" is an abstract generalization that is
fully expounded on materially in Marx's Capital--so if a group upholds
the truth of Marx's theory of commodity production without fully
explaining it, are they too not upholding an abstract generalization
2. public answers to public questions
Ben argues that a revolutionary organization must provide public
answers to public questions--and that this is the way to win the
confidence of the working class.
Ben is correct in his assessment of a revolutionary party and its
tasks here. But the question is, how do we create a revolutionary party?
(By the way, my following argument is largely based on the LRP's
pamphlet "Propaganda and Agitation in Building the Revolutionary
Party", available for 50 cents.)
Marx believed that the proletariat is an objectively revolutionary
class but that it must become conscious of its interests and how to
achieve them. The task of communists is to fight with their fellow
workers in every struggle to raise their consciousness, but above all,
to fight for class consciousness and the necessity for socialist
revolution and how to achieve that.
The Social Democratic Parties were class wide parties, and the
infection of the labor aristocracy destroyed them. Lenin turned to
creating parties based on the workers most advanced in consciousness
to come together to fight for leadership of all revolutionary
struggles and above all to fight for socialist revolution. The LRP
pamphlet says: "The class struggle will provide the necessary
experience from which growing numbers of workers can draw Marxist
conclusions. But this requires that the most politically advanced
workers and youth join together in a vanguard party and fight to win
their fellow workers to its revolutionary program."
It is the desire of communists to fight in every struggle and work
among every group, but how do we get to the point where we can do
that--where we have the resources and people to do that? It is
necessary to go to the masses as much as possible, to have roots in
the masses, but it is also necessary to attract the politically
advanced workers and train together to become political leaders that
can lead struggles and raise the class consciousness of the masses.
A small group trying to win influence among the masses "must pay more
attention to the day-to-day struggles and issues that the masses of
workers are interested in, and pay less attention to the revolutionary
lessons. This can lead revolutionaries to adapt to the backwardness
of the masses..." (pg. 5).
This is key. A revolutionary desires to go among the masses as much
as possible, but she must not resign herself to the least common
denominator of the masses but much work to create the most effective
way to lead those masses to socialist revolution. (This does not
imply the masses are passive, but that without communist
consciousness, their action will not find an effecitve outlet.) So
the task is to create cadres, train political workers and leaders that
are capable of then reaching out to the masses even more. And
hopefully a revolutionary mass party can be forged out of the class
struggle than can command the attention of all strata of the masses.
In other words, propaganda and theoretical training of the more
politically advanced workers "lays a solid foundation for agitation
among the masses" (pg. 6).
Trotsky said of the task of building the Fourth International: "We act
in the first place as propagandists [as opposed to mass agitators].
We are too weak to attempt to give answers to all questions, to
intervene in all specific conflicts, to formulate everywhere and in
all places the slogans and replies of the Left Opposition. .... one
must learn to select the most vital, the most burning, and the most
principled questions and on these questions engage in combat without
dispersing oneself in trifles and details."
Now, Ben correctly raises the question of accountability to the
working class. This is extremely important, but I hope I have shown
that a small propaganda group opening itself up to all questions from
the masses is an incorrect tactic, however desirable it is. On page
8, the pamphlet stresses the distinction between a "propaganda circle"
(like a study group that has little involvement with the masses) and
the propaganda stage of building the party. In the propaganda stage
in which the group must concentrate its resources on training cadre,
it is of the utmost necessity to engage in agitation among the masses
to test their theoretical study. "Crucial to the success of the
propaganda stage...is the task of establishing close relations with
the mass organizations of the working class, especially the unions"
(8). But agitation must be submitted to the importance of propaganda
among the more advanced workers.
Ben said on the LRP & CVO: "The most damning question that can be
asked about the good comrades in both of these organizations is: Why
aren't you working together?"
If by "working together" Ben means something like the united front
(striking together at common enemies/for reforms despite political
disagreements), I ask how the LRP sectarianly abstains from the united
front tactic. Otherwise, I'm not sure exactly what he means by this
On the CVO vs. the LRP on the draft:
"At one point the LRP says:
'any campaign against the draft represents a demand on the capitalist
state to maintain a professional, mercenary army, since that is its
only alternative. That is why we say "'No Draft' Is No Answer.'
Case closed. The LRP is clueless here on the nature of the struggle
for partial demands."
I agree with Ben that it is necessary to struggle for partial demands,
and so does the LRP. Their point is that agitating for the state to
maintain a mercenary army vs. a drafted army is not a true partial
demand--a gain for the working class. Ben may not agree with
that--but that does not mean they reject the struggle for partial
demands as such. For instance, they have several partial demands for
the army: full civil rights for soldiers, election of officers, etc.
But they're arguing the struggle against the draft is a misleading
struggle that is a "partial demand" in name only, not a *gain* of the
working class. That does not mean the struggle can't be militant, nor
that it couldn't possibly lead to Marxist politics--just that it
doesn't represent a conscious movement for the advancement of working
on the LRP:
"None of these trends have created the solid theoretical basis (ie:
breaking from the root of problem: the merger of the party/state and
lack of workers' democratic rights of speech and organization) that
would overcome the crisis of theory and allow the revolutionary
movement to unite around the clear goal of the rule of the working
class, as a class, in the context of modern conditions."--The
The LRP upholds the rule of the working class as a class and rejects
those root problems you mention.