- Capitalism and Alternatives -


Posted by: Barry Stoller on January 31, 19100 at 13:21:38:

In Reply to: My problem is that job rotation can never be entirely equal posted by Pete on January 30, 19100 at 20:26:32:

: Could it be that you're trying to figure out who's who (i.e., who is a true revolutionary) before hand? If that's true, then it has a whiff of vanguardism, and that makes me hesitant to get squarely behind you on this question.

Yes, I am trying to test the egalitarian convictions of others.

Am I a 'vanguardist'? That would depend on the definition of the term. Here's mine...

A vanguard is the revolutionary body of the proletariat. As Frenchy illustrates readily, not every working person is prepared for revolutionary action at the same time. Obviously a revolutionary situation is required, and a MASS movement, but not every last working person will be ready to act at the same time. Nevertheless, leadership is required, if for nothing else than to help convince the holdouts among the working class that it is in their class interests to come aboard:

It is the specific duty of the leaders to to gain an ever clearer understanding of the theoretical problems, to free themselves more and more from the influence of traditional phrases inherited from the old conception of the world, and constantly keep in mind that socialism, having become a science, demands the same treatment as every other science---it must be studied. The task of the leaders will be to bring understanding, thus acquired and clarified, to the working masses, to spread it with increased enthusiasm, to close the ranks of the party organizations and of the labor unions with ever greater energy.(1)

Now, is it true, as our impetuous friend Lark claims, that 'you make the revolution yourself'?

Think of the February Revolution, a truly spontaneous affair. The leaderless people threw off centuries of Tsarist rule... and ended up with Kerensky (the 'Social Revolutionary') who not only continued the war but clamped down even harder on the working people...

People, in a revolutionary situation, need to know WHY they are fighting.

In order to do this, political and tactical clarity is required of parties.

I don't want to risk my life for inspiring yet meaningless shibboleths like 'freedom' and 'fairness.' Maybe your idea of freedom is the freedom to monopolize the means of production and coerce me into providing labor for you on your terms; maybe my idea of freedom is freedom FROM such institutional practices. Maybe you think itís fair to ration education so there will 'conveniently' be a class of people suited for nothing but unskilled work; maybe I think its fair to educate everybody. Freedom and fairness are grand words---but many a working person has been swindled by them before.

Clarity on such specifics enables a revolutionary party to expose and rid itself of non-revolutionary elements. Clarity is essential to be HONEST with revolutionary elements who seek to join the party. Clarity is essential for united action by the revolutionary party; therefore, ideological discipline is essential:

Everyone is free to write and say whatever he likes, without any restrictions. But every voluntary association (including the party) is also free to expel members who use the name of the party to advocate anti-party views. Freedom of speech and the press must be complete. But then freedom of association must be complete too. I am bound to accord you, in the name of free speech, the full right to shout, lie and write to your heartís content. But you are bound to grant me, in the name of freedom of association, the right to enter into, or withdraw from, association with people advocating this or that view. The party is a voluntary association, which would inevitably break up, first ideologically and then physically, if it did not cleanse itself of people advocating anti-party views.(2)

A revolutionary party cannot accept ALL elements of the working class any more than an intentional community can. Is Twin Oaks or East Wind 'vanguardist'? In the sense that they demand ideological agreement as a precondition of membership, yes. Does that make them mind-crushing dictatorships? What a laughable idea!

Think of the truly innumerable rules these communities would require if their membership was promiscuously open. These communities are able to operate with few rules---and little open authority---BECAUSE they have rejected potential members who would clash hourly with the commonly held values of those who formed these voluntary associations. The more ideological harmony in advance, the less authority will be needed later on.

A revolutionary party cannot accept ALL members of the working class at once because many members of the working class are held in thrall by the ideology of their masters, the bourgeoisie. Many hold racist views, believe in petty ownership of the means of production, wish to gain advantageous positions with the 'winning side,' etc. As revolutionary situations grow more and more acute, more and more members of the working class come over to the revolutionary party (because a class crisis forces a crisis of decision-making). This is as it should be---and the growth of the party is an indication that the class crisis is reaching its moment of resolution.

To allow everyone into the party before the revolutionary situation forces the working class to make a CLEAR AND OPEN BREAK with the bourgeoisie and all its ideology is to advocate centrism, reformism, opportunism, and ideological indeterminism---all of which negate the revolutionary potential of a revolutionary class in a revolutionary situation, embracing instead class surrender before the fight even begins. No thanks.

So! Am I a 'vanguardist'?

Your call.



1. Engels, The Peasant War In Germany, International 1926, p. 29.

2. Lenin, 'Party Organization and Party Literature,' Collected Works volume 10, Progress Publishers 1965, p. 47.

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