paris commune

Justin Schwartz jschwart at
Sun Oct 30 22:10:59 MST 1994

On Sun, 30 Oct 1994 tgs at wrote:

> Justin,
> I think a discussion about what we've been talking about the principle of
> the Paris commune as applied to socialist organizations might be interesting
> If I may paraphrase you, you were saying that you preferred an organization,
> like Solidarity, where the fractions' leaderships are accountable to the fractins
> only.  We were both in agreement as to our dislike for
> overly powerful central committees;
> that they make groups conservative, purges tend to result (much like the
> ostracisms that went on in Greek city-states), etc.  I argued that it is
> necessary for the group as a whole to elect fraction leaderships, because
> the fractions are accountable to the group for the work.  These fractions
> leaderships should be the members of the national, regional, and branch
> assemblies of representatives, who make decisions collectively and execute
> policy in their fractions, execution which is reviewable by the group as a
> whole. As in the Paris Commune.
> You said you were not into this kind of organization, but you were rather
> interested  in the Federalists' Separation of Powers.  I said that
> while I was hip to the notion of separating the judiciary bodies from
> the executive (a control commission(s) inside an organization, outside,
> popular tribunals), I felt that the Federalist doctrine was bourgeois in
> the extreme.

I don't go in for this sort of talk.

> What you are arguing for, what they argued for, is elitism and unaccountablity.
> YOu are not arguing for democracy, but instead for the elite pluralism,
> within a group, or society, preached by the Columbia school of Nato realists
> in the 1950s: David Truman, Dahl, Lipset, et al.  This makes for a "do
> anything you please" attitude, especially  among the leadership.  In my opinion,
> and from experience in solidarity.

I don't see this. If I don't do labor work and don't know anything about
it, why should I have anything useful to say about who heads up the labor
fraction? Why indeed should my opinion in the matter count? In fact, if I
were responsible and in a group which had such a structure, I'd have to
canvass the people in the labor work and say, who do you think I should
vote for? Making my vote redundant if honest or obstructionist if not. Of
course it is different with the leadership of the group as a whole, about
which I should have views as good as anyone's and where claims to special
expertise are not credible.

Why this looks anything like elite pluralism, with competing elites
presiding over apathetic masses, I do not know.

Anyway, I'm not sure that the principles for a group make sense for
society as a whole. The latter wasn't my concern.

I fear we're hogging the net. Maybe we better back off and let other folks
pitch in for while. Besides I have work to do.



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