democratic centralism

Scott Marshall Scott at
Sun Jul 2 13:11:07 MDT 1995

Jerry's comment that the relation fo leaders to membership is a critical
question for a wide range of oganizational forms and political thoeries of
operation is well taken. In fact IMO organizations can be dogmatic or
creative and dialectical about democratic centralism as with any other concept.

We still abide by the Leninist notion of democratic centralismn suited to
the conditions in the US. (BTW, at least formally so does the SACP and I see
no contradictions in saying that and saying that they allow memebers to take
different positions in mass organizations. What I would like to study is how
often that happens in real life on substative issues.)

I think where a lot of groups have gotten into trouble with dem-cen is by
applying a quasi military interpretation to the form. What they miss is that
democratic centralism is based mostly on unity of program and ideology. And
the most important form of democracy here is not abstract ideas of 'do i
agree with the leaders' or 'do I have the right to raise this or that
question' or 'do I have the right to take a different position in mass
orgainizations, but rather the main question is 'do we agree on what were
fighting for. The same for internal party democracy. I see it as very little
an abstract question of rights, and more fundementally, can we hammer out a
common program and action plan for helping to move the class struggle
forward and ultimately for overthrowing capitalism. Capitalism is highly
regimented and organized for it's class purposes.

Any idea that bourgoie democracy cancels the need for dem-cen is I think
wishful thinking and does not take into consideration the enemy against whom
we are arrayed. The question is not how much bourgy democracy exists, but
how powerful and centralized is the class enemy.


Chris B should not get the impression that we have given up dem-cen. But
again it is a creative concept that can change with existing conditions.

As to flack for being identified as Communist. This list, and no offense to
anyone, is not like the situations we are most active in in real life. In
fact it is much easier to be identified as a CP orgainzer, say in Decatur
Illinois, in the 'Class War Zone' of the Staley, Caterpillar and Firestone
strikes, than it is here. That is to say I take a lot less flack from those
workers than I do from some here. And it stands to reason - here we have
folks who 'know' what they know - their opinions are very definite. People
like the strikers are very new to the *real* issue of communism and
socialism. Once they are past (and the class struggle has a way of pushing
you past) cold war anti-communism, then most workers are eager for any ideas
to try and get a better understanding of what is happening all around them.
Crude anti-communism has very little impact left among working people that I
have contact with.

There are very many important signs of changes in the US working class. A
real problem I see for many independent marxist is how will you respond. How
will you identify yourselves as marxist, or how will you discuss socialism
with workers who are ready to move. Without a visable presence how will you
win workers to your ideas. This is where we CPers have a distinct advantage,
in it's hatred for us the ruling class has made everyone aware of the
Communists. As workers and others become radicalized, as they more and more
question the system and look for answers, and as they remember that the ones
who want to overthrow the system and are most anti-capitalist and
anti-imperialist are the Communists, then they come looking for us. In
Chicago we get about 4 top 6 calls a week now asking for information or
asking to join. You have to have an organization and a phone and a public
presence to grow in a mass way.

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