STALIN?MARX?USSR

Ron Press anclondon at gn.apc.org
Mon Mar 20 13:36:56 MST 1995


Hi

The question of Stalin/Marxism is connected with the question of
the structure of the organisation that interprets and impliments
the Socialist Government.

Here is a bit of an article I am working on. Comments would be
welcome.

Structures of governance

At times of great upheaval, such as 1917 in Russia, or the 1990's
in South Africa, the structure of society borders on chaos. The
classical conditions for revolutionary change are present. Out of
the old the new emerges. This has been the subject of many an
academic paper but I wish to look only at the structures which
came into being, and how they can be compared to what we know of
the structure of the brain.

The old structures were pyramidical with strong central
governmental control. Each area of human endeavour was similarly
structured. The mass of the people were mere mechanical switches
there to perform specific tasks and not to be involved with those
tasks reserved for the upper layers of control. Any organisation
opposed to this structure was to be cut out and eliminated.

This is in stark contrast to the brains structure as it is
beginning to be discovered by modern research. There is no pineal
gland alias Czar or State President. The most important activities
of the brain are not centred in any single region. When we think,
various desperate regions of the brain are active. Memory has no
specific address but is distributed. Specific tasks such as sight
or speech are found to be located in specific regions but are not
isolated or confined to those specific tasks. Much thinking takes
place in these regions and memories are stored there.

All in all the brain has a remarkable organisational structure and
the little we know about it is, in political terms, very
democratic.

What sorts of structure have emerged at times of revolutionary
change. I will only touch on a few examples, bearing in mind that
these structures have not always been permanent.

The USSR

In the initial flush of the revolution the "Soviet", the
committee, became the building brick if society. These committees
were elected by those immediately concerned with the life of the
group of people who elected them and were answerable to these same
people. Committees of soldiers, of peasants, of workers, emerged.
Lenin's slogan was "All power to the Soviets". There were a
supreme Soviet and a Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. A study
of the constitution of the USSR is very instructive.

"Article 3. The Soviet is organised and functions  on the
principle of democratic centralism, namely the electiveness of all
bodies of state authority from the lowest to the highest, their
accountability to the people, and the obligation of lower bodies
to observe the decisions of higher ones. "

"Article 5 Major matters of state shall be submitted to nationwide
discussion and put to a popular vote (referendum). "

" Article 6. The leading and guiding force of Soviet society and
the nucleus of its political system, of all state organisations
and public organisations, is the Communist Party..."

" Article 7 Trade Unions, the All-Union Leninist Young Communist
League, co-operatives, and other public organisations,
participate, in accordance with the aims laid down in their rules,
in managing state and public affairs, and in deciding political,
economic, and social and cultural matters."

On the one hand the above articles create a highly centralised all
powerful structure in which the Party knows all decides all and
directs all activity. It emphasises elections and even referenda
so as to legitimise this central power structure. This is not
unlike the structure out of which the USSR grew, nor indeed much
different from the structure of the so-called democracies.

Article 7 however recognises another structure based on the mass
organisations of various sectors of society. This is reflects the
sort of structure in the human brain. The fact that this article
was de-gutted and rendered inoperative since the Party refused to
allow these organisations to develop or implement the " aims laid
down in their rules."

 Article 7 paid lip service to the possibility of forest floor
democracy sharing the light of the canopy. It arose out of the
revolutionary structures developed in the struggle against the
Czar and instead of forming the basis of the state structure was
strangulated shortly after birth.

South Africa.

During the last years of the Apartheid Regime, the people threw up
various forms of organisation. These enabled  them to establish a
basis for the participation of the mass of the people in the
struggle in spite of the oppression.

In the late 1980's the United Democratic Front in South Africa
(UDF) was such an organisation. It was an organisation of
organisations. The central organisation coordinated and laid the
basis for the policies of opposition to apartheid. The
organisations it coordinated were independent and of many
political persuasions. Some were church organisations, some
cultural and yet others, sports or trade union. In the background
was the leadership of the African National Congress which was in
exile and banned in South Africa. When the ban on the ANC was
lifted and it returned home, the UDF was dissolved. The structure
could have been recognised as a prototype for the future. It
reflects  a segment  of the fractal pattern of the brain. The
lessons of that era must not be lost but revived and implemented
once again.

This era also saw the flourishing of the Civics, the Non Racial
Sports Congress, the Trade unions, the various National Forums,
street committees and many other grass root organisations. They
were correctly being helped and encouraged by the ANC.

CODESA (Congress for a Democratic South Africa) became the
national forum where the solution of the crisis in South  Africa
could be discussed and a solution found. Its participants
encompassed almost all political organisations and persuasions in
South Africa from the far right to the far left. . It tried to
embrace all opinions which can be persuaded by "sufficient
consensus"  This lead to the interim constitution, the government
of National Unity and the so-called sunset clauses. Elections were
held and a government formed with the ANC having an almost
two-third majority. Unique in the present day world this
government has a vice president from the defeated opposition, the
National Party and even a cabinet minister from the Inkata which
up to the last minute waged a bitter campaign of assassination
against the
ANC.

The CODESA system is clearly a pattern which exhibits in society
the fractal patterns in the brain. It indicates a way forward for
democracy in South Africa.

 The  Government of National Unity extends the lifetime of the
 "sufficient consensus" process.

I see no impossibility for education to be run by a "CODESA" of
those in the education sector.  Or for health to be structured in
a similar manner. Various Forums, economic, housing, education,
are active.

The Reconstruction Pact was originally proposed by COSATU, the
ANC, SACP, SANCO and others including organisations of the
employers and others. It is now Government policy in South Africa.
It is an example of  a  new organisational structure which is
evolving in South Africa.

In the United States of America the outcome of the Vietnam war was
influenced more by the activities of the extra governmental
opposition than by the President or Congress.

In the United Kingdom the whole question of the environmental  is
not being tackled by the Department of the Environment. Green
Peace, Friends of the Earth and others were the  first to
recognise to it as a problem, to offer solutions and to act for
their implementation. Similarly the question of the harmful
effects of smoking  arose from pressures and activities outside of
the central governmental organisations.

The structure of Democracy

There is emerging in various ways at  diverse times and
circumstances a new pattern of the organisation of society. This
has been recognised by many groups of various political tendencies
but especially those of on the left. It is to my mind one of the
most fundamental question of the present era. I believe a
recognisable pattern can be outlined and that this pattern or
organisational structure is essential if the terms, socialism,
liberation, workers control freedom and so on are to be given the
power they need to persuade people that there is a future other
than capitalism and its pyramidal distortions.

1) Throughout society there are problems and desires which need
solving or satisfying.  There arise.  Innumerable organisations
set up to do this.

Consider a block of flats. There are problems, a resident's
association is established.  At this level everyone who wishes to
be involved is involved. In a street,  committees are set up. At
this stage everyone cannot be directly involved. There are too
many individuals. Differentiation begins to take place. Elections
are held, factions appear.

It is here that the idea of the Forum and sufficient consensus has
evolved in South Africa, and elsewhere. Anyone organising a
protest march or a sit-in against a motorway knows the drill.

For a set of streets there is constituted a committee for the
district. In normal circumstances it ends there with the top down
structure taking over. The councillor from the city structure
becomes the pipeline and often the bottleneck.

If the particular problem is important and has a high profile a
meeting is called to discuss it. Again it ends there. There is a
constant tussle between the ordinary folk and the systems
representatives. Sometimes commonsense prevails and discussion,
compromise, and reason find a solution.

There are other organisational possibilities. The bottom up
structure could be build right up to government level. Street
committees could elect councillors. Councillors could elect county
councils and so on. I submit this would create the same pyramidal
structure which has failed us so far.

There is the other structure which we are so familiar with. The
checks and balances as in the USA,  democratic centralism in the
former USSR, the federal structure in Germany, all have failed to
deliver a system where democracy can flourish.

It seems to me that the Department of the Environment in the UK
should have a representative of the government on its board of
directors, the other members should come from all the major
organisations concerned with and organised to do something about
the environment. These could be representatives of Friends of the
Earth, of Green Peace, of the parliamentary opposition party, of
industry, of the trade unions, and consumers' protection groups.
Such a system would offer the possibility of reasoned discussion
of the problem with possible solutions to it.

The government could be constituted on the lines of a Government
of National Unity with ministries structured to incorporate non
governmental organisations relevant to those ministries.

The disabled in China have a direct voice to the relevant ministry
and this seems to be of great benefit to them. One danger is that
becoming too close could lead to absorption. (5) This is clearly a
danger. It happened in Kenya when after liberation the minister of
labour was the leader of the trade unions and this degutted the
independence and militancy of  the trade unions.

There have been experiments with organisations such as the
National Development Council in the UK (NEDDY).  Generally they
have failed. NEDDY was set up not to solve the problem of the
people of the UK but that of a small section of society.  However
I believe that the basic reason that they have not succeeded is
that the problem has not been critical for survival.

CODESA succeeded because the very survival of the people of South
Africa was in question. A Government similar to the GNU of South
Africa was constituted in the UK during the war against Nazi
Germany.

The time critical for the survival of humanity and nations is not
remote. A system of `sufficient consensus' will be essential. A
structure of governance based on the sort of system outlined above
will emerge. The environmental and resource disaster, the third
world debt, endemic unemployment, the failure of the present
economic system all fuel that crisis. The rise of various
fundamentalist organisations in all parts of the world, signals
the necessity for reason to be evoked to bring about solutions
which can alleviate the pain of a Bosnia, Algeria, Rwanda on a
world scale. The invocation of exclusivity, of dogmatic arrogance,
of force, will be disastrous. Only solutions bringing together all
factions working for survival have possibilities of success. Only
the left humanitarian forces can do this.

I believe that the butterfly emerged from its cocoon in South
Africa in 1994.

Ron.


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