re. Party reconstruction and state caps

Raymond Hickman R-HICKMAN at wpg.uwe.ac.uk
Thu Jun 13 07:08:26 MDT 1996


Hello Neil,

thanks for the info on CWO and Subversion. In answer to your
request that I should put forward my views 'more concretely' I'll
begin with the question of democratic centralism.

There are two things that I want to say before moving on.
Firstly, the need for open debate and action in common which
democratic centralism seeks to meet, is a real need. Secondly,
the current practice of democratic centralism fails to meet this
need.

The failure of current democratic centralist practice, is not in
realtion to its centralism/action in common, but rather in
realtion to its democracy/open debate. Organisations can get
their members selling papers, chanting the same slogans,
intervening in this or that dispute, attending this or that
meeting. What they aren't so good at is allowing, let alone
encouraging open debate; go to virtually any left organisations
meetings and you find yourself attending a lecture, as opposed to
being involved in a discussion/debate.

One reason for this inability to initiate and sustain open debate
is to be found in the party structures almost universally adopted
by the various would be vanguards. Almost without exception they
have a central committee - under whatever name they choose to
call it - which combines political and organisational power. Not
only does the central committee organise the day to affairs of
the party between congresses, it is also the place where the
politics of the organisation is worked out. It is the central
committee which places resolutions before congress, it is the
central committee which produces recommended slates of
candidates, it is the central committee that controls the party's
external and internal press.

What all of this produces is a situation where the central
committee becomes a political battle ground to be fought over,
won and controlled. Once control has been won, then the power
which rest in the central committee can be used to defend the
victors, their postions and their political perspectives.
Opponents can be marginalised in the party structures, their
views can be attacked and/or ignored in the party press; this can
be done to such effect that opponents of the central committee
can very effectively be portrayed as being 'anti-party' and if
necessary expelled.

Some organisational remedies to the above problems might be as
follows:

1. Resolutions to congress must only come from the basic units of
the party - the branches. This would force political debate back
down to those units.

2. The central committee should not be responsible for the
party's internal press. This should be held by a group elected by
congress under the remit of distributing throughout the party all
material generated in the course of internal party debate.

3. The central committee should be chosen first by election and
then by lot. If a committee of twenty is needed forty people are
elected and from that forty, twenty are chosen by lot.

Now before anyone jumps in saying these are organisational
solutions to political problems, let me say I know that. But let
me add that I think they are suggestions which do try to tackle
the underlying political problems. What I think those problems
are I will get onto when I respond on the questions of the role
of the revolutionary party, and the relation between theory and
practice. For the moment just let me say that democratic
centralist practice at the moment  would be more usefully
described as 'leader centralism', and is in part at least the
product of a beleif - held by members of the various organisation
leading bodies - that the various would be parties are not
collectives made up of equals. Therefore my suggestions are aimed
at giving structural substance to the notion that a revoltionary
party should be a collective of equals.

All the best Raymond Hickman



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