R-HICKMAN at wpg.uwe.ac.uk
Wed Jun 19 06:59:20 MDT 1996
thanks for the continued interest. Is there anybody else out
there? Perhaps they've all given up on the idea of a
revolutionary party? Or alternatively perhaps they're all
satisfied with the current fragmented situation; if they just
keep the faith - whichever particualr one they subscribe to -
then they will undoubtedly win out in the end, and vanquish all
the other would be vanguards.
Anyway let me use your question about the mechanism for selecting
a central committee, as a means to be more concrete about the
character and role of a revolutionary party. I suggested that
potential central committee members should be selected initially
by election, and that from that elected pool those who are
actually going to serve on the committee should be chosen by lot.
And you responded by saying that while 'this may put the kabosh
on power mongers' it might not mean that 'we get the best most
There are a number of responses I want to make:
1. The first and most obvious is that under the present sytems of
election do we get the 'best most experienced/dedictaed people'?
Or do we get the people who are good at electioneering, with all
the more or less positive skills that are required in that
particular area of struggle - everything from skills in oratory,
propoganda, debate, through to manipulation, bribery and threats.
2. Secondly, the selection by lot would not necessarily mean the
loss of skills to the central organisational body of the party.
People with particular contributions to make could be co-opted
into positions where their talents could be utilised. However,
they wouldn't have the voting/decision making rights of central
committee members; these rights would be limited to committee
members since it is they who are accountable to congress.
3. Thirdly, and I think more importantly, your proposition that
we might miss out on the 'best and most experienced/dedictaed
people', suggest a clearly persceptable hierarchy of ability,
exeperience, dedication. It must presumably be clearly
persceptable, since if you are going to elect directly onto the
central committee the best twenty party members, then who the
best twenty party members are must be readily apparent to at
least a majority of party members. I would suggest that matters
are rarely as simple as this.
And it is over this question of the existence of such a hierarchy
within a party that I want to turn to make some more detailed
observations regarding the charcter and role of a revolutionary
1. Do not presume that organisational and political ability are
one in the same; they may be found in the same person in some
instances but by no means always. Keep organisational and
political power separate within a party; organisational power
centralised to allow for action in common, political power
diversified for open debate.
2. Don't recreate the divisions which exist within the working
class - backward, intermediate, advanced - in the revolutionary
party. The party should be the collective of the advanced
elements of the working class, plus those from other classes who
adopt their viewpoint. This is not to presume either that a
party actually is the collective of all the advanced members of
the class, or that being the collective of the advanced it is
always right. The point is that within a revolutionary party the
members should enjoy such equality of status.
3. A revolutionary party should not proclaim itself as the
leadership of the working class; it should not presume the
correctness of its actions and its theory on the basis of its
'advanced' membership. If a party provides effective leadership,
then this will be recognised, but it is a recognition which will
have to won and re-won time and again. More of this when I start
declaiming about the relationship between theory and practice -
bet you can't wait.
4. Being such a free association of equals - people choose to
join and must be free to leave - a revolutionary party can give
glimpses, through its actions, its party life, of the potentials
available to the whole of society in the post revolutionary
period; that is in the transition to communism.
A revolutionary party should be non-hierachical, prefigurative
and aspirational; a collective of equals, a harbinger of a new
society and hungry for success.
All the best Raymond Hickman
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