Where was the Color at A16 in D.C.?

Carrol Cox cbcox at SPAMilstu.edu
Mon Jun 19 11:54:08 MDT 2000

Yoshie Furuhashi wrote:

> I'd have to agree with Irene Tung quoted in the article below about
> the style of organizing that has become fashionable among young
> activists through Seattle, A16, etc.: "There was definitely an
> insider's culture at A16, especially at the convergence spaces. There
> was a vocabulary and behavior, an assumed cultural commonality, that
> was somewhat eerie. It seems that the ideals of absence of leadership
> and `facilitated chaos'--as they say--function best in a homogenous
> group."   Yoshie
> *****   By Colin Rajah , director of programs at JustAct.
> [SNIP]
> According to Sanchez, DAN-LA is the only regional DAN group that has
> a significant number of organizers of color. DAN-LA will be the
> principal coordinator of the actions at the Democratic National
> Convention (also called DNC or D2K) in August. Sanchez sees this as
> an opportunity to finally have leaders of color in the center of the
> mobilization. "There is definitely a call out there," says Jasmin de
> la Rosa, coordinator of the Third Eye Movement, which is organizing
> hip-hop activists and other high-school youth to participate in L.A.

Several points.

ONE. Most progressive/communist thinkers agree that the
movement against capitalism must be democratic. The difficulty is
double: (a) every thinker carries in her mind a particular model of what
democracy is, a model derived by abstraction from some existing or
prior attempt in practice to achieve democratic decision making, but
(b) *all* such models (past practices) have been failures, and everyone
is therefore defending a conception of democracy which has only
failures in its past history. The available models seem to be (1)
participatory democracy (2) representative (electoral) democracy
(3) democratic centralism and (4) caudillismo (or populism cum
democratic centralism).

The first is merely a projection into serious politics of the clique rule

in high school social life and is clearly unacceptable. The last, though
it has had some very real success in Cuba, in sections of the black
liberation movement in the United States, and at the local level in
China for a brief period of time is clearly not a system which can be
aimed at and cannot survive indefinitely. (When Castro retires or
dies we will if it can outlast the Caudillo or will lapse into
centralism or capitalist restoration.)

I have a premise which I won't attempt to defend but merely assert.
The "new" is never achieved directly but only indirectly as it bursts
through an old shell. So either representative (electoral/constitutional)

democracy or democratic centralism must be the *route* to a new
type of movement democracy but neither will be the new form -- that
new form not being even imaginable let alone implementable at the
present time. Caudillismo has worked when the presence of an outside
enemy (U.S. in the case of Cuba, in China the power of the gentry and
the rich peasantry, which remained extremely strong even after military
victory) makes a mass line of some sort not only advisable but necessary
for survival. In the case of pure democratic centralism, however, an
outside enemy seems to reinforce its tendencies to bureaucratic
centralism rather than the development of a mass line. And if the
enemy is in fact less strong than is assumed, the result is the panic
to ultra-leftism and collapse as in China and the Cultural Revolution.

I tend to think that new (and we hope workable) forms of democracy will
be achieved through the wrenching into new channels of democratic
centralism, but that will be determined by theorizing within the practice
the future, not by theorizing now.

TWO. In the United States any movement or organization which in its
initial form is predominantly white will eventually fail. The core of any

successful overcoming of the prime enemy of the working class in the
United States, its own racism (conscious and spontaneous, subjective
and structural) can only be broken if leadership is visibly black --
means to begin with not  only a predominantly black formal leadership
but black dominance in terms of number of activists. This is not to
deny the immense promise of the Seattle movment, but it is to claim that
survival of that movement depends on its subordination to a black
led black liberation movement.


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