Horizontal Organizations

Domhnall donaloc at peterquinn.com
Fri Feb 22 03:32:49 MST 2002

Joe, I don't think anyone would disagree on the need for horizontal
principles of popular organisation - at least within a mass movement.
Neither would anyone disagree on the issue of advancing populist slogans
which tap into the underlying contradictions between the people's interest
and those of capital. Additionally, as Lou has pointed out, there is a need
for 'Defensive' slogans which act to encourage activism and provide
political cover as opposed to cause alienation and subsequent isolation.

Where I have my own doubts is on the issue of militaristic anti-imperialist
organisations being past their sell-by date. Coming from my own particular
perspective, I think it's always difficult to leave a period behind, but I
can't imagine trying to tell FARC or ELN rebels to lay down weapons as they
need to focus on horizontal party building structures right now. In essence,
the key is that militarism must be viewed in a long-term defensive manner -
that means that we must use it to strike out offensively in the short-term
if we can be sure that in the long-term this will advance our defensive
requirements (and I mean that in some wide sense - defensive for a movement
can include the ability to grow in popular support).

I most certainly agree that a US Labour Party needs establishment but it
needs to have a driving revolutionary centre - otherwise, you'll end up with
a Blairite 'con-job'. I just don't think that (except in certain extreme
circumstances e.g. Argentina) people can organise themselves to take power -
indeed, it's not at all clear that this situation will come to pass even
there. (My reading is that if South America is the flat bottom of a roll-on
roll-off ferry which has 1 mm of water lying on it, then Argentina's
predicament is like when the damn Ferry tips to the side and all the water
(3m) lies in the corner of the base (capsizing the vessel)- all that due to
the foolishness of pegging to the dollar).

The main point over which I find myself in disagreement is your assault on
Fidel Castro's slogans on neoliberalism and the third world. That there is
nothing *liberal* about neoliberalism is obvious, although the term liberal
has a certain historical significance and I think your missing that. The
third world, of course, couldn't develop in some independent way when it's
being devoured whole by world imperialism and as an ideological concept is
way past the mark. It is not, therefore, that I disagree with your
criticisms of these terms, per se, rather that I think we need to understand
the need to keep our language simple. If the ordinary person talks about the
third world then why do we need to start talking about the periphery. For
the purposes of more detailed discussions, okay, but for general
sloganising, no. Another one is the reformist line 'Fair Trade, not Free
Trade', well, everyone knows that there's no such thing as fair trade in
capitalism, but the slogan can be useful in building up strength behind a

As I said before, I'm not entirely clear on the boundary between the need
for populist slogans and the need for ideologically correct ones. The
question is related to how we approach the anti-globalisation protests
(which are ideologically unsound) yet have a positive character and offer
popular strength to an anti-capitalist campaign. If someone could offer a
better understanding of this issue, I would be grateful.

Is mise,


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