Fire Ants

Ben Courtice benj at
Tue Nov 19 20:50:11 MST 2002

Like Jeff I'm trying to avoid the perils of last-word-ism, and I'm
(supposedly) studying for an exam tomorrow. I haven't even read the post
which gave the name of this new sub-thread.

But a quick note in response to Louis who wrote:

> I never realized back then that the only way that people can become
> leaders is through their work in the mass movement. Can you imagine the
> Bolsheviks going through the kind of ordeal that we went through prior
> to national conventions? Nobody had to "motivate" the nomination of
> somebody like Ryazanov or Kamenev. The masses had bestowed such honors
> long ago.

The question is what did the Bolsheviks, or the RSDLP, or the Iskra
group, etc., do *before* the masses had a chance to see them in
struggle, in the period before 1905? Granted many of them did work in
the underground propaganda circles in the 1890s, and later did work in
distributing Iskra across the Russian left. That's hardly mass work. But
they still had some degree of leadership, e.g. the Iskra editorial
board. These were people (like Plekhanov) who had earned leadership
within the Marxist movement, not the mass movement. As the group
evolved, those who were able to lead the Marxist movement in the
direction of the mass workers' movement, like Lenin, and Trotsky, and
many more, became increasingly recognised as the leaders within the
Marxist movement as well. But this followed a period of ideological
clarification. That sort of period is still underway in Australia (and
in fact just about all the imperialist nations it seems to me).
Fortunately the discussion here over the Socialist Alliance is
increasing the tempo of discussion and the learning curve of the people
involved. However, actual *mass* leaders (and there are, and have been,
a few in the DSP -- union organisers for example) are a rare commodity
-- and not one we can create out of thin air. Nor could the RSDLP. It
requires struggle, and try as we might, the Australian working class is
not yet rising up like the Russians did in 1905 or even in the strike
wave of the 1890s.
(Louis started the Russia/Bolshevik/RSDLP analogy... it may not be
perfect but for the sake of brevity I've stuck to it.)

Ben Courtice

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