Reply to Ed's Party Building

D OC donaloc at
Mon Sep 29 10:11:04 MDT 2003

A chairde,

I must say that I've found the latest turn of debate of great interest.
Particularly the stuff on social-imperialism and Ed's recent thesis on party
organisation. I found the latter quite 'thick' with content and would be
keen that Ed expand on some of the things he was talking about. In

...For the consequence of the modus operandi of the classic
social-democratic type organisations ... is not to engender the type of
totalisation that Lenin envisages as essential for the development of
revolutionary socialist consciousness but precisely to reinforce and
institutionalise the sectoral divisions that organically arise within
bourgeois society, be they functional ('parliamentarism'), national, or
vertical and horizontal sectoralism.

Effectively, then you are saying that social democratic formations tend to
decouple the parliamentary from the other sites of struggle. Is this what
you mean? This is something which needs expansion and clarification. Why is
this the case? Is it to limit the influence/empowerment of the
workers/popular forces by excluding them from the parliamentary centre of
power? Perhaps this is abcs, but I don't see it as without needing
justification in a histmat sense.

>Indeed, the very structure of social democratic organisations mitigates
>against totalisation: if the
phenomenon of bureaucracy broadly understood can be said to have a
functional characteristic then it is precisely this: that it arises from
degrees of 'partial' consciousness and acts as a block to their

One might say that bureaucrats have no strategic vision? That they fail to
see beyond their own little sphere of activity. How then are we ever to
combat such bureaucracy - sometimes I think I like Mao's cultural revolution
of consistently challenging authority (in concept rather than reality -
perhaps meaningful participatory fora coupled with recall would be better
than popular stoning!!).

>Precisely for this reason, the question of building a
revolutionary organisation is a political and not a technical one, and
cannot be relegated to the revolutionary crisis and the practical tasks
of insurrection.

This is the whole crux of it. What difference do this make with how we
educate our people. More importantly, since real (mass) education only
happens as a social phenomenon - e.g. education through struggle, what
social phenomenon need we set in place (or better exploit) to ensure that
these tendencies are overcome. Clearly, a core part of all this must be the
creation of participative fora to push forward mass empowerment - however,
getting that off the ground (despite the lip-service paid by the political
establishment to 'partnership' and 'consultation' is not easy as it implies
an undermining of their absolute political control). Stop me if I sound too
much like an autonomist, but isn't this it?

>Moreover, such forms of organisation as are 'normally'
thrown up within capitalist society arise as they do on the basis of
partial, sectoral, consciousness, themselves the organic and natural
forms of political organisation that bourgeois society prompts: without
conscious political struggle for the revolutionary party as a totalising
instrument the working class movement will spontaneously throw up
bureaucratic and conservatising social-democratic type political

Totally agreed. But this course and task could only ever be determined and
implemented by a dominant, truly revolutionary core with little to no,
democratic input. Its a strategic thing, true vanguardism. The problem is
getting people to buy into that en masse. Okay, in a semi-revolutionary
society but in a non-revolutionary one, it must be damned difficult
altogether. The other thing is that there's the whole trap of voluntarism -
we could overbend the stick trying to avoid economism and end up with
another sect. It's all got to be fine-tuned to the demands being made (most
of which, if not all, are going to be reformist in character - but
strategically determined to effect maximal impact in terms of undermining
the hegemony of the enemy).

...These party-building movements (as much in the US as in western
Europe) came to naught because the protagonists understood the type of
revolutionary organisation that needed to be built according the
distortions and mystifications of 'Leninism' (in truth a sad parody of
the original) developed within the Comintern from the mid-1920s and on.

Do you not think that objective social realities had much more to to do with
this that we might like to concede? Also what about things like the fall of
the SU, the drift of China, the initial process of cutting links between the
imperialist centres and now embarrassing murder regimes in the colonies.
It's not enough to simply blame the Gospel of Zinoviev in isolation.

...The point is that the revolution that will place the proletariat in
social control (and which will thus
see the proletariat, along with all classes, supersede itself) requires
the prior conquest of state - political - power. Hence the need for a
Leninist party.

Well at least one which is resolved upon the issue of state power.

Is mise

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