[Marxism] What is the function of a revolutionary party?

Lou Paulsen Loupaulsen at sbcglobal.net
Mon Aug 23 22:44:35 MDT 2004

Something that Joaquin wrote today made me realize that perhaps this
discussion of democratic centralism, party-building, and so on, is leaving
out a step.  Before discussing what kind of party we want to build,
shouldn't we first address what the party is expected to DO?  I mean, you
build a party in order that the party will play a certain role and
accomplish certain ends, not just for its own sake.*  If people have
different visions about this then they are going to have different visions
of how a party should be built.

Moreover, the role of a party (I think this is a very important point) may
well differ in different periods and at different points in the
revolutionary cycle.  And it would follow that you would want to build the
party in different ways at different times, no?  So that in reality the
question "what is the function of a revolutionary party" is not going to
have any one answer good for all times and places.  It will have a lot of
possible answers.  What, then, for example, is the function of a
revolutionary party in the USA today?  

I think a lot of people have ideas about how the revolutionary party should
be built which come from the experiences of pre-revolutionary and
revolutionary situations.  However, we are not -at present- in that kind of
situation -in the US-, which may suggest that people should focus, not on
what kind of party was best in Russia in 1905 or 1917, or in Nicaragua in
1978, etc., but what tasks you expect a revolutionary party to accomplish
*here and now* (in the long-term interest, of course, of getting to a
revolutionary situation as soon as possible), and then think about what the
party that can accomplish those tasks would look like, and what kind of
organizational structure it needs.

Yes, it does indeed follow from what I'm saying here that as the period
changes, the functions and responsibilities of the party change, and
elements of its organizational structure are likely to change as well.

But for a change let me pose the question and then step back for a second.
What do other people here think a revolutionary party is for, in this
period?  (Or, if you agree with Carrol that revolutionary parties are just
an obstacle in this period, and that revolutionaries should (I guess) just
disperse themselves among some larger milieu, like yeast, please feel free
to say that too :-)   )

Lou Paulsen
Member, WWP

*On this point ("there's a first time for everything") I agree with Mark
Lause, viz., that our primary loyalty is to the socialist revolution, and
secondarily to parties which exist for the sake of that revolution.

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