[Marxism] Sect, party, movement, class - I [Was: Socialists Unite: Statement from Workers World Party & FIST]

Manuel Barrera, PhD mtomas3 at hotmail.com
Sat Jul 10 19:39:43 MDT 2010

I look forward to reading Joaquín's second portion primarily to determine
what exactly his solution to the crisis of working class leadership might

As I see it, Joaguín makes three important points: a) the radicalization of
the sixties gave rise to a growing consciousness among the masses,
especially youth, that resulted in a "movement"  that was broader than its
various different manifestations (e.g., civil rights, women's liberation,
anti-war movement), b) this movement was derailed from becoming an organized
struggle for working class power by internecine conflicts emanating from
groups based in sectarian frameworks, and c) this sectarianism emanates from
the wrong notion that previous models of social revolution could be directly
replicated either as a direct struggle for power (e.g., Che's focismo) or by
mimicking the Bolshevik model of political organization that resulted in the
successful Russian revolution--in short, every revolution will have its own
character forming from conditions within countries (I assume Joaquín would
expand this notion of "country" to include regional entities such as the
Russian empire, the "prison house of nations" as codified by Lenin). 

However, by far the most important issue Joaquín raises is the notion that
the form (in my view, a synonym for "organization") that the struggle for
power will take is a “natural tendency” codified by Marx as Joaquín puts it
“The individual worker's issue becomes a collective grievance against the
particular employer. The collective grievance becomes a movement in a
locality or specific branch of production. And the local/sectoral movement
becomes a nationwide struggle between the working class and the class of
owners. But a class struggle is a political struggle. Thus the
generalization of economic fights give rise to a political party of the
laboring class that fights to essentially re-found society on a different

He argues that this naturalistic process fits well to other social
movements. He believes “the sects stifle this process” primarily because
such groups have been trying to secure the higher ground as “the
revolutionary party” that leads the working class to power following the
“granddaddy” of all models the Russian revolution. I am attracted to this
view not because of my own instincts or even way of thinking. After all, I,
like many of you, have been schooled in one or another “correct” version of
the Bolshevik model. I am attracted to Joaquín’s idea simply because it goes
against my instincts, nay, even my beliefs because, after all, none of the
strategies we have seen historically or presently have worked (at least in
the last analysis). I am seriously interested in formulating a  strategy
that will win a struggle for working class power. As many of you, I simply
believe the world has to win here and it is not good enough to “go down

There are very big questions that arise from this perspective (not the least
of which is that Joaquín is himself borrowing a model, the “great
granddaddy” if you will, of Marx and Engels). Leaving aside that this, let’s
say, naturalistic approach is a borrowed model as well, it remains very
unclear just how the “generalization of economic fights give rise to a
political party” that presumably leads the struggle for class power? I will
not be petulant and expect Joaquín to serve an answer to this question as if
it were sitting on his bookshelf. But such a question is at least one that
has to have a semblance of an answer; a “place to hang your hat” that can
demarcate a road forward given that too many “sects” already seem to believe
they have such an answer. A theory of action (based on Marxist principles at
least?) needs to be proposed that counterpoises itself to current theories
and models with a way to provide evidence that supports the theory. Posing
this challenge in this way is not as “ivory tower” as it sounds. We need to
a way to show aspiring and radicalizing youth, workers, and the oppressed
that there is a method, an organizational model unique to their class
struggle in the countries they inhabit.

Of course, Joaquín may simply be proposing that we jettison the “Russian
model” without any solution or that there is no solution except to “wait and
see”. I hope not as I believe waiting and seeing and just saying “no” to
sectarianism has already been happening and is not enough. 

I’ll wait to hear from others (as well as take time to think) before I make
any suggestions just yet.


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