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Theory

Leadership May 6, 2004 by RedStar2000


Few would deny that in the course of human events there exist people with an unusually competent grasp of "what to do now" and "what should be done next". Their positive proposals are often fruitful and their negative criticisms are frequently prescient. They do make mistakes...but their "error-rate" is well below average.

In common usage, we call them "leaders" and pay above-average attention to what they have to say.

Do we owe them any more than that?


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Here is a nice clean definition of "leadership"...

To provide leadership is to conceive and publicize useful ideas for the political direction of a revolutionary movement, and to persuade by rational argument other people of the utility of those ideas.

That's it. The Leninist conflation of "leadership" with the power of command is totally unacceptable from a communist standpoint!

The autonomous self-determination of the working class is the central dogma of communism as a system of ideas; any attack on that dogma -- regardless of the "excuse" -- is nothing but capitulation to bourgeois theories of "the inevitability of hierarchy".

All bosses are bad...even "red" ones!
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 10, 2004
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quote:

...should we describe people engaged in this activity as leaders or is there a cleaner way to describe these people who by implication think they know better? A difference enough that it ought to be expressed because it has been deemed more useful than what has gone before.


Well, the anarcho-syndicalists in Spain called them "influential militants".

Then there's that letter that Engels wrote to Kautsky: "Stop calling me teacher! My name is Engels."

The history of language suggests that people sometimes take an old word and give it an entirely new meaning...and sometimes they invent an entirely new word to describe something that has no evident precedent.

I would certainly like an entirely new word...but lack the linguistic ability to construct one. Perhaps someone with a background in Latin and/or Greek could "coin a phrase" that would catch on.

As in many things, we may well just have to wait and see.
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 10, 2004
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quote:

Vilifying the term, 'Leaders' is quite frankly pathetic. It only confuses things.


Perhaps it seems "pathetic" and "confusing" to you because you don't grasp the purpose of my attempts to vilify that term.

I don't think that you will dispute the fact that capitalism presents itself as a "meritocracy" -- those who are in positions of authority "deserve" to be there because they "really are superior".

The Leninist paradigm offers the same rationale: it proclaims itself composed of the "most advanced" workers and its own leadership is, necessarily, "the most advanced of the most advanced"...truly "superior" in every respect.

All this is, of course, utter mysticism. There is nothing remarkably "superior" in any objective sense about the bourgeoisie or the Leninists. An occasional capitalist and an occasional Leninist may demonstrate an unusual degree of competence. But in general, no, they are not "truly superior".

Thus, when I heap scorn on the concept of "leaders", I am attacking an illusion...and thus, in Marx's words, "a world that requires illusions".

Those who believe, for whatever reasons, that there are "superior" and "inferior" people and that authority should be placed in the hands of the "superior" (however defined) are suffering under the delusion of "leadership".

For liberation from class society to be possible, this delusion must be smashed. Waiting for a "redeemer" will gain us nothing but perpetual slavery.

We will not be free until we finally realize that we are the only ones who can free us.

No one will do it "for us"...no matter what they call themselves.
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 11, 2004
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quote:

To deny that an anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-phobic, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, worker is more advanced politically than a fascist worker or a politically backward worker who has reactionary bourgeois tendencies, is to live in a fairy tale world of formal equality.


Well, truth is, I'd like to know some more about these folks you're labeling...their specific views on specific questions, for example.

I do not live in the "fairy tale" world of formal equality; there's no question that some folks are, indeed, more "politically advanced" than others.

My point is that rigorous skepticism should always be aroused when someone advances the claim that they "are more politically advanced than others" and "therefore" should be granted decision-making authority.

Suppose that on this board I decided it was too much work to actually respond to what people wrote and instead just posted a "boiler-plate" post over and over again:

"I am more politically advanced than you people are and therefore you should just agree with me or shut up!"

Such arrogance would be greeted with contempt and I would get the boot for spamming.

How much more outrageous is it for a party to act in this fashion? To brazenly declare that "we" are the "anointed saviors" of the proletariat? "Follow us or land in the shit"?

And you know very well that that is what Leninist parties say about themselves...even if in somewhat less colorful language.

They use a lot of metaphors, but the central contention is that the party (their particular party) is "indispensable" to the proletarian revolution and to the administration of post-revolutionary society.

And people call me "arrogant"?

quote:

The vilification of the term 'leader' serves no rational purpose but to undermine the confidence and initiative of people willing to have a go at ending the whole gamut of injustices that the oppressed receive.


It most certainly does nothing of the sort. What it does do is undermine the whole idea of social change as a consequence of "picking the right leader".

Since there's no such thing as "the right leader", it strengthens the initiative of the people. It says in a very straightforward way: if you want your freedom, go and take it!

quote:

The problems of leadership are also problems of the political culture of the working class.

A philistine approach to leadership only makes matters worse and plays into the hands of the worst sort of leaders who in turn accommodate to popularism and its base prejudices.


This is rather obscure. My attack on the concept of leadership applies to all who seek to "rise to power" on the backs of the workers.

If you are suggesting that "workers will follow leaders" because "it's part of their culture" and "therefore" we have to support or provide "good" leaders and oppose "bad" leaders, I can only reply that they will not be free until they flush that shit out of their brains.

The person who says "the Leader of my party knows best" is no better off than the person who says "the Prime Minister knows best".

A slave remains a slave, regardless of the color of his chains.
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 12, 2004
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Leninists don't (normally) say that communism will "never come". It's just something that won't happen until "the whole world is socialist". Some Maoists go on to add that global socialism must be developed "equally" across the entire planet before the transition to communism can "begin".

So for Leninists, "communism" is something that can't even be attempted for "many centuries" after the revolution...it resembles the "second coming of Christ".

In practical terms, Leninists propose the exchange of one form of class society for another.

It's really no surprise to see that working people have largely rejected Leninism in the "west" -- it's just another version of what we already have now.
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 10, 2004
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quote:

Will you ever stop with these rants?


No.

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The working people of the west have largely rejected any left politics other than social democracy.


Understandable, considering the available alternatives.

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You'd swear that an army of anarchists were assembling the way you whine every time Leninism is mentioned.


I'm afraid you're being too subtle for me. What does "an army of anarchists" have to do with my opposition to your Lenin cult?

I would say exactly the same things even if I were the only person in the whole world to say them.

quote:

I suggest you do and look for the part where he discusses the role of the revolutionary youth in building the communist society (the next generation), as opposed to the older generations being the generation that will crush the old society and implement socialism. The last time I checked the time period between generations was not centuries.


That was then; this is now.

Lenin's pep talk to the kids notwithstanding, those same kids grew up to live under Stalin...when any actual talk of communism would probably have been a criminal offense.

Modern Leninists do speak of a transition period measured in centuries...I'm not making that up.

You are certainly free to invent your own variant of Leninism in which the "transitional period" will be limited to a single generation.

But don't be surprised if you have difficulty finding people who will believe you.
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 10, 2004
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quote:

Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.


Even if this "made sense" in the light of late 19th century material conditions, does it still make sense?

Further, even if it does, does that imply the dictatorship of a "communist" party?

And finally, even if the first two assertions are true, does that "also" imply the dictatorship of a party of the Leninist type -- that is, a self-appointed and self-designated elite that rules without accountability of any kind?

quote:

The alternative given to us by the anarchists is bourgeois in character. It ignores what is needed for freedom. This is the bottom line definition of the word 'bourgeois'.

It is the eternal rant that power corrupts. It is a sinister view of human nature.


What exactly is "bourgeois" about the goal of the autonomous self-determination of the working class?

And if being truly determines consciousness, then what is objectionable in the idea that "power corrupts"? If your social role is one of "boss" then why would you not, after a while, think like a boss? Indeed, how could you possibly avoid that?

Good intentions?

There is nothing "sinister" in the view that humans behave according to the material conditions in which they find themselves...indeed, it's a basic proposition of Marxism. The error of bourgeois ideology in this context is that it makes the bourgeois conception of "human nature" universal. Because accumulation is the engine of capitalist motivation, the bourgeois asserts that "all humans at all times are acquisitive by nature".

One reason that we always have at least one "human nature" thread going on this board is the easy (and wrong) assumption that humans as they are now have "always" been like that and "will always" be like that.

As to "what is needed for freedom", the Leninist paradigm asserts that submission to a new "authority" is "required".

Permit me to disagree. What is "needed" for freedom is liberation.
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 10, 2004
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quote:

To insist upon the ludicrous idea [that] capitalism can be replaced overnight by communism without a period of transition, is tantamount to avoiding the problems that capitalism has thrown onto the laps of the working class.


"Overnight" is the key word there. No one argues that communism is an "overnight" achievement. There will clearly be a transitional period between capitalism and communism.

The question is the nature of that period and its characteristics. Most particularly, is it "necessary" that the revolutionary proletariat set up its own centralized state apparatus? Or should the "first phase" of building communism include the permanent dismantling of the state apparatus?

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A stateless society...has to be world wide...


That's a pretty good rationale for putting off the abolition of the state indefinitely. Even if the advanced capitalist countries had successful proletarian revolutions more or less "all at once", there would remain large parts of the world that were still in the early stages of capitalist development and some that were still pre-capitalist. Therefore, we "must wait" for all these places to evolve through all the stages of capitalism until, finally, they too have proletarian revolutions.

Meanwhile, our own "revolutionary" states have plenty of time to evolve new ruling classes (as we have already seen).

To delay communism until it can be implemented on a global scale is a recipe to delay communism forever.

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The nature of uneven development throughout the world makes the task of spontaneous instant statelessness utterly impossible.


I don't see why it should. Specifically, it seems quite reasonable to me that the EU could form the geographic site for a stateless society. It is large enough, developed enough, rich enough, etc.

quote:

The vilification of 'Leninism' is rooted in the vilification of Marx; it has no other real purpose but to turn class politics into a rejection of all authority.


Well, isn't that what we should want? Is there something "sacred" about "authority" as such? If we reject the legitimacy of capitalist authority, what authority are we "bound to respect" without limits?

Again most particularly, why are we "vilifying Marx" when we refuse to recognize the "authority" of a self-designated elite of "professional" revolutionaries?

It's really as if I were to say that if you reject my "authority" over you, that means you must be "bourgeois". (!!!) Wouldn't you (or anyone with any sense) react with laughter and scorn?

If such a proposition is absurd on its face with regard to an individual, is it not equally absurd with regard to a party?

quote:

The greatest irony is that modern day 'Marxists' are moving closer to old fashioned theoretical anarchists and that modern day militant anarchists are moving closer to classical Marxism.


I see nothing "ironic" about this at all.

The differences between Marx and Bakunin were never as large as the protagonists made them out to be...and turned largely (in my opinion) on what those guys thought was possible given the level of consciousness of the proletariat of that particular time.

The modern proletariat is far more knowledgeable than its great-grandparents were...and far more (potentially) competent in the construction of post-revolutionary society. I see no reason for the historical trend in that direction not to continue.

Thus the merger of Marxist and anarchist theory on the state makes more and more sense as the proletariat develops a more advanced level of consciousness. The old idea of a small "conscious elite" directing society "in the interests of the proletariat" is more and more superfluous.

Why have a "proletarian state" if it's no longer needed?

That militant anarchists should be attracted to Marx's historical materialism is also no surprise. Much of classical anarchist theory is (again, in my opinion) largely moral in its appeal; it really has no theory of social change beyond "it happens when enough people want it to happen".

But confronting a phenomenon like globalization reveals the inadequacy (to say the least) of "moral analysis". Who, if not Marx, should they turn to for an analysis of class struggle against imperialism?

(Besides, there was always a fairly strong class-struggle thread in anarchist movements historically...all that crap about "petty-bourgeois anarchism" was pretty much a Leninist-inspired canard anyway.)

Although it will probably take awhile, I expect an eventual merger of the best ideas of Marx and of the anarchists into a new revolutionary synthesis.

After the split in the First International, it is said that Bismarck's comment went something like: "The red and the black have gone their separate ways, and woe to us if they should ever unite again."

Yeah!

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Yes, liberation from bourgeois ideology, even that which is embraced by libertines of every left variety...


Libertines? That's a word normally used to suggest sexual "immorality". Exactly what do you mean by it in this context?

Do real (anti-Leninist) Marxists "have sex with the capitalist class"?
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 11, 2004
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quote:

If a single person in the world armed with a spear went loose on an unarmed Stateless population, we would need a State to cope with that.

It would not matter to me that much if the State had only function for one person, but we have the State function in fact. A free society would not need any State functions or any potential State functions.


I think this is a very idealist way of looking at the matter.

Do you really think the crime rate will be zero in 500 years or 5,000 years? That absolutely no one will kill or rape at some time in the distant future?

Whatever apparatus that exists to stop that from happening or to apprehend the perpetrator and stop him (in some fashion) from doing it again -- you are calling that a "state".

But you know that's not the Marxist view of the state at all, much less the Leninist view.

We hardly need a centralized and powerful state apparatus under the control and direction of a self-designated elite to stop some guy with a spear...or a serial rapist.

The Leninist paradigm asserts the need for a powerful centralized state apparatus (rich in both prisons and police) for a number of reasons:

1. That the defeated bourgeoisie will organize a powerful and vigorous counter-revolutionary resistance which will take tremendous efforts to suppress.

2. That other imperialist powers will invade or threaten to invade the post-revolutionary society, necessitating a powerful traditional army, complete with a professional officer corps.

3. That most of the working class will be too backward, ignorant, or short-sighted to see the "big picture"...the necessary though painful steps that must be taken in order to "clear the way" for communism.

If these "reasons" are invalid -- as I think they are -- then the "need" for the Leninist "workers' state" totally collapses and there's nothing standing in the way of proceeding forthwith to communism.

I have no doubt that there will be some or even many "state-like" functions performed by a complex variety of local and regional bodies. They will be "functional groups" concerned with "the administration of things", not people.

What there will not be is a "political center of gravity" where a potential new ruling class could gather and bring things "under their control".

quote:

The recognition that the workers' state as an authority is a necessary evil.


But suppose it is no longer necessary?

Then it's just evil, period.
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 11, 2004
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There [are] other ways to look at the State and that is merely through the prism of political oppression. That aspect of the State should disappear as soon as as the majority deem it safe that the threat of capitalist restoration has disappeared or has been adequately neutralised.


"Majority"?

"As soon as"?

Nowhere in Leninist practice has the "majority" ever been granted the right to say anything of substance...much less the right to dismantle the "workers' state".

Here is what Lenin himself says...

quote:

There is not the least contradiction between soviet (i.e., socialist) democracy and the use of dictatorial power by a few persons.


As to the "when" question, you sensibly decline to speculate. It's rather like "the war on terrorism" or "the war on drugs" or "the war against sin"...unending.

A new "capitalist threat" can always be invented...to justify the retention of the "workers' state".

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There is no such thing as a Leninist workers state; it is merely a figment of your imagination.


Didn't Trotsky use the phrase "deformed workers' state"? Don't many Leninists use it -- "workers' state" -- now?

I really don't care what you want to call it -- we both know that there's nothing imaginary in what is being described here.

A centralized state apparatus -- including a police bureaucracy, prisons, a large standing army with a professional officer corps, wage-labor and the extraction of surplus value from the working class, a market, etc. -- all under the direction of a small elite party of "professional revolutionaries".

This is what the Leninist paradigm calls for as a "required" transitional state between capitalism and communism.

This is your "necessary evil".

quote:

That is about saying the threat is almost non existent. Who is to say how much force we need to put it down? Who is to say it will not be powerful enough to defeat us?


Me. Why? Because the evidence of history strongly suggests that really massive revolutions experience very little internal opposition of any significance.

The example of Chile is irrelevant. Allende came to power by winning a bourgeois election. He was a left-bourgeois reformer who was overthrown by a right-wing military cabal sponsored by U.S. imperialism.

The masses were spectators in Chile, not participants. Allende wanted it that way.

quote:

I see that we will not need military experts in your books, we certainly don't need back seat generals whose ideals would sacrifice military victory.


That's a very "tangential" response to the point I was making. If there will be no practical threat from the remaining imperialist powers -- which is what I contend -- then there is no need for "generals" (back seat or front seat) and all that goes with them.

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That's just BS dig at elitist attitudes, which I have never seen as a rationalisation for a 'big' State.


Maybe you don't, but Lenin and Leninists in general certainly do. Again, here's Lenin himself on the question...

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The dictatorship of the proletariat cannot be exercised through an organisation embracing the whole of the class, because in all capitalist countries...the proletariat is still so divided, so degraded, and so corrupted in parts...that an organisation taking in the whole proletariat cannot directly exercise proletarian dictatorship. It can be exercised only by a vanguard.


I assert that Leninism is fundamentally elitist.

quote:

Taking the term 'backwardness' to extremes is just plainly dishonest and merely trying to turn Lenin into an object of hate. You irrationally hate him.


That's just childishness on your part. Lenin died 18 years before I was born. I have no personal feelings about him at all...and even if I did, they would be irrelevant to this discussion.

In all my posts on this subject, I have been attempting a fundamental critique of the world-wide failure of the Leninist paradigm. I bluntly call for communists to reject it!

This has nothing to do with "hatred" for Lenin personally. Does the sanitation worker "hate" the garbage he throws in the truck?

Now, as to Lenin's State and Revolution.

This is the text that Leninists most often point to when they are challenged as to their "democratic credentials". It's a "copy & paste" job, containing almost every speculation by Marx and Engels on the nature of post-revolutionary society. And it is a very libertarian document -- Marx and Engels were not nearly as "authoritarian" as some folks would have people believe.

The argument takes the form of "Lenin wanted to do the right thing, but the civil war and the imperialist invasions made that impossible".

The argument collapses on two fronts. First, when the Bolsheviks lost some local elections to the soviets before the civil war began, those soviets were either dissolved or additional delegates were appointed so as to allow the Bolsheviks to retain their "majority".

Secondly, after the civil war was won, the Bolsheviks could have adopted the proposals of the Workers' Opposition at the 10th Party Congress (March 1921)...granting real decision-making power to the trade unions as a first step towards putting the working class "in charge" of "its state".

Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky were unanimous in their vehement opposition to such proposals, denouncing them as a "syndicalist deviation".

None of those guys showed any confidence at all in the class that they were self-appointed "leaders" of.

The same is true of their contemporary followers.
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 12, 2004
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quote:

I object to calling Allende a 'bourgeois reformer'.


Actually, I said "left-bourgeois reformer"...which is what he was.

So is Chavez, Lula, etc.

By this I mean that none of these guys had/have the slightest intention of fundamentally altering the class nature of their respective societies.

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You really should take it easy with the labels.


I see nothing wrong with labels...provided they are both understandable and accurate.

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What I have done is defend Lenin from malicious ignorant attacks not grounded in reality.


Funny, I seem to recall some posts of yours from awhile ago in which you did say that you considered yourself in the Leninist-Trotskyist tradition.

But memory plays tricks on us all, and if I'm wrong, I apologize for any suggestions of that kind.

I do not think it fair, however, to characterize my views as "ignorant" or "malicious" attacks on Lenin personally.

I have no doubt that he was a sincere communist who thought he was "doing the right thing". I have the same view, by the way, of all the 20th century communists -- Stalin, Trotsky, Mao, Tito, Ho, Castro, etc.

In other words, I do not think of any of them as "power-mad degenerates" or "agents of the devil" or any of that sort of thing. (The exception being Pol Pot...who was probably clinically insane.)

What I think they were (are) is wrong!

What needs to be rejected is the entire Leninist paradigm.

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What you seem to be arguing to me is that the experience of the Russian revolution by itself and by its model, subsequently seen as the internationalist Stalinist model, proves that Marx's "dictatorship of the proletariat'' to be an outdated idea.


More specifically, it (along with much else) proves that the Leninist version of "the dictatorship of the proletariat" is just plain wrong.

After all, when Marx used the phrase, he didn't specify its content or even its forms. And Engels specifically referred to the Paris Commune as an example of "the dictatorship of the proletariat"...a formation which completely lacked a vanguard party altogether.

It also should be noted that the Trotskyist variant of Leninism fares no better under critical examination than the Stalinist variant. Trotskyist parties are nominally somewhat more democratic internally...but no serious challenge to the power of the leadership is permitted. (One important reason that Leninist parties of all varieties suffer so many splits is that they have no mechanism for resolving or even tolerating disputes within their own ranks. "Democratic" centralism demands "unity" no matter what the costs.)

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Could you source that for me? That is a new one on me.


Unfortunately, no. People from time to time send me quotations...and almost never give me a source. But I think you will find many similar quotations in Lenin's post-1918 writings, particularly on the subject of "one-man management".

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I could see why that might be said in the context of destroying bourgeois rule. It does not matter if it is directed by one man or by socialist democracy. The result is the same, i.e., the destruction of the bourgeoisie as class.


No, it matters very much how things are done. Destroying the bourgeoisie as a class "by decree" is not the same as doing so as a consequence of direct action by the proletariat.

The first method, as we have seen, merely clears the way for a new bourgeoisie. The second method potentially leads to communism.

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Do you believe that the proletariat was not so corrupted in parts...Did it not contain murderers, thieves, rapists, bible thumpers? Well, I do and I think you are absolutely mistaken in your judgment here. There is this dreamworld of formal equality again.


Having written this, how can you object if I label you a Leninist?

I do not think that the working class in the advanced capitalist countries contains a significant proportion of "murderers, thieves, rapists, or bible thumpers".

I think, in fact, that this is a pathetic excuse for denying the autonomy and self-determination of the working class.

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How many Russian white armies constitute little internal opposition?


Without the material support of the imperialist powers, the Russian white "armies" would not have lasted a year. We know this because as soon as that support was withdrawn, the white "armies" simply melted away.

More to the point, who is going to join a "white army" following proletarian revolution in an advanced capitalist country? Who is even going to be in a position to set one up in the first place?

The Leninists use "counter-revolution" as a "bogey-man" to frighten us into giving them a lot more power than they deserve...and which they always find a way not to give back.

The trick has become shabby and worn with age.

quote:

Allende asked for it?


How would I know? What I can say is that if Allende had sincere revolutionary intentions, he kept them remarkably well hidden.

A revolutionary who won a bourgeois election (yes, I know that's impossible, but we're just supposing here) would first of all arm the working class!

I don't think that the fact that Allende died while fighting his enemies testifies to anything more than his personal courage. What he did while he was alive suggested nothing more "revolutionary" than...oh, Sweden or some place like that. You know, "capitalism with a human face".

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There was also internal civil war in Chile.


Indeed there was; as I recall, the resistance succeeded in assassinating the "head of national security" (I forget the exact title), an entirely worthy target.

But, as I say, the events in Chile really have no relevance to the situation following proletarian revolution in an advanced capitalist country.

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It is merely dismissed by you as a white wash.


No, it is dismissed by me as having no relevance to Lenin's theories prior to the summer of 1917 or to Lenin's practice after October 1917.

Its present use by contemporary Leninist parties as a "recruitment pamphlet" is dishonest; these parties have absolutely no intention of doing anything that even remotely resembles what is contained in State and Revolution.

Whether Lenin was sincere or not when he wrote it...we have no way of knowing.

quote:

This is also news to me. Could you please source that story.


Try A People's Tragedy; the Russian Revolution 1895-1924. But I think it pops up in other places as well; I think of it as "common knowledge"...perhaps unjustifiably.

quote:

What a serious mistake. Now you have proven Marx's theory of transition is wrong.

I am so impressed.


What a bizarre response...and I am not impressed in the least. There's nothing about the events of the 10th Party Congress that either "proves" or "disproves" Marx's theory about anything.

What it proves is that all the leading Bolsheviks sincerely believed that they "knew how to run things" better than the working class.

It is exactly as I said: they had no confidence in the class which they purported to represent.

They still don't.

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What is this all about? Asking workers to believe that a number of contemporary "Leninists" hold the working class in contempt.

Well, so do a lot of anarchists. They think that anyone outside the leadership of a non-anarchist political organisation are mere toadies for some asshole who wants to use left wing politics to become the new minority-based ruling class.

That is just so sick.


I'm not exactly sure what you're getting at here...and I can hardly be held responsible for what "a lot of anarchists" think.

I'm aware that there are "anarchist snobs" who are, in their way, just as elitist as Leninists. I don't get along with them either.

But it seems to me that criticism of "followership" has to be considered well-intentioned, at the least. It is wrong (contrary to our class interests) to "toady" to any self-designated leader or leader-wannabe.

Nothing good ever comes from it.
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 13, 2004
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quote:

Allende is not Lula. Lula isn't trying to socialize the Brazilian means of production. He's agreed to play ball with the capitalists and not upset things too much.

How do you know Allende had no intention of altering the class nature of society? What you seem to think is that this can be done overnight. Che and Fidel professed openly every intention of ending class antagonisms, does that mean they succeeded? Intention is a waste of space, what matters is material conditions in the broadest sense. Allende was a Socialist and a martyr.


Back when Allende was still alive, he gave an interview to the German magazine Der Spiegel -- and I had access to an English translation of that piece. Naturally, I have no memory of the details (this happened more than 30 years ago). What I do remember is that Allende made it clear that he indeed had no intention of changing the class nature of Chilean society...except, perhaps, in some mystical and far-off future.

I agree with you that material conditions prevail. I have no idea whether proletarian revolution was possible in Chile, then or now. But we do know that Allende did not arm the working class...and it is legitimate to ponder why he did not take that crucial step (Castro did arm the people).

You appear to have a "romantic" vision of Allende...perhaps because he was certainly murdered by U.S. imperialism as surely as if Richard Nixon had personally pulled the trigger.

But "martyrdom" is insufficient, in my view, for overlooking what people's ideas actually were. "Jesus" may have been crucified, but his ideas were still crap.
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 14, 2004
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Here is a Trotskyist document which was adopted by the Fourth International at its 1979 World Congress.

Socialist Democracy and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat
.................................................................

quote:

In no way does the Marxist theory of the state entail the concept that a one-party system is a necessary precondition or feature of workers power, a workers state, or the dictatorship of the proletariat. In no theoretical document of Marx, Engels, Lenin, or Trotsky and in no programmatic document of the Third International under Lenin did such a defense of the one-party system ever appear.


Certainly Marx and Engels are "off the hook" on this one.

But here's what Lenin said...

quote:

When we are reproached with having established a dictatorship of one party... we say, "Yes, it is a dictatorship of one party! This is what we stand for and we shall not shift from that position."


And here's what Trotsky said...

quote:

We have been more than once accused of having substituted for the dictatorship of the soviets the dictatorship of our own Party...In this substitution of the power of the party for the power of the working class there is nothing accidental, and in reality there is no substitution at all. The Communists express the fundamental interests of the working class...


Besides quotations, the actual practice of both Lenin and Trotsky demonstrated their convictions that a "one-party" state was "required", as far as they were concerned.

By 1922, do you think that anyone ran against the Bolsheviks in soviet "elections"?

Don't be silly!

quote:

In that sense, the freedom of organization of different groups, tendencies, and parties without ideological restrictions is a precondition for the exercise of political power by the working class.


Here, it must be admitted, the Trotskyists take off in a completely different direction from the Leninist paradigm.

Note in particular the phrase "without ideological restrictions" -- that means that in the "workers' state" there can be pro-capitalist parties and even fascist parties running candidates for office...if the Trotskyists actually "mean what they say" here.

quote:

...then it is obvious that the leading role of the revolutionary party both in the conquest of power and in the building of a classless society can be only to lead the mass activity of the class politically, to win political hegemony in a class that is increasingly engaged in self-activity, to struggle within the class for majority support for its proposals, through political and not administrative or repressive means.


Here the Trotskyists suggest that the "revolutionary party" (they mean them) will win a majority...so there's no real danger of having one of those other parties win.

But what happens if they lose? Suppose a bourgeois or even a fascist party were to win the elections?

Are the Trotskyists suggesting that we "play fair"...with the class enemy?

quote:

But genuinely representative, democratically elected workers councils can exist only if the masses have the right to elect whomever they want without distinction, and without restrictive preconditions as to the ideological or political convictions of the elected delegates.


It "sounds" as if that is exactly what they intend.

quote:

If one says that only parties and organizations that have no bourgeois (or petty-bourgeois?) program or ideology, or are not "engaged in anti-socialist or anti-soviet propaganda and/or agitation" are to be legalized, how is one to determine the dividing line? Will parties with a majority of working-class members but with a bourgeois ideology be forbidden? How can such a position be reconciled with free elections for workers councils? What is the dividing line between "bourgeois program" and "reformist ideology"? Must reformist parties be forbidden as well? Will the Social Democracy be suppressed?


Those are reasonable questions...provided you accept the "framework" of the "workers' state". If you're going to try to have a "democratic workers' state", then it will be very difficult to "draw a line" between genuinely pro-working class candidates and candidates that represent anti-working class positions.

And that matters...because if you have a centralized "workers' state", then whoever wins those elections is going to have a great deal of power in their hands with little practical accountability. Even if you have a recall mechanism "in place", recalls still take time...and much perhaps irreparable damage can be done to the revolution in that time.

quote:

The real choice is: either workers democracy with the right of the masses to elect whomever they want, and freedom of political organization for those elected (including people with bourgeois or petty bourgeois ideologies or programs), or a decisive restriction of the political rights of the working class itself, with all the consequences which flow therefrom.


No, the real choice is between any kind of centralized "workers' state" or a conscious decision to avoid creating a political "center of gravity" at all...devolving power to local and regional assemblies and federations.

There will doubtless be Stalin-wannabes after the revolution who wish to "lift the world"...the way to deal with that is to deprive them of both a lever and a place to stand.
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 16, 2004
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quote:

Redstar2000, do you believe that after a revolution, let's say a year or two after, you can do away with political power, some form of state, altogether?


Well, you've already smashed the bourgeois state apparatus and dispersed its personnel. Political power rests on a local, even a workplace basis.

So you have options to consider: (1) Set up a new "workers' state", a formal "political center of gravity"; (2) Put together local and regional federations based on functions; and (3) Other possibilities that might occur to people at that time...but which we have no way to anticipate.

The reason I emphasize functions is that we want "bodies" that actually do useful things...not simply stand on a platform on Mayday. Even on a local level, we need a "Soviet of Electrical Power Workers" far more than we need a "People's Mayor".

Ask yourself what purposes are served by a formal, centralized state apparatus that "gathers all power" into its own hands. Who benefits?

In fact, how does it "help us" to even grant the on-going "legitimacy" of the nation-state in which the revolution takes place? Nations themselves are social constructs and really have no purpose outside of class society.

quote:

There are a series of walls that need to be broken down, new consciousness needs to spread. Communism will have to be built it; will not materialize itself overnight when everyone suddenly wakes up and smells the coffee.


I think there are two considerations here.

The first is what we have been telling people two or three decades prior to the revolution itself. What kind of movement have we built? What have we told people that needs to be done? If we've told people that what we want is a communist revolution and that what needs to be constructed is communism, then it won't be a situation where people's consciousness has to be changed "overnight". It will have been changing over the previous 30 years or more.

Secondly, I agree that communism must be "built", although it may well have some features that "spontaneously" appear. The point is that, unlike the Leninists, we will have prepared people for that task.

Rather than a "detour" through the "workers' state" and other features of the old order, most people will understand that beginning the construction of communist society is an immediate task on day one after the revolution.

As to the time scale involved, I don't think we have any realistic way of estimating that now. It's quite possible, in fact, that "communism" will always be "a work in progress"...it may never be "finished".

All the more reason to begin at once, accepting that there will be many problems and obstacles but having the confidence that a mature revolutionary proletariat can just do it!

Why do the Leninists think that such a perspective is "utopian"? It looks like plain common (working class) sense to me.
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 16, 2004
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quote:

The question is when does that become possible.


No one "knows", of course...but it stands to reason that the more that people are convinced that it's both possible and necessary, the sooner it will happen.

Circumstances may be such that you can't do everything as quickly as you would like...but there's a difference in "psychological orientation" between Marxists and Leninists. Marxists say that we should go for communism as quickly as we can; Leninists are already reconciled to a lengthy "transition state" which will preserve most of the features of class society -- the state, the army, the police, the market, wage-labor, money, etc.

The Leninists actually have "very good reason" to tremble at the prospect of capitalist restoration; they have deliberately preserved everything that leads to the development of bourgeois consciousness.

All talk of "new communist man" to the contrary notwithstanding, the way to "get ahead" in Leninist socialism is to behave exactly the same way ambitious people behave in a modern corporation now.

Competence is always helpful but hardly necessary. Intrigue, ass-kissing, exchange of favors, bribes and theft, etc. are the "royal roads to success" for middle-managers in both situations.

No wonder bourgeois ideology emerges, flourishes, and ultimately conquers in Leninist "transitional states".

Sure, those kinds of things could happen to a Marxist commune...but we would not invite them!

quote:

Redstar2000, you are far too sure of yourself in this matter...


I have to be. You'll recall that Marx and Engels said late in life that they had to "over-emphasize" economic determinism because of the wide-spread conviction in their century that economics played no significant role in the events of history.

I have to "over-emphasize" the realistic possibilities of proceeding directly to communism because of the still wide-spread conviction that a "transitional workers' state" is "necessary".

Of course we are in "the realm of speculation"...but we are also in the realm of defining a new approach to the communist project!

If we don't want another repetition of 20th century Leninism, then perforce we are required to develop "speculative" alternatives.

quote:

To do this in a situation where class ambiguities persist; where bourgeois elements still linger, even if in minority situation, is to do nothing less than invite the resurgence of bourgeois power.


For our class enemy, it's not enough just to "want" to return to power. They need social levers of one kind or another. Leninist states provide those levers; communism doesn't.

And, as noted above, Leninist socialism provides the material conditions for a resurgence of bourgeois ideology. "Looking out for number one" makes sense under Leninism...as it does under capitalism.

quote:

There are circumstances, possibilities, dangers you do not account for because you do not believe they will present themselves.


Very true. I'm willing to entertain plausible scenarios to the contrary...but historical experience points directly at the Leninist state apparatus as the main danger to the revolution.

My perspective deals with that danger by refusing the construction of that state apparatus altogether.

quote:

Nationalism is a good example of bourgeois mentality that I believe will linger for considerable time after a revolution.


Leninist states routinely encouraged that garbage...thinking that it would "enhance support" for the revolution.

Instead, it was just another dose of counter-revolutionary poison.

So poisonous was it that it actually enhanced armed conflict between Leninist states.

quote:

Some consider it not a "detour" but merely a different way to begin the "immediate task" of "beginning the construction of communist society".


People can always think whatever they like...but it would take nothing short of complete ignorance of the failures of 20th century Leninism to argue that point seriously. None of those countries ever even attempted a "transition to communism".

quote:

The problem is finding such a "mature revolutionary proletariat".


IF Marx was right, then it will emerge "spontaneously"...that is, as a direct result of the normal functioning of the laws of capitalist production.

A Leninist party combined with a rebellious but "immature" proletariat may indeed "make a revolution".

But it won't last...and will never get anywhere even close to communism.
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 17, 2004
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quote:

...but abolishing the state is not something I would foresee in the short to mid term of post-revolutionary society.


Fair enough; we're all just "guessing" at this point.

But if you decide that the construction of a centralized state apparatus is "necessary", then certain consequences emerge from that decision.

What kinds of people are attracted to a "political center of gravity" anyway? Who wants to be "a Chairman", sit on a "Central Committee", be a "Minister of the Interior", a judge, a general, a cop, a prison guard?

How will people like this behave once they attain their ambition? What will they do with the authority that you have granted them?

Social roles and the behavior associated with them have measurable and serious effects on the consciousness of the people in those roles.

We've all heard stories about "nice guys" who become cops...they either stop being "nice" or they quit. There's no such thing as a "nice guy" who is also a veteran cop. Just as there's no such thing as a "nice boss".

Sooner or later, you are what you do. If Marx was right, there's no escape from that.

Thus, whatever contingencies impel you to construct a "workers' state", you will be creating the circumstances for people to develop a political consciousness directly opposed to the goals of the revolution itself.

You will have consumed poison. It will have the usual effect...your revolution will die.
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First posted at Che-Lives on April 18, 2004
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quote:

Do we need leaders? Yes.


No.

quote:

Do we have a leader who of the caliber and vision needed to make a revolution, and push the whole world movement to a new level? Yes, rare as that is, we do.


No, you don't.

quote:

Did our class produce a Marx, and then go sterile?


Marx was not a proletarian. Nor did he ever advance any preposterous claims about his "leadership".

And there have been many people who have contributed, positively and negatively, to a Marxist understanding of social reality.

There may be some today that no one knows anything about yet.

The idea that "revolutionary wisdom" is concentrated in one guy is a grotesque caricature of Marxism.

quote:

It would mean nothing less than throwing this precious leader to the dogs!


Arf!

quote:

And just as the previous post (very very correctly!) pointed out: the people (the oppressed, those at the bottom, those eager for hope and a way out) want leaders, they are looking for a leader who won't sell out, who has charted a course out of capitalism.


Yes, when people first move into opposition to the prevailing social order, they often still think within the habitual patterns of the old order. Having been betrayed or worse by capitalism's leaders, they sometimes do seek a "proletarian Moses" to "lead them to freedom".

Look at all the people who once hailed Jesse Jackson, for example, as such a "Moses"?

The history of 20th century revolutionary movements is full of people who were hailed as a "proletarian Moses" and even more who unsuccessfully advanced their claims to the title.

But real Marxists understand that the revolutionary overthrow of class society does not come from "picking the right leader"...it is a product of the revolutionary masses emancipating themselves!

It can't happen any other way!

When people say "lead us", we have to patiently explain to them that they must learn to lead themselves...it can't be done "for them".

quote:

I have seen parts of his new video -- and let me just say it was both electrifying and mind-blowing. Without hype, or rhetoric, in words we can understand and apply -- the most urgent issues and truths of our times are dug into, with humor and heart.


Movie review. *yawns*

Put it on the back cover of the DVD.
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First posted at Che-Lives on June 10, 2004
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quote:

RS2000 argues against the need for any type of leadership and in my exchanges with him elsewhere he has been quite clear in his feelings that leadership holds people back despite the fact that this goes completely against historical experience.


The "value" of "leadership" depends on what you want to accomplish.

If you want to set up an army, for example, then you need trained officers...it's not possible for every soldier to decide on his/her own what s/he will do from moment to moment.

Most armies have senior officers appoint junior officers; in revolutionary armies, soldiers elect (and depose) their officers.

But in either case, being an officer implies the power of command. Once you acknowledge "officer-ship", you implicitly agree to carry out his/her orders.

A "good officer" consults with those under his/her command; a "bad officer" usually doesn't bother. But such consultation is not required; it's optional.

This is one of humanity's oldest forms of social organization, going all the way back to the "warrior chieftain" and the transition from savagery to barbarism.

It's where the idea of "leadership" really comes from. (There is actually a modern "businessman's guide" in print that is titled, if memory serves me, Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun.)

Concentrating decision-making power in the hands of a few or even one individual "gets things done". The Leader commands and the followers obey...and if you have the right technology on hand, you can build anything from a great pyramid to a moon rocket.

It "works".

But it's not cheap...the method comes with a hefty price tag.

What is lost is the potential creative power of all those who are not designated "leaders".

And everything rides on the Leader himself...if he fucks up or is even just unlucky, all is lost.

It was a common assumption in the last century that "leadership" was "vital" to the potential success of any conceivable revolutionary movement.

The initial successes of Lenin, Tito, Mao, and Castro reinforced that assumption. If you had the "right kind" of "really good" Leader, you would win.

What is discretely overlooked is that for every Lenin or Mao, there were hundreds of "Marxist"-Leninist "leaders" who accomplished nothing but "leading" their "vanguard parties" right into the ditch.

Thus, the fundamental dilemma of the "leadership paradigm": how do you tell if you've picked a good one in advance?

The odds against you are overwhelming...perhaps one chance in a thousand or more.

Then there is the problem of succession...leaders are not immortal. Even if you did pick a "really good" Leader, he's going to die...and what will you do then? The "glory days" of Lenin and Mao are now just fading photos in dusty albums and their enemies have triumphed. Whatever their positive achievements, they now exist only in memory.

So the dilemma of leadership is even more distressing: once you've picked your first "really good" Leader, how do you know he (or you) will pick another "really good" Leader to follow him? If my estimate (1 in 1,000) is "in the ballpark", your chances of two "really good" Leaders in a row is 1 in 1,000,000!

Given these practical considerations, I think we as communist revolutionaries must entirely reject all of the traditional concepts surrounding "leadership" as a model.

For better or worse, decision-making power must be in the hands of the working class...though we are free to give as much "good advice" as people are willing to listen to.

Will they fuck up? Sure. Will they fuck up so badly as to turn revolutionary victory into defeat? It could happen...in fact, it has happened.

Nevertheless, I would rather "bet on the revolutionary masses" and take those risks than sign on with some guy whose message is little more than "follow me and I'll set you free".

Especially considering the fact that those who made that promise and won...didn't deliver on their promise.

quote:

[Avakian's] position of leadership has not given him a swollen head...


With all due respect, I don't see any way that you could possibly know this.
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First posted at Che-Lives on June 12, 2004
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