Thursday, March 08, 2012

From The “American Left History” Blog Archives-What’s Up With The Vanguard Party Concept? –(Today-2012- More Than Ever)- A Note

Markin comment:

Recently I have mentioned in a number of entries that I have work with, and now work with a loose circle of local anti-war militants who have decided on a three point program to fight Obama’s war policies over the coming years, highlighted by the struggle to create anti-war soldiers and sailors solidarity committees.I have also placed a number of pieces of historical interest around the World War I anti-imperialist anti-war work done by Lenin and the Bolshevik Party that he led at the time. A comparison of the two types of political work as portrayed in these entries have, as was pointed out to me most graphically by a local political opponent who is a supporter of an organization that claimed a Leninist organization heritage, seems to be contradictory. Add in the factor that this blog, in many ways, does not have much meaning or reason for existence except a vehicle to learn the lessons that Lenin and Trotsky drew about revolutionary politics, and organization.

That said, what is the great to-do about. Just this. The core of Leninist politics has historically evolved around intransient opposition to non-revolutionary strategic considerations in the struggle for our communist future AND the notion of a vanguard working-class party as the vehicle to take power on the road to that future. The organizational form that that party form has taken, for those who today may not be familiar with what in the past was a serious difference of political perspective, was that this organization would be staffed by, in short, professional revolutionaries and held together by democratic-centralist discipline. That form of discipline, when in right working order allowed for pretty free-wheeling discussion internally between comrades but once a decision was made, right or wrong, in public the party would operate under that majority line. The other, traditional social-democratic form called for a party of the whole class, warts and all, and a basic cavalier attitude toward carrying out the party line, except when you crossed swords with the party bureaucracy. Trotsky had many early disagreements with Lenin over this dispute but for our purposes here once he was won over to Lenin’s organizational perspective he held to that view until his assassination by a Stalinist agent in 1940.

That is, in a nutshell, the outline of the historic argument. How does that fit in with the work of a man who claims to stand in the Leninist tradition today yet who works in a “circle”, a devise that in Russian revolutionary history was discarded by almost all serious revolutionaries in the late 19th century as inadequate to the tasks at hand for the upcoming revolution that everyone saw as necessary, and coming? Well, a history of the “circle” is in order. The core of this group, including this writer, came together in the fall of 2001 in response to the threat of then President George W. Bush’s to blow Afghanistan to smithereens in the aftermath of the World Trade Center attacks. I have mentioned, I think, in previous entries that one of the few times in my long “street” political career I have faced all sorts of dangerous situations and was very seldom fearful for my person. In those days being out on the streets in opposition to that Afghan war I was afraid that way, more often than not. Not from the right wing crazies that come with the territory of left wing politics, nor from the police who see these things all in day’s work whether they get to beat heads or not, nor, as in past experiences from some bizarre Stalinist or anarchoid left political thugs. No this was from the average placid fellow citizen who made me realize that I might have American citizenship but I was not an American to them. What got me, and us, through those days was the internal discipline and camaraderie or the circle. That, my friends, was a baptism of fire that you do not walk way from easily, not should you, all other things being equal.

And what of the political composition of the circle? Well, it was, and is, all over the place from semi-pacifist to ostensibly Leninist but the core that has held it together, other than that extreme sense of camaraderie mentioned above, is an anti-American imperialist ethos. A need to see the American “monster” held in check, tamped down. The current “three whales” program is a codification of that- opposition to the American military adventures as they pop up, a need to break with the old politics and create a workers party that fights for a workers government, and, as the most overt expression of that need to “tamp down” the “monster”, those anti-war soldiers and sailors solidarity committees. That we agree on. I also wrote in a recent blog that there was internal controversy over the question of putting energies into building the now called-for spring anti-war rallies in Washington, D.C. We are thus emphatically not a democratic centralism organization. I would, since I have to write about it here, characterize it as an on-going rolling “united front”. Others may, given my description, call it a propaganda bloc. Not Leninist, in any case. [However events over the last couple of years have pushed that question to the fore again-Markin-2012]

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