the following was forwarded on to threewayfight from contributor, reddboy.
RX, before you get that gleam in your eye because Goff invokes the hot button anarchist topics of hierarchy and authoritarianism, look at his political alternative and the perceived reality he thinks it provides an alternative to. I didn’t like what Goff had to say about dumb neocons and I don’t like what he has to say about the “alien” politics of neo-commies, a category in which I belong.
Considering Goff’s response to my discussion of his earlier writings, I’m not going to put much energy into this one. He would probably disagree, but I think that his position emerges as a variant of the Facing Reality current which typically poses the revolutionary people (classes) in opposition to counter revolutionary vanguards. This position certainly has appeal to anarchists and STO also leaned towards it at times, e.g., in aspects of the Race Traitor development. I’m also finding that Negri’s current conceptions of “multitude” and “unmediated” opposition to “empire” have a similar trajectory. While this view contains some insights, it grossly underestimates the importance, both positive and negative, of ideology and purposive organized action.
More than the Goff paper, I’m interested in the discussion that developed around it on this and the Red Flag sites. Not knowing where everybody is coming from causes some problems, but I’ll chance a few initial comments:
“Burningman” rather casually caricatures the argument of Settlers and takes no account of the major changes to it in Night Vision. The Night Vision grouping is quite able to defend its historical and current positions if it chooses to do so. STO shared a substantial agreement about historical facts and current reality with that tendency but disagreed about the proper strategic response. It is rather remarkable that “burningman”, who appears to be knowledgeable, dismisses these positions as only held by “white” leftists. While we did not agree with “Settlers” and the “Myth of the White Proletariat”, we worked with a number of Black, Mexican, and Puerto Rican groups and movements that had substantial agreement with it. It is a perspective that had, and will continue to have an immediate attraction to many radicals who don’t happen to be white men.
I see myself as both a Marxist and a Leninist, but not as a Marxist Leninist. Marxism-Leninism is Soviet state ideology, a doctrinal orthodoxy that substituted for critical thinking and collective praxis and sanctioned them whenever and wherever they emerged. One of the initial actions of ‘official’ Marxism Leninism was the deliberate suppression of inconvenient parts of both Marx – the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts and the Grundrisse – and Lenin – The Philosophical Notebooks and the last writings on bureaucracy, nationalism and party organization. A self-described Marxist Leninist is typically a party member who has not read Marx or Lenin except in predigested doses supporting some particular line. Not that different from those anarchists who reject Marx and Lenin as “authoritarians” without reading the primary literature, considering the relevant history, and confronting the strategic problems of their own practice.
A number of contributors to this discussion see some significance to adding another “M” after the “ML”. I’m not sure just what’s up with this. Mao made some important contributions. I liked some of them that were challenges to Soviet orthodoxy – that is challenges to what passed as ML. What parts of ML would these ‘M’ advocates retain? I suspect and fear that a major one is the particular Stalinist conception of the nature and role of the vanguard party and of its “democratic centralist” operating principle. This, of course, is what Goff specifically rejects and I think he is right to do so.
I spent a well over a decade in a democratic centralist party until I was expelled for factionalism. The experience didn’t convince me that revolutionary cadre organization is either unnecessary or impossible. It didn’t lead me to question the need for disciplined organizations that hold individual members and minority tendencies responsible to collective decisions. It absolutely did convince me that the conception of democratic centralism, initiated at the Soviet 10th Party Congress and codified in the party section of Stalin’s Foundations of Leninism, is reactionary to the core. Further, it led me to conclude that this mistaken view of revolutionary organization is closely related to even more basic mistakes about the revolutionary process.
So I question “burningman’s” assertion that: “There is also no doubt that the Marxist Leninist party is the single most important “movement technology” ever developed.” Actually, if we take this cute polemical formulation the way “burningman” wants us to – that historical experience shows that ML parties are vital ingredients to successful social revolutions - there is actually a very strong basis for “doubt”.
As working class socialist parties developed in the Second International they typically played a conservative role. Revolutionary tendencies and individuals; e.g., the IWW, Rosa Luxembourg, Lenin in 1905, Gramsci in 1919, looked to other organizational developments besides the party; workers councils, soviets, revolutionary unions, for a more appropriate “movement technology” to achieve social revolution. Since ML parties and International formations have emerged, in more cases than not they have played a quite similar conservative role - suppressing revolutionary potentials in favor of other objectives, some of which can only be described as corrupt.
I know that “burningman” will question whether these were genuine ML parties – perhaps because they are short one ‘M’. But I assume that the Bolshevik Party during 1917 would meet his standards. There is no doubt whatsoever that if it had functioned according to the typical ML concepts of democratic centralism, the October insurrection would not have happened. The Chinese revolution would not have happened, if the Chinese Communist Party had followed the policies of the Comintern and Cominform, which was, after all, the international party leadership. The same essential truth holds for the Yugoslav revolution. This ML party ‘movement technology’ was basically irrelevant to major national liberation transformations from
The appropriate function of revolutionary party organization is to organize revolutionaries, not to be priests or professors to the working class. With or without parties, masses and classes make history. Whether they make revolution depends on the extent they manage to think and act autonomously. Party organization has certainly proven to be a formidable obstacle to this goal. My hope and belief is that it can also be an important assist– but that essentially remains to be proven.
I looked at the Iranian piece that ‘burningman’ proposes as a place to begin a discussion of neofascism. It looked pretty good to me although it doesn’t approach the question as we have and doesn’t cover many of the questions that we have emphasized. It deals with the necessity of developing a clear revolutionary alternative to both the Islamic Regime and the global capitalist structure. This critiques the various forms of “Front” politics, anti imperialist or anti-fascist, that blur the complexity of the contradictions in favor of one or another essentially opportunist accommodation. I mean to look at it more carefully to see whether it retains elements of a classical Maoist stage strategy.