Re: [OPE] Marta Harnecker's Ideas

From: howard engelskirchen <>
Date: Fri Dec 04 2009 - 21:37:28 EST

Thanks very much, Jerry, for forwarding Marta Harnecker's Ideas document to
the list. I found this important and useful. It reflects historical
experience; it addresses today's crisis. It suggests a challenge any of us
can take to heart: what are we doing to construct the political and social
forces necessary for struggle? She addresses the crisis of activism and
finds a left dispersed and because dispersed importantly responsible.

Anders, I find it peculiar you challenge the document for its failure to
wear its revolutionary credentials on its sleeve -- no mention of Lenin,
etc.; no plunge into line struggles over the past. It is not hard to
identify nameable influences in the text, but that is not her purpose. She
has written a document I can take to an unemployed committee in a rural
community for potentially far reaching political discussion about the
conditions people face and the values they bring to their situation without
starting out by passing out party membership applications with a hammer and
sickle affixed.

The most important lesson she draws from the communist and radical movements
of the 20th century is the need for a political party and its leading role.
She rejects the idea that spontaneity alone is enough, that social movements
alone can do the job. She explicitly embraces democratic centralism; she
rejects consensus as a requirement for decision and action. That these
points are not original in the sense that they have been expressed before
does not subtract from their contested significance at the present moment.

That said she couples her affirmation of the need for a political instrument
with threads that carry forward themes poorly learned and little developed
in the history of 20th century revolutionary activism -- she insists on the
need for "revolutionary modesty", for "convincing not imposing"; basically
she rejects the 'front organization' approach to mass organizations, the
effort to manipulate by force of resources and personnel. Instead she
insists on the autonomy of grassroots organizations, on respect for social
movements, on respect for those who are not party members and will not
become party members. She insists that the best people be put in positions
of influence in mass movemetns, not automatically those who are party
members. While the fight for hegemony is not renounced, she insists it be
won, not imposed -- and won and rewon. 20th century revolutionary parties
played powerful and decisive roles in many mass movements -- did any ever
explicitly say "respect the autonomy" of them? Many have had experience of
struggle on the left fighting under the banner of Lenin's injunction to draw
clear lines of demarcation. No doubt such lines are worth fighting for
still, but she insists this be done in a completely different spirit of
unity, of embrace, of modesty, and respect.

Her point in Ideas #5 raises an important theoretical point that has been
very little developed -- the non-correspondence between representation and
the represented. Is this issue old hat also? It goes to her first point,
the need for a political instrument. But long posts -- and this is already
long -- are not helpful. Anyway, perhaps others are familiar with
discussions of the point I've missed.


howard engelskirchen

----- Original Message -----
From: "Anders Ekeland" <>
To: "Outline on Political Economy mailing list" <>
Sent: Friday, December 04, 2009 3:06 AM
Subject: SV: [OPE] Marta Harnecker's Ideas

> Hi,
> I agree completely with Jurriaan that MHs ideas was way to abstract,
> lacked originality The FI-document on The Dictatorship of the proletariat
> and socialist democracy from the late seventies is at the same level -
> more concrete if I am not mistaken.
> But to write such obviously (tautological) correct "principles" without -
> as far as I could see - I just browsed it quickly - no references to real
> historical problems - NOW - Anno Domini 2009 - it does not impress me at
> all. On the contrary - I just take a quick look and let it pass in
> silence.
> If MH had been an OPE member I would have challenged her on that point -
> what is your analysis of Lenin, of Trotsky of the organisational praxis of
> SWP (US), SWP (UK), The FI (United. Secr) - the Sandinistas, the Cuban
> Communist Party, Chavez etc. etc.
> Without a real discussion of real experiences - so that we know what kind
> of PRAXIS such well-intended principles encourages - no use for them.
> MH should have written like Debreu - that ""allegiance to rigor dictates
> the axiomatic form of the analysis where the theory, in the strict sense,
> is logically entirely disconnected from its interpretations"
> Regrettably it is the interpretations that are important for our lives,
> for our political praxis etc.
> My two cents
> Anders Ekeland


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