Re: [OPE] Marta Harnecker's Ideas

From: Anders Ekeland <>
Date: Sun Dec 06 2009 - 12:27:03 EST

At 03:37 05.12.2009, howard engelskirchen wrote:

>Thanks very much, Jerry, for forwarding Marta Harnecker's Ideas
>document to the list. I found this important and useful. It
>reflects historical experience;

Historical experience - very indirectly - and that's the problem. Any
discussion of the ban on factions in the Bolshevik party? Not a word.
How can you use/discuss the concept of democratic centralism without
relating it to the existence in the Bolshevik faction (1903-1018)
later in the Bolshevik party (1918 - 1921).

> it addresses today's crisis.

Not of building revolutionary organisations.

> 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.

... "because dispersed importantly responsible" - does not give
meaning for me.

>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.

What else can we learn from than the past? My position is that Lenin
should have allied himself with Martov and his left Mensheviks - not
Stalin, Bogdanov et. al.

> 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.

I am not asking for symbols - but you cannot go to the "masses" today
without a more elaborate theory of organisation, i.e. a real
discussion of why often are not democratic and creative, but
authoritarian and conservative.

>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.

It is precisely because of "their contested significance" that it is
imperative to relate all such "Ideas for struggle" to real historic
events, experiences and theories.

>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.

 From your resume it seems like a very mild critique of the
Castro-Sandinista-Chavez experience, so mild that she critizes such
leaders/parties for lack of "genuine consultation" - consultation??
Should not the party be ruled bottom-up and not top down? Shouldn't
party members vote? Shouldn't they be free to critize the party? What
about the right to organize to change the party line on a specific
issue (a tendency) or change the strategic orientation and leadership
(an organized faction) ... none of these issues are seriously discussed.

>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 is a very old hat - and it is ridiculous and non-scientific to
discuss it without reference to historical experiences I hinted at
above, talking about a "democratic culture" without discussing the
right - written into the statutes of the party to form tendencies and
factions - and rules to regulate their way of working. "Tolerating"
the minority becomes just a moral appeal to the rulers of the party.

>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.

Let's stop here - I have made my point sufficiently clear I guess -
for me MH is just way to abstract to merit a serious discussion. She
just have to get real, to get historical, to be so serious that she
bothers to engage with other peoples point of view Le Blanc,
Molyneux, Mandel, Vercammen - and a host of others that have written
on this subject.

Anders E

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Received on Sun Dec 6 12:28:45 2009

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