SV: [OPE] Marta Harnecker's Ideas

From: Anders Ekeland <>
Date: Tue Dec 08 2009 - 04:01:40 EST

Hi Howard,

> I'll comment on two things in your interesting post. First, I don't think
> factions are a good idea in any form of democratic life. People ought to
> put their ideas out on the table openly and struggle openly for them to
> prevail.

But how do you square this with the fact that the Russian Soc.Dem party its main factions, the Bolsheviks and Mansheviks faction were a very creative political milieu? I cannot argue at length here but Paul LeBlanc book on Lenin and the rev. party, Macel Linden, Leninism under Lenin, Victor Serges writings, Trotskys "Rev. Betrayd" all point to the *ban* on factions as the beginning of the end.

In the Bolshevik party factions did put their ideas openly - that was the whole meaning of allowing factions - to avoid cliques - or secret, undecleared factions. The latter exists in all parties, decleared factions only in revolutionary parties like the B-viks - to simplify history a bit, but roughly correct.

Regarding in the non-correspondence between representants (those elected to offices) and the represented (voters, members) that is old hat in the sense that the right to form factions, internal bulletins, right to recall - in fact most of organisational theory is concerned with this problem - that the "necessary" division of labour creates "information" and "incentive" problems.

That is why the right to form tendencies and factions - hated by all kind of authoritarian thinking - is such an important principle of rev. organisation. It sucks of course - but it beats all the alternatives hands down.


Gathering with others more or less behind the scenes pretty much
> assures division and always undermines the coherence of collective life.
> This is true not only of party organizations, but, e.g., of email lists like
> OPE or other -- a culture where people are open about their struggles is
> always better. It is even true I think in informal social circumstances.
> There we call factions cliques and cliques undermine broader circles of
> friendship.
> My second point goes to the non-correspondence between representation and
> the represented. Here I want to look back at some notes I have to find, so
> this will take a minute or two. But in the meantime perhaps you could tell
> me who you have in mind that has discussed this issue before. I'm not
> familiar with it having been raised in any of the sort of classic go to
> works in the marxist tradition. You describe it as old hat, so you must
> have previous theoretical discussion in mind. I'd very much appreciate
> being pointed to these.
> howard
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Anders Ekeland" <>
> To: "Outline on Political Economy mailing list" <>;
> "Outline on Political Economy mailing list" <>
> Sent: Sunday, December 06, 2009 12:27 PM
> Subject: Re: [OPE] Marta Harnecker's Ideas
> > 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.
> >
> > Regards
> > Anders E
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > ope mailing list
> >
> >
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Received on Tue Dec 8 04:04:06 2009

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