Re: [OPE] Marta Harnecker's Ideas

From: howard engelskirchen <>
Date: Mon Dec 07 2009 - 18:56:41 EST

Hi Anders,

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. 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

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.


----- 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
> 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
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Received on Mon Dec 7 18:59:35 2009

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