Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Abandon Hope


Over at the despairate duo's blog they restate their manifesto - or raison d'etre (or, reason for being, as the French would say).

They raise the ever awkward question of socialism in an age of waiting (as some clever buggers put it):
Revolution isn't on the cards

And if not, what can it really mean to be communist?
Ouch! Good question.

Doubtless Dave and Stuart can recite my answer to this by heart - sadly, so can I, thus:

  1. The revolution must be made by the working class.
  2. We are members of that working class, so...
  3. The revolution must be made by us.
  4. The revolution will not succeed until, though, there is a critical mass of us - of communist workers.

(4) is the killer. The revolution, and revolutionary acts can and do happen now, the revolution on the cards the Des-pair ask about. A case of damned if we do and damned if we don't - it won't happen if we don't muck in and might not happen anyway if we do. We can only try.

This brings us back to our good friend the nature of the revolutionary organisation. For many on the left the function of revolutionary organisations is indistinguishable from the classic version of parties in liberal democratic theory - a device for clarifying positions of candidates and oppoents via a known template (i.e. if you vote indpenedent you could be voting for a fascist or a communist, but once you know their party you know their platform, history and ideology, sort of).

All political (and much personal) enegery is to be diverted via their organisation - it is a filter between the revolutionary worker and the world. They are not just trade unionists but members of a disciplined party working within a trade union.

I would suggest, however, that the party should have a much more subordinate role, as a distinct tool for a specialised purpose. For me, the SPGB exists solely as a means of co-ordinating the revolutionary use of the ballot - it has not role on trade union issues, housing co-op issues or on thousands of otehr struggles that are part and parcel of the class war. That says nothing about these struggles and their worth, only that the Socialist Party is not a fit mechanism for interacting with them.

I choose to use the Socialist Party as a tool for my revolution because I consider that electoral work is something that can reach anyone anywhere, and is something worth promoting as a means of revolution. Otehrs are free to choose different tools.

The point is that organise, agitate, educate remains good for us know as it always has - it's all we've got.

It might be mad for five blokes and a photocopier to draw up a council communist manifesto in a Manchester Bedsit - but it's equally mad for workers in Dorking to draw up positions on the Ethiopia-Eritrea war, or the Irael Palestine Conflict, or the fight between John POrescott and Tony Blair.


Blogger DespairToWhere said...

Thanks for commenting Bill. Don't think there's anything I particularly strongly disagree with in that, apart from your characterisation of the SPGB.

You say it has no role in other struggles, which is true, but it does have something to say about those struggles, and attempts to win workers to that perspective -- sometimes though not always that they are directing energy that could be better directed elsewhere, ie, into the propaganda work of the SPGB. So that's kind of a role, and not one we support.

You're also making a case for the SPGB's uniqueness as an organisation and that it could function as some sort of tool for us all to use. We rather see it as one sect among many whose main purpose is to keep alive its particular set of ideas and itself as an organisation. We went to a CPGB meeting recently, and were struck by the overwhelming similarities that all sects share: the need to recruit new members to its perspective, the pretence that they were addressing “the working class”, when really they were running through the litany among themselves, and the patronising assumption that we were naïve workers stumbling upon their higher form of consciousness for the first time. That’s not to say that they weren’t all thoroughly nice and decent people with interesting things to say.
All the best

11:06 AM  
Blogger Bill said...

Cheers Stuart - I was commenting more on how I see and use the SPGB rather than on how some others may approach it.

There is a grey area where struggles turn into the lobbying of politicians in which the primary purpose of the party (organising the revolutionary ballot) comes into conflict - i.e. I'd oppose using the vote for anything less than a vote for socialism - if you see what I mean.

The only uniqueness I'd suggest for the SPGB is that it contains precisely a self ddenying ordinance that prevents it coming out as a filter between communist workers and teh world and their struggles therein.

Of course, propagandist groups want to win people to their perspective - that's why they exist, and it's a good thing to do.

After all, in the age of waiting just talking to yourselves and keeping the embers warm may well be anotehr good approach, awaiting the next turning of the tide.

11:45 AM  
Blogger DespairToWhere said...

Good points. I'm not opposed of course to trying to win people to different perspectives (I think this was the meaning or at least implication of "enlightenment", wasn't it?). We would probably just differ on who we should win to what and when. All the things I'm involved in I suppose have at least a little bit of a 'propaganda' function.

12:17 PM  

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