On "gossip", bureaucratism and sectism
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Two closely interrelated posts this time:
Regarding the "gossip": It is a common criticism of them that I hear on an off Revleft. I think this stems from a distinct lack of a debating culture. Most leftist groups leaderships live on their own little isle of knowledge that is not to be disturbed by "the sects" and other ultra-left influences. It is unsurprising that this is the stance also from most members of such groups around as this is their political education.
I believe this particular culture stems from, among other things, the ban on faction instated in the RCP(b) in 1921. Before that, it was considered normal, important even, to have a culture of dissent. Important because dissenting comrades can offer a mirror for critical self-reflection on any number of topics, thus being a motor of political development. Such (sometimes hefty) debates happened openly. It was also normal to have a multitude of publications - the RSDLP featuring dozens of papers even under the hardest state repression.
The reason for this was the idea that to educate the working class movement in programme, strategy, tactics and theory; agitate for workers causes in all its diversity and organise the class as a class for itself, the debates had to happen openly so workers could not only read all sides of the argument, they could also participate in the press. From mere followers of this or that political brand, they were encouraged to start thinking for themselves.
I'm sure that for most revolutionists today that may sound like a scary and "gossippy" idea, but that just tells their sectarian politics though.I think this is a good point to raise and lays at the basis of why both sectism and bureaucratism is so common within the workers movement (of which the far left is merely an exponent), as a direct result of capitalist relations itself.
Under capitalism you don't have that many options: Either you have lots of time and little money or vice versa. As an organisation this boils down to the conclusion of making certain members fulltimers, paid by the membership fees and other income, so work for the organisation can be done.
There thus exists a relationship of dependence upon the membership; the fulltimer relies for his/her existance upon the membership to feed him/her. The path of least resistence then to take is where this fulltimer uses its time and resources to exert a top-down (that is, bureaucratic) control on the organisation.
Sectism also flows from this as it logically flows that the more members there are, the easier a bureaucrats' lifestyle can be maintained. Also, the more members there are, the easier they get in, the lower the theoretical education of the general membership... the easier the bureaucrats can maintain their hold on the organisation and impose a political education that is designed at keeping the organisation unique. Because a reason to exist as a separate organisation is a requirement to keep the bureaucrats safe.
What you then see is exactly what you see with companies: All the sects competing with eachother for "market share", that is, influence in the working class, at least to the extend that it keeps the bureaucrat where they are: on top.
Linked to this are also the undemocratic nature of many groups and mass organisations and, with mass formations such as unions, a material interest in keeping the current system in place as that is exactly what they need to maintain their job.
It is a pity that the far left generally fails at overcoming suchbasic tendencies of capitalism, often not realising they even exist. Most people just blindly stare at paper formalities like the right to recall leaders, etc. Such rules however, on a formal level, exist even within many unions yet didn't prevent bureaucratism.
Surely we need a more rigorous approach against any type of bureaucratism. I would say there is a two-tier way to achieve exactly that: 1. Raising the theoretical level of comrades. Not only by reading party propaganda and rehashed bits by Marx, et al, but a more broader approach by extending to more than just the "box". This can be many subjects and writers. Related to this is 2. where members have a right to openly disagree, yet be united in action through democratic vote. This requires a culture change though within the left as we've been in this quagmire for so long already.