The levels of unity
A question was asked by an LO sympathiser in how I regarded the unity of the party-movement to concretely happen. So, I posted it out.
I'll immediately add a similar, but less extended, post from another thread for reference:In the rest of your post it is clear that you indeed don't understand what I'm talking about. So, let me explain. I see a a genuine proletarian party-movement as focusing politics on several levels. Putting them in an order, from important to less important, it could be represented as this list:
- The programmatic level: The most important level. I was talking about programmatic unity in my last post and it would be at this level. To further clarify what I mean with "program": In many groups this is some esoteric concept where "the program" is a whole system of ideas. I once asked a comrade as to what he understood to be the program of his group, in concrete terms. He mentioned a small library of books, ranging from the Communist Manifesto via the first four congresses of the Communist International to the Transitional Programme and many more in between. This is not what I mean with a "program" as this is much more of a methodology which requires training/"integrating" and commitment to get to know. Any deviation from this large theoretical body of work is a valid reason to split, to cause a "line of demarcation" as you put it.
What I mean with "program" is a short actual document that explains how we go from where our class and the left movement is today, to working class political power and communism after that. Engels already made the point (in his critique on a draft of the Erfurt program) that a program should be very concise and to the point, any extra explanations only weaken it. The "extras" - the explanations, the context, etc - are supposed to be carried out in the media of the party: Back in the day of the pre-1914 SPD or the RSDLP this was primarily done by paper and journal. In our 2012 context we can add youtube to that, webradio and many other forms of digital content. The primary point is that "truth", in the communist and proletarian political sense of the word, can only be arrived at through debate. I describe this process here, so I won't have to repeat myself. This is incidentally why democracy is so important for our movement.
- The theoretical level: This is not really a separate level, but I will mention it anyway so as to explicitly separate it from the program. Whether you think the Soviet Union was state capitalist or a degenerated workers state (or neither), whether you believe the theory of Permanent Revolution is the way forward of that of the Mass Line, etc... They are not reasons for a split. Instead what should happen if theoretical disagreement is to occur (which will probably always happen to some extent), is that such groups that want to win the majority of the party for these ideas, should form a tendency within the party. Then, by patiently explaining their position, can they deepen the overal knowledge of the whole party.
An absolute requirement for this is open debates as opposed to "internal discussion". The reason for this is that bureaucratic clampdowns are much less possible under an open climate and, more importantly, that the working class at large can get themselves accustomed to such ideas, follow the debates and start to think for themselves as to where they stand. In the course of such open debate, positions tend to deepen and clarify and even get expanded as daily live throws new challenges in our faces. This process of development is continuous and only if people who disagree can express themselves without fearing to get kicked out, can unity be a practical thing and can discpline be built in times when the majority makes a decision on a certain subject of actuality (like a strike, a campaign, etc.).
- The strategical level: This is somewhat overlapping again with the previous two levels for obvious reasons, but it can well be that a strategy in one country does not work in another. A strategy - being a long term thing - must again be democratically debated as to involve the widest possible ranks of our class and to ensure unity and discipline to continue and strengthen.
- The tactical level: This is the short term, playing into concrete happenings in society such as an election, a strike, a military occupation, etc. This is also the level where perhaps the minorities have to concede a large deal, but also (given the previous levels) where discipline pays off and gets a mass following. This is the level where the party-movement, as a collective, learns and makes its impacts in society.
I agree with you that our fight must be against opportunism, but in my view this can only happen in a democratic manner if we are to build a mass movement organising our class as a class that wants to take power and thus is following a political program towards this end. For this to achieve we need a paradigm shift within the existing far left because while they are part of the problem now, they also hold the solution: The many committed militants that fight for a human society that we call communism. Thus I oppose splits within the left and instead urge comrades to stick and fight for what they believe in, which first of all means that they'll have to fight for the right to openly disagree, that is, democracy. This is because if a subgroup just splits from its mother-group, they very often tend to not overcome the basic problems of why they splitted and often cloning their former group. This in turn then causes another split after a few years, and so on ad infinitum. There are many examples to cite on the left about this.
Note: I'm not against splits in all circumstances. A split is for example valid when it is a defensive measure against bureaucratic attacks, such as in the right wing of the workers movement is common coin. In those circumstances we should still engage with them, fight for democracy, but organise independently in the mean time.
So, to sum up: Unity cannot exist without the right to disagree and within the context of an "internal" regime. It has to be open and on that basis can discipline grow and can a mass movement be built around the revolutionary program of the conquest of political power of our class.
All groups claim to have "the best politics", including this new RCIT. On that basis it is also excluded that they will join the Lambertists at any point as that would mean that they'll have to submit their "unique selling points" in politics - that formed the basis of their split from the L5I and founding their own new "international" - to the overruling politics of the FI-ICR.
There will never be unity (besides the lonely small group or two) on the sectarian basis of having "the best politics", as is the disintegrating L5I (having had three splits in the last few years) now showing. Unity can only occur on programmatic unity (as opposed to theoretical unity), that is: A short (as opposed to tens or hundreds of pages, as seems to be the rule with "programs" within sects) document that explains how we should get from where we are now, to working class power and communism after that. As long as there is that commitment to the program, I don't see why I couldn't be in one party with a Maoist, an anarchist and the various strands of Trotskyists.
But for that we need a radically different type of unity, a unity based on democracy, or "unity in disagreement". A unity where every member is trained into thinking for him/herself. A unity indeed where the working class can gather around as all debates are carried in the open (as opposed to "internal discussion").
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