Why the Leninists will lose
By C. Dunnington
It is useless to use the threat of a victorious American Leninism
as a goad to our greater activity. Leninism, in all its present
variants is incapable of definitive victories in advanced capitalist
society. Its practice has historically been that of militant reformists
or inititators of primitive capitalist accumulation. It has been
the absence of a capitalist class capable of organizing society
that has allowed for its occasional successes. In this country and
elsewhere their myths, the International Communist Movement, Maoism,
etc., are already in advanced states of decay. Ten years of the
"left" in this country have shown that there is nothing
in the repertoire of the "vanguard parties" that the dominant
society in one way or, another does not already possess. Leninism
has no critique and nothing to offer that would deny bourgeois legitimacy.
Not since the Russian Revolution has a Social-Democratic party
been brave enough to use the slogan "All power to the Soviets".
Contemporary Leninism is unable to do it in this country because:
a) most of them still live in the Fantasyland of "national
liberation struggles" and "socialist states" whose
social practice has nothing to do with the overthrow of capitalism,
b) conflict with anti-authoritarian socialists leads them to emphasize
their Party form as the principle positive element (!!) separating
their "revolutionary" political reformism and trade-unionism
froin that of conventional bourgeois groupings, c) the essentially
manipulative outlook of the vanguard parties causes them to regard
the councils as only another means to its organizational ends and
so far, to overlook their significance. None of these conditions,
however, can be considered permanent. The Leninists, while more
encumbered by their ideological baggage than the "libertarian"
socialists, are showing signs in Europe at least of shedding some
Today's Leninists are capable, however, of
sabotaging genuinely revolutionary social movements in advanced
capitalist countries: a case in point being the activities of the
PCF in France during 1968. The Leninists are able to beat heads
and confuse people with their "transitional demands",
"united fronts" and other vacuities drawn from their inexhaustible
larders of catchphrases - but the Leninist parties and splinters
are hardly the major problem the revolutionist movement has to face.
The greatest difficulties are in the areas of empirical analysis,
in the organization of theory and in the theory of organization.
Only a social movement can bring about the transformation of society
along anti-authoritarian anticapitalist lines. Such a movement must
be brought to constitute itself out of the present conditions by
the demonstrable truth of our analyses and by the applicability
of our ideas if by anything we do. We can build and coordinate our
organizations, but we cannot "build" a social movement
(these thoughts are analogous to those expressed by P. Mattick Jr.
in Synthesis 3).
The movement must have its theory, and while it is unlikely and
even undesirable that we (who?) be its only formulators, this is
no reason for the laissez-faire eclecticism which presently characterizes
so much of the "libertarian left". Organizations must
be created on a far larger scale than presently, but upon what basis?
A simple consideration of one or more of the present libertarian
ideologies as adequate (or the truce born of the failure to agree
on an ideology) is an invitation to disaster. Like the rest of the
so-called radical left the anti-authoritarians are captives of traditions
whose days are long passed. Anarchism, Syndicalism, Council Communism,
these are dead ideologies because that is the only kind of ideology
there is. The theory which does not continually reassess itself,
the body of thought which considers itself completed, has already
consigned itself to the graveyard of ideas. How quickly this comes
to pass can be discerned by the speed with which the Situationist
ideology has become moribund, attended to only by atavistic sects.
This is not to say that these schools of thought have nothing to
offer or that there are not currents within them giving the promise
of something new and better. But, until people are willing to admit
that all the present formulations are inadequate, that the project
of human emancipation must be rediscovered in the present against
the backdrop of the defeat of anarchism, council communism and situationism,
they will go nowhere.
Theory does indeed derive from practice but one needn't be so parochial
as to think that one can only theorize about things he has personally
committed to action. In addition to the task of developing a critique
of the movements of the previous epoch, there is a wealth of experience
generated by the last ten years of struggle that remains largely
unknown, unanlayzed and unincorporated into the thought of the anti-authoritarian
socialist movement as a whole, much less into the consciousness
of the public at large. There has also been considerable development
on the theoretical plane which should be assessed by the movement
generally. Even the capacity of the anti-authoritarian socialists
for empirical research is grossly underdeveloped when compared to
that of the conventional left: our intelligence gathering function
is at present inadequate.
The creation of a large organizational framework is a necessary
concommitant to a social movement if the latter is to succeed. It
must, however, be of such a quality that the movement is able to
regard it as its own, to retake and transform them, as it comes
into its own. Otherwise it must try to reconcile itself with the
movement OUTSIDE and risk being a de facto party.
The need for a large organization notwithstanding, the question
of organization is not one that can be answered quantitatively.
Size is not the only criterion for effectiveness. The failure of
the largest libertarian organization in history, that of the CNT-FAI
was due neither to its insufficient size nor to its insufficiently
"libertarian" outlook, as if libertarianism can be conceived
on some absolute scale. It was rather the failure to trasform its
praxis and its incapacity to analyze the situation in which it found
itself. I submit that the problem of the absolute sovereignty of
the base (its insurgence) and of developing a thouroughgoing and
flexible analytical capacity are still at the core of our difficulties.
Any viable revolutionary organization is going to have to be capable
of handling complex debate and continuous mutability.
It is of course evident that we do not have as yet a large organizational
framework. It is the unfortunate product of the era of small groups
(or the era of large-organizational incapacity, whichever view one
wishes to take) that the role of small groups in the revolutionary
process has tended to be realized out of proportion to their real
achievements. The Petofi Circle and the Situationist International
were able to spark revolts, but neither was able to prepare the
ground for a protracted social insurgency of sufficient quality
to readily change its tactics and reassess its theoretico-practice
characteristics that are prerequisites to success. Such groups will
always lack staying power, whatever their initial usefulness. The
heroic days of the Promethean groupuscules are at an end.
In the way that such a metaorganization might come about, I feel
that a functional or organic development is the most well-reasoned.
Rather than postulate "an organization" and then squeeze
the parts to fit, it would seem meet to have the functions (information
gathering, theoretical-informational, journalistic, gatherings for
discussions and activity, etc.) come together and establish the
most reasonable framework in order to coordinate their activities.
In this way the organization would be constituted on an already
practical and collective footing. Thus, it would not be the traditional
"loose alliance", nor would it be a gathering under the
hegemony of the initiatory group. The metaorganization can only
be of a real value, of something that small groups recognize that
they cannot do for themselves, for it to provide a sound basis for
a viable large organization.
Published in The
Red Menace, Volume 2, Number 2, Spring 1978.
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