Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Fetishism of the word vs. actually organizing the people

Christopher Day's blog introduced me to this critique of Bob Avakian and the RCP (by a former key supporter). Frankly, I think the RCP is pretty irrelevant at this point, but this essay is very thoughtful, and its insights are relevant to anyone who worries about the fact that no explicitly revolutionary organization in this country has any kind of mass base. Although I'm not sure the author would agree with me, I think the implication of his arguments is that an irrational fear of "reformism" or "economism" holds many revolutionaries back from actually doing effective organizing.

The fact is, in order to build a base, a committed revolutionary is going to have to spend a hell of a lot of time talking to people, and spurring them to action, who aren't ready yet to embrace revolution. This is not to say the word "socialism" or "revolution" needs to be taboo, but rather that neither of these words, nor all the rhetoric in the world, will get someone over the fear they need to conquer in order to lead their coworkers out on strike against a multi-national corporation (for example). If this kind of rhetoric is all you got, the company's gonna win. If you aren't willing to take these kinds of conversations (those that don't center on revolution) seriously, you aren't going to lead any significant number of working or oppressed people in any signficant struggle.

Some might argue that these kinds of struggles are "merely trade-union struggles" that the "masses can do themselves" and that real revolutionaries shouldn't waste their time with such "non-revolutionary" work. But this is precisely the attitude that deprives would-be revolutionaries of the organization they need to make revolution anything more than a pipe dream. If you don't believe in digging in for protracted battles whose immediate aim falls short of overthrowing capitalism, capitalism is gonna win.

Frankly, I think a lot of the ideological opposition to "reformism" and "economism" masks a fear of getting one's hands dirty in the real struggles of real people, of getting into the trenches with no immediate way out and no clear path to victory other than blood, sweat, and tears.

In short, I think a lot of would-be revolutionaries are afraid of what it might take to learn how to organize. What do you think?

2 Comments:

At 2:52 PM, Anonymous Tell No Lies said...

Sindicalista,
While I think there is considerable truth in your observation, I think that the situation is more complicated. It is not sufficient for revolutionary-minded folks to simply jump into mass organizing. There remains a critical task of developing a coherent revolutionary politics relevant to the US in the 21st century. Of course this can not occur if revs aren't practically and deeply involved in the real-life struggles of oppressed people. But there is nothing automatic about such involvement producing a correct understanding either. What I think is so exciting about Ely's polemic is his genuinely dialectical understanding of the relationship between practical work and the process of developing revolutionary theory.

 
At 7:17 PM, Blogger blackstone said...

"Frankly, I think a lot of the ideological opposition to "reformism" and "economism" masks a fear of getting one's hands dirty in the real struggles of real people, of getting into the trenches with no immediate way out and no clear path to victory other than blood, sweat, and tears."

I agree whole-heartedly. Most of the revolutionary left, or white left, are just revolutionary ambulance chasers. They arrive on the scene after big scandals, issues that spontaneously arrive and disperse after the rally, march or issue dies down.

This is not how you create ties in the community or build a base. This is not how you garner support. You do so by being involved in the day to day struggle of oppressed people.

This of course is not exciting and is the opposite of their romanticized "struggle" some comrades have.

But this is real life, and the reorganization of society isn't going to be easy, nor is it going to be won merely by attending marches, or rallies or selling newspapers.

It's not going to be glorious, it's grassroots, it's small victories where noone knows your name and you won't get press. A everybody wants to be the surfer riding on the waves of the masses pushing forward.

 

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