Towards a Revolutionary Party, the Sojourner Truth Organization
I am a member of Unity & Struggle in Texas and I want to share an early pamphlet of the Sojourner Truth Organization (STO) that I re-read recently that has been a critical supplement for me of our group’s organizational studies. It is called “Towards a Revolutionary Party” (TARP) and was written in 1971, just two years after STO was founded and after the collapse of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), the national student civil rights and anti-war network from which it emerged.
STO, like many New Communist organizations, grew out of the Revolutionary Youth Movement (RYM) opposition to the Progressive Labor Party’s (PLP) dominate tendency in SDS called Worker Student Alliance (WSA). When PLP took the position that all nationalism is reactionary it overnight put them in opposition to every national liberation struggle and hence every revolutionary Left tendency including the American Black movement which was then seen by many as a national liberation fight. RYM formed as a broad opposition to the WSA which inevitably led to another broad opposition to the Weathermen faction (which became RYM I), a group that emphasized and undertook armed struggle then and who felt that the American working class was inherently backward, and RYM II. It was out of RYM II that many Marxist Leninist pre-parties and grouplets would take shape and this included what would become the STO.
Continue reading Libertarian Marxism meets Leninism: some thoughts on STO’s “Towards a Revolutionary Party” (1971)
As an anti-budget cuts organizer in Seattle, I am excited by the important debates Advance the Struggle (AS) has raised with their piece Crisis and Contradictions: Reflections and Lessons from March 4th. I basically agree with the perspective that AS is putting forward; it confirms and advances a lot of the perspectives that my comrades in Unity and Struggle have been developing, especially with our anti-budget cuts work with Democracy Insurgent in Seattle, with ella pelea! in Austin, and our comrade’s work at Berkley. For those who don’t know, Unity and Struggle is a revolutionary organization animated by a belief in the self-emancipation of oppressed people; for more info, check out the “About US” section of the Gathering Forces blog. I would consider Unity and Struggle and a lot of the milleiu around Gathering Forces to be part of the “class struggle Left” tendency that AS outlines and calls for; like AS we are attempting to chart a third path that is independent from both the centrists (the “we need to meet people where they are at” folks) and the adventurists (the “Occupy Everything Demand Nothing” folks). We appreciate the chance to dialogue with AS and other like-minded activists around the country and we also appreciate the chance to have principled debate with comrades from the other two tendencies.
The response pieces written by Socialist Organizer (SO) and Labors Militant Voice (LMV), raise some important challenges to this third tendency and highlight some key differences between us and the centrist tendency. It is important to note that LMV’s piece raises important critiques of SO’s piece and I engage with those here – I have no intention of lumping them together. I offer my notes on these responses in the hope of furthering the debate.
What I write here is relatively unsystematic because my comrades and I are in the middle of organizing for a strike at the University of Washington on May 3rd so I don’t have a lot of time to flesh this out. I hope comrades will forgive and correct any points here that are underdeveloped , inaccurate, or unclear. I am writing this from a first person perspective rather than formally representing Democracy Insurgent or Unity and Struggle, the groups I am a part of. I imagine that most people in both groups would agree with the spirit of what I put forward here but we simply don’t have the time to collectively write and edit a formal response right now because of all of our organizing and study groups.
Continue reading The Debate on Strategy in the Anti-Budget Cuts Movement
I appreciate the overview Don Hamerquist has written dealing with the meaning of Lenin and Leninism for building revolutionary organization today. I think the timing of Hamerquist’s essay couldn’t be better for personal and historical reasons. For the last three years many around what is now Gathering Forces have been thinking about the relationship between revolutionary organization and mass politics in ongoing organizing efforts. Thinking through and against the history of the Bolsheviks, in particular Lenin, has been one way of many ways this process has taken place.
The historical reasons are also important and explain a lot about what on the surface only seems like a relatively isolated process. This is a moment of ideological recomposition where we can’t take up any kind of ready-made ideas and practices. Many of the old divisions of different traditions have been scrambled.
At this time there is no way I can take up all the issues Hamerquist raises. Important questions I won’t address here are, nevertheless, part of the mission of the GF blog and will be taken up over time, all of which go well beyond a specific discussion about Lenin.
I have broad agreement with much of what Hamerquist writes, even if I have specific questions over where we might disagree: the question of the state and the transition to communism and the question of consciousness. I also have a lot of agreement with what Tom Wetzel writes in Anarchism, Class Struggle and Political Organization, the original article Hamerquist is partially responding to, as well as Wetzel’s response. Unfortunately, I don’t have time right now to synthesize these agreements or dive in fully to what Hamerquist sees as the failure to take power seriously in this tradition, which Wetzel would would deny.
Rather than taking them up in a point-by-point way, what follows are a number of brief thoughts, not fully developed in any way, which overlap with the concerns of all these essays. There is a lot of work to be done in a time where I think a lot of us feel we are rooted in some basic principles but have to work through this contemporary moment and construct a new historical tradition and way of working in order to arrive at some answers to fill these principles out in theory and in action.
Continue reading Thinking about Hamerquist on Revolutionary Organization and Lenin
Continuing on the Lenin and organization tip, we are linking to an essay by Don Hamerquist that jumps into this much needed reassessment of Lenin and the question of revolutionary organization for our times. This is followed by several responses that take up different aspects of the essay.
I’ll be posting up some thoughts on Hamerquist’s essay later this week.
Don Hamerquist: Lenin, Leninism and some leftovers
Tom Wetzl: Reply to Hamerquist
What in the Hell blog: Responding to Hamerquist on Leninism
Noel Ignatiev: CLR James on the Marxist organization
Dave Renney: Scattered thoughts on the Leninist party and Don’s paper
Vladimir Lenin. This name for most radicals, militants, and progressives has largely become irrelevant. The problems, issues, and experiences of Lenin are considered to be part of another historical era in another country. Sometimes the differences are even expressed in racial terms in that white folks did that worker’s revolution stuff while people of color can’t because they do not have the privilege or do not struggle that way.
I believe that the dilemma of Lenin still remains with oppressed people and pocs today not only in Russia, but across the world. It does not matter if you are a woman, Latin@, Muslim, or Queer; the themes which occur in Lenin’s life have to be taken up. Just like every oppressed group can learn from the life of Malcolm on the importance of standing up for yourself and your people, for being strong, unapologetic, etc., so can every oppressed group learn certain things from Lenin. I know this is not popular to say considering the dominance of identity politics and privilege in the American Left. But the path to liberation is not a straight and linear line.
While I am not a Leninist, there are a lot of things I have learned from him. This post tries to summarize some of the basics of what can be taken away from Lenin’s experiences building revolutionary organization—a project I am committed to.
Continue reading Lenin and Revolutionary Organization