One of the purposes of this blog is to discuss revolutionary organization. This phrase, conception, and type of organization have become very unpopular amongst American radicals and progressives today. What was once seen as a viable alternative for hundreds of thousands of people has now become a flickering candle in the wind. Why is this the case? While this post will not go into the history of how this has happened, this post hopes to engage this question on the terms of how the Johnson-Forest Tendency rethought this question in light of the new political realities of the post-WWII era. They advanced new ways of thinking about organization, politics, and revolution, that can contribute much to new discussions today that are going on and need to continue. At the same time, their advance had some profound weaknesses as well which Goldner discusses. While these weaknesses are very real, it still leaves the question of what alternatives there are if the vanguard party is dead and at the same time Facing Reality’s proposition of organization has failed as well.
I am posting two pieces by Loren Goldner. The first is a basic overview of the tendency. It will help contextualize the period they were in, provide a little autobiographical information on the authors, and in more broader terms explain what they were trying to do.
The second piece is Loren Goldner’s re-reading of Facing Reality. Goldner is attempting to look at this work, which was a product of a unique moment in capitalism. I have broken down Loren Goldner’s essay into key points with occasional commentary. Each of these points can be further explored in our discussion in the upcoming days.
Here are some introductory thoughts:
1. Facing Reality has workerist excesses at times. LG defines it as “The book focuses almost exclusively (with the exception of Hungary) on workers’ struggles and power on the shop floor, and is therefore (rightly) open to the charge of workerism, an excessive point-of-production focus, with elements that seem at times almost syndicalist.” This is one of the reasons why James could not explain why such powerful shop floor self-activity did not result in revolution and how the neo-liberal offensive broke its back.