A Follow-up to: On Vanguard Parties

Posted on January 8, 2012 by

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by ~The-Liberator (Alex Garrett)

This came up in a discussion when I mentioned that the vanguard party cannot be the ruling party:

not necessarily. The revolution may need to defend itself and thus need to defend the workers. a party of opposition may be to the state a party of counter-revolution.

Indeed. But first of all, it is not practical or necessary to suppress such parties for this reason:

  • The authority to decide what is acceptable, healthy, or unhealthy in culture must be given to the working class and not a centralized point of control.

Frank (founder of the CVO and a proponent of single-party rule) argues:

To even gain power and therefore have democratic rights like freedom of speech the proletariat is going to have to deny such freedoms to others.

This is simply not true. In capitalist nations, the bourgeoisie firmly hold power, but the workers still have democratic rights of free speech even though what they say goes against the very existence of the bourgeoisie [this is why we are able to have this discussion :)]. But no one who truly understands how our society works would say that the workers rule.

Similarly, the democratic rights of those who oppose workers’ rule will not need to be suppressed for the workers to rule.

Secondly, if the vanguard party has the popular support of the masses, it will have nothing to fear from allowing democratic rights. Specific, corrupt individuals may have something to fear from it, but workers’ rule, as a whole, will have nothing to fear. On the contrary, workers’ rule NEEDS these democratic rights.

Further still, there is a major difference between closing a bourgeois TV station that exploits its workers and limiting the ability of people to organize in the streets and distribute leaflets, etc. The first would be completely acceptable. But the second is extremely dangerous and such suppression has led to the degeneration of every single workers’ state to date.

The fetish with centralized control over politics and economy that has infected a large portion of the Left comes from a misunderstanding of what happened in the USSR. The suppression of democratic rights in the USSR didn’t start with Stalin. It started with Lenin. But the fundamental difference between these two people was that Lenin made clear that the limitations on democratic rights and the merger between party and state were temporary emergency measures. Lenin knew it was a gamble but in Russia there were two options: a) Hand over power to the bourgeoisie, or b) temporarily suppress democratic rights to allow the Bolsheviks time to repair the shattered economy, so that there might be a chance that workers’ rule would be possible in the future.

But Lenin was incapacitated and Stalin took over. Stalin turned these temporary emergency measures into supposedly necessary and essential features of socialism. And although most organizations on the Left denounce the Stalin of the 1930s that murdered a huge portion of the working class, they do not denounce the early Stalin that asserted that the suppression of democratic rights was essential to socialism. And this is where the Left is crippled theoretically.

It is completely backward to assume that such measures, which were recognized by Lenin to be temporary emergency measures that were necessary specifically in Russia, will be necessary in a stable modern society.

In fact, such suppression will not only be dangerous to the emergence of genuine workers’ rule, but it will be detrimental to the economy. Suppression of democratic rights will necessarily mean the censorship of the internet to some extent. And since so much of the economy has gone digital, this will mean that limiting the internet will cripple a modern economy’s ability to function and sustain itself. One only has to look at China to discover the impracticality of censoring democratic rights.

In short, we need new paradigms that apply to modern societies like the ones in which we currently live and are applicable to the 21st century. And to be able to mobilize the masses and guide them to victory, political organizations will have to make this point clear; they will have to physically go out an tell people that complete democratic rights will be essential to workers’ rule, instead of just “implying” it the same evasive way that people use to justify the corrupt Soviet and Chinese regimes. Because without doing this, the masses will remain confused and will be turned off by the increasing cultishness of mainstream Leftist organizations.

The party can lead the class, but the party is not the class. If one party rules, the class does not. It doesn’t get much simpler than that.

“The proletariat cannot achieve the socialist revolution unless it is prepared for this task by the struggle for democracy; victorious socialism cannot retain its victory and lead humanity to the stage when the state withers away unless it establishes complete democracy.”

— V.I. Lenin

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