In Defense of a Political Form: The One-Party State

The following is a comment from our discussion of Living Revolution or Sterile Orthodoxy: Questions Around Nepal. It is written to engage and disagree with the views put forward by Mike Ely in that post.

"...countries as diverse as Russia, China, Cuba, Vietnam, Korea, Albania, and men as dissimilar as Lenin, Mao, Castro, Ho Chi Minh, have all found themselves arriving at the one-party state, then we might be forced to conclude that the proletariat HAS IN FACT ALREADY FOUND the form of political rule appropriate to itself as a class."

* * * * * * *

By John Carter

Comrades,

First, I think it’s extremely cool that Mike has chosen to directly engage the divergent views expressed in this thread. Coming from the orbit of the CPUSA, where criticism is dismissed out of hand when it’s not ignored, I hardly know how to respond … I lack recent practice in maintaining a polemic.

But that’s fine. We need to encourage and find ways to foster and nurture the kind of intellectual and ideological struggle that characterized the Bolshevik Party during Lenin’s lifetime, while still remaining comrades. I quite certain Mike would agree with that.

Anyway -

At first blush, it might seem that allowing room for a multiplicity of competing socialist parties, the basic premise of the Maobadi’s “new mainstream” And here I stand corrected, BTW; it is quite correct that the parties of the exploiters and the bourgeoisie are excluded from this spectrum), is a natrual evolution from the insight that tendencies are going to exist within the vanguard party, and so we might as well let them struggle in the open rather than suppressing them through administrative means or worse.

But in fact, there is a huge difference here, at least from where I’m sitting. Tendenices within a democratic centralist party tend to be mediated, channeled, contained, by all the orgamizational norms that, taken together, we know as party discipline. Such a party, after a full internal debate, will ultimately settle on a LINE, and then test it by unified practice.

But three or five or ten socialist parties, acting an independent entities, obviously can never arrive at line, or a style of work determined by collective summation of practice, or an analysis that, being collective, would have safeguards designed to encourage many-sidedness, to allow the proletariat to grasp the totality of relations, as Lukacs argued the proletariat must do in order to be the universal class.

One way to look at a vanguard party is as a scientifc community, one where debate and divergent analyses are contained within the general framework of a common methodology. Among other things, this RULES OUT certain types of discourse. For our purposes, we might call this bourgeois discourse, the discourse of capitalist restoration.

A multi-party socialist state, it seems to me, would offer no mechanism whatsoever to prevent this. Indeed, the very structure of this system, that of independent competing entities represting partial, reified aspects of the totality of relations, strikes me as being the mirror of bourgeois relations more generally.

I think it was Michael Parenti who observed that if countires as diverse as Russia, China, Cuba, Vietnam, Korea, Albania, and men as dissimilar as Lenin, Mao, Castro, Ho Chi Minh, have all found themselves arriving at the one-party state, then we might be forced to conclude that the proletariat HAS IN FACT ALREADY FOUND the form of political rule appropriate to itself as a class.

Clearly, the comrades can see the problems with this position as well as I do – but it is something to think about.

Mike correctly points out that through its historical development, capitalism has found many workable political “shells”, to borrow Lenin’s term, including the “very best shell”, parliamentary democracy.

But is this obviously correct observation extendable to socialism?

Frankly, I doubt it. I don’t think we can emphasize enough the fact thatr capitalism is the spontaneous, unconscious unfolding of the logic of the law of value, BEFORE it is the social relations proper to the existence of a capitalist class.

One practical consequence of this expansive, self-replicating character of capitalist relations is that its logic creates an exploiting class and enforces its interests without the need for conscious political action as a class, except under extreme circumstances. This is, of course, fascism, the “open terrorist dicatatorship of monopoly capital”, to quote Dimitrov.

The rest of the time, however, capitalist relations and the class character of the bourgeois state can be maintained under many different juridical forms, and with significant political division among factions of the ruling class.

It seems to me that if socialism is anything at all, it is the revolutionary effort of the working class to override this logic, to suppress the law of value by taking all relations into its own hands AS A TOTALITY. This would imply that for the working class, only ONE type of political “shell” will prove compatible with its power – that in which all the means of production are held by the class constituted as one, with one party acting as the vanguard of that class.

Now, has this structure allowed abuses, excesses, and mistakes? Wihtout question. But I see no reason to argue (as social democrats do) that is intrisically undemocratic. The real question, to quote Ludo Martens again, is “how does the proletariat ensure that the Party remains truly revolutionary and truly close to the masses?”

Mike, thanks again for honoring us as comrades by meeting objections head on.

Overall Rating (0)

0 out of 5 stars

Leave your comments

Post comment as a guest

0 Character restriction
Your text should be more than 10 characters

People in this conversation

  • Guest - NHBK

    The real question, to quote Ludo Martens again, is “how does the proletariat ensure that the Party remains truly revolutionary and truly close to the masses?”

    http://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/stalin/works/1936/03/01.htm
    http://massline.info/
    http://marxists.org/history/erol/1960-1970/plpculturalrevolution.htm

  • Guest - Ben Seattle

    <blockquote>The real question, to quote Ludo Martens again, is “how does the proletariat ensure that the Party remains truly revolutionary and truly close to the masses?”</blockquote>

    The answer to Martens' question is simple: it cannot be done.

    It is as simple as that.

    In order for the working class to rule--it must have the ability to shitcan any party that becomes corrupt; it must therefore have the ability to create new organizations, new parties that are loyal to its interests.

    Simply expressed, the working class must have the fundamental democratic rights of speech and association in order to exercize its rule of society. And, if the working class has these rights, then many independent political organizations (and, eventually, parties) will come into existence.

    That is our choice. The rule of a party or the rule of the working class.

  • Guest - Tell No Lies

    This is a very important discussion to have and I too am grateful that there is a forum in which it can actually be wrangled over without the fear of it being shut down. The fact that, with the partial exception of the GPCR, that such forums have been effectively denied the vast majority of people living in socialist countries suggests to me the profound limitations demonstrated by the one-party state as a political form. A party may be like a scientific community, but the people will not be made fit to rule by conceding all political power to a scientific community. It is true that the political form established by multiple socialist revolutionary experiences has been the one-party state. It is just as true that every one of those experiences has resulted in either the full restoration of capitalism or in some sort of other non-socialist cul de sac. I would submit that the one-party state form was as much the result of those countries lack of prior experience of bourgeois democracy and weak civil societies as it was an expression of any socialist logic. The one-party state was the "natural" form taken by socialist revolutions in poor, largely agrarian societies, characterized by high rates of illiteracy and no significant prior history of democratic political contestation. Those conditions, while once common to most of the world are no longer so. The institutions of bourgeois democracy have become far more generalized than they were during the last wave of socialist revolutions and this means that a much broader swathe of humanity has direct experience with both the positive features of and the limitations of bourgeois democracy. Awareness of the limitations is not likely to produce a willingness to abandon the positive features, nor should it. What we blithely call "bourgeois democracy" are conquests of popular struggle. Limiting political contestation to the internal life of a single party with restricted membership will quite rightly offend the democratic feelings of most people in most countries and narrow the base of support for a socialist revolution. It is understandable why it was a feature of the first attempts at socialist reconstruction, but I can not see it as a feature of future attempts.

  • Guest - Timo

    Unfortunately I cant find the article this morning and I am not sure of its credibility but I remember reading that Lenin was not apposed to multiple parties during socialism, but rather saw the temporary need of the one party state in order to hold onto state power during a very fragile and turbulent time. Any ways...

    It is true that past revolutions have found themselves taking the form of the one party state, but I do not think that necessarily means the proletariat has found its way to rule society. In my mind it is just as plausible that past revolutions took that form out of necessity(or a perceived necessity) for maintaining state power during all the turbulence of things like civil wars etc.

    I think there could be room for multiple parties that are at least unified around the ultimate goal of communism and deepening and developing socialism as a means to get to communism. In imperialist countries like the U.S. or the U.K. you have multiple parties which are bourgeoisie parties that differ on some points but all uphold capitalism and imperialism. Society still moves and changes(usually not for the better). However we need to recognize that bourgeoisie democratic countries like the U.S. are already advanced capitalist countries, the U.S. revolution was hundreds of years ago. My point is that perhaps the one party state is under some circumstances is necessary initially, but is not necessary in an advanced socialist society and could help with things like state transparency etc.

    We must also remember that the world is changing. It has changed drastically since the first wave of communist revolutions, which all took place relatively close together time wise. One party states may have been a necessity for socialism in the 20th century, but we are no longer there. Tactics, plans, etc not may not work the same in today's world.

    I am very glad to see this as its own post this is an important discussion to have!

  • Guest - Otto

    Of the countries mentioned, Russia and Albania no longer excist and while Russia’s Communist Party had a significant support of the people, Albania’s had some legitimate complaints against it when its monoplaly on power ended. In Russia there are a numbef of new Communist and Socialist Parties. Would it be better to outlaw them, drive them underground or just let them operate legally? They are not bourgeois parties.
    Also, China under Mao had allowed factionalism in the party and at one point I have read from several sources, Mao suggested that some party position be held to contested elections, within the single party. This idea was rejected by the party.
    I have a hard time imagining the people in the US of understanding the idea of only one party when so many people complain there is only two. The American people will never buy this. They may get used to multiple socialist parties, especially since they have gotten used to two main bourgeois parties.

  • Guest - celticfire

    I think a good reference point for this discussion is
    <i><a href="/http://web.archive.org/web/20071012101253/nepal.singlespark.org/problems/bb_qbntparty.htm" rel="nofollow">The Question of Building a New Type of Party</a></i> by Baburam Bhattarai.

    He cites Lenin:

    "if the working people are dissatisfied with their party they can elect other delegates, hand power to another party and change the government without any revolution at all..." (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol.26, Moscow, p.498).

    It's interesting, because it reveals a lot of what Lenin probably would have liked to see, of course, without the conditional restraints that TNL pointed out.

    I don't think utilizing multiple revolutionary centers is a universally applicable principle. But, as Mike has pointed out before, the bourgeois rule with a multitude of forms, and yet seem perfectly able to maintain their rule and hegemony.

    I would also raise into the question the actual practice of oppressed nations/people's within the borders of those socialist nations, and how much political agency they were actually given within the confines of the one-party state.

    As a model, I do think the one-party state is played out. I hear a lot of fearful whimpering that allowing multiple parties contest for power will make restoration "easier", and yet these same people can't seem to explain why restoration occurred within the one-party state (USSR,China,Vietnam,etc.)

    The first attempts at socialism failed. Why repeat the same mistakes again?

    Perhaps in a post-liberation Nepal a contested multiple party model will have restoration too -- but at the very least, we will have THAT experience. At this particular historic moment, we have no such experience to draw upon, or concluded outcomes.

    I find it really unsettling for any communist to say "we have found our form" in a eerie permanent tone. The waves of class struggle will ultimately define and contextualize what organizational forms are needed, to correspond with the needs of the moment.

    I would end with this: "the revolutionaries of the new generation should go beyond the GPCR and build a new type of Party."

  • Guest - bezdomnij

    The cool image in this post says "the people and the army are one", in case anybody wanted to know.

  • Guest - Joseph Ball

    I just find it bizarre that Marxists concern themselves so much with this issue of democracy. The key question for Marxists is which class has power. Obviously, the class that has power will determine the nature of whatever democracy exists. Class power is a dialectic of dictatorship (over the oppressors) and democracy (of the oppressed). I think it's clear that many, if not most, Marxists just pay lip-service to this concept. They really believe in the bourgeoisie's own false image of its rule as a free for all where any individual or class can take power as long as they have enough mass support.

    I don't want to be seem to criticize others too much. I too believed in a variant of this approach until systematic US imperialist torture in Afghanistan and Iraq finally convinced me that democracy existed nowhere in the world and was simply an empty and meaningless concept, other than as an adjunct to the free self-determination of a class.

    I don't know how many coups inspired by the Americans or how much evidence of murder, repression and genocide, carried out by Americans and other westerners or outsourced to their 3rd World puppets, people need to see before they lose their democracy delusion. But believe me the cult-like devotion to 'democracy' can be shaken off. It just takes a bit of ruthless exposure of yourself to reality.

  • Guest - zerohour

    Timo said: "I remember reading that Lenin was not apposed to multiple parties during socialism" As I recall, this is somewhat correct. As late as September, 1917, Lenin was still advocating for a coalition of socialist parties to govern after the revolution. I'm not sure whether he envisioned some sort of electoral system, but the point is, rule by one-party state was not the result of some pre-determined plan.

    I agree with others above who point out that the historical conditions of the nations that became socialist largely determined the shape that socialism would take there. However, I don't think we can neglect the role of politics. Without knowing in detail the histories of the various post-1917 socialist countries, I question how much of their adoption of the one-party state was also influenced by "model thinking." To what degree were other means of socialist rule excluded from consideration in favor of a form that already "worked?"

    Celticfire said: "Perhaps in a post-liberation Nepal a contested multiple party model will have restoration too" and this invokes a couple of questions raised by the Shanghai Commune as well. If an experiment in popular power may endanger the existence of the socialist state, is it worth the risk? Should the socialist state hold onto power at all costs, even if it might undermine its own premises in the process? Since millions of lives would be at stake, there are no easy answers but I think such questions are worth keeping in mind.

    Also, even if a certain type of organization, say the vanguard party, is necessary to overturn a system, does that automatically make it the only legitimate form of governance afterwards?

    I'm not prepared to rule out a one-party state as a possibility for future socialist revolutions, but I would think it would be adopted more out of circumstance and necessity than preference.

  • Guest - zerohour

    Joseph -

    I think you're assuming that we're confusing "democracy" as a rhetorical justification for imperialism, and democracy as an abstract ideal whose content is provided by class struggle. I don't think we need to give up terms like "freedom", "justice", "liberation", "equality", "solidarity", etc., just because the bourgeoisie uses them for their own purposes. Capitalists use these terms precisely because they tap into people's desire for those values that they instilled in all of us but can't fully realize. Why else would they have to restrict these words' meanings and distort the truth about their own actions?

    "Class power is a dialectic of dictatorship (over the oppressors) and democracy (of the oppressed)"

    This formulation is one-sided because it neglects the relations that must be built among the masses, and between the masses and party [or revolutionary organs of power], in order that the formerly oppressed may be "fit to rule" in Marx's words.

    So yes, it is a question of power, but what's the character of that power? That's what we're discussing here.

  • Guest - celticfire

    The thing about revolutions is that there are no guarantees. If we clenched to the one-party would that ensure that there was no restoration? I don't think it's that simple.

    I find this comment by Joseph, honestly appalling:

    <i>"I just find it bizarre that Marxists concern themselves so much with this issue of democracy."</i>

    WTF? We shouldn't be concerned about democracy for our class or how to deepen it? Joseph seems to take an attitude that all this is worked out. We just need the selected works from the history of shaving. But even by THAT logic, it's not so simple.

    Mao says: "Democracy is a <B>method</b>, and it all depends on to whom it is applied and for what purpose. We are in favor of great democracy. And what we favor is great democracy under the leadership of the proletariat."

    Do you have that method all worked out for us Joseph? If so, please share with the rest of us...

    Something to consider...

    The CPN(M) in the July 2007 edition of the <i>The Worker</i>:

    "What kind of formalized or institutionalised mechanism could ever actually guarantee in practice that the masses have the right to replace the party should it go revisionist? This question itself actually begs the bigger question: how will the masses even know if the party has gone revisionist — how will they be able to correctly distinguish between Marxism and Revisionism? If there are different parties in society that are in competition, they will all claim to be acting in the interests of the masses. How could any institutionalised mechanism insure that the masses will be able to tell them apart? What should the genuine communists do if the masses decided to vote in the revisionists — to go along with counter-revolution? Leaving aside those who would openly promote counter-revolution, the revisionists always claim to be genuine communists acting in the interests of the masses. The right to vote them out of office will not mean that people will understand they are revisionists in the first place."

  • Guest - TOR

    The main benefit in having different parties under socialism would be that it would allow for people from different ethnicities/regions and from different oppressed classes (workers, peasants, independent producers) to have their specific class and regional/ethnic interests represented in the socialist state. The way to make revisionist policies impossible would be to write a new constitution that ensures a socialist economic structure that can only be altered in very limited ways that are very clearly defined. This would effectively make it impossible to go back to capitalism without an actual counter-revolution.

    The only catch to having a multi-party socialist state is that all parties would have to recognize the hegemony of the proletariat in the new state to be allowed to operate in it. For instance, any party that disagreed with the provision in the new constitution mentioned earlier regarding the maintenance of a certain economic structure from the right would be made illegal.

  • Guest - Bob H

    A few points. I know the discussion is about multiple parties under socialism, but shouldn't we factor in the history of the New Left and New Communist movement, where there were in fact many competing parties around the same broad set of goals. What could be more democratic than that? Yet they all seemed to have the same problems of dogmatism and internal rigidity, and all ultimately withered. So I don't see how fragmenting a movement is some kind of panacea. It might seem like a bold new idea, but seems far more likely to lead to mere fragmentation. A bolder idea might be to develop ways of institutionalizing dissent, applying what's known about group dynamics and individual psychology to create flexible but cohesive organizations.

    I think on the question of revisionism/capitalist restoration the role of one or many parties is probably irrelevant. Socialist revolutions have all happened in countries where capitalism and industry were underdeveloped, with a need to produce surplus value through a division of labor, consequently the material foundation for capitalist restoration were very much there no matter what the laws said or the structure of the state. How this will play out in highly developed countries where new means of production are already fettered by the capitalist relations of production is really new territory.

  • Guest - Joseph Ball

    Democracy in the sense of a free for all exists nowhere in the world. It almost certainly can never exist, in this sense, under socialism either. There are important material reasons why people can't have a simple electoral choice between socialism and capitalism every 5 years. To go to a system of socialism means a major traumatic change in society. Property owners must be expropriated, the economy is turned upside down etc. How could there be an electoral system where the people can change from socialism to capitalism and back again every 5 years? Any country that implemented such a system would face economic ruin and social collapse.

    Therefore, the idea of full and complete democracy where bourgeoisie and proletariat fight only by electoral means is almost certainly impossible over any sustained period, at least.

    As for the proletariat having multiple parties, I think we need to apply Marxism here rather than bourgeois pluralist theories. Every party represents a class or a faction of a class. The bourgeoisie has competing interests. Therefore they have competing parties to represent different factions. The proletariat has one common interest so what would be the class character of all these different proletarian parties?

    These parties would just weaken the proletariat and make it easier for imperialism to infiltrate. As the example of Nepal shows the imperialists and their local allies can build any number of 'communist parties' to suit their interests and weaken the proletariat.

    I'm not necessarily in favour of banning all 'alternative' socialist parties, unless they are clearly just fronts for imperialism, as opposed to people who are confused or who cannot conform to party discipline in the main party. Actually, I always thought the way Makhno's movement was suppressed was one of Lenin's biggest mistakes, although it was clearly a threat to the stability of the USSR. Better to have involved them in a 'peace process' and allow them a limited territory to run their anarcho-utopian communes.

    However, all attempts to set up alternative parties should be officially discouraged and it should be explained to people why they need to be discouraged. I think the UCPN(M)'s line of advocating the splintering of the proletarian movement is a very bad idea.

    Some have posited the idea of allowing 'civil society' groups in a socialist society. I am OK with that as long as they are proletarian, though I don't like the phrase 'civil society'. Some argue that if we are going to allow civil society groups, why not parties. This line is rather confused, I am afraid. A party is group set up to take political power. If a party is set up to oppose the party that is the vanguard of the working class, then objectively it is there to overthrow the working class. This doesn't mean everyone trying to do this is a 'counter-revolutionary', subjectively speaking. Some of them might just be confused or they may be latter day Makhno's, which is why I don't advocate suppression, just resolute struggle against such tendencies.

  • Guest - Vivid Visionary

    I think that, as an old Black Panther explained to me, revolutions will always require risks. It is unavoidable in building socialism, and much less so when it comes to the Nepali Maoists, comrades attempting to build socialism and overcome the problems of the past.

    The fear of capitalist restoration is our main concern, as it should be, but I don't think this fear should overshadow our need and desire to experiment and analyze what forms socialism can take in particular conditions. Any positive breakthrough in socialism, as Lenin did in Russia and Mao in China, will require a break with previously held verdicts and will experiment with forms which speak to the particular needs at the time, but which of course always involve the risks of failure and/or counter-revolution.

    Let's take a look at the US, a country much different than the Soviet Union, China, Cuba, etc., nations which produced "one-party states." Would people here accept that form of political rule, given the history? I doubt it. Americans have a history of bourgeois democracy that will undoubtedly shape a post-revolutionary society, in particular its political forms. Because regardless of the nature of this democracy, the history and idea of it will (imo) produce a socialism which repudiates this democracy and seeks to replace it with something more democratic, grassroots, and where people take an active, progressive role in transformation.

  • Guest - Selucha

    "As for the proletariat having multiple parties, I think we need to apply Marxism here rather than bourgeois pluralist theories. Every party represents a class or a faction of a class. The bourgeoisie has competing interests. Therefore they have competing parties to represent different factions. The proletariat has one common interest so what would be the class character of all these different proletarian parties?"

    The obvious logical fallacy in Joseph's argument, for anybody paying attention, is that he makes the massive leap of faith that the proletarian party, at all times and places, knows the best way to represent the interests of the proletariat. The second we show that the ruling party in soialism is capable of making a decision that is ultimately not in the interest of the people, the entire argument collapses.

    Not to mention that there are and will be differences of interest and opinion within the proletariat that cannot be reduced to revolution vs counterrevolution. If I think it's best that the socialist state invest more in arts and culture, whereas you feel that more attention should be paid toward developing new energy sources, is one of us necessarily working against the interests of the proletariat? Shouldn't the people as a whole be the ones ultimately in control of these decisions?

    Your views here are eerily Stalinist and seem to neglect the role of any popular agency in the socialist state. The proletariat is not some singular "Other" with only one voice and only one interest, and until it has the ability to develop it's own socialist institutions and parties within the framework of the revolutionary state, the masses are not becoming fit to rule.

  • Guest - Arthur

    In #14 <blockquote>I think the UCPN(M)’s line of advocating the splintering of the proletarian movement is a very bad idea.</blockquote>

    Actually they oppose the previous splintering of the movement in Nepal and have been systematically including other revolutionary communist tendencies into a single "Unified" party.

    I broadly agree with #3, but it seems rather weakly stated for a revolutionary democrat, let alone a revolutionary communist. Surely any Maoist has to be committed to uniting with others in violent overthrow and suppression of social fascists, not just polite disagreement.

  • Guest - zerohour

    "The obvious logical fallacy in Joseph’s argument, for anybody paying attention, is that he makes the massive leap of faith that the proletarian party, at all times and places, knows the best way to represent the interests of the proletariat. "

    One more assumption is that the party that prevails does actually represent the interests of the proletariat by default, but as we have seen with the tragic example of the Spartacus League [Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknicht], that's not necessarily the case.

  • Guest - Li Kui

    A quick point. What seems to be being overlooked is the fact that the UCPN(M) is calling for a multiparty system not yet during the stage of socialism, but in the stage of New Democracy, which, albeit led by the proletariat class, is an alliance of various classes. In Nepal this especially refers to the peasantry, but also the national and petty bourgeoisie, as it did in China, where multiple parties also existed.

    As an alliance against feudalism and imperialism, this system combines many short-term interests which will be struggling against each other. In this situation, why should the revolutionaries not allow different parties to contend? Explicit in the WPRM interview with Gaurav (www.wprmbritain.org/?p=878#more-878) is that in the Nepali context, pro-imperialist or pro-feudal parties would not be allowed to take part, and therefore both Congress and UML would be banned.

    One more thing which we might want to consider. Isn't there a dialectical relationship between the creation of new forms under NDR or the D of the P and the likelihood of counter-revolution? If we fail to come up with new ideas, won't the possibility of reversal be enhanced?

  • Guest - wayne

    one thing that this conversation got me thinking about was the nature of contradictions during revolution and after revolution; i.e., are they antagonistic or non-antagonistic contradictions?

    are two socialist parties with a mass base in the multinational working class antagonistic toward one another, or are they in non-antagonistic contradiction toward the production of new syntheses of socialism?

    i also think we need to separate out the nature of multiparty strategies during the revolutionary process and transformation, and multiparty arrangements "after" revolution, i.e., the transition from socialism to communism (which of course raises a point of debate around whether or not there is a terminal point of any revolution).

    those who have raised the issue of national oppression and liberation in the context of conceiving of the form(s) of party(ies) for socialism i think have pointed to a very serious question: have preexisting single party formations allowed for real self determination of oppressed nationalities? would a single party that we could build do that?

    is it possible to have a communist party, and then a black nation communist party, and have black people in the south be members of both?

    thanks for this discussion.

  • Guest - Joseph Ball

    In response to Li Kui's point about the UCPN(M) only wanting competition in New Democracy, please see my article about the UCPN(M) at www.maoists.org which demonstrates that they do indeed envisage multi-party competition under socialism. Gaurav's opinion is somewhat different in the interview I agree. But he seems a bit confused here, arguing there are no classes under socialism which is why there is no need for different parties. Maoists don't believe the class struggle ends under socialism. Was he intending to talk about communism here I wonder.

    I think Selucha's arguments have been dealt with reasonably clearly already. Selucha argues the working class have different opinions about everything. Quite true, that's why so-called 'civil society' groups or campaign groups should be allowed-for the proletariat only.

    Selucha claims my argument rests on the belief that the Party is right at all times. No, it isn't always right which is why we need Cultural Revolution to fight the right-wing line. So why not have 2 parties if there are two lines, it's asked. Because the capitalist line can only be fought by class struggle. Trying to settle this question by bourgeois means is irrelevant or dangerous, for reasons I discussed in my article.

    As far as the 'differences among the people' Selucha alludes to-I have already gone into this. The fact that there are a hundred different opinions doesn't mean there have to be a hundred different parties. A party is intended as a vehicle for taking and exercising state power. Selucha is confusing campaign groups with parties.

    Selucha seems to think only the party can make decisions, in my conception. This is not the case. Proletarians, non-party members and party members can exercise power through the organs of revolutionary political power. These organs can reject the line of the party and come up with a new line. However, if some of these organs are taken over by the bourgeoisie and seek to overthrow socialism then the party will engage in class struggle and not simply accept this state of affairs as a 'democratic choice'. Such a system is a thousand times more empowering than the UCPN(M)'s idea of multi-party competition.

  • Guest - Pro-Latarian Milton

    It is certainly legitimate to criticize the pluralism of political parties--even "socialist" political parties <i> for its own sake </i>. However, the idea that a single party can effectively and without contradiction exclude any type of discourse, even bourgeois discourse raises problems of its own at the opposite pole. Now and for the forseeable future, we all live in class societies, and like it or not, the baggage of those societies is stamped upon us. Who among us can be 100% trusted to correctly, consistently, and honestly distinguish proper socialist discourse from other kinds of discourse? More serious thought really does need to be given to the dangers of bureaucratic ossification within any self-styled vanguard party. Moreover, should a truly revolutionary situation present itself in any country, any organs of mass democracy which spring up in such a circumstance will do so according to its own logic, which will be contradictory and will unfold in a non-linear fashion. Until any of us are faced with that immediate reality, it is an empty and pointless exercise in abstract speculation to argue over whether one socialist party is preferable to many. Would anybody her who supports a one-party state in principle do so if such a single, centralized party in fact existed and that party excluded him or her from membership over issues of discourse?

  • Guest - David_D

    I don't think this is a matter of principle. This is a tactical question as far as I'm concerned. In the Soviet Union, there was no need to have a "Workers Opposition" party, a "Right Opposition" party, a "Democratic Centralist Opposition" party, etc., let alone an SR or Menshevik party. What would have allowing this led to? Could the Soviet Union have weathered the storm for as long as it did under those conditions? I don't think so.

    China had multiple parties, and until 1957, they non-Communist parties were pretty assertive. But, what happened? They struck out for a Hungarian-style counterrevolutionary incident in China. And so Mao launched the anti-Rightist movement, and locked up the main propagandists of these other parties. If he had not done so, and if the CPC had taken another course of multi-party competition, would it have weathered the storm? Maybe, and maybe not. International conditions were not conducive certainly, to the advance of socialism anywhere, let alone China. The pull of bourgeois right would be very strong in such conditions, and the bourgeois democrats would have the backing of imperialism.

    All this multi-party stuff strikes me as utopian at this point. There are very, very compelling reasons why Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Hoxha, Kim, etc., did not take this path.