- Category: Theory
- Created on Sunday, 21 February 2010 22:16
- Written by John Carter
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."
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By John Carter
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.
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.