In July 16, 1984, Comrade Nahuel Moreno invited by the Socialist Youth to talk about the organization of the revolutionary party. This article is the written version of his lecture corrected by the author himself. It was originally published in Buenos Aires in Solidarity Notebooks, Political Education Reader No. 1, 1984.
The New Revolutionary Situation and the Organization of the Party
In the last meeting of the National Committee (NC) we addressed the new revolutionary political situation that started in our country after the great wave of strikes held last June and we voted for a set of resolutions to match the activity and the organization of the party to this new stage of class struggle.
The danger rests on these resolutions adopted being taken as a formal change of the organizational structure of the party and not as what it truly is: setting the organizational structure of the party to this new stage: a revolutionary one requiring intense agitation on the labor movement and the masses in general that allow us to move qualitatively in our organic structuring into the workplaces, education centers and working class neighborhoods. Put in another way, a new stage whose goals are to take advantage of favorable objective conditions and the progresses we have achieved in recent times to build thousands of cells, circles or party groups inside workplaces, education centers and working class and poor neighborhoods.
In order to avoid as much as possible that this revolution of party activity might be taken as an administrative or bureaucratic “revolution” of our current organizational structure, we believe that it is necessary to place the resolutions of our last NC into a theoretical and political framework. Such is the purpose of this article.
I – Theory and History of Revolutionary Worker’s Organization
The Centrality of the Organization
In general the questions on organization seem not to be a priority, something we tend to overlook, which are minor in comparison to other issues, be them “philosophy” – the dialectics or the theory of alienation – or even the passionate discussions about the economic or political situation – how is the imperialist economy? Is there a revolutionary situation in Argentina or Brazil? Full-fledged antiburocratic slates or united front to defeat the union bureaucrats? etc. However, the organizational question is the core, to some extent, for Marxist revolutionary activity. The programme and the policies must answer the question: which are the tasks, goals or slogans that today mobilize the masses towards the socialist revolution? The organization must answer to the question: which organization is required for the mass movement to carry out their struggle now? How do we organize the party that intends to lead the struggles, the revolution and workers’ power in each stage of the class struggle?
The question on organization is so crucial that, contrary to the beliefs of many activists, there were not only two but three great leaders of the Russian Revolution and the Bolshevik Party. Besides Lenin and Trotsky there was Sverdlov, the general secretary, the organizer of the Bolshevik Party. Yakob Mikhailovitch Sverdlov is not remembered for any treatise on economics, philosophy or Marxist politics. Nobody cares for a collection of his complete works – if they even exist. However, he was the more respected and dearest man of the Bolshevik Party. He was so important that when he died, he was replaced by four of the top Bolshevik leaders and the four failed as they were not able to carry out Sverdlov’s tasks.
Lenin, who was neither a demagogue nor prone to cheap praise, described Sverdlov, in his eulogy at Sverdlov’s funeral as the “proletarian leader who did more than anybody to organize the working class and to ensure victory” (At The Funeral Of Yakov Sverdlov, March 18, 1919, V.I. Lenin Collected Works, Volume 29, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, pg. 95).
In his eulogy for Sverdlov, pronounced March 18, 1919, he clarified his understanding:
“People who judge by what they see on the surface, the numerous enemies of our revolution, and those who to this day vacillate between the revolution and its opponents, consider the most striking feature of our revolution to be the determined and relentlessly firm way it has dealt with the exploiters and the enemies of the working people. There is no doubt that without this, without revolutionary violence, the proletariat could not have triumphed. Nor can there be any doubt that revolutionary violence was a necessary and legitimate weapon of the revolution only at definite stages of its development, only under definite and special conditions, and that a far more profound and permanent feature of this revolution and condition of its victory was, and remains, the organization of the proletarian masses, the organization of the working people. And it is this organization of millions of working people that constitutes the best stimulant for the revolution, its deepest source of victory….” (Speech in Memory of Y. M. Sverdlov at A Special Session of the All-Russia Central Executive Committee, March 18, 1919, V.I. Lenin Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972 Volume 29, pages 89-94).
To Lenin, this organization is a “far more profound and permanent feature” of the revolution than revolutionary violence itself. I mean, on one pole there is the action, the movement, the struggle, the spontaneity of the masses. On the other pole there is the organization that provides structure, continuity and permanence to all those actions and mobilizations. Without huge struggles and mobilizations the revolution is not possible. Nevertheless without the organization, there is no revolution either. The struggles wither away, the heroic actions of the masses vanish…
That is why the party not only set slogans calling for action and demands but it also set slogans calling for the organization of the masses. For instance, we decide upon the struggle goals: pay rise. Then we call for a concrete way to develop the struggle: general strike. Nevertheless, we also agitate the means to organize this struggle: mass meetings in each plant, delegates election, picket-lines, etc.
The question on organization is very difficult, very complex, because it contains itself a contradiction that sometimes becomes acute. Every organization or structure is conservative, already because it is prone to prevent what exists from disappearance, from destruction. At the same time the working class build and need revolutionary organizations to fight back the bourgeoisie and defeat them, that is, to destroy the capitalist system.
The Argentine workers, for example, built big and powerful trade unions. For many years labor have achieved the goal of defending workers’ living standards until the economic crisis made it impossible during this last decade. However, these organizations played and still play a tremendous conservative role on the Argentinean proletariat, which enables right wingers – the Peronist bureaucracy – to lead them in such a way to prevent the emergence of neither a revolutionary leadership for labor nor room for a revolutionary workers party.
Precisely due to this contradiction the question of the organization is so difficult. If a revolutionary party is on the verge of becoming the leadership of the mass movement thus the key question is brought to the fore: Which is the organic relationship that will be established between the party and the masses?
The Soviets are the mass movement organization. They rule carrying out policies that might be good or bad. Policies are very important. Nevertheless without Soviets there would not have been possible to seize power, irrespective of how proper the policies of the Bolsheviks had been. The army mobilizes the masses to seize power and rule. On the other hand, there is the party which is the general staff of this army, which brings together the most militant and class-conscious vanguard. That poses a second question: on which organizational structure the party should work to be able to lead and to have an increasingly close relationship with the Soviets and the masses who take part in them?
The first issue, on the organization of the masses, is simpler than the second. The party cannot create or impose organizational frameworks to the masses. On the opposite, the masses themselves create them. The party must be ready to identify the emergence of the first symptoms and agitate about them in order to generalize them. Just in case they do not emerge, the party should, patiently, advise the masses on eventual organizational frameworks in accordance with the current situation and historical experience. Thus we launched slogans proposing workers’ coordination bodies in 1975 based on the historical experience of “interfábricas” (workers’ net) held 20 years before. Another example is our stand for the formation of workers’ militias led by the Bolivian Workers’ Center together with the Peasants’ Center in order to seize power basing ourselves on the lessons of the 1952 revolution.
The question of party organization, by contrast, rests on our hands. The masses can do wonders and show magnificent heroism and forge revolutionary organizations to seize power. If we do not set out our own organizational framework properly in such a way to allow us to build the general staff for these struggles and organizations, unless we can organize steadily and structure in ironclad the support for our policies and programme among the masses, the revolution and us will lose. Let’s see Bolivia’s example: revolutionary struggle abounds; mass organizations to seize power abounds, programme abounds… however there is no party as an organic structure firmly enrooted within the revolutionary masses. This is the critical question, a matter of life or death that must be addressed in Bolivia. The same happens in Argentina even starting from the premise that we have a party in better shape and a slower revolutionary pace.
Questions on Revolutionary Party Organization – Part 2: http://litci.org/en/questions-on-revolutionary-party-organization-part-2/