File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/97-04-21.135, message 53

Date: Sun, 20 Apr 1997 20:25:04 +0100
Subject: Re: M-I: "democracy"

In article <970420052618_74742.1651_EHL50-1-AT-CompuServe.COM>, neil
<74742.1651-AT-CompuServe.COM> writes

>Some parliamentarians (a la Lew of the SPGB 
>and a couple others) have been misquoting 
>Engels and using Marx  quotes to "back up"
>parliamenary cretinism  in a most vulgar and
>a-historical manner .

Marx and Engels' criticism of "parliamentary cretinism" was directed at
those who saw parliament as some kind of end in itself, or substitute
for class consciousness. But I have not argued for that position, and I
still think you do not understand my position.

>Again not to be talmudic, but considering all the (mainly) workers
>blood that has flowed from overestimation and illusions sowed by 
>fake marxist trends  in  the democracy of the ruling class in the 20th
>cent.  and the promotionof all sorts of wonders and 'miracles' if  only the
> workers  just learn to stick to (bourgeois controlled) "civilized" methods
>of struggle in elections  , lawyers, etc. is horrifying.

There is a false dichotomy at work here. Many opponents of reformism
argue that parliamentary politics has led workers parties astray and
that political power for socialism can only be won through an armed
uprising. So the reform or revolution controversy resolves itself into
parliament versus insurrection, in which both sides assume that
parliamentary action *must* be reformist. But this is a false
conclusion. There is no reason why parliament cannot be used by a class
conscious socialist majority, to (as Marx and Engels put it in the
Communist Manifesto) "win the battle of democracy." This has never been

>Socialists and militants want to see the  class consciuness and
>struggles rebound and grow,  But elections today  actually  retard '
>any real militant anti-capitalist  politics and action. Theyare also elitist 
>and condescending , dropping little ballot papers in a box,
>almost like religlious people receive the sacraments.  The 
>message is passive from the ballot - "dont organize yourselves, let
>us politicians and other know it all do-gooders get into high
>office and we will set things right." THE BIG LIE!

Of course, if you trust in politicians you will be let down, and
elections can be passive, just like anything else. Workers do need to
organise for change, and a good indicator of that desire for change is
via elections. 

>The main thing for Marxists/socialists is to go to the ordinary 
>and decent majority of the workers and get involved
>with our compatriots  at the point of production and
>at the community level and help the fight backs that pop up 
>to strenghten & grow, become more militant , well 
>organized and politically /ideologically anti-capitalist.
>As workers get more  experience and  hence become
>more politicized big openings will favor those who 
>fight with the class and are open and honest with 
>the workers.

Agreed, but...

>A Revolutionary world  party  for workers socialism 
>can then be set afoot from the class struggles and agitational
>groups inside the class.

Historically, workers councils have been favoured by those parties who
see them as a way of being able to influence the course of workers
struggles. In other words, they are capable of being manipulated. This
was true of the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917 and elsewhere. It reveals
the very real problem of this approach to politics. All the problems
laid at the door of the parliamenary approach are applicable in the
smaller-scale councillist approach. Experience confirms this. Because of
the vanguardist contempt for "democracy" (note it is always in inverted
commas) councils end up fatally compromised. Many of the criticisms made
against syndicalism - that it is sectional and potentially divisive -
are also applicable here.

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