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Revolutionary Class, Political Organization, and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat (Part 2)

May 12, 2019

 

 

 

We are publishing an English translation of the second part of "Clase revolucionaria, organización política, y dictadura del proletariado," published in "Alarma." Both parts of the article deal with the question of class consciousness and political organization. Munis' understanding of the relation of the class to revolutionary theory is laid out in both parts of the article and it informed his critiques of Bordigism, Lenin, and council communism. 

 

We present the second part of what we understand to be an important text of the Spanish Communist Left written by G. Munis.

During his time with the German Left, Otto Rhule postulated that: “the revolution is not a party affair” (Der Revolution ist keine Partei Sache), and years later this idea was elaborated on by Pannekoek is his pamphlet “Council Communism.” In their work, Rhule and Pannekoek had inverted the Bordigist conception of the party into a councilist conception of no-party, a conception that still reverberates today among groups of militants afflicted by the Russian experience, although in general they are not informed by the revolutionary foundation of the original councilists.

 

Looked at closely, we can see that we are not dealing with two diametrically opposed conceptions, but instead, of the same naturalistic approach where in one instance, the Party arises as the absolute embodiment of revolutionary theory, and in the other the empirical potentiality of the proletariat is elevated as a historical absolute through the councils. The guarantee of the communist revolution is either in the Party or the Councils, depending on which of the two are chosen. In the same vain as the naturalism of the Bordigist conception is based on the assimilation of proletarians and the party into a physiological complex, the councilist conception defends that same structure within the boundaries of the proletariat, totally excluding the party. In the eyes of the former, democracy is made a mockery of, while, in the eyes of the latter, soviet or working class democracy is the supreme and exclusive agent of the revolution and of communism itself.

 

 

An insurmountable difficulty of the councilist conception lies in that as its first measure it would rely on the prohibition of any type of party, effectively destroying its famous revolutionary agent: working class democracy. The Party can be defined as any grouping of persons with affinity to the same ideas or theoretical conceptions. Anarchists have always embodied political parties despite their claims to the contrary. Neither councilists nor any imaginable group,  of one theory or another, will represent a different case. In the same way that the anti-party conception would lead the councilists to employ a dictatorship themselves – and not the proletariat, Bordigism claims the dictatorship for itself.

 

Before one can speak of the councilist plan in the post-revolutionary period, we must speak of how this plan has a serious flaw that makes it inoperable. The appearance of workers’ organs or councils have to, in their vision, precede the moment in which political power is taken, and they must enjoy while still in capitalist society, optimal conditions of freedom for an indefinite period of time. Without those conditions, it would be impossible, in effect, for the councils to, through its own experience and deliberation, alien to the theories of past experiences and the revolutionary parties, arrive at the moment in which they make the decision to take power, not to mention decisions of greater significance. If we imagine such a case to be possible, the revolution itself becomes superfluous. The transformation of capitalism to communism would become a reformist process, evolutionary rather than revolutionary. All the more so when the "trial and error" empiricism of the councils would have to continue until the disappearance of the class and its innumerable vestiges. In the name of an experience which to a large extent was limited to, for better or for worse, that of the Russian revolution and counterrevolution, councilism discards all of the revolutionary theory and experience acquired in the course of the last century and a half, the same theory and experiences that revolutionary tendencies ended up taking from, even if in a fragmented and erroneous way. 

 

On the other hand, it is far from being unquestionable, and even further so from being obligatory, that the organs of workers’ power or councils would be organized before the annihilation of capitalist power, no matter how much the current revolutionary tendencies, far too attached to the Russian model despite it all, wait for their appearance. A revolution is far too profound and protean of a process to be subjected to rules of development. That is how spontaneity appears; so-called "spontanenism" and what it tries to accomplish has no bearing on this. During the German revolution of 1918-1919, where the councils surged as a consequence of the Russian soviets, they were immediately mediated through the diverse pseudo or semi-revolutionary currents. Instead of progressing experientially, they receded until their revolutionary potential was annulled. In China, they did not overcome the order of dissolution directed by Stalin via Mao Tse-tung and company. In contrast, there did not exist a single council in Spain during 1936, before the proletariat destroyed the national army and all the capitalist structures along with it.

 

Calling themselves committees, they appeared, not as a precondition for insurrectionary action but rather as its instantaneous consequence. During the course of several months they won local political and economic rights, declining until their extinction, due to the same revolutionary insufficiency as the previously cited cases. The example in Spain informs us even more clearly than the others of the limitations of the councilist conception, but, in so far as the appearance of organs of power is concerned, it will likely tend to repeat itself in different variations, such as the one that sparked in France during May of 1968.

 

To summarize, lacking the most lucid revolutionary inspiration, and despite how far they may go, the councils or workers’ organs of power, while an important period in the class struggle, are circumscribed in capitalism or subsumed to it, as demonstrated in the cases of Spain and Russia. In Russia, however, it is demonstrated in a different way. Because of its own nature, the existence of the councils, and therefore their experience, cannot last long unless they reach the first revolutionary objective: to pull capitalism from its roots. The relationship between class and revolutionary theory (in its practical expression: council and party) is not an artificial graft of two factors of different origins, but rather their dialectical manifestation; their duality form a single historical evolution. Only this will open the opportunity, through revolution and communism, to a superior dialectical unity, between nature and the human species.

 

It can be rightly argued that the parties are to blame for the failure of the councils, which the councilists would illustrate with examples from the Russian Revolution. Some of these examples have been distorted, but this does not detract from the fact that the Bolsheviks, by subsuming the soviets, substituted themselves as a party for the proletariat and facilitated the counterrevolution, the very thing they tried to avoid. Without considering the peculiarity of the Russian revolution, the flaw can be found in the conception that the Bolsheviks had of the party and the organs of power. To correct this defect, another kind of conception is necessary - one that reaffirms instead of annuls the fundamental unity between organs of power and party. Without the Bolsheviks’ ideas of international revolution, the soviets would not have exercised power for even a moment. For better or worse, that relationship will always play out, because there will never be lasting revolutionary practice without ideas, nor valid revolutionary ideas without practice.

 

Those whom are partial to councilism believe to have discovered the infallible remedy against bureaucratization, as if the virus of bureaucratization were unable to infect the councils the same way as it can a party, or a worker no less than an intellectual. The class as such is safe from bureaucratization, but the same cannot be said for any random fragment of its components. The examples are abundant. The remedy must attack the cause, not the symptoms. Wherever there are special functions to be performed, other than those of the everyday life of the majority, there the bureaucratic virus will germinate all the more easily the lower the revolutionary consciousness of those who perform them. The ultimate cause of bureaucratization, understood mental dispositions, lies in the artificial and purely vain satisfaction which men use to conceal the absence of true individual satisfaction, the lack of personality which, in general, they cannot escape from in the society of exploitation. What is of importance is that a revolution restructures society in a way in which the law of value and the State disappear. Along with the nullification of alienation, what will result will be the disappearance of the stupid bureaucratic satisfactions and the grave dangers that they entail. 

 

No councilist tendency new or bygone, seems to have realized that the workers’ councils are a transitory form of organization, interim, like the social domination of the working class itself. If the working class must disappear, the only sign of the accomplishment of communism, the councils and organs of power would have to as well. These will only last as long as does the shameful trace of class. On the other hand, the grouping of people by tendencies, that is to say, by parties, will acquire greater importance and fecundity as a generalized culture would destroy the ancient division of labor between the intellectual and the manual. It will not be a question of parties as they are currently defined, as having opposing material interests, neither would have anything to do with prestige. Instead it will be about large groups of thought, faithfully struggling for this or that solution to this or that problem. Today’s society stereotypes people by categories, diminishes, suppresses, or perverts the personality of almost everyone. On the other hand, the maximum individuation of each one, which will extend and affirm itself as communism is organized, will bring into play capacities of choice and creation in all domains of life, which no one has today. The division and the conflict between parties will take place without the material or moral detriment of any and will benefit collective development. Much earlier on, the councils would have been dissolved, along with classes, in the human conglomeration.

 

Of the two terms of dialectical unity: council - party (proletariat - revolutionary theory in its most general form) the former is perishable, while the latter will be revived and diversified in content and number, as the knowledge of humanity deepens and broadens, as an antithetical term that is complementary to the outside world. It is therefore extremely important for us to reaffirm that no party will be able to supplant the councils or manage them without destroying them and without destroying itself as a revolutionary factor. Only for ease of expression, and incorporating diverse nuances in a single color, is it possible to speak of "party" in the singular, similarly to the Third State acting as party before the French revolution. Although in some cases the revolution is inspired mainly by a single party or identifies itself with it, it carries within it the germ of several others, whose outlines will be drawn in the post-revolutionary period. They can also emerge on the margins. Whatever may be the case, the struggle of tendencies within the workers' organs of power must be free and subject to the majority rule. The dictatorship of the bourgeoisie over society had its highest expression in the simultaneous or successive exercise of power by several of its parties. The proletariat on the other hand is much more homogeneous than the bourgeoisie. Its material cohesion will increase after the seizure of power, at the same juncture in which it will cease to be a class. At the same time, the possibilities of taking initiatives in the social domain and in any other will multiply. The plurality of parties will be all the more favorable because it prefigures the infinite range of unalienated knowledge, and also prefigures the conquest of freedom in the face of necessity, without apologizing to the opponents of freedom in the name of party dictatorship. The dictatorship of the proletariat has nothing in common, in fact, with an individual or collegial tyranny. It is a social situation induced, like the current from one electrical circuit to another, by previous class relations, and is provisional as a consequence. Instead of excluding democracy, it has to give it a veracity and amplitude unknown before.

 

The possibility of counterrevolution will not be destroyed by an organic or moral solution. The forms of organization, the honesty and the aptitude of those who carry out leading functions will always have a great importance, but it is necessary to go further, up to a point in which the organizational and bureaucratic defects, the ineptitude and even the deceit of certain individuals cannot result in material damage for some, advantage for third parties, and much less in the social dominion of some by others. The present mercantile system always presupposes dishonesty and individual defects in different proportions. Along the course of its survival, it converts these defects into a condition of power and wealth. Thus, its institutions and representatives act legally or illegally as exalted thugs. This is becoming more evident every day and it is inseparable from capitalism. It must be said, however, that the revolution will not knock out in one blow the defects inculcated in men and it is also true that, from the eve of the victory of revolution, calculating individuals will infiltrate. To expect anything else would be dim-witted idealism. It does not matter. As the inverse of the capitalist system, revolution and communism imperatively demands, sine qua non [as an essential condition] of their existence, to eliminate the residue of the previous economic-political stratification from people’s minds, it is therefore indispensable for the revolution to equip itself with social relations that by their own function make it impossible for ancient flaws and bureaucratism in general to take form concretely in material advantages or privileges of any kind, which is conducive to the threat of counterrevolution. Seeing that the totality of social relations, including scientific and artistic ones, is based on the originator of them all and from there branch out and spread to the rest, radically modifying them is the only prevention against any counterrevolutionary threat. Universal commercialism and the corruption of the current system, even more than that of the people, sprout from the initial transaction of purchasing labor power in exchange for a wage; this is its basic social relation. Without suppressing that relation, no revolution will succeed in developing into communism. On the other hand, neither bureaucratism nor the defects of individuals will succeed in diverting the revolution, giving as a functional basis productive labor guided by the material, intellectual and mental satisfaction of each person. As long as the law of value is not eliminated, no organic combination (centralism, federalism, verticalism, horizontalism, councilism, autonomism, partisanship) nor the most pristine honesty of the most capable men will succeed in averting the danger of retreat.

 

 

 

 

In this respect, it is of great importance but not decisive, to define what is to be understood by revolutionary party. To speak of revolution and communism in the more or less remote future, is perverse charlatanism in some cases (self-confessed or bashful Stalinism) and in others regressive economist conservatism. The former intentionally strive for state capitalism; the latter do not, but they would fall into it due to conceptual failures and atavism.

Nor is it enough to accept and advocate the political power and arming of the workers councils and the nationalization of the economy. It is necessary to refine while still demanding:

 

a) that the power of the councils should not be assimilated to that of one party or to that of several affiliated parties;

 

b) that the arming of the class exclude the formation of professional army or police;

 

c) that socialization means handing over to society the instruments of production, the indirect and auxiliary ones included (educational institutions, information centers, etc.), through the working class as a whole, and the immediate breaking up of the law of value (exchange of equivalents) until its disappearance, all in opposition to State property and to any workers' control or self-management in it. In short, a revolutionary party that falls within the framework described, must lean forward. It must call for arms against those who violate those guidelines, even if those violators have a majority, and against those who intend to assume the communist mission of the proletariat on their own account.

 

However, neither this nor any other precaution will constitute a certain guarantee against counter-revolutionary danger, not even the right to a well-organized insurrection. Until the capitalist relations of distribution, which presuppose those of production, disappear, the danger will remain. That is why every coming revolution must, first and foremost, be concerned with putting an end to wage labor, where the devastating economic law of value is based, and all the moral values of capitalism, as well as its decadent corruption, often stupidly presented as revolutionary.

 

In short, the distinction between revolutionary class and revolutionaries, so visible in times of political lethargy, will begin to reabsorb itself with the revolution and will dissipate along with the current economic-cultural climate, which is, in the last analysis, where the distinction comes from. But it will not be the revolutionaries, and therefore their parties, who will extinguish capitalism, but it will be the whole of society, in possession of itself and by its own functioning, that will be revolutionary.

 

As for the particular organizational structure of a revolutionary party, I cannot but represent it as inspired by the post-revolutionary tasks, as they are presented, and from which the pre-revolutionary tasks are based. Strategy generates tactics; finality prepares its own means. It is not necessary, nor does it fit into this work to formulate the statutes of a party. But it is opportune to establish some important points, experience by advice.

 

1.With the exception of what could serve police repression, the political or theoretical polemic must be public, not internal and reserved for members. Even if it takes place in special bulletins, these should be made available to any worker, with or without a tendency. Revolutionary thinking cannot be reconciled with any kind of esotericism, not even the formal esotericism of "for our militants only."

 

2. The right of fraction must be guaranteed by the rules of organization, up to the limit compatible with the principles of the organization. 

 

3. In all elected bodies, minorities should be proportionally represented, from the local level to the global level where it exists.

 

4. The selection of committees should be made by direct vote to the maximum extent permitted by the possibilities of the relationship between appointers and potential appointees, preventing the appointment of a select committee controlled by one or more committees elected by direct or second-degree vote.

 

5. The Congress elects the party's leadership, and it, if appropriate, would elect a restricted committee to deal with current business, but without the power to make decisions.

 

6. No committee shall have the power to incorporate by its own volition new members, even provisionally, until ratification by the members of or their delegates. Such a right, like the right of dismissal, belongs constantly and exclusively to the members.

 

7. The expulsion of a section or fraction shall be subject to a two-thirds majority. The leadership shall only have the power to make a request for expulsion. In the case of individuals, the leadership shall have the power to suspend their outside activities as a member of the party, until a final decision is taken by the assemblies, but without depriving them of their right to speak and vote in the meantime.

 

8. As a general rule, which should inform other more concrete rules, it is necessary to avoid a situation where the leadership is in conditions to take measures of organization and political attitudes that once decided are difficult to rectify; it is necessary to prevent the fait accompli. It is not the mark left by all the militants that forms the strength of a revolutionary party, but the common combative, political, theoretical, philosophical and moral inspiration. That inspiration will give it a cohesion and an expansive power unattainable by any disciplinary regulation.

 

9. It must be written that the party is an instrument and part of the revolutionary class, but it cannot, under any circumstances, take its place or carry out its task. The confidence of the class must be won; ruling it will destroy it. Therefore, the right of the class to go against the party or parties, including the party they belong to, must be guaranteed.

 

 

 

 

 

What drives the working class to revolution and communism is not its theoretical knowledge, nor an ideal aspiration, but the need to stop being a salaried class, a class, without further ado. Such a need is more pressing and palpable every day, and coincides with a higher future for humanity. Whatever blocks it is erroneous, apocryphal, or much worse, the wretched duplicity of social climbers... or of those already "plugged in". 

If the revolutionary necessity of the class, its historical task, and those revolutionaries from wherever interpose whatever ideas, tactics, and learned strategies, they must throw them overboard in order to deserve the name of revolutionaries.

 

In the Spain of 1936, a phrase uttered by Durruti became famous: "We renounce everything but victory". From there began the slippery slope from anarchism to Stalinism and its allies, who claimed: "First war, then revolution." The result of that situation would have been quite different, if the anarchists had rectified their attitude by saying:

 

"WE RENOUNCE ANYTHING BUT REVOLUTION AND COMMUNISM."

 

The capitalist state would have been formally abolished, and power would have remained, in its entirety, in the committees-government of the working class. So today, the motto of all those who can be considered revolutionaries, despite their school-like conservatism, must be:

 

"WE RENOUNCE ANYTHING BUT REVOLUTION AND THE SUPPRESSION OF WAGE LABOR, THE LINTEL OF COMMUNISM.”

 

Part of that task is the final fusion of the class and the revolutionaries. To overcome the distinction is to surpass the theory, which can only be done by transposing it into social reality.

 

 

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