By The Collective
This essay is an argument for moving towards national organization in the United States and was published in April 2013 during the opening of the process that led to the founding of what became Black Rose/Rosa Negra. It aims to explore the limitations of political organization today, recent positive experiences, and possible ways to build in the present moment.
By Adam Weaver and SN Nappalos
In the midst of the worst economic crisis in decades, the left stands at a crossroads. Despite widespread anxiety, restructuring, stirrings, and disruptions, the left has been unable to respond or develop bases for movements and revolutionary organization in any meaningful sense. In many ways the eruption of the Occupy movement onto the center stage with all of its weaknesses in politics, structure, and dynamics, was a reflection of this. The events of Wisconsin, Occupy, the Oakland General Strike, and the May 1st mobilizations have brought to the fore the nature and potential of combative movements from below as well as the limits of present politics. At the very least since the financial crisis of 2008, social activists are looking for clearer paths towards anti-capitalist alternatives. Many are realizing that something more is needed beyond endless activism, protest politics, and vertical-style union and NGO mobilization. The base level of political education on the left, provided largely by non-profits and liberal university campuses, suddenly seem to have even fewer answers than before. This has left many turning towards political study to deepen their analysis as well as taking up questions around the need for political organization.
We need to ask ourselves, in this time of crisis how can movements be built in an atmosphere of ruling class assaults, disorganization of the popular classes, and sporadic resistance efforts? What are the roles of revolutionaries within movements? What are the strategies to keep ourselves going for the long haul work that radical social change requires? What are the lessons of the past decades in social movements and revolutionary organizations? How do we politically develop the existing revolutionaries and help shape new ones to build a larger milieu of revolutionary organizers, thinkers, and supporters based in popular struggle? How would this milieu and potential political organization relate to broader social movements, other forces on the left, those we share perspectives with, and with those we do not?
The necessity of political organization
Our starting point for this is recognizing, as others have pointed out, that many, if not most, of those active on the left do not believe in political organization. There are many reasons for this, but the reason voiced most frequently is that they do not see a need for organization. Beyond broad social movements, they view many of today’s groups as being disorganized and irrelevant. Others are put off by the poor internal culture of today’s organizations with their tendencies for personalizing conflicts, being unable to have constructive debates, and the culture of battles in meetings that seems to isolate rather than integrate members into broader society. The closest experience with left political organization is commonly that of the lone leftist selling strange newspapers at rallies. Frequently political organization as a whole is solely viewed through the prism of negative experiences with members of the worst of Leninist organizations with sectarian approaches to debate and relating to other political forces within organizing spaces, attempts to dominate and control leadership of struggles, and a ‘newspaper as transmission belt of political line’ approach to politics. Those on the left broadly adhering to anarchism fare only somewhat better, in our experience mostly falling into the previous three objections or alternatively the turn away from political organization is based on a reaction to the weakness, political immaturity, and lack of experience observed in existing political organization efforts. These experiences though valid, involve a failure to think beyond the present; a failure to consider the possibilities of the future.