Sectarianism and Vanguardism: Debating a Problem on the Left

Anarchist Federation

Sectarianism is intolerance towards the positions, opinions, ideologies or practices that are different from one’s own or those of the movement, organization or group to which one belongs.

It is usually accompanied by arrogance, vanity and opportunism and ends up superimposing itself on the fight for social transformation. A sectarian practice will guide a politics of difference, which is established through denial and continuous denunciation of the other, in pursuit of conflict instead of collective consensus and fraternal debate.

When it manifests itself among sectors of the left, sectarianism is even more damaging, since many times the shared struggle against class enemies is undermined by an inflexible, fanatical and unattractive vision of the world, which ends up frightening more people than it attracts to the
revolutionary cause. The sectarian cares more about what other political groups are doing than about the class enemies of the workers.

Political, ideological and strategic differences exist on the left, but no social movement or ideology will advance alone in the process of social transformation. It is part of the struggle to know how to build alliances, formations and organizations, with ethics and without having to set aside principles and the strategic program, but seeking collective consensus through points and demands that are shared and help to strengthen the people and thereby achieve revolutionary objectives. An ethical political practice that respects political differences and always seeks the strengthening of the working class is what differentiates a liberating proposal from an authoritarian process, a democratic goal from a method of imposition. The practices of informal organization and poorly structured groups are also obstacles on the way to popular power, because they can reproduce vanguardism in other ways, creating a “hidden leadership” and discouraging spaces for collective construction.

It is necessary to pay attention, since relationships of oppression can also be embedded in our membership and must be combatted. All forms of indoctrination that impose established systems of ideas and actions on the people that are not in dialogue with their reality should be avoided. The process of building popular power cannot take place through indoctrination or authoritarian forms of politics that assumes an “enlightened vanguard” that knows, speaks and teaches while the other, the people, the ignorant, listens, learns and obeys.


Leave a Reply