Revolutionary Organization Study Group Reader

“The building of a fighting organization and the conduct of political agitation are essential under any “drab peaceful” circumstances, in any period, no matter how marked by a “declining revolutionary spirit”; moreover, it is precisely in such periods and under such circumsstances that work of this kind is precisely in such periods and under such circumstances that work of this kind is particularly necessary, since it is too late to form the organization in times of explosion and outbursts; the party must be in a state of readiness to launch activity in moment’s notice.”

-Lenin (Where to begin, 1901)

Lenin’s quote is particularly meaningful in this historic moment. In 2007, global capitalism entered a structural crisis, while in 2009, students developed insurgent movements within the US. In 2011, the Occupy movement formed in hundreds of cities across the US. In 2013, the political landscape is changing what resistance means and how it is done. The hyper-individualistic and social-democratic political positions that dominated the US left in the 1990-2006 era are gone. A new era of revolt, and radicalization is beginning. The historical experiences of 2007 to the present, coupled with the structural crisis of capital that formed in 2007, has established the most favorable conditions for the building of a new revolutionary organization within the US since the 1960s.

The revolutionary left of the US, is deeply divided, ideologically hyper, detached from both the American working class, and militants in other countries (especially non-European ones). This disallows a clear proposal to emerge of how to build a revolutionary project in the US. The generation of revolutionary cadre of the 1960s have devolved in isolation, and adapting to retirement. This older generation is far more detached to the new generation of militants, compared to the multi-generational lineage of militants in other countries that are politically and organizationally linked.

At the same time, in the US, every city is developing small, loose, informal radical circles. Many are composed of politicized working class youth, alienated from American capitalism, and cynical about a prosperous future. Such radical working class youth are taught and treated to feel like the bottom, “scum”-like material of society. Such people are anything but the “scum” of society, but more the promising movement for a new society, one beyond capitalism.

Capitalism is in a phase of devalorization: where the necessary price of wage-labor is lowered, partly from the attacks by capitalist austerity, partly by an increase of technological efficiency, and partly by state sponsored oppression and incarceration. This process has steadily unfolded since 1973. The political program of unions has been a buffer of this process, representing a left-wing force of the devalorization process. Going to an important college, or getting a prestigious job, is becoming a reality for a much smaller and smaller group of people. In 1970, 20% of the workforce was involved in strikes and labor conflicts of some sort, now that number is reduced to 0.5%. No revolutionary group has been able to define the path to rupture this problem of capitalist control. But the historical moment is forcing the revolutionary left to debate the reality of their situation, due to a demand for a new unfolding revolutionary force to emerge. Capitalisms is decaying. Revolutionaries must ascend.

Instead of finding ways to adapt to this system, functioning through a perspective of opportunism, or divorcing yourself from society, being counter-cultural and isolated, the alternative is forming the beginnings of a revolutionary organization. This begins by one, or a few dedicated revolutionaries, who make the building of revolutionary organizations their top priority in life. Part-timers will not suffice in the genesis of the project, sorry. With that commitment, come skills. The practical and political skills one needs to develop to form a revolutionary organization are many. There are practical skills you need, like be able to write out agitational flyers and distribute them in working class places, in order to advance unfolding social movements or class struggles. There are political skills one must have, such as knowledge of Marxism, a theoretical system to analyze the contradictions of capitalism, the character of the state, and the possibilities of the historical moment. One must have social and organizational skills, such as collecting 20 people’s contacts from a meeting and do follow up emails and phone calls about the objective political tasks from that meeting. One must be able to speak publicly during key junctures, when the possibilities of the left and the advanced sections of the working class can merge into more radical unified acts against capital.

One must strive to organically combine all these skills in order to build a small revolutionary group from scratch. Such a revolutionary cell formed from scratch would be composed of militants, or political organizers dedicated to such a revolutionary project, trained in doing such political work, that can act as a unit. The study of key militants of the past, like Farrol Dobbs, Domitila, Elizabeth Gurly Flynn, Malcolm X, give a concrete understanding of the qualities such people were composed of. The possibility of small groups of militants who can act as unit, represent an ingredient needed for the formation of a much larger, more serious, national revolutionary organization. The American revolutionary left is far from building a national revolutionary organization, but it now confronts a landscape that has offered us some of the most favorable conditions to do so in 40 years. This shift in political conditions requires an intervention by revolutionaries to lay the groundwork for what could become in the next ten years.

Considering such conditions, Advance the Struggle proposes that small groupings around the country read this reader on revolutionary organization. Our comrades in Unity and Struggle put the first edition of this reader together, and members of Advance the Struggle edited it down. This reader is the basic theoretical and political interventions made by the most important Marxist of the twentieth century. Lenin, Luxemburg, Gramsci, Trotsky, and Bordiga stand as giants regarding the development of revolutionary Marxism. What we have today is a splintered revolutionary left that has latched on to crystallized traditions such as Trotskyism, Luxemburgism, Gramscianism, causing harmful splits within this dynamic, unable to unify this larger revolutionary body of thought. Such a body is tied together like ecology spread out through history. Each Marxist figure has challenged the existing totality of Marxism in that period, advancing the understanding of central marxist concepts: the revolutionary organization, the permanent character of accumulation, permanent revolution, revolutionary military strategy, historical materialism, and class struggle within the “advanced capitalist” countries.

The new generations of revolutionaries have a giant task ahead. Considering the famous position in Fanon’s Wretched of the Earth, that “each generation must discover its mission, fulfill it or betray it,” we can point to a revolutionary beginning. This beginning is tasked with mastering the original categories of Marx’s Marxism, coupled with re-assembling the latter Marxist after Marx, into a unified logic boiled down to a defined method for working class application.  Being able to reassemble such a body of Marxist thought for our historical moment, will give us the framework to apply the Marxist method to advance struggle into revolutionary motion. This political activity and perspective is what is needed to rebuild massive revolutionary organizations that we once witnessed from 1864 to the 1930s. In that spirit, we offer a basic reader on some of the most important work that tried to accomplish such a goal. We would also appreciate any thoughts people have on the reader and what affects it had on them and their promising group.

Click on the image below to read!

ASRevOrgReaderCover

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3 Comments

Filed under Analysis/Theory, Literature, Practical Skills, Resources

3 responses to “Revolutionary Organization Study Group Reader

  1. Charlie Post

    A couple of suggestions for other readings.

    1. Reading Lars Lih’s work– if not his massive LENIN REDISCOVERED, his much briefer biography LENIN– would provide a useful historical context to the Lenin-Luxemburg exchange in 1902-1903.

    2. Reading selections of the debate between Gramsci and Bordiga in the mid to late 1920s on the party, unions, etc. might provide a different slant on their contributions.

    3. In “Post-Leninist Leninism” you might also check out (this is shameless self-promotion):http://www.solidarity-us.org/pdfs/socialistorgtoday.pdf

  2. On questions related to Organization my grouping recently read:
    Alice Echols, “Varieties of Radical Feminism” in Daring to Be Bad
    Marge Piercy, “The Grand Coolie Damn”
    Jo Freeman “The Tyranny of Structurelessness”
    “After Winter Must Come Spring”
    Joel Olson “What is a Cadre Organization”
    Andrew Cornell, “Oppose & Propose: History of Movement for a New Society”
    AWOL Collective, “Pitchfork”
    Kevin Rashid Johnson “Unity Struggle Transformation”
    “Reclaiming Revolution: Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement”
    Mao Zedong, “Combat Liberalism”
    Don Hammerquist, “Lenin, Leninism, and Leftovers”

    Thanks a lot for posting this study guide. I’m excited to read it and engage with the ideas.

  3. Thanks for posting this publicly. We read parts of this, as well as other parts of the Unity and Struggle reader last year in Black Orchid Collective and it was helpful for thinking through our goals. Insurgentheart and Charlie Post, those suggestions also look interesting. We read Hamerquist’s piece on Leninism in BOC as well, I’d highly recommend it…

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