Sunday, January 29, 2017

Tim Horras writes on building a socialist party. What do you think?

The following essay by Tim Horras speaks to some of the questions before the left right now. It is one point of many, but one that I feel close to. A difference of opinion here may be that many of us think that a united-front strategy and building a socialist party come through on-going engagement with all kinds of people, including people at the base of the Democratic Party, while the author may be pointing in other directions. Still, the essay is a good one and should be discussed. Please send in your comments! 

One reason revolutionaries create or join revolutionary organizations is because organization function as repositories of collective knowledge of the masses and experiences of previous iterations of struggle. Instead of having to reinvent the wheel, we can learn from the successes and failures of revolutionaries all over the world and creatively apply lessons of the past to our own unique political situation.
With that in mind, I'd like to relate a cautionary tale:
Many of you may remember the glorious upheavals of the Arab Spring, in particular the locus point of Tahrir Square in Egypt, where hundreds of thousands converged to drive out a dictator.
However, following an election in which conservative and right-wing forces in Egypt were significantly better organized and coherent than moderate and left-wing forces, an arch-conservative was elected president.
Sure enough, the new president began to immediately crack down on protesters, implement unpopular new executive measures, and generally govern without concern for the Egyptian population outside of his conservative base. The election revealed, just as the revolution preceding it had exacerbated, tensions within the ruling elite, and elite opinion began to move against the new president, in alliance with the older forces from the dictatorship who were still miffed at having had their power removed.
The revolutionaries, mobilizing the masses into the streets to drive out the president, made a de facto alliance with the military leadership, wherein the left tacitly provided political support for a military coup against the president.
After the coup, the military placed one of its own into the office of president. Unsurprisingly, the new government immediately continued its crackdown on the left. Today, the Egyptian left is scrambled and disoriented, and life has gotten worse for the Egyptian masses.
Why did this happen? It's because the revolutionary left in Egypt failed to create resolutely independent political organization; they didn't build a party.
Right now, here in the USA, there are increasing fissures developing within our government: federal vs state, state vs local, local vs federal, etc. various departments within the government maneuvering one against the other. Elements of the deep state -- the permanent bureaucracy ensconced in the security apparatus -- sniping at their rival agencies, etc. When many of us are cheer on the resistance of one or another of these factions, we are making a dangerous mistake. We cannot afford to place our faith in the courts, the lawyers, the politicians, or the security state. We can trust only in the power of the people.
Our movement cannot afford to tie our long-term fortunes to one of these ruling class factions. Without independent initiative and our own organizational wellspring of people power -- a party -- we will snap back from fascism to an even more toxic form of neoliberalism than we had before. Let's not forget, it was Obama who singled out the seven countries that make up Trump's ban list, and the original Visa Waiver Program into law in 2015 with broad bipartisan support, and nary a peep of protest from the left.
Here's the takeaway: Let's get out there, protest, and raise our voices. But if we're not at the same time working to build a socialist party to advocate for the interests of the oppressed, of poor and working class people, we are going to find ourselves driving the wolf out the front door while the fox sneaks in the back door.

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