Friday, February 3, 2017

Response to Tim Horras' Article on Party Building

The following comes to us from a southern Oregon union activist and in response to a piece we recently posted by Tim Horras of Philly Socialists. We welcome responses, as always.

The central political problem for the US left is not that we lack a socialist party. We have already got several, of varying ideological shades. The main obstacles to the development of a socialist politics and a socialist party in the US are the low quality of political and mass work, and the abysmally low level of theoretical education.

We see consistently among all sections of the socialist left a failure to engage in a timely way at critical points. During Occupy Wall St., momentum was ceded completely to the anarchist and liberal tendencies, and, as a consequence, the movement stalled and collapsed under the well-timed blows of the bourgeois state security forces. Much ink was spilt by socialists and communists in criticism of the failings of the OWS, but very few of us made a serious effort to correct those failings. It is not enough to write articles for one’s chosen online mag. We must engage with the masses and the organizations they work in and around, including those to our right. The failure to engage is, however, merely a corollary to a deeper problem with our political and mass work, one that is uniquely a result of US culture: the dominance of individualism and egotism. These two vices together erode our quality of work and form a type of sectarianism that limits our ability to reach people. This sectarianism is evident in the very widespread view that correct analysis is something that is handed down to the wider movement by self-appointed authorities. Credibility in the peoples’ movements should not flow from the number of books one claims to have read, the letters after one’s name, or one’s position in this or that organization. Rather, it should come from one’s demonstrated work and commitment to collective action. Still, it is not enough merely to identify the problems associated with individualist sectarianism; it must be counteracted by a conscious effort at building solidarity and comradeship among people and emphasizing collective processes in our work. Central among these processes is that of education. Though it has been said many times before, it bears repeating: effective political work requires study and understanding of political theory. Less often mentioned, however, is that our legions of ‘experts’ and online article writers might better serve the peoples’ movements if they spent more time and effort at making that theory accessible to more of the people. Houghton Mifflin certainly isn’t going to publish a primer on the theory and practice of Marxism anytime in the foreseeable future.

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