One of the most critical issues for the left is the question of organization. For the purposes of this duscussion I would like to focus upon two general tendencies, the decentralized, democratic libertarian left and the centralized, authoritarian vanguard that stems from Bolshevism (a contrast between the libertarian and authoritarian left, if the latter can be considered left at all), although various alternatives presented by others are welcomed.
By way of introduction I would like to present a quote by one Otto Ruhle about social revolution in general, that social revolution, by definition, “is not a party affair; politically and economically it is the affair of the whole working class.” Social revolution is either carried out by society, by the people, the workers and so on, or it is not a social revolution (this is simply a matter of elementary definition).
In the footnotes to Noam Chomsky’s famous “Objectivity and Liberal Scholarship” he emphasizes that it must be noted “…the ways in which exercise of control over steps of the [early] revolutionary process [in China] was a factor in developing the consciousness and insight of those who took part in the revolution, not only from a political and social point of view, but also with respect to the human relationships that were created.”
Importantly, as Chomsky here emphasizes, integral and direct participation in the revolutionary process is central to the raising of revolutionary consciousness and the further unfolding and expansion of the revolution, leading to its likelier success. Rather than forcing processes upon the people – although, actually, the Bolshevik program constituted the destruction of revolutionary processes, such as the immediate dissolution of workers’ soviets and councils and so on – the people must be in control of the processes themselves. Instead of leading a vanguard party of mostly bourgeois intellectuals, the masses must be the central agent in revolutionary change.
The left-Marxist Anton Pannekoek explained that “belief in the party constitutes the most powerful check on the working class' capacity for action. That is why we are not trying to create a new party. This is so, not because our numbers are small -- a party of any kind begins with a few people -- but because, in our day, a party cannot be other than an organization aimed at directing and dominating the proletariat. To this type of organization we oppose the principle that the working class can effectively come into its own and prevail only by taking its destiny into its own hands.”
Rudolf Rocker, one of the leading proponents of anarcho-syndicalism, concurs writing that “[p]articipation in the politics of the bourgeois states has not brought the labour movement a hairs' breadth closer to Socialism, but, thanks to this method, Socialism has almost been completely crushed and condemned to insignificance. The ancient proverb: 'Who eats of the pope, dies of him,' has held true in this content also; who eats of the state is ruined by it. Participation in parliamentary politics has affected the Socialist labour movement like an insidious poison. It destroyed the belief in the necessity of constructive Socialist activity and, worst of all, the impulse to self-help, by inoculating people with the ruinous delusion that salvation always comes from above.”
It is critical that people realize progress must be made by the whole of the people involved, from the bottom up, democratically, and do not wish for and rely upon a Christ-like savior, someone like Lenin, who is allegedly going to initiate, progress and defend socialist revolution alone with their vanguard party of intellectual and revolutionary betters, for history has clearly shown to us the consequences of such an elitist, authoritarian program: it’s known as the counterrevolution.