Friday, May 30, 2008

Positive aspects of the Bolshevik party

When I read Rosa Luxemburg's critique of the Bolsheviks I can't help but think that she's somewhat naive, as well as hitting certain things right on. I think she's kind of not with it regarding the sort of organization that can actually bring about a revolution in a capitalist country. The idea of professional revolutionaries has come to mean in the U.S. members of some Marxist-Leninist sect who believe that they're the vanguard, despite being recruited to it as college students. But in Russia the idea of professional revolutionaries dovetailed with the need for an underground organization that could advance things without the vulnerabilities of a typical political party. By being transparent and fairly obvious and mainstream the Social Democrats in Germany kind of defeated their purpose because they assumed on some level that capitalist society would tolerate a group claiming to be a regular political party that wanted to overthrow its economic and political system. In this aspect of things the Bolsheviks were more in tune with reality. The Bolshevik/Menshevik split seems to have had to do with activists in Russia not wanting to organize in that manner in order to avoid a future bloodbath. When political parties of the sort that the Bolsheviks belonged to were legalized they retained their underground organization, only partially participating in the Duma. It's important to realize too that by organizing underground and only trying to get limited legitimacy it's possible to engage in more direct action in terms of strikes, demonstrations, than it would be otherwise, since the temptation to censor yourself in order to appear presentable to the world of politics is reduced considerably.

*on edit: this is why the groups that come from them that are actually effective spend their time doing stuff like participating in organizing campaigns of various sorts for social change rather than putting energy into supporting political candidates. It's also why the groups that are better at it spend less time on selling newspapers and more time really making a difference, or trying to at least.

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